The "Unbegun" Symphony
January 9, 2017 12:23 PM   Subscribe

The "Unbegun" Symphony: In which Peter Schickele conducts a piece of music that is NOT by P.D.Q. Bach, but which exhibits most of the 21st Bach child's worst traits, namely plagiarism. [Ed Note: I have here skipped the mostly superfluous and very in-jokey 3rd movement and gone directly to the 4th movement. There are no first or second movements, because Schickele was born too late to compose them.]
posted by hippybear (38 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I can't diagnose this problem because the video and the inline player both work exactly as expected for me.
posted by hippybear at 12:33 PM on January 9, 2017

I wish his work was available without the laugh track. Because I like it as music, not just comedy.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:34 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The themes that appear in the 4th movement (according to the liner notes):
Symphony No. 2 in D (Brahms) - "Beautiful Dreamer" (Foster) - "Tha-ma-ra-boum-dee-he" (Lennon-Deransart) - Overture to "William Tell" (Rossini) - The Irish Washerwoman - The Camptown Races (Foster) - Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Beethoven) - "Onward Christian Soldiers" (Sullivan) - Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" (Mozart) - Symphony No. 41 in C, "Jupiter" (Mozart) - Overture to "Russlan and Ludmilla" (Glinka) - "Joy to the World" (Handel) - Symphonie Fantastique (Berlioz) - Symphony No. 41 in C, "Jupiter" (Mozart) - "Anchors Aweigh" (Savino-Zimmerman-Lottman) - Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathetique" (Tchaikovsky) - "You Are My Sunshine" (Davis-Mitchell) - 1812 Overture (Tchaickovsky) - Symphony No. 1 in C minor (Brahms) - "Dies Irae" - Symphony No. 9 in C (Schubert) - March Slav (Tchaikovsky) - Symphony No. 5 in E minor, "New World" (Dvorak) - Russian National Anthem, as in "1812 Overture" (Tchaikovsky) - Lohengrin (Wagner) - The Mikado (Sullivan) - Etude (Kreutzer)

(Personal Note: I have listened to this piece hundreds of times and still can't distinguish some of the themes)
posted by dannyboybell at 12:35 PM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I wonder if P.D.Q. Bach was friends with Johann Sebastian Mastropiero?
posted by signal at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Additional Schickele recommendation, minus the P.D.Q. Bach conceit and laugh track but plus a pro-sports conceit and audience cheers: New Horizons in Music Appreciation.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:53 PM on January 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

The Definitive Biography of PDQ Bach is a delightful read.

Remember, Tarragon of Virtue is Full.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:07 PM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

See,See,See,See,See,See,See,See,See Sharp!
posted by pjern at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2017

I've always been a fan of Iphigenia In Brooklyn...
posted by jim in austin at 1:27 PM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Remember, Tarragon of Virtue is Full.

My favorite bite from "The Seasonings" (S. 1/2 tsp):

Then asketh he of her:

"Have you any onions,
And have you savory?"

But she answered him not,

"Onions have I,
But savory have I none."

Whereupon he scolded her:

"Then thou art an unsavory rapscallion!"

posted by Greg_Ace at 1:27 PM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

It's not a "laugh track" per se.
It was performed in front of a live audience, at Carnegie Hall.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Along the same lines: Eine Kleine Nichtmusik
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

My local classical music station was playing Beethoven's Fifth last week and I kept hearing bits of the commentary from New Horizons in Music Appreciation in my head as it played.
posted by mogget at 1:38 PM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Back in my early youth, I heard Bach for the first time thanks to Wendy Carlos and her amazing Switched on Bach LP. At the library I went to find some more Bach. That's how I stumbled upon PDQ Bach. The album was the one with the Concerto for Horn and Hardart and my favorite Ipheginia in Brooklyn. And I also have to mention The Seasonings. To curry favor, favor curry... My former spouse was in a small orchestra that performed The Seasonings at a church in an outlier town in the Bay Area. The program revealed nothing but the basic facts about the composer, PDQ Bach. During the performance, with all the idiotic instruments and equally idiotic vocal doings, there were only two of us in an audience of about 150 who were laughing. The rest sat there with confused looks in silence. It was one of my very favorite concerts. Peter Schickele is one of the most revolutionary of avant garde composers. And funny too!
posted by njohnson23 at 1:39 PM on January 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Video appears to have gone: "This video is not available. Sorry about that."
posted by scruss at 1:48 PM on January 9, 2017

My introduction to Schickele was not through PDQ Bach but through his wonderful radio program "Schickele Mix", in which he'd choose a theme and play whatever he felt like (mostly classical, I suppose, but plenty of rock, jazz, folk songs, whatever) to explore the theme. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he had composed a few zillion pieces himself.

I took my kid to see him narrate Peter and the Wolf last year, and realized what a treasure he is.
posted by vverse23 at 1:49 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favorite is probably "Bach Portrait." (Alas, the only version I can find on YouTube is missing the first [purely instrumental] half.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 1:57 PM on January 9, 2017

And of course we can't forget the Schleptet.

My mom was thrilled when I discovered PDQ Bach around the age of 13-14 - I think she hoped it would get me further interested in classical music. Instead it just got me further into humor.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:01 PM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Forty freaking years ago, I was DJing at a college radio station and because I had the habit of bringing in my own mostly-novelty-music records, was offered the chance to do the "Sunday Night Something Like Dr. Demento Show Shift" (Dr. D. had just recently gotten widespread distribution and in L.A. where he was based, EVERY college radio station did a Demento-Like Show - often opposite the real Dr's show). Of course I jumped on the chance. With the Miscellaneous Stuff Whatever We Can Get DJs For format, I was scheduled right after a block of classical music, so once I decided to get seriously adventurous with the show, I grabbed the "Best of PDQ Bach" album, put on my most serious classical-radio-style delivery and deadpanned a full hour of Schickele silliness. I got three confused phone calls, one from a classical listener and two from people expecting Tom Lehrer and Spike Jones. Mission accomplished.

It also should be noted that Peter Schickele did some movie soundtrack work, including "Silent Running", the tree-hugging sci-fi movie that had Joan Baez singing two heartbreakingly sincere songs written by him.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:03 PM on January 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

and scored the animated sendak's wtwta and night kitchen
posted by j_curiouser at 2:31 PM on January 9, 2017

Ah Petter. Zoch gut times ve hat in Hoople!

And when you run out of Schickele (not as easy as running from a falling tree), have a listen to Gerard Hoffnung, another unprepared maestro.
posted by Twang at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2017

I'm a huge fan of PS/PDQB, but in the interest of spreading some additional musical hilarity, I'd like to direct your attention to Anna Russell's analysis of Wagner's Ring cycle.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:30 PM on January 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

"Fafnir? Do you remember Fafnir? He built Valhalla? A giant? Well, he's a dragon now. Don't ask me why...."
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:41 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

In 8th grade we had to pick a topic to do a research project on, and lacking any further inspiration, I chose "music". During our 45 minutes or whatever in the library to get books to start our research, I happened upon the Definitive Biography of PDQ Bach and added it to my stack of books. When I went to check out, the librarian turned it over a few times, furrowed her brow, and said, "I don't think this is really a serious book." I assured her it would be fine and I checked it out and read it cover to cover. Then proceeded to buy PDQ Bach CD's every time we visited Cambridge, where they had a music store with many and sundry things. I think I ended up doing my research project on Queen Elizabeth I in the end.

I still get chills every time I hear the fully-assembled french horn come in at the end of Oedipus Tex.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 3:48 PM on January 9, 2017

For those interested, this type of composition is known as a quodlibet. Here's a clever one by Glenn Gould, from a studio outtake.
posted by phenylphenol at 7:11 PM on January 9, 2017

Oh P.D.Q. Bach and the great Schickele. I've been lucky enough to see him live with full orchestra twice at the CSO, and bought pretty much everything of his I could get my hands on. Watching the musicians' faces while they tried to get through his "Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments" is one of my favorite memories of all time.
posted by tzikeh at 8:06 PM on January 9, 2017

And listening all the way through Oedipus Tex, and finally getting to the payoff recitative of "My EYES! My EYES! NOW whaddami gonna do for IIIIIII..yyy...ssss..."
posted by tzikeh at 8:11 PM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm sure he did it similarly in other cities as well, but when I saw him in Seattle sometime in the mid-80s, he brought in Tony Ventrella, one of the local TV sportscasters, sitting with him to provide color, and the UW Husky cheer squad... cheering. Pretty freaking hilarious.

That night he entered the Seattle Opera House by climbing down a rope ladder from the first balcony.
posted by lhauser at 9:53 PM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

In the 60's he was using just a rope (as I recall).
posted by kozad at 11:17 PM on January 9, 2017

Early '80s, Ohio State University: rope.
posted by oheso at 4:16 AM on January 10, 2017

70's: rope.

His parents were friends of my grandparents back in the day. Early on in the PDQ roll out, before the schtick was as familiar as it was to become, my parents and my Viennese uncle went to see the boy made good.

My parents were amused. My uncle outraged.
posted by BWA at 5:33 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's still arguably sort of the season for Good King Kong and O Little Town of Hackensack.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:51 AM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's like "Hooked On Classics" but without the disco beat
posted by fungible at 7:56 AM on January 10, 2017

A conductor acquaintance pointed out that despite the name, PDQ Bach is not a baroque composer, he's early classical, ala Haydn. He went on to say, Why did Schickele pick this period to mock? Because the music was so easily mockable. He told me this while we were listening to a Haydn symphony. He brought up PDQ.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love how stories of people's introductions to Peter Shickele have become a theme in this thread.

Or is it a motif?
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:14 AM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

OMG how could I forget "Throw The Yule Log On, Uncle John"?!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 AM on January 10, 2017

1970s Los Angeles Philharmonic: Professor Schieckle, in the concert hall, with the rope.

A college friend introduced me to the ouvre of Johann Sebastian Bach's oddest of his 20 odd children, and described the joys of dining at an automated Horn & Hardart. Much hilarity ensued when we listened to a live performance of the Concerto for Horn and Hardart, popping balloons and all.

We were both gobsmacked when a serious choral composition by Schieckle was performed at our college graduation. And somewhat relieved it wasn't "My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth."

Thanks for posting this. With all that's going on politically in the States, I needed the laughter.
posted by LeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco at 8:35 PM on January 10, 2017

"He thinks it's an oboe concerto!"

I just have such a particular fondness for the Beethoven play-by-play,I probably already mentioned it during some past discussion of musical humor.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:05 PM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

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