January 25th 2020

  Buy Issue 3060

Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Wildfires: Lessons from the past not yet learnt

EDITORIAL America 'resets' foreign policy on China and Russia

CANBERRA OBSERVED After the fires, we still need an economy and to power it

GENDER POLITICS In trans Newspeak, parental consent is a 'hurdle'

REFLECTION Conjugal honour: Love of husband and wife joined together in pure intimacy

LIFE ISSUES Pro-lifers punished for exposing baby harvesting

LAW AND SOCIETY Cardinal Pell and the Appeal Court judges

LITERATURE AND SOCIETY The poetry of Distributism

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY Botany Bay: Always more than a dumping ground

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Finally getting Brexit done

HUMOUR The MacStuttles probe

MUSIC From retch to wretched

CINEMA Three times the bravura: 1917, The Gentlemen, Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon

BOOK REVIEW The contradictions of the dominant ideology

BOOK REVIEW Novel celebrates inventor of literary fairytales



HUMAN RIGHTS A Magnitsky-style law for Australia?

Books promotion page

From retch to wretched

by David James

News Weekly, January 25, 2020

Now I freely admit that when it comes to Chinese opera I know absolutely nothing. My ignorance is total. So, when I say that the sound of screaming cats drowning in molten lead is like angelic, harmonious choirs when compared with Chinese opera I am, of course, being culturally insensitive and a bit of a barbarian – actually, make that a lot of a barbarian.

Nevertheless, I stand behind my comment. It’s rubbish. This writer heard Chinese opera in Beijing and wishes never to repeat the experience unless he is allowed to take industrial-strength sound-proofing headphones into the auditorium along with a bottle or two of vodka.

Richard Strauss listens and wonders

at man’s inhumanity etc.

It does, however, raise an interesting question. Is Chinese opera the worst music ever created? I fear not.

Here is a list of the most abominable sounds ever visited upon an unsuspecting public, at least in this writer’s opinion.


A small orchestra like no other, the Portsmouth Sinfonia’s rendition of Rossini’s William Tell Overture is to music what finger painting is to the complete works of Rembrandt. Their destruction of Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra is as magnificent a repudiation of German nationalism as it is possible to conceive.

Founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art, the Sinfonia pursued glorious democratic principles by adopting a policy of being open to anyone, thus attracting players who either had no musical training, or, if they were musicians, were playing an instrument entirely new to them. I leave it to you to draw the appropriate political conclusions.

Needless to say, the Sinfonia was a colossal commercial success, proving that nobody ever went broke underestimating how tone deaf the public is.


Now, I know I am a bit of a cracked record on this subject but in my defence even the worst cracked record sounds better than rap – or hip hop or whatever other stupid names they give this monotonous drivel. How, I ask myself, could this anti-melodic grunting, replete with pointless profanities, have proved popular for decades? If it had lasted a month or two it might have been a curious oddity, but it has lasted.

The only possible reason is that people are too drunk, or affected by nefarious substances, to actually listen to it. Because, if they did, they would immediately realise there is no possible reason for living and take the appropriate action.

There is another possibility. Maybe rap is a devious psychological weapon invented by those awful Russians – who are, after all, entirely to blame for pretty much everything bad in the world these days. Maybe their plan is to so demoralise people that it will destroy Western society. Hang on, I mistook them for the mainstream media. Scratch that idea.


Speaking of commercial success for the tuneless, Neil Young’s singing is surely as good a reason to jump headfirst off a cliff without a parachute as it is possible to imagine. His output is the aural equivalent of scratching your fingers down a blackboard. If that is singing, then I am the Queen of Brazil (readers, please note: there is no Queen of Brazil).

Other tuneless, horrible singers who have been a great commercial success are: Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and David Bowie. I do not know quite what to make of this, other than that life makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.


Pop divas come in two types: those who can sing and those who can’t. They are pretty much equally bad. In the “can’t sing” category we have our very own Kylie Minogue, who, although a first-class stage and film performer, sounds like a demented budgerigar with a damaged larynx. Another in the “can’t sing” category is Katie Perry, who is only ever in tune by accident. It would be safer for everyone concerned if she wasn’t ever allowed near a stage.

Yet appalling as these “can’t singers” are, they are never quite as bad as the divas who can sing but have no soul: the likes of Celine Dion, the departed Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Perhaps they could be persuaded to take up Chinese opera and then we might never hear them again.

David James is a Melbourne writer and musician.

Listen to
News Weekly Podcasts

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

Join email list

Join e-newsletter list

Your cart has 0 items

Subscribe to NewsWeekly

Research Papers

Trending articles

ROYAL COMMISSION Hatchet job on Cardinal Pell breached basic principle of fairness

COVER STORY Gearing up to ditch free-trade policy

CANBERRA OBSERVED Regret over our rushed marriage to China

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Crucial to get Virgin Australia flying again

CANBERRA OBSERVED What's China's beef with our barley?

EDITORIAL Rebuilding industry won't just happen: here's what's needed

EDITORIAL Post-covid19, create a national development bank

© Copyright NewsWeekly.com.au 2017
Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm