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; 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: the man 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 merit on purely musical terms, are unconventional
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
The YMMV page can be found HERE
PDQ's work provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody
- Anachronism Stew
- Anti Christmas Carol: Throw the Yule Log On Uncle John is about the one drunk relative who always shows up to ruin Christmas dinner, in addition to gleefully abusing the comma for fun and profit.
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.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Oedipus Tex casts a Bigfoot as the Sphinx.
- Bizarre Instrument: The works of PDQ 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."
- Content Warnings: Parodied on the cover of ''Oedipus Tex & Other Choral Calamities":
Warning! Contains "Classical Rap"
Pathetic Advisory: Inane Lyrics
- Everything's Louder With Bagpipes
- 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.
- Eye Scream: Played for Laughs(!) in Oedipus Tex: "As soon as Oedipus put out his eyes, he kind of wished he hadn't."
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Everything sounds more classical-musical in Italian (consider a symphony movement called "Come un pipistrello fuori dall' inferno").
- Falling Chandelier of Doom
- 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."
- First World Problems: "Classical Rap" describes the hardships of life in the city... on the affluent Upper West Side.
- Foregone Conclusion: Since Oedipus Tex is Oedipus Rex IN THE WEST, it's pretty clear what's gonna happen.
- 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.
- Giftedly Bad
- Hook Hand
- Incredibly Long Note
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Far too often, but worth particular mention is the "Knock Knock Cantata."
- 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".
- Last-Second Word Swap: "The Art of the Ground Round":
Nelly is a nice girl, but Hannah is a (w)hor(e)-
Paul is a policeman, but Peter is a pimp-
-ly and rude young man
- Morality Ballad
- Medium Awareness
- Musical Gag
- Musicalis Interruptus
- Overly Long Gag
- Overly Prepared Gag: "Please, Kind Sir"
- Parody Names
- Reference Overdosed: It's quite impressive how many later composers P.D.Q. was able to plagiarize from.
- Rock Me, Amadeus!: P.D.Q. essentially made his whole career from this shtick.
- 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.
- Shave And A Haircut
- Sincerest Form of Flattery: Prof. Schickele has acknowledged his indebtedness to Spike Jones in writing music with comedic elements and goofy sounds.
- So Bad, It's Good: invoked.
- 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.
- Viewers Are Geniuses
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: an entire song built around this: by moving the pause / comma around in the phrase, Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John becomes "Throw the Yule log on Uncle John."
- Westminster Chimes: The Fugue in A Major from "The Short-Tempered Clavier" uses this complete with twelve o'clock chime.
- Woolseyism: In-universe, the explanation for the lyrics to "Classical Rap".
- X Meets Y: Sometimes called the "'Weird Al' of Classical Music" even though he came first.