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P. D. Q. Bach is the pseudonym under which "Professor" Peter Schickele has written a substantial body of satirical music, recorded on the Vanguard and Telarc labels. The music combines takeoffs on musicological scholarship, the conventions of Baroque and Classical music, and a certain amount of slapstick comedy.Read More...
Among the many "facts" about the composer's life in Schickele's fictional biography of the composer, we find the following:
P. D. Q. Bach was born in Leipzig on April 1, 1742 , the son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Anna Magdalena Bach. According to Schickele, Bach's parents did not bother to give their youngest son a real name, and settled on "P. D. Q." instead. (In vernacular English, "P. D. Q." stands for "pretty damn quick".) Johann Sebastian did not give any musical training to P. D. Q. After his death, the only earthly possession Johann Sebastian Bach willed to his son was a kazoo.
In 1755, P. D. Q. Bach was an apprentice of the inventor of the musical saw, Ludwig Zahnstocher (German for "toothpick"). In 1756, P. D. Q. Bach met Leopold Mozart and advised him to teach his son Wolfgang Amadeus how to play billiards. Later on P. D. Q. Bach went to St. Petersburg to visit his distant cousin Leonhard Sigismund Dietrich Bach, whose daughter Betty Sue bore P. D. Q. a child.
Finally, in 1770, P. D. Q. Bach started to write music, mostly by stealing melodies from other composers.
P. D. Q. Bach died on May 5, 1807; however, his grave was marked "1807-1742".
P. D. Q. Bach's Epitaph reads [as requested by his cousin Betty Sue Bach and written by the local doggerel catcher]:
In the "original" German:
Hier liegt ein Mann ganz ohnegleich;
Im Leibe dick, an Sünden reich.
Wir haben ihn ins Grab gesteckt,
Weil es uns dünkt, er sei verreckt.
Here lies a man with sundry flaws
And numerous Sins upon his head;
We buried him today because
As far as we can tell, he's dead.
In his many preconcert lectures Peter Schickele has revealed other information about P. D. Q. Bach's life:
P. D. Q. Bach had a substantial influence on Beethoven's deafness. This is due to the latter's habit of stuffing coffee grounds into his ears whenever he saw P. D. Q. Bach coming.
P. D. Q. Bach is the INTERCAL (a parody of computer programming languages) of Baroque music.
Prof. Schickele describes P. D. Q. Bach as having "the originality of Johann Christian, the arrogance of Carl Philipp Emanuel, and the obscurity of Johann Christoph Friedrich." The most distinguishing feature of P. D. Q. Bach's music, in the words of Schickele, is "manic plagiarism". P. D. Q. Bach seldom wrote original tunes; for the most part he stole melodies from other composers and rearranged them in often funny ways. Also, P. D. Q. Bach's music uses instruments not often used in orchestras, such as the tromboon, slide whistle, hardart, lasso d'amore and kazoo, as well as items not normally used as musical instruments, such as balloons and bicycle. His music also calls for unusual methods of playing traditional instruments, such as the use of horns in various states of disassembly throughout Iphigenia in Brooklyn. His parts for vocalists, in addition to singing, also include coughing, snoring, sobbing, laughing and yelling.
In addition to making fun of Baroque and Classical music conventions, P. D. Q. Bach's music sometimes pokes fun at Romantic and modern music, and sometimes even country music (Oedipus Tex and Blaues Gras) and rap (Classical Rap). In Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz, a man is directed to make snoring noises while the music proceeds in a minimalist manner. The "Schickele" or "S." numbers whimsically assigned to P. D. Q. Bach's works parody musicologists' catalogues of famous composers, such as the Köchel catalogue of Mozart's works.
Schickele divides P. D. Q. Bach's musical output into three periods: the Initial Plunge, the Soused Period, and Contrition.
During the Initial Plunge, P. D. Q. Bach wrote Traumarei for solo piano, an Echo Sonata for "two unfriendly groups of instruments", and a Gross Concerto for Divers' Flutes, two Trumpets, and Strings.
During the Soused Period, P. D. Q. Bach wrote a Concerto for Horn & Hardart, a Sinfonia Concertante, a Pervertimento, a Serenude, a Perückenstück, a Suite from The Civilian Barber, a Schleptet in E-flat major, the half-act opera The Stoned Guest, a Concerto for Piano vs. Orchestra, Erotica Variations, Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice (an opera in one unnatural act), The Art of the Ground Round, a Concerto for Bassoon vs. Orchestra, and a Grand Serenade for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion.
During the Contrition, P. D. Q. Bach wrote the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn, the oratorio The Seasonings, Diverse Ayres on Sundrie Notions, a Sonata for Viola for Four Hands, the chorale prelude Should, a Notebook for Betty Sue Bach, the Toot Suite, the Grossest Fugue, a Fanfare for the Common Cold, and the canine cantata Wachet Arf!
He also composed the religious work "Missa Hilarious" (Schickele no. N2O), which was found along with documents pertaining to his excommunication
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