P. D. Q. Bach is a fairly obscure member of the Bach family (being the last, least, and certainly oddest of Johann Sebastian Bach's 20-odd children) who lived from 1807-1742(?). As with much of his family, he began a career as a musician; unlike much of his family, he was both Giftedly Bad and extremely prolific. After his death he was promptly forgotten by history, and most of his compositions were suppressed by the Bachs to protect the family name; what we do know of him is primarily the work of one Professor Peter Schickele of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. Schickele has spent much of his career not only researching the life of this obscure historical figure, but also discovering his works and performing them for modern audiences....Okay, fine, you got us: P. D. Q. Bach never existed. Schickele made him up as a disguise for his own compositions, which are parodies of typical classical conventions and compositions. The results, though of questionable merit on purely musical terms, are unconventional, eclectic and quite popular on the comedy circuit, performed anywhere from high school campuses to the Boston Pops, long-time seat of famed composer John Williams.
PDQ's work provides examples of the following tropes:
Ten o'clock on Christmas morn and all the guests are coming to the door Ten o'clock on Christmas morn and Uncle John's already on the floor Though the weather's bitter cold there's not a frown to mar the festive mood Wait till they discover that old Uncle John has eaten all the food!
Anti-Love Song: My Bonny Lass She Smelleth, My Jane, "The Queen to Me a Royal Pain doth Give", and many many others.
Bilingual Bonus: The titles of P.D.Q.'s pieces have meanings obfuscated by translation into pseudo-musical Italian, pseudo-Lutheran German or pseudo-ecclesiastical Latin:
"Come un pipistrello fuori dall' inferno" (finale of the "Howdy" Symphony) = "Like a Bat out of Hell"
"Ave Maria et Agnus Dei" (from the "Little Pickle Book"), literally "Hail Mary and the Lamb of God," actually sounds like "Mary Had a Little Lamb."
"Fräulein Maria Mack" (also from the "Little Pickle Book") is none other than the Playground Song "Miss Mary Mack."
Bizarre Instrument: The works of P.D.Q. Bach often require the use of unconventional instruments, like the "tromboon" (Trombone with a bassoon reed).
Or the "lasso de amore" (a flexible tube which is swung by one end, sending wind through the reed in the other).
He also uses standard instruments in bizarre ways. For example, in one concert Prof Schickele was seen to tuck the bow of a violin under his chin and move the violin back and forth across it. Later that evening he also played the violin as if it was a banjo.
Boastful Rap: in "Classical Rap": "I'm the apex, I'm the best. I'm considerably better than all the rest."
Everything Is an Instrument: A dog toy with a wind-up aspect that changed its' pitch depending on how fast you pulled on it was once used as a major part of one musical piece. Other instruments have included plumbing parts, foghorns, balloons, a bicycle, the Polizeiposaune (a trombone with a siren stuck in the bell), the Pümpenflötte (a flute connected to a bicycle pump), the "Hardart" (a percussion instrument where every note was made by a wildly different object, from bicycle bells to rubber duckies to toy hoot-owls that raise their wings when you blow on them), and so on and so forth.
Feghoot: "So This Guy," the last movement of the "Knock Knock Cantata," offers one of these. There's also a sketch on the 1712 Overture CD that turns out to be a long build-up to the punchline, "I've just always wanted to give Burt Bach a rock."
Oedipus Tex is a half-hour set up to deliver The Eyes of Texas as the punchline.
For Inconvenience, Press "1": The track introductions from the album Two Pianos Are Better than One start out as a telephone menu, but get progressively more surreal:
If you wish to hear this work as the composer wrote it, press 1. If you wish to hear it sung by Spanish monks who live in an isolated monastery called Our Lady of How to Package and Market Recordings, press 2. If you wish to hear it performed by members of the Bolshoi Capitalist Ensemble, press 3. If you wish to hear it played by caffeine addicts who bring it a good two minutes under the next longest performance, press 4.
I Shall Taunt You: "The Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments", in which the brass section sits in a balcony and does everything it can to screw with the woodwinds, such as ignoring their cue and playing "Nanny Nanny Boo-Boo."
Large Ham Announcer: "New Horizons in Music Appreciation," Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with football-style color commentary.
"The crowd is getting very excited. The brasses have come in and the tympani and everybody, and it's extremely exciting! I think we're building up to a fugue!"
Reference Overdosed: It's quite impressive how many later composers P.D.Q. was able to plagiarize from. Schickele usually "explains" this by suggesting that they were really plagiarizing from P.D.Q. Bach, knowing no one would ever call them on it. In the case of the "Erotica" variations lifting their theme from Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony, he claims that P.D.Q. was following the principle: "If you have to steal, steal from a composer who's deaf."
Same Face, Different Name: Many P.D.Q. Bach albums include pieces composed under Peter Schickele's name. Though Schickele has written some more serious works, these pieces tend to be even more Reference Overdosed than P.D.Q.'s works.
Take That: Zig-zagged in a typically unique fashion, in the third album, P.D.Q. Bach on the Air. Schickele snubs Beethoven at one point. The next portion of the show is interrupted when The Eroica Symphony suddenly starts playing and gives Schickele a beat-down, after which he admits that "some of his Country Dances are very nice pieces."
Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Song to Celia" (a parody of Ben Johnson's eponymous poem and the song based on it, "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes"), has a none-too-steady chorus attempting modulations in various places and picking fights over the key with the accompanist. The last verse modulates 6 times, 4 of them on a single syllable, and the last 2 painfully scooped down and up.
P.D.Q. Bach apparently had a taste for these, only moving one step down instead of up.