Heavy Metal Business – Four Symbols

Heavy metal explained by schoolkids

Four Symbols – Heavy metal explained by school kids

Heavy Metal.  You either love it or hate it.  Nonetheless it has an awesome power from the sheer volume and deathly riffs that lurk within the genre.  Perhaps one of the most doom laden riffs of all time comes from Black Sabbath via the title song of their album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, particularly the riff towards the end of the song (3 minutes 17 seconds on), which competes with Uranium, weighing in at 238 units on the ‘heavy metal’ scale in the Periodic Table.

Heavy metal sounds different to pop music and a quick musical note explains why.  Heavy Metal tends to employ modal scales, in particular the Aeolian and Phrygian modes rather than the upbeat scales favoured in pop songs (Doh-Ray-Me-Far-So-La-Te-Doh, with third part harmonies such as those used in songs by The Beatles, Abba etc.).  Although heavy metal has its critics, it has been argued that heavy metal has the most in common with classical music, especially Bach, Wagner and Vivaldi through the influence of Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen etc.

As if to illustrate the point, take a listen to Love Sculpture, featuring Dave Edmunds, doing Khachaturian’s ‘Sabre Dance’ in 1968, containing many of the modal scales I mentioned above:

Music theory aside, what can we learn about business from Heavy Metal bands?

From Deep Purple, we get the insight that innovation in business requires discipline as much as it does creativity.

From Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant, we get the insight that, if the industry norms are killing your business opportunity, change the industry norms.

From Black Sabbath, we get the insight that limitations can assist creativity.

From Spinal Tap, we learn that plans are nothing if execution is poor.

Much more on this in The Music of Business, which launches on 31 1 13.  We finish with some more Heavy Metal:

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

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Black Sabbath – The Power of Music

There are very few things in business and life that have such awesome power that they cause the Catholic Church to attempt to ban them. Music is one exception.

Black Sabbath came not from leafy suburbs of Surrey, nor did they study classical music at Oxford or Cambridge. They crawled out from the gutters of the industrial heartland of Birmingham, with three degrees in classic rock. Their music reflected a much harsher upbringing. Pioneers of the music genre called heavy metal, their music conjured up images of grime, paranoia and … devil worship, according to some. Let me explain.

Sabbath’s title song from their first album ‘Black Sabbath’ contains a musical riff that uses the musical tritone, or the so-called ‘devil’s interval’ – the sixth note of the musical scale. Unlike the major scale (do re me fa so la ti do for the non musical readers) the tritone was considered so powerful that the Catholic Church attempted to ban composers from using the note in the 16th Century. Remember that music was largely an act of patronage at this time, the monarch and the Church were much more connected, society was much more superstitious and the enlightenment had not happened. Put simply, physics had not happened. Had the Catholic Church followed the work of Maxwell, Hertz, Faraday et al they would have realised that you cannot ‘ban’ electromagnetic radiation!

So how did Sabbath get the “Riff” and was there a devilish intervention at work?  Guitarist Tony Iommi had an accident in which he lost the tips of two fingers on his right hand and he almost gave up playing the guitar. He capped the missing digits with thimbles made from plastic and covered in leather. He had to use lighter strings and detune them so he could grip them easily with the capped fingers. This combination gave a dark and foreboding sound and Iommi came up with the riff after a comment from Butler as he watched people queue to watch a Boris Karloff film.  He said it was “strange people would pay money to be scared” The rest as they say is history with Osborne and Butler adding powerful lyrics.

Black Sabbath’s ‘riff’, when written down in musical notation, sort of makes up the number 666, hence the notion that it would summon up the devil.  That’s why you won’t hear Kylie Minogue or Katy Perry using the tritone …  Whilst popular rumour suggested that Sabbath conducted live sacrifices and so on, they were more into drinking in pubs than drinking blood! Ah well, that’s music marketing for you. Here’s a little video I made that proves for the first time that the devil’s interval is harmless to animals:

Just to add more to this fascinating story The Rockefeller Foundation conducted research into psychosocial stress to produce “mass hysteria” and found the sound wave that caused this to be A=440/741hz.  Which is the same note as the Solfeggio (That’s the Devil’s Interval to you and me) banned by the Catholic Church and by coincidence the riff Iommi came up with for the song Black Sabbath. So was there devilish intervention at work or not?

Nonetheless, it’s interesting that music has such power. I will leave you with another Sabbath Classic, which also contains another ‘evil’ riff, using the flattened fourth, in the middle of the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkYCAnDmb2g

Special thanks to Tom Hughes for co-writing this blog – Tom is a leadership trainer, enthusiasm generator and general music fanatic – Find him on Twitter @Thomas2BHughes

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management, DEEP PURPLE on improvisation, LED ZEPPELIN on strategy

Monsters of Rock – Bernie Tormé

Last night I had the great pleasure of spending an evening in the pub with Bernie Tormé, lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple. We have a superb event coming up with Bernie soon – Take a look at Monsters of Rock Business and some of Bernie’s work:

As well as his high profile work with these monsters of rock, Bernie is a talented songwriter and recording artist.  As well as a good chat about Prince, Bill Nelson, Gary Moore and other musicians, we spent some time exploring music – business parallels:

1. How the creative process works in music and how that translates into businesses looking to innovate as a source of long term advantage – from songwriting to inventive business thinking.  We explored this issue at a global science conference with the Pfizer a while back.

2. How working with rock stars with massive egos has a parallel lesson for people attempting to lead creative / precocious people in intelligent / artistic businesses.  This was a key discussion item at London Business School’s strategy summit recently.

3. Improvisation and creativity in music and business – Bernie’s life has been about adding amazing guitar work to polish other star’s performances.  He works largely intuitively to do this.  How can you tap into a natural intuitive flow?  How do organisations such as Google, Imperial College and 3M encourage ‘intuition to order’?

4. Presentation, performance and impact – You have only one chance to make a great first impression on stage with Ozzy!   See picture below.

Master of the universe

5. Dealing with conflict and trouble at work – Rock’n’Roll is an excellent arena for learning such skills.  Some of Bernie’s stories here are x-rated and outside the scope of a public view!

6. Parallel lessons from the music business for business leaders – contracts, money, changes of plans and so on.  I have had personal experience of ‘Rock’n’Roll accounting’ having sponsored a world tour with cult punk rocker John Otway and lost my shirt on the enterprise.

These days Bernie divides his time between his recording studios and work with his band GMT.  He is also available for business events and conferences where representatives of your business get to interview him on a range of topics.  Bernie also provides cameo performances of his work if an ‘aftershow’ element is required at a conference or event.

On stage Bernie is a mighty force to be reckoned with.  Yet, in the pub, he is a thoughtful raconteur with fantastic insights and stories about the crazy world of rock’n’roll.  Contact me here or via MUSICAL EXPERIENCES if you would like to book him for an Academy of Rock experience!

Finally, here’s Bernie playing a solo with his band GMT: