Day 1 ‘Music for a Found Harmonium’ Penguin Café Orchestra – Broadcasting from Home
This is a round robin where people choose 5 meaningful songs posted 1 a day.
It goes like this….
Sue Vincent: music-that-means-something-day-1-leonard-cohen
who nominated me… No link necessary. You’re reading it.
Who says a song has to have words to move you?
Penguin Café Orchestra was founded by classically trained multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes. He wanted to produce an avant-garde melange of world rhythms combined with the discipline of classical chamber music (Oscar Tango) and experimental forms such as:
The tape recorded sounds of Musique Concrete (Telephone and Rubber Band)
Erik Satie’s repetitive furniture music (Numbers 1-4)
The abstract soundscapes of Karl Stockhausen (Wildlife)
The minimalism of John Cage, (Cage Dead) whose influence can be heard in the pulsing bass drone of many tracks. A technique successfully used by another of his students John Cale in his work with the early Velvet Underground.
Later Simon Jeffes decided he did not want to ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’ and drew on classical forms (Rosasolis), folk (Giles Farnaby’s Dream), bluegrass (Swing the Cat; Beanfields), and out and out rock-n roll (Walk Don’t Run by The Ventures)
His wife Emily Young did the album covers.
Penguin Café music was used for TV adverts such as British Rail (Beanfields) and Olympic ice-skaters Torvill and Dean danced to it (Oscar Tango). The Royal Ballet used his music for Still Life at the Penguin Café.
The Zebra costume in the dance to White Mischief is amazing
I was lucky enough to see the Penguin Cafe perform before Simon Jeffes’ untimely death from a brain tumour aged 48. They opened with Music for a Found Harmonium, which needless to say was not played on harmonium.
The swelling wheezy drone of an old pedal harmonium was emulated by Annie Whitehead on a trombone with its slide right down to the floor. Moment by moment the swell grew, stretching on and on, seemingly endless. I could not believe a single breath could go on so long. I found myself not breathing. Afterwards the friend sitting next to me said they felt the hair on my arm stand on end.
Brief History of the Penguin Café Orchestra contains many of their signature tracks
If you like the album please buy the music
Today I nominate the incredible Sheyhanne Moore