Comedy Whirled


Among the many incontestable facts about the composer's life in Schickele's biography of the composer, [1] are the following:

P. D. Q. Bach was born in Leipzig on April 1, 1742[2], the son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Anna Magdalena Bach; the twenty first of Johann's twenty children.[1] According to Schickele, Bach's parents did not bother to give their youngest son a real name, and settled on "P. D. Q." instead. The only earthly possession Johann Sebastian Bach willed to his son was a kazoo.
In 1755, P. D. Q. Bach was an apprentice of the inventor of the musical saw, Ludwig Zahnstocher (German for "toothpick"). In 1756, P. D. Q. Bach met Leopold Mozart and advised him to teach his son Wolfgang Amadeus how to play billiards. Later on, P. D. Q. Bach went to St. Petersburg to visit his distant cousin Leonhard Sigismund Dietrich Bach (L.S.D. Bach), whose daughter Betty Sue bore P. D. Q. a child.
Finally, in 1770, P. D. Q. Bach started to write music, mostly by stealing melodies from other composers.
P. D. Q.'s final words, which were spoken to Betty-Sue Bach, were "Time, gentlemen." The time was exactly eleven o'clock on the evening of May 5, 1807[3] in Baden-Baden-Baden [sic], Germany.[1]
P. D. Q. Bach's grave was marked "1807–1742". The reverse order of the dates has led to some controversy, but Prof. Schickele calls the theory that P. D. Q. Bach lived his life backwards, Merlin-like, "too fanciful to merit serious consideration" and insists that the marking on the grave was a "transparent attempt [by] the Bach family to make it appear that P. D. Q. could not possibly have been sired by Johann Sebastian, who died in 1750."[4] Nevertheless, when listing the dates in sheet music or program notes, he always includes a question mark: "(1807–1742)?"
P. D. Q. Bach's Epitaph reads [as requested by his cousin Betty Sue Bach and written by the local doggerel catcher]:
In the "original" German:
Hier liegt ein Mann ganz ohnegleich;
Im Leibe dick, an Sünden reich.
Wir haben ihn in das Grab gesteckt,
Weil es uns dünkt er sei verreckt.
Here lies a man with sundry flaws
And numerous sins upon his head;
We buried him today because
As far as we can tell, he's dead.
The translation above is provided by Schickele in the "biography". A more literal translation:
Here lies a man entirely without equal,
Fat in body, rich in sins.
We've put him into the grave,
as it seems to us he's kicked the bucket.

In preconcert lectures, Schickele has revealed that P. D. Q. Bach had a substantial influence on Beethoven's deafness: Beethoven came to dread P. D. Q. Bach and his music so greatly that Beethoven resorted to stuffing coffee grounds into his ears whenever he saw P. D. Q. Bach coming.

Before performing the Concerto for Horn and Hardart, Schickele stated, though no documentary evidence existed, that the dance music of P. D. Q. Bach generally suggested that one of P. D. Q. Bach's legs was shorter than the other; this distinguished him greatly from Mozart, of whom no such affliction is reported (see: Mozart and dance). Later, in Schickele's Music for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion album (in the introduction to the Six Contrary Dances), Schickele states that a recently discovered doctor's note proves that P. D. Q. Bach's hollow leg was considerably longer than the other one.

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