Russian composer the first of heavy metal?

Artist of the Week: Carolyn Watts

Jill Crockford
The Argus

A quick Google search led me to a video and within seconds I found myself staring blankly at the screen as Stavinsky’s 1987 ballet The Rite of Spring flooded my speakers.

To the trained ear of Carolyn Watts, the early 20th century Russian composer could very well be deemed the grandfather of heavy metal. Watts explains that “the repetitive loud chords with unexpected accents, contrasted with the flourishes of the woodwind section” makes Stravinsky’s ballet atypical. She believes that it was the first heavy metal-type song written.

And who am I to disagree with Watts? My music background consists entirely of an embarrassingly large collection of Celine Dion CDs, and yes that includes her French hits.

Watts, on the other hand, has had a deep appreciation for music that started from a young age. At the age of two, she was enrolled in Kindermusik, a children’s music development program. At the age of fourteen she began taking guitar lessons, and throughout her high school years she focused on mastering the classical guitar.

Now in her fourth year at Lakehead, Watts says she enjoys every minute of it. A member of the University’s vocal ensemble, and Co-President of the Lakehead University Music Association (LUMA), Watts is definitely one busy student. The small class sizes and the opportunities to work closely with her teachers are what drew Watts to Lakehead’s music program; she was also drawn by the fact that the program has advantages such as performing with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

Having discovered her passion for research in the area of Musicology, Watts thoroughly enjoys analyzing music in order to discover why a composer wrote the music the way they did.

“It’s amazing to discover all of the patterns and connections that can be made in a composer’s work,” she said.

When asked what drew her to the research and conducting sides of music, Watts explains, “conducting to me is like playing an instrument. But the instrument is a group of people, either a choir or an instrumental ensemble. I am currently taking a directed study in conducting with Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans, the conductor of the Lakehead University Vocal Ensemble. This has given me the opportunity to conduct rehearsals for the Vocal Ensemble of over 60 students.”

Watts is hoping to continue her research in the area of Musicology. With plans to pursue her Master’s degree, she has her sights set on potentially becoming a University professor.

“I love the university environment, and would like to teach students who are serious about their future in music.”

This article isn’t complete without mention of the influential professors that are responsible for much of Watts’ academic success. The devoted dedications of professor Dr. Darlene Chepil Reid, as well as the support of Dean, Aris, and Glenn, have not gone unnoticed.

Next time you’re browsing the web, go to Youtube and search for Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The major work is part of every music undergraduate degree, and watching the strange ballet makes heads turn. Watts will be doing a presentation on The Rite of Spring later in March, so stay tuned!