On The Air

P.D.Q. Bach

Vanguard Records, 1991




Classical Music is outright outstanding... It is very calm, relaxing, and can also be a great mood-setter. Appreciating the music of such Classical giants as Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky are always a treat. So, as I was browsing through the Classical section at the local record stores, I couldn't help observing the P.D.Q. Bach section. Two albums that were there were On The Air, and Classical WTWP Talkity-Talk Radio. Seeing that both these albums were formatted as radio shows, and being a huge fan of radio broadcasting, I couldn't help but to grab these albums and listen in. To my surprise, the gentleman at the register explained that the P.D.Q. Bach albums were not like the common Classical albums. I bought them anyway, not only because of the radio show format, but now I was really curious.

P.D.Q. Bach is the creation (yet they say that there was such a person as P.D.Q. Bach), of Professor Peter Schickele. His observance of P.D.Q. Bach's music is easily described as Classical Music, in a comedic atmosphere.

First, let's see how this radio show is presented. The selections of this album were written as a radio show log, which brought back memories for me, as I did the same for radio shows for my Radio & TV course in High School. There are 6 tracks on this album, where the first three consists of the Bright And Early Show, and the remaining is the Dull And Late Show. The entire "broadcast" is explained in the liner notes:



From Radio Station WOOF at the University of

Southern North Dakota at Hoople


brings you the chamber music of P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742)?

with John Ferrante, countertenor


(Peter Schickele, conductor)

on this week's installment of


" The Bright And Early Show": "The Signature Theme and Intro" is an introduction as the DJ (Peter Schickele) introduces the show to present the music of P.D.Q. Bach. But as he prepares to play the song "Echo Sonata For Two Unfriendly Groups Of Instruments" he experiences tape problems throughout the entire song. In fact, the tape breaks on the air, yet the tape gets fixed, but tape problems still persist. A Station Break is then heard, followed by a Commercial - "Do You Suffer?". This commercial is where we hear a woman singing opera, asking "Do you suffer from pain?"my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is the focus of "New Horizons In Music Appreciation." Schickele explains that most classical music pieces are long, and in most opera houses, the lights are turned down low, where people could not read their programs while the music is playing throughout the concert. P.D.Q. Bach's solution is heard, where as Beethoven's 5th is playing, we hear a satire of two announcers (Peter Schickele and Robert Dennis) explaining over the music what is going on. This reminds me of Spike Jones' "William Tell Overture," where the descriptions and accounts are that of a sporting event. Very funny selection... Time, Weather, News follows.

"Traumarai For Unaccompanied Piano" is the focus of the third track, and it seems that as the song is playing, the microphones are left open, as we can hear various crazy happenings going on. "The Bright And Early Show" ends with a Station Break, Tag, and Signature Theme (as we heard in the beginning of the show).

" The Dull And Late Show": Fun and music, and P.D.Q. Bach...

We hear "Schleptet In E Flat Minor," another classical piece, and this one is more of a typical sounding classical piece, where this composition could easily get radio airplay on "normal" classical radio stations, such as Chicago's WNIB. A Tag and Station Break follows.

"What's My Melodic Line?" is where listeners send in works of composers from 1500-1750, and the musicians in the studio are expected to play the compositions requested from the listeners. Two requests are correctly identified. The last one was incorrectly identified. The Time and News follows. The grand prize is where a listener who has "stumped" the musicians, were to be entered, to where the winner would win the complete works of Vivaldi, recorded on 45 rpm records, which would be sent once a week, for the next 35 years.

"Fugue In C Minor" is a very comedical composition, where it really sounds more Baroque/Calliope than Classical. "What's Happening In Home Economics" is where a minor "stab" at Beethoven's music is compared to Baroque/Calliope music. Suddenly, Peter Schickele was forced to admit that he enjoys Beethoven's music, as if Beethoven's ghost had taken over forced him, under Schickele's own free will (Beethoven's Revenge). A commercial, and sign-off is heard, ending the program, and this very memorable album.

P.D.Q. Bach is more of a comedic look at Classical Music. This "radio broadcast" has the style of another comedian, Stan Freberg. Throughout most of the spoken dialogue, sound effects such as dogs barking, and dogs howling are heard - being the radio station call letters - WOOF. As much as this is a look at Classical Music in a much different way, there were die-hard Classical Music fans who were offended that such a unique style of music was handled in a comedic atmosphere. So, for the serious Classical Music fan, depending on your sense of humor, this may or may not be an album that would normally be recommended. Yet, for the humorist, and maybe for people who do not especially like Classical Music, Peter Schickele's observance of P.D.Q. Bach's music will bring laughter and many chuckles in listening to something that Monty Python had always said... "And now for something completely different..."

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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