Peter Schickele: Humor in Music

In the Kitchen with Peter Schickele (a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach), Manhattan
Monday, March 15, 2004—1:00 p.m.

Videotaped and transcribed by Randy Nordschow

Peter Schickele
Photo by Peter Schaaf

Friends often tell me that I have no sense of humor. I don’t relate to stand-up comedy, I rarely tell jokes, and I usually don’t laugh at funny movies. But I love humorous anecdotes and I actually laugh out loud on an almost daily basis. Go figure. One’s sense of humor is difficult to quantify.

When I was in high school I went to a P.D.Q. concert at Carnegie Hall. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t think it was funny. I was too busy feeling that musical experimentation was being made fun of and being trivialized. But I missed the point.

Many years later, I came to love a disc of chamber music by Peter Schickele featuring the Lark Quartet. Schickele, the perpetrator of P.D.Q. Bach, was writing music that would not have been possible without minimalism, but which wasn’t minimalism. What was it? It was hard to describe. It felt informed by so many layers of musical history, past and present, popular, classical, every thing in between.

It made me dig up some P.D.Q. Bach recordings. Listening to them with the memories of Schickele the composer still engrained in my brain gave them new meaning for me. And, upon occasion, I even laughed.

Sometimes we all take ourselves a little too seriously. Enjoy…

-FJO


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