The Cheese and the Worms
for Percussion, Piano and Bagpipes
Inspired by the book of Carlo Ginsberg
World Premiere April 1999
Evelyn Glennie, percussion and bagpipes
Philip Smith, piano
Wallace has been haunted by the book The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo
Ginsburg since he read it several years ago. It tells the story of Menocchio,
a miller in the Friuli region of Italy who was born in 1532.
Unlike most of
his contemporaries, Menocchio was able to read and write. From his readings
and the rich soil of centuries old peasant religious beliefs, he constructed
an idiosyncratic tale of the birth of the world.
It goes something like this: ''All was chaos, that is earth, air, water and
fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed - just as cheese
is made out of milk - and worms appeared in it, and these were the
angels....Among that number of angels, there was also God, he too having been
created out of that mass at the same time...''
What's more, Menocchio
delighted in explaining his theories to anyone who would listen, including
For these beliefs and others, this indefatigable miller with
a highly individual and creative world view was burned at the stake in 1599.
The Cheese and The Worms is inspired by Menocchio's independent spirit and is
structured in four parts played without pause:
Making the Cheese
The Dance of the Worms
The third section which begins darkly and features the bagpipes suddenly
starts to swing midway through. This impulse puzzled the composer at first.
When he examined it more closely, he realized that in the back of his mind,
playing throughout the writing of this piece, was a snippet from Mel Brooks'
film A History of the World, Part One - a song called ''The Inquisition'' -
and it swings.
The Cheese and the Worms began an ongoing international tour in April 1999
with over 200 performances in the United States, Great Britain, Germany,
Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Poland, Hong Kong and Japan.