Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's all about Penguins...

This Thursday (July 28) on SoundScape I will be featuring music from the wonderful Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Tune in from 9 pm on Yarra Valley FM 99.1 or get it streamed live from the website.

The PCO (Penguin Cafe Orchestra) was the brain child of Simon Jeffes and Helen Liebmann. The PCO recorded and performed for 24 years until Jeffes died of a brain tumour in 1997.

After becoming disillusioned with the rigid structures of classical music and the limitations of rock music, Simon Jeffes wanted to have a medium for exploring and creating music with more freedom. A variety of musicians have played in the PCO over the years, both live and in the studio. The band played its first major concert on 10 October 1976, supporting Kraftwerk at The Roundhouse. The PCO went on to tour the world and play at a variety of music festivals as well as residencies on the South Bank in London. Between 1976 and 1996 they played in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and throughout Europe and the UK.

After Simon Jeffes' death, members of the orchestra continued to meet up occasionally to play together, but there were no new recordings or public appearances for over ten years.  Simon Jeffes son Arthur Jeffes formed a new group without the original PCO members. This he initially called "Music from the Penguin Cafe", but later this was shortened to simply "Penguin Cafe".  

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra's most famous piece may be "Telephone and Rubber Band", which is based around a tape loop of a UK telephone ringing tone intersected with an engaged (busy) tone, accompanied by the twanging of a rubber band. The tape loop was recorded when Jeffes was making a phone call, and discovered that he was hearing a combination of a ring tone and an engaged signal at the same time, due to a fault in the system. He recorded it on an answering machine.

This week's Goon Show will be "The Flea", played at 10 pm.

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