Mind Your PDQs

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Mind Your PDQs

During my senior year in high school, I took a music appreciation class, and that’s when I was introduced to the work of composer and musical satirist, Peter Schickele, and his alter ego, P.D.Q. Bach, the lesser known and highly controversial offspring of Johann Sebastian. Now, this was in the days before videos; Mr. Grammer, our teacher, put a vinyl LP on the phonograph, and this is what we heard:

Peter_Schickele

Photo by Peter Hummers; cropped

Schickele was born on July 17, 1935, and attended Swarthmore College and Julliard School of Music (where he also taught). The music of Spike Jones was an early influence.

A prolific composer in his own right, Schickele is perhaps most famous as the musicology professor at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople who discovered the manuscripts of the black sheep of the Bach family.

For more than fifty years, Schickele has been delighting audiences with his compositions that sound vaguely familiar…

Anyone who knows a little bit about classical music will find themselves chuckling with recognition while listening to P.D.Q. Bach’s pieces. For example, any piano student who worked through the elder Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier will appreciate the Short-Tempered version:

For everyone who’s ever sung in a Madrigal ensemble:

The elder Bach was a devout Lutheran. No doubt, so was P.D.Q., if the O.K. Chorale is any indication.

Opera lovers (and haters) will appreciate this excerpt:

P.D.Q. Bach was a great innovator, often inventing instruments to produce the sounds in his tortured imagination:

To get a little bit of insight into Peter Schickele’s mind and process, watch this interview:

Are you already familiar with the works of P.D.Q. Bach? What’s your favorite of his pieces? Please share in the comments below.

To learn more about Peter Schickele and P.D.Q. Bach, search YouTube or go to their official website.

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