Nordoff Robbins researcher publishes book on drone metal music

The ability of music to deeply transform and enrich people’s lives is widely known, but not always well understood.

The Research Team here at Nordoff Robbins works hard to build and develop that understanding, conducting research into the specific benefits and powerful impacts of music therapists who work everyday with the most vulnerable and isolated members of society, and also ensuring that our music therapy theory and best practice are based on the latest and best evidence about how music can affect people’s lives.

Members of the Research Team bring expertise from a wide range of music-related research into their work—including music in relation to pregnancy and mental health, social work, psychology and movement, as well as conflict and violence.

Now, a book by Nordoff Robbins researcher Owen Coggins (published today with respected publisher Bloomsbury Academic) has been described as ‘innovative’, ‘fresh and inspiring’ and a ‘landmark achievement’ by leading scholars in the field.

We hear from Owen:

Before starting work at Nordoff Robbins in 2016, my research explored the connections between musical experience, and the sounds, symbols and imagery associated with religion that people sometimes use in talking about and understanding their responses to music. The research focused on a particularly extreme subgenre of heavy metal music, drone metal, which hadn’t been extensively studied before. I conducted a large amount of participant observation fieldwork, which meant going to lots of concerts and music festivals, talking to people about music, observing how people responded, and, just as importantly, listening to lots of great music myself! I also conducted surveys which collected more than 300 responses, interviewed 74 listeners in detail about the themes of the research, and compiled thousands of reviews and other discussions of the music online. The analysis of all this research resulted in my PhD thesis, which I completed in 2015, and I then adapted this to present the findings to a broader audience in my book, Mysticism, Ritual and Religion in Drone Metal which is now published.

The book explores the ways listeners participate in music cultures and how this in turn informs their musical experiences, specifically focusing on how they respond to and construct ideas about mysticism, ritual and religion in their engagement with this kind of music. I also discovered during the research a broader connection with ideas that relate to music therapy. Listeners describing their responses to music and their uses of it in their lives evoked the really transformative powers of music, which invited ways of understanding this powerful potential that was less about what the musicians may have “meant” and more about the impact of a shared musical engagement. And in this I found loud echoes of the Nordoff Robbins research tradition and approach to music therapy, which is always music-centred–that is, it focuses on the positive effects on all participants in a shared musical space. In addition, this topic connected closely with the theme of the recent international conference held by Nordoff Robbins at the London Centre in December, which brought researchers all over the world to discuss the topic “Exploring the Spiritual in Music” in relation to music therapy and education.

More details about the book and ordering information can be found here