Wheels of Cheese #57: Six pieces for Orchestra by Tony Banks

genesis 1972

These men are rock stars, so I guess they probably want to have sex with you.

When I first started writing Wheels of Cheese, back in the 1940s, I never dreamed that it I would end up writing about the 70s prog rock band (and later 80s shit rock band) Genesis, and yet here I am. Doing just that! Reason being that Tony Banks. the keyboardist, now writes classical music (too!). It’s quite nice.

But enough of that. For most of us, of course, Genesis are best known as one of Patrick Bateman’s favourite bands in American Psycho. For him, Invisible Touch ‘was the group’s undisputed masterpiece. It’s an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums’. Their earlier stuff he found, ‘Too artsy, too intellectual’. As musch as I hate to disagree with Patrick Bateman, I was lucky enough to stumble across this video of Genesis live on Belgian telly in 1972. ‘Artsy’, yes. But I’m not sure if ‘intellectual’ makes it past the first lyric.

Anyway, if you’ve got half an hour, and literally nothing else to do, I recommend you have a listen – HERE.

Wheels of Cheese #56: Illumina!

hipster mahler

Hipster Mahler, before he grew up.

‘Television,’ wrote the critic Clive Barnes, ‘is the first truly democratic culture … entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.’

Apparently, in classical music what people do want is a version of Ave Maria set to the tune of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Now, I’m not saying it’s as bad as television, but crikey, it runs it close.

It’s the first track (billed helpfully as ‘the theme from Death in Venice) on the cd Illumina: Music of Light brought to you by the good people of New College Oxford, and it’s a stinker. If Mahler were alive today he’d be turning in his grave. They are pretty good singers, these dudes, to the extent that you can almost hear the apology in their voices as they stretch the hymn to fit the completely inappropriate tune, which itself contracts to try and meet the words halfway. I don’t think anyone should listen to this piece of music again, ever, and I’m pretty sure they won’t.

The rest of the cd features stuff like Benedictus: The Theme from Inspector Morse, so if you’re a fan of the show, look no further I guess. And on amazon they say the rest of the disc is ‘perfect for relaxation’. And you can’t ask for more than that, surely?

Wheels of Cheese #55 – Karl Jenkins, The Peacemakers


This is dreadful.

I did try to listen to this work with an open mind – there is no reason that populist classical music shouldn’t exist, and an infinite number of monkeys hammering away at ms paper wouldn’t only come up with the works of Schoenberg. But there are limits to one’s tolerance. Ten seconds into the first track I reached mine.

The cd is based on the idea that peace is good, which seems difficult to argue against, and therefore rather pointless to argue for. Jenkins presents for our consideration all the good folk who have become empty signifiers of peace – Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, you know the ones. The piece on Gandhi, as Jenkins points out in the liner notes, features an Indian flute and tabla. Nelson Mandela has, um, ‘African’ percussion (equivalent to saying ‘European’ guitar). Temple bells? That’d be the Dalai Lama then. And ‘echoes of the deep south’ for Martin Luther King. No ‘efnik’ music for Anne Frank – I guess neither Germany nor Judaism has a particularly significant folk musical heritage. Or is it, maybe, that Frank, is ‘one of us’?

Anyway, for almost two hours the choir hammers away, mostly in unison, at this idea that peace is good. And that peace, man, that was all that these people wanted. As Karl Jenkins says in the liner notes, quoting Rumi, ‘All religions, all singing one song: Peace be with you’.

Where to start?