And the comic touches, like a solo dog in the Canine Cantata: Wachet Arf!, have for their context all the countless ways a classical composition can be put together. I don't know whether college music appreciation courses use Schickele's sportscast of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (New Horizons in Music Appreciation) as an instructional tool, but they should: its concept of a frenetic play-by-play evaluation of a performance of that symphony's first movement stays funny because the symphony itself never grows old. Since Schickele is so familiar with the music he parodies, P. D. Q. Bach is funny even for people who are only vaguely familiar with classical music and its historical procession of styles. P. D. Q. Bach isn't an in-joke for musicologists; you laugh as you learn as you go.
Peter Schickele and P. D. Q. Bach join the Ann Arbor Symphony for a performance at the Summer Festival on Friday, June 27. On the program are the oratorio Oedipus Tex (aria titles: "Howdy there" and "You murdered your father"), as well as some excerpts from The Art of the Ground Round and some Schickele compositions under his own name.
[Originally published in June, 2003.]