Cleaning Up Our Act

Hoover and music

Great news! We are cleaning up our act here at Dawdle Hall…literally. The ballroom is slowly filling up with a vast array of household appliances.

The curious collection also includes pots and pans from the kitchen, milk bottles, wine glasses, saws from the toolbox, a big basket of vegetables, traffic cones and even a brass bed.

What on earth has inspired such a mishmash I hear you ask? Well the answer is celebrated composer Michael Nyman, known for his score of the Oscar winning film The Piano.

He has chosen to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Handel’s Water Music by penning the accompaniment to an hour long movie featuring a washing machine at work.

More Rinse Cycle than Ring Cycle Michael’s music will rise and fall in time with the tides of water flowing in and out of a Japanese appliance. The film is a single shot taken from inside the drum.

With the magic of the mundane in mind I have decided to organise a series of concerts featuring the weird and wonderful world of domestic bliss. Although my good lady wife Winifred has her doubts the project has put my mind in a spin.

Knuckling down to the tricky task of composing in the Snug I am reassured by the long history of ordinary objects being used to great musical effect… and a glass of something that smells like cleaning fluid but actually tastes rather good.

Another great composer the late great Malcolm Arnold came up with the much performed and enjoyed A Grand Overture for Three Vacuum Cleaners, Floor polisher and Four Rifles for the Hoffnung Festival back in the fifties.

Earlier still came a novel use for wine glasses. Although the idea was around in Persia back in the 1300s the concept was elevated to new heights by an Irishman called Richard Pockrich in 1741 who went from drinking out of them to playing them.

Although his “angelic organ” was plonked with sticks rather than the later rubbing of the rims, he became a virtuoso. Even the likes of rock giants Pink Floyd used the ethereal sound on Shine On You Crazy Diamond from their 1975 Wish You Were Here album.

While The Eurythmics used the clink, clink of milk bottles being bashed together and picture frames being struck against a wall on Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), the creators of percussion phenomenon Stomp came up with the Lost And Found Orchestra.

Luke Cresswell, Steve McNicholas and their talented team used a timpani of soup cauldrons, saws as violins, traffic cones as trombones and even a brass bed as a bass for a symphonic production in 2006 to celebrate 40 years of the Brighton Festival.

Jug Bands have been around for years too making music with jugs, washboard’s, spoons, bones, stovepipes and combs covered with tissue paper. The likes of Lovin Spoonful, Country Joe and The Fish, The Grateful Dead and Mungo Jerry all had links.

Even the mighty Beatles started off as skiffle band The Quarrymen with a chap called Pete Shotton on washboard. Weird instruments aside where, I hear you ask, does the big basket of fresh vegetables sitting on the floor of the ballroom fit into all this?

Believe it or not there is actually something called The Vegetable Orchestra. Based in Vienna it was founded in 1998 and tours the world playing such nature’s bounty as hollowed out carrots, turnips, pumpkins and the occasional chilli. Souper troopers!

Needless to say rehearsals have been a little fraught. After some memorable moments with Whimsy my faithful hound we have reluctantly decided to incorporate ‘dog barking loudly at vacuum cleaner’ plus ‘dog chewing vegetables’ and ‘dog chasing floor polisher’  into the repertoire.