Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Bach to the future

A string of somewhat trollish comments in my previous post criticizing opera reminds me that music can raise strong emotions. One emotion that music rarely does well is humour. Generally musicians tend to the twee or downright painful when trying to be funny. Which is why I want to make sure no one forgets P. D. Q. Bach, the last and least of the children of the great J. S.

I don't think I give too many secrets away in saying that P. D. Q. is the invention of Peter Schickele, self-styled professor at the University of Southern North Dakota, Hoople. Schickele has put on a number of concerts and produced a range of recordings over the years celebrating P.D.Q.'s fictional musical output, which strays through many musical styles. Sometimes he can write a piece of some length and complexity without a single original musical theme in it, wonderfully stealing from left, right and centre. At other times he sets a piece for unlikely combinations of instruments like his Pervertimento for Bicycle, Bagpipes, and Balloons. Or simply sets wonderful words, as in his madrigal where the original line 'Your face is like the sun,' is overlaid by a second line that runs '...set over Pittsburgh USA.'

For anyone who cares about music, there is a huge rich vein in all the references Schickele builds in, along with a magnificent fictional biography of the great-ish man himself.

This is absolutely wonderful stuff. I first came across it accidentally on a vinyl record in Cambridge over 30 years ago and have since collected quite a few of the records (though sadly all on vinyl, so I can't listen to them at the moment) and the P.D.Q. biography. All well worth hunting out.

Image from Wikipedia

2 comments:

  1. Ah! I'm also a fan of PDQ Bach, and have recently -corrupted- introduced Crox Minor to his subversive canon. The cantata 'Iphigenia In Brooklyn' is our favorite.

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  2. If you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend the biography: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0394734092/491

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