Peter Schickele

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Peter Schickele
Peter Schickele.jpg
Schickele in 2010
Born (1935-07-17) July 17, 1935 (age 84)
Occupation composer, musical educator, parodist
Schickele in Milwaukee in 1981 Peter Schickele in Milwaukee, February 24, 1981.jpg
Schickele in Milwaukee in 1981

Peter Schickele ( /ˈʃɪkəli/ ; born July 17, 1935) is an American composer, musical educator, and parodist, best known for comedy albums featuring his music, but which he presents as being composed by the fictional P. D. Q. Bach. He also hosted a long-running weekly radio program called Schickele Mix. [1]

Parody Imitative work created to mock, comment on or trivialise an original work

A parody ; also called a spoof, send-up, take-off, lampoon, play on (something), caricature, or joke, is a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style, or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon puts it, "parody ... is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text." Another critic, Simon Dentith, defines parody as "any cultural practice which provides a relatively polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice". Parody may be found in art or culture, including literature, music, animation, gaming, and film.

P. D. Q. Bach is a fictitious composer invented by the American musical satirist Peter Schickele, who developed a five-decade-long career performing the "discovered" works of the "only forgotten son" of the Bach family. Schickele's music combines parodies of musicological scholarship, the conventions of Baroque and Classical music, and 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 initialism for "pretty damned quick".


From 1990 to 1993, Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach recordings earned him four consecutive wins for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.

The Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album is presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement in comedy." The award was awarded yearly from 1959 to 1993 and then from 2004 to present day. There have been several minor changes to the name of the award over this time:

Early life

Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa, to Alsatian immigrant parents. His father, Rainer Schickele (1905, Berlin – 1989, Berkeley, California), son of the writer René Schickele, was an agricultural economist teaching at Iowa State University. [2] In 1945, Schickele's father took a position at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; then, in 1946, became chairman of the Agricultural Sciences Department at North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) in Fargo, North Dakota. [2] In Fargo, Schickele studied composition with Sigvald Thompson. He attended Fargo Central High School, graduating in 1952. He then attended Swarthmore College, graduating in 1957 with a degree in music; he was the first student at Swarthmore, and the only student in his class, with a music degree. He was a contemporary of Ted Nelson at Swarthmore, and he scored Nelson's experimental film, The Epiphany of Slocum Furlow. It was his first film score. [3] He graduated from the Juilliard School with a master's degree in musical composition. [4]

Ames, Iowa City in Iowa, United States

Ames is a city in central Iowa approximately 30 miles (48 km) north of Des Moines. It is best known as the home of Iowa State University (ISU), with leading Agriculture, Design, Engineering, and Veterinary Medicine colleges. A United States Department of Energy national laboratory, Ames Laboratory, is located on the ISU campus.

Alsace Place in Grand Est, France

Alsace is a cultural and historical region in eastern France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine next to Germany and Switzerland.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Early career

Schickele wrote music for a number of folk musicians, most notably Joan Baez, for whom he also orchestrated and arranged three albums during the mid-1960s, Noël (1966), Joan (1967), and Baptism (1968).

Folk music Music of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Joan Baez American singer

Joan Chandos Baez is an American singer, songwriter, musician and activist. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest or social justice. Baez has performed publicly for over 60 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages.

<i>Noël</i> (Joan Baez album) 1966 studio album by Joan Baez

Noël is a Christmas album by Joan Baez, released in 1966.

Schickele, an accomplished bassoonist, was also a member of the chamber rock trio The Open Window, which wrote and performed music for the 1969 revue Oh! Calcutta! [5] and released three albums. [6] [7] [8]

Bassoon musical instrument

The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that plays music written in the bass and tenor clefs, and occasionally the treble. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band, and chamber music literature. It is known for its distinctive tone colour, wide range, variety of character, and agility. One who plays the bassoon is called a bassoonist.

A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance, and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932. Though most famous for their visual spectacle, revues frequently satirized contemporary figures, news or literature. Similar to the related subforms of operetta and musical theatre, the revue art form brings together music, dance and sketches to create a compelling show. In contrast to these, however, revue does not have an overarching storyline. Rather, a general theme serves as the motto for a loosely-related series of acts that alternate between solo performances and dance ensembles.

<i>Oh! Calcutta!</i> avant-garde theatrical revue

Oh! Calcutta! is an avant-garde theatrical revue, created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan. The show, consisting of sketches on sex-related topics, debuted Off-Broadway in 1969 and then in the West End in 1970. It ran in London for over 3,900 performances, and in New York initially for 1,314. Revivals enjoyed even longer runs, including a Broadway revival that ran for 5,959 performances, making the show the longest-running revue in Broadway history at the time.

The humorous aspect of Schickele's musical career came from his early interest in the music of Spike Jones, whose musical ensemble lampooned popular music in the 1940s and 1950s. While at Juilliard (1959), Schickele teamed with conductor Jorge Mester to present a humorous concert, which became an annual event at the college. In 1965, Schickele moved the concept to The Town Hall (New York City) and invited the public to attend; Vanguard Records released an album of that concert, and the character of "P. D. Q. Bach" was launched. [9] By 1972, the concerts had become so popular that they were moved to Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center.

Spike Jones American musician and band leader

Lindley Armstrong Jones known as Spike Jones, was an American musician and bandleader specializing in satirical arrangements of popular songs and classical music. Ballads receiving the Jones treatment were punctuated with gunshots, whistles, cowbells and outlandish and comedic vocals. From the early 1940s to the mid-1950s, Jones and his band recorded under the title Spike Jones and his City Slickers and toured the United States and Canada as The Musical Depreciation Revue.

Jorge Mester is a Mexican conductor of Hungarian ancestry. He has served as the Artistic Director for the Orquesta Filharmónica of Boca Del Río, Veracruz since it was founded in 2014.

The Town Hall (New York City) United States historic place

The Town Hall is a performance space, located at 123 West 43rd Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, in midtown Manhattan New York City. It opened on January 12, 1921, and seats approximately 1,500 people.

P. D. Q. Bach

Besides composing music under his own name, Schickele has developed an elaborate parodic persona built around his studies of the fictional "youngest and the oddest of the twenty-odd children" of Johann Sebastian Bach, P.D.Q. Bach. Among the fictional composer's "forgotten" repertory supposedly "uncovered" by Schickele are such farcical works as The Abduction of Figaro , Canine Cantata: "Wachet Arf!" (S. K9), Good King Kong Looked Out, the Trite Quintet (S. 6 of 1), "O Little Town of Hackensack", A Little Nightmare Music, the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn , the Concerto for Horn and Hardart , The Art of The Ground Round (S. $1.19/lb.),Blaues Grasse (The Bluegrass Cantata), and perhaps best known of all, the dramatic oratorio, Oedipus Tex, featuring the "O.K. Chorale". Though P.D.Q. Bach is ostensibly a Baroque composer, Schickele extends his repertoire to parody much more modern works such as Einstein on the Fritz, a parody of his Juilliard classmate Philip Glass.

His fictitious "home establishment", where he reports having tenure as "Very Full Professor Peter Schickele" of "musicolology" and "musical pathology", is the "University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople", which is described as "a little-known institution which does not normally welcome out-of-state visitors". To illustrate the work of his uncovered composer, Schickele invented a range of rather unusual instruments. The most complicated of these is the Hardart, a variety of tone-generating devices mounted on the frame of an "automat", a coin-operated food dispenser. The modified automat is used in the Concerto for Horn and Hardart , a play on the name of proprietors Horn & Hardart, who pioneered the North American use of the automat in their restaurants.

Schickele also invented the "dill piccolo" for playing sour notes, the "left-handed sewer flute", the "tromboon" ("a cross between a trombone and a bassoon, having all the disadvantages of both"), the "lasso d'amore", the double-reed slide music stand, which he described as having "a range of major third and even less expressiveness," the "tuba mirum", a flexible tube filled with wine, and the "pastaphone", an uncooked tube of manicotti pasta played as a horn. Further invented instruments of his include the "pumpflute" (an instrument that requires two people to play: one to pump, and one to flute) and the "proctophone" (a latex glove attached to a mouthpiece, and "the less said about it, the better"). The überklavier or super piano, with a 15 octave keyboard ranging from sounds which only dogs can hear down to sounds which only whales can make, was invented in 1797 by Klarck Känt (pronounced "Clark Kent"), a Munich piano-maker who demonstrated the instrument for P.D.Q. A sample of a piece written for the überklavier, The Trance and Dental Etudes appeared in P.D.Q.'s unauthorized autobiography, published in 1976. [10] :153 P.D.Q's Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons (1965) demonstrated the inherent musical qualities of everyday objects in ways not equally agreeable to all who listen to them. [10] :177

To some degree, Schickele's music as P.D.Q. Bach has overshadowed his work as a "serious" composer. [11] [12]

During the 1970s and early 1980s, performances by Schickele of the music of P.D.Q. Bach often featured guest appearances by the Swarthmore College Choir, usually advertised as "fresh from their recent tour of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania".

Schickele performed two concerts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first concert at The Town Hall in New York on December 28 and 29, 2015. [13] He has since reduced his concert appearances due to health issues, but continues to have live concert performances scheduled through 2018. [14]

Other musical career

Schickele has composed more than 100 original works for symphony orchestra, choral groups, chamber ensemble, voice, television and an animated adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (which he also narrated). [9] He made a brief foray into cinema with the Bruce Dern film Silent Running (1972), for which he composed the musical score and co-wrote the original songs "Silent Running" and "Rejoice in the Sun" with Diane Lampert. He has also written music for school bands, as well as a number of musicals, including Oh! Calcutta! , and has organized numerous concert performances as both musical director and performer. Schickele was active on the international and North American concert circuit.

Schickele's musical creations have won him multiple awards. His extensive body of work is marked by a distinctive style which integrates the European classical tradition with an unmistakable American idiom.

Schickele has also created such not-quite-P.D.Q. Bach albums as Hornsmoke, [15] Sneaky Pete and the Wolf, [16] and The Emperor's New Clothes . [17]

Schickele's music is published by the Theodore Presser Company.


As a musical educator he also hosted the classical music educational radio program Schickele Mix, which aired on many public radio stations in the United States (and internationally on Public Radio International). The program began in 1992; lack of funding ended the production of new programs by 1999, and rebroadcasts of the existing programs finally ceased in June 2007. [18] Only 119 of the 169 programs were in the rebroadcast rotation, because earlier shows contained American Public Radio production IDs rather than ones crediting Public Radio International. In March 2006, some of the other "lost episodes" were added back to the rotation, [1] with one notable program remnant of the "Periodic Table of Musics", listing the names of musicians and composers as mythical element names in a format reminiscent of the periodic table. [19] (Due to copyright restrictions, Schickele Mix is not available to be sold commercially, although bootleg versions have turned up on the internet.)


1970 Grammy Awards Best Score From an Original Cast Show Album Oh! Calcutta! Nominated [20]
1990 Best Comedy Recording P.D.Q. Bach: 1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults Won
1991 P.D.Q. Bach: Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities
1992 Best Comedy Album P.D.Q. Bach: WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio
Best Album for Children Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf / A Zoo Called Earth / Gerald McBoing Boing Nominated
1993 Best Comedy Album P.D.Q. Bach: Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion Won
1996 Best Spoken Comedy Album The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach Nominated
1999 Best Classical Crossover Album Schickele: Hornsmoke (Piano Concerto No. 2 In F Major "Ole"; Brass Calendar; Hornsmoke - A Horse Opera)Won
2004 Best Spoken Word Album for Children The Emperor's New Clothes Nominated

Personal life and family

Schickele's two children, Matt and Karla, are both indie rock musicians. The two played together in the indie rock trio Beekeeper in the 1990s.

Karla Schickele then joined the band Ida, has recorded solo music under the name K. Matt Schickele, and is part of the M Shanghai String Band. [21] She is also an orchestral music composer.

Schickele's brother, David Schickele (d. 1999), was a film director and musician. [22] [23]

Related Research Articles

Horn & Hardart A once a largest restaurant in the world also know as Automat

Horn & Hardart was a food services company in the United States noted for operating the first food service automats in Philadelphia and New York City.

Joshua Rifkin is an American conductor, keyboard player, and musicologist, and is currently a Professor of Music at Boston University. As a performer he has recorded music by composers from Antoine Busnois to Silvestre Revueltas, and as a scholar has published research on composers from the Renaissance to the 20th century. He is famed among classical musicians and aficionados for his increasingly influential theory that most of Bach's choral works were sung with only one singer per choral line. Rifkin argued: "So long as we define 'chorus' in the conventional modern sense, then Bach's chorus, with few exceptions, simply did not exist." He is best known by the general public, however, for having played a central role in the ragtime revival in the 1970s, with the three albums he recorded of Scott Joplin's works for Nonesuch Records.

<i>The Baroque Beatles Book</i> 1965 studio album by Joshua Rifkin

The Baroque Beatles Book is a record album created by the American keyboardist and conductor Joshua Rifkin. Released by Elektra/Nonesuch in 1965, it takes musical themes of the Beatles and reworks them into Baroque style. The artwork on the cover, signed by illustrator Roger Hane, depicts classical composers reviewing the music to "I Want to Hold Your Hand", one of whom sports a Beatles T-shirt.

The Concerto for Horn and Hardart is a work of Peter Schickele composing under the pseudonym P. D. Q. Bach. The work is a parody of the classical double concerto but where one instrument, the hardart, uses different devices, such as plucked strings, blown whistles and popped balloons, to produce each note in its range. The name "hardart" and the name of the concerto is a play on the name of proprietors Horn & Hardart, who pioneered the North American use of the automat. Like the automat, the hardart had small windows in the front where the musician had to insert coins to remove implements needed to strike or otherwise play the devices that produced the notes. The composer Philip Glass, a classmate of Schickele's, helped build the actual instrument; Glass and the others tasked with building the hardart made it a transposing instrument without telling Schickele. Although a parody, the work is a well-written example of a classical concerto and could stand as a serious piece of music with a few changes.

<i>Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach on the Air</i> 1967 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach

Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach on the Air was released on Vanguard Records in 1967. It is set up as a radio broadcast of the music of P. D. Q. Bach with Professor Peter Schickele as the DJ.

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra (FMSO) is a community orchestra based in Fargo, North Dakota. The orchestra employs local and regional musicians in performances of classical and modern symphonic music.

<i>Peter Schickele Presents an Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807–1742?)</i> 1965 live album by P. D. Q. Bach

Peter Schickele Presents an Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807–1742)? was the first concert of and the first release of the music of Peter Schickele under his comical pseudonym of P. D. Q. Bach by Vanguard Records. The chamber orchestra was conducted by Jorge Mester. The album consists of musical parodies with commentaries by the composer.

<i>The Stoned Guest</i> (album) 1970 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach

The Stoned Guest is "the premiere recording of the Half-Act Opera by P. D. Q. Bach", the pseudonym used by Peter Schickele for parodic works. It was released on Vanguard Records in 1970. The title is a play on Dargomyzhsky's opera The Stone Guest. The record is a pseudo-radio broadcast hosted by "Milton Host" including an appearance by "Paul Henry Lung" as a contestant on the intermission game "Opera Whiz" hosted by Schickele.

<i>Black Forest Bluegrass</i> 1979 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach

Black Forest Bluegrass is a recording of the music of Peter Schickele under his comic pseudonym of P. D. Q. Bach, featuring the composer and "a bluegrass band with a Baroque orchestra, a wind octet with toys, a commercial with a snake — this album has it all!" The album was released on Vanguard Records in 1979.

<i>Liebeslieder Polkas</i> 1980 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach

Liebeslieder Polkas is recording of the music of Peter Schickele under his comic pseudonym of P. D. Q. Bach,. It describes itself as "the first opus of P.D.Q. Bach to be discovered in which he inflicted his music on the work of well-known poets, or even known poets, for that matter" and includes "the ambitious zodiac song cycle, the Twelve Quite Heavenly Songs." The album was released on Vanguard Records in 1980, with a cover image of Schickele mimicking a famous image of Johannes Brahms at the piano.

<i>1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults</i> 1989 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach

1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults is a classical music album released in 1989 by Telarc Records. The album contains works by P. D. Q. Bach, the alter ego of Professor Peter Schickele. It is scored "for really big orchestra and some not-quite so big ensembles, plus unique on-location introductions, spoken on the very historical spots where the actual history happened."

<i>Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities</i> 1990 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele)

Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities was released in 1990 by Telarc Records. The album contains works by Peter Schickele under his alter-ego of P. D. Q. Bach and won a 1990 Grammy Award for 'Best Comedy Performance'.

<i>WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio</i> 1991 studio album by P. D. Q. Bach

WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio was released in 1991 by Telarc Records. The album contains the "last hour of the broadcast from station WTWP in Hoople on May 5, 1991, the 184th anniversary of the death of P. D. Q. Bach." The station name WTWP means "Wall to Wall Pachelbel" in which some unusual instruments play his Canon in D.

<i>The Wurst of P. D. Q. Bach</i> 1971 compilation album by P. D. Q. Bach

The Wurst of P. D. Q. Bach is a collection of works by Peter Schickele under his comic pseudonym of P. D. Q. Bach originally recorded on the Vanguard Records label by the composer. It includes "lowlights" from four different Vanguard albums: An Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807–1742)?, An Hysteric Return: P.D.Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall, Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach on the Air, and P. D. Q. Bach's half-act opera The Stoned Guest. Wurst is the German word for sausage, with the album cover photograph set in a sausage shop.

<i>The Dreaded P. D. Q. Bach Collection</i> 1996 compilation album by P. D. Q. Bach

The Dreaded P. D. Q. Bach Collection is a collection of works by Peter Schickele under the pseudonym of P. D. Q. Bach originally recorded on the Vanguard Records label by the composer. It includes the complete contents of the first five P. D. Q. Bach albums, plus the never-before-released "Sanka" Cantata.

<i>P. D. Q. Bach and Peter Schickele: The Jekyll and Hyde Tour</i> 2007 live album by Peter Schickele

P.D.Q. Bach & Peter Schickele: The Jekyll & Hyde Tour was released in 2007 by Telarc Records. The album contains works by Peter Schickele, sometimes as his alter-ego P.D.Q. Bach, including a collection of vocal works and a string quartet. It is a live recording of the "Jekyll & Hyde" Tour.

Harold Rosenbaum

Harold Rosenbaum is an American conductor and musician. He is the artistic director and conductor of the New York Virtuoso Singers and the Canticum Novum Singers. The New York Virtuoso Singers appear on over 40 albums on labels including Naxos Records and Sony Classical. He has collaborated extensively with many ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, Juilliard Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Mark Morris Dance Group, Orchestra of Saint Luke's, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Riverside Symphony, and Brooklyn Philharmonic.


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