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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Howe


In 1989, having left college, I started driving lessons. My instructor was a very cool bloke who happened to be a hard core thrash metal fan. He started introducing me to the wild world of heavy metal, playing Metallica tracks during the lessons! Every lesson he would turn up with something new for me to listen to, and I would lap it up! I became obsessed with Metallica. I pulled out my credit card and bought all their albums in one go.

The day I passed my driving test, my instructor drove me home from the test, windows fully open, the music of Anthrax blaring in the car. From that moment I was hooked, and I entered a huge heavy metal phase. It was quite difficult because, let's face it, thrash metal doesn't go down too well with most classical musicians. I wandered around everywhere, headphones glued into my ears, metal thrashing away into my brain. I was offered a week of work with a ballet company at one point but I turned down the entire week because my flatmate and I had tickets to go and see Metallica live at Wembley on the Saturday night. I had my priorities straight for sure! But it was worth every penny of the money I turned down: that concert was, up until that point, one of the greatest nights of my life. It was incredible.

I wouldn't do something like that again. I've grown up. But even though I don't listen to rock and heavy metal music like I used to, it has had a lasting effect on me. It has made me a complete all-round musician. I'll listen to anything. I believe that there is room for absolutely all kinds of music in this world. There are incredible musicians in all genres. All kinds of music is valid in my eyes. All kinds of music can be inspirational. And as for the title of this blog 'Mahler versus Metallica', well, I'd like to argue that Metallica is as valuable as Mahler, and vice versa. These days I'm more moved by the music of Mahler, and I believe that Mahler is the more consummate creator.

Let's face it, and I know it sounds like a cliche, but he's one of the greatest composers that ever lived. That's not to say that his music is more valuable than Metallica's. It's just different.. very different! It's all music, created by clever minds and brilliant musicians. And in case you're wondering, I'm super glad I stuck with classical music. It was the right career choice for me. I enjoy playing my electric guitar and creating music of all types, but recently I was involved in a performance of Mahler's second symphony and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life: great orchestra, great conductor, great choir and singers, and a great desk partner! We cried our way through the last movement. It's performances like that, that make me realise why I do what I do and that I am in absolutely the right place.

Recently another type of music has come to my attention: Indian classical music. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine who I work with in my capacity as a gardener. He played me music created by many of the top Indian musicians and I really love it. I wrote a piece of music called 'Sounds of India' which I recorded, influenced by the Indian music I've heard. Below is the link to the video of 'Sounds of India', in case you'd like to watch it:

On a final note, I thought I'd show you a list of some of the non-classical music I've been enjoying listening to throughout my life:

Nirvana, Patti Smith, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kate Bush, Phil Collins, Roxy Music, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Marsalis, Abba, Michael Jackson (but I'm a bit conflicted about listening to his music these days), Black Sabbath, Neil Diamond, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Voce 8, Van Halen, Jeff Buckley, Max Richter, Prince, Heart, Rush, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, U2, Enya, Wycliffe Gordon, Pink Floyd, ambient meditation music, Metallica, Sting and the Police, Gloria Estefan, Supertramp, Al Jarreau... the list goes on...


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