In a 1992 journal article “Eruptions: heavy metal appropriations of classical virtuosity,” musicologist Robert Walser explored the link between heavy metal and classical music–the way in which metal guitarists studied classical music and created “a new kind of guitar virtuosity.” Published by Cambridge University Press, Walser’s essay comes to focus on Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption,” the “solo that transformed rock guitar.” He writes: “Released in 1978 on Van Halen’s first album, ‘Eruption’ [see an extended live version below] is one minute and twenty-seven seconds of exuberant and playful virtuosity, a violinist’s precise and showy technique inflected by the vocal rhetoric of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll irreverence.” The solo features rhythmic patterns reminiscent of J. S. Bach’s famous ‘Prelude in C major’, while “the harmonic progressions of ‘Eruption’ lead the listener along an aural adventure,” much like you’d find in the music of Vivaldi. None of this was an accident. As a youngster, Eddie Van Halen was raised on a diet of Mozart and Beethoven.
Above, you can watch “Jill,” a member of the Japanese metal band Unlucky Morpheus, perform a violin-driven version of “Eruption.” It’s classical meets metal once again, except this time a classical instrument takes the lead. Enjoy.
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