The Cheese and the Worms

for Percussion, Piano and Bagpipes

Inspired by the book of Carlo Ginsberg
World Premiere April 1999
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Evelyn Glennie, percussion and bagpipes
Philip Smith, piano

12 minutes

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 his inquisitors.

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
Menocchio's Passion

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.