Why Delight in Screamed Vocals? Emotional Hardcore and the Case against Beautifying Pain

British Journal of Aesthetics (forthcoming)
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Emotional hardcore and other music genres featuring screamed vocals are puzzling for the appreciator. The typical fan attaches appreciative value to musical screams of emotional pain all the while acknowledging it would be inappropriate to hold similar attitudes towards their sonically similar everyday counterpart: actual human screaming. Call this the screamed vocals problem. To solve the problem, I argue we must attend to the anti-sublimating aims that get expressed in the emotional hardcore vocalist’s choice to scream the lyrics. Screamed vocals help us see the value in rejecting (a) restrictive social norms of emotional expressiveness and (b) restrictive artistic norms about how one ought to express or represent pain in art, namely that if one is going to do so they must ensure the pain has been ‘beautified’. In developing this second point I argue that emotional hardcore is well-suited (though not individually so) for putting pressure on longstanding views in the history of aesthetics about the formal relationship between art and human pain.

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Sean T. Murphy
Southern Utah University


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