P. D. Q. Bach is a fictional composer invented by musical satirist "Professor" Peter Schickele. In a running gag that Schickele has used in a four-decade-long career, he performs "discovered" works of this forgotten member of the Bach family. He has recorded this music on the Vanguard and Telarc labels. Schickele's music combines parodies of musicological scholarship, the conventions of Baroque and classical music, and elements of slapstick comedy.
The name "P. D. Q." is a parody of the three-part names given to some members of the Bach family that are commonly reduced to initials, such as C. P. E., for Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. PDQ is an acronym for "pretty damn quick" (or the bowdlerized "pretty darn quick") in vernacular English.
In preconcert lectures, Schickele has revealed that 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.
Before performing the Concerto for Horn and Hardart, Schickele stated, though no documentary evidence existed, that the dance music of P.D.Q. Bach generally suggested that one of P.D.Q. Bach's legs was shorter than the other.
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, fog horns, and bicycles. His music also calls for unusual methods of playing traditional instruments, such as blowing through double reeds by themselves (that is, detached from the instruments) throughout Iphigenia in Brooklyn. His parts for vocalists include coughing, snoring, sobbing, laughing and yelling.
P. D. Q. Bach's work pokes fun at many types of music, including Baroque, Romantic, modern, country music (Oedipus Tex and Blaues Gras), and rap (Classical Rap). 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.
There is often a startling juxtaposition of styles within a single P. D. Q. Bach piece. The Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz, which alludes to Philip Glass's opera Einstein on the Beach, provides an example. The underlying music is J. S. Bach's first prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier, but with each phrase repeated interminably in a minimalist manner that parodies Glass's. On top of this mind-numbing structure is added everything from jazz phrases to snoring to the chanting of a meaningless phrase ("Koy Hotsy-Totsy," alluding to the art film Koyaanisqatsi for which Glass wrote the score). Through all these mutilations, the piece never deviates from Bach's original harmonic structure.
The humor in P. D. Q. Bach music often derives from violation of audience expectations, such as repeating a tune more than the usual number of times, resolving later than usual, unusual key changes, or sudden switches from high art to low art.
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 the Traumarai 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 (or Brown-Bag) 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 Period, 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!
P.D.Q. Bach: The Vegas Years is performed with an orchestra, and includes Oedipus Tex, selections from Art of the Ground Round, and the cantata Gott sei dank, daß heute Freitag ist ("Thank God It’s Friday").
P.D.Q. Bach & Peter Schickele: The Jekyll and Hyde Tour is performed with piano accompaniment, and includes Four Next-to-Last Songs, Shepherd on the Rocks, With a Twist, and excerpts from Little Notebook for "Piggy" Bach.
|Peter Schickele Presents an Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807-1742?)||1965|
|An Hysteric Return: P. D. Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall||1966|
|Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach on the Air||1967|
|The Stoned Guest||1970|
|The Intimate P. D. Q. Bach||1974|
|Portrait of P. D. Q. Bach||1977|
|Black Forest Bluegrass||1979|
|Music You Can't Get Out of Your Head||1982|
|A Little Nightmare Music||1983|
|1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults||1989|
|Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities||1990|
|WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio||1991|
|Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion||1992|
|Two Pianos Are Better Than One||1994|
|The Short-Tempered Clavier and other dysfunctional works for keyboard||1995|
|P. D. Q. Bach and Peter Schickele: The Jekyll and Hyde Tour||2007|
|The Wurst of P. D. Q. Bach||Vanguard Records||1978|
|The Dreaded P. D. Q. Bach Collection||Vanguard Records||1996|
|The Ill-Conceived P. D. Q. Bach Anthology||Telarc Records||1998|
|The Abduction of Figaro||1984|
|P.D.Q. Bach in Houston: We Have a Problem!||2006|