Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Definitive Biography of P. D. Q. Bach by Prof. Peter Schickele

It has been thirty years since Random House published The Definitive Biography of P. D. Q. Bach, which was written by the noted professor from the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, Peter Schickele. At the time of publication in 1976, Professor Schickele had already been performing the recently discovered work of the youngest and much-disavowed son of J. S. Bach for fifteen years. That means that the world of music has been suffering, rather, I mean, enjoying the music of P. D. Q. Bach for forty-five years!

The Definitive Biography of P. D. Q. Bach is still the most authoritative work of scholarship about the often drunken composer. Forget that it is actually the only book ever published about the frequent resident of Wein-am-Rhein, it is the reference to have, as it tells the sketchy story of the composer's life, includes a collection of out-of-focus illustrations about his times, and describes the works that Professor Schickele has found in the alleys, barns, and attics of both Europe and the New World. In the back is a glossary of unusual instruments, including the lasso d'amore and the left-handed sewer flute. The appendix also includes the only index to ever cite "pages, blank."

Professor Schickele's academic quest continues, and the book is obviously out-of-date, stating that the Sanka Cantata is forever lost. In 1996 the lost composition was released on The Dreaded P.D. Q. Bach Collection, 4 compact discs that also include the opera "Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice," the cantata "Iphigenia in Brooklyn," the Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments, and the Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons.

To keep up with P. D. Q. Bach news, go to The Peter Schickele/P. D. Q. Bach Web Site, where you can find concert schedules, lyrics, a discography, and P. D. Q. merchandise. There is information on the professor's radio program The Schickele Mix, with station information. It would be nice if there were podcasts of the programs, but there are unfortunately none. There is however links for downloading an abridged audio version of the Definitive Biography.

As the fiftieth anniversary of the rediscovery of P. D. Q. Bach is only five years away, libraries should be restocking their books, CDs, and DVDs. Perhaps Professor Schickele will update the book.

Schickele, Prof. Peter. The Definitive Biography of P. D. Q. Bach. New York: Random House, 1976. ISBN 0394734092

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