Well, I’m sure we all expected a few countries to get absolutely pounded this year, but by and large – New Zealand, Korea DPR, South Africa – they’ve stood up very, very well for themselves. Attention turned today to Switzlerand, who are actually pretty good, but they’re playing Spain, and Spain are to the average football team what the atomic bomb is to the average handgun. At least, that was the general idea – but Switzlerand only turned around and bloody won, didn’t they? So thanks to the land of cuckoo clocks, Toblerone, and political neutrality for providing us with the defining moment of the World Cup so far.
It’s Sputnik and it’s Switzerland, so it’s pointless even pretending like I’m going to start anywhere else but with the metal giants of Celtic Frost, Samael, and Coroner. Surely you don’t need me to tell you why a cold European country has got lots of metal, and surely you don’t need me to introduce Celtic Frost, do you? The country’s reputation for metal lives on through Paysage d’Hiver and Darkspace, but these guys are the daddies. They’re Celtic Fucking Frost, you get me?
Similarly dark-minded Swiss music can be found in their once-revered post-punk scene, most notably in the shape of The Young Gods. Part of a lineage that includes Swans (who they are named after) and branches out toward Nine Inch Nails, Devin Townsend, and Fantamos, the Gods are the stars of a scene that includes names like Yello, Mittageisen, and Grauzone, all of whom enjoyed some form of acclaim or success on an international stage. It’s Young Gods who still have the widest reach though – as celebrity fans like David Bowie and The Edge will only be too happy to tell you.
Last word, however, goes to Arthur Honegger. Perhaps the premier composer in a country with a relatively young classical scene (Geneva’s conservatoire wasn’t established until 1835), Honegger’s contribution to the repertoire includes Pacific 231, which is an important part of the 20th century classical establishment’s obsession with trains (see also Steve Reich’s Different Trains and Pierre Schaeffer’s Etude au chemins du fer), and several important solo repertoire pieces. He was a close contemporary of Francis Poulenc and is famous enough to have been featured on a bank note in his homeland; it’s actually a little surprising that his fame does not extend beyond his homeland and dedicated classical circles. In fact, my fiancee – who has studied classical music or over a decade and taught it for over three – had never knowingly never heard a note of his music until I brought him up in casual conversation while planning this blog. It’s a shame, really; he’s certainly no less engaging than the more famous central European composers of his time.