I just finished reading Prof. Peter Schickele’s 1976 book The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach, which I’ve been glancing over occasionally ever since I encountered it on my father’s bookshelf as a kid, but which I had never read in full before.
(Even reading just the titles of some of the PDQ Bach pieces—especially the rounds from “Art of the Ground Round”—immediately led the music to run through my head, even though I haven’t listened to most of it in decades.)
The book includes many delightful puns and other jokes (musical and otherwise), and I would highly recommend it were it not for its occasional inclusion of unfortunate-by-modern-standards terms and jokes.
Among the many bits that I laughed out loud at:
- The character name Count Pointercount.
- The piece of sheet music in Appendix E, “Two-Part Contraption,” featuring both a Principal Theme and an Assistant Principal Theme.
- The mention of Lady “Lady” Lady and her husband Sir Yodah. (Plate 30, p. 76.) I puzzled over the latter name for a while; it wasn’t until I came across the index entry for him that I understood that he was Yodah Lady, who I assume was an eminent yodeler. (And probably no relation to Baby Yoda.)
Speaking of the index, that too is quite entertaining. When I took an indexing class in the 1990s, I was told that every index should contain exactly one joke; fortunately, nobody told Schickele that, or if they did, he ignored them, because the index of this book includes a multitude of jokes. A few of my favorite index entries here:
- ago, two hundred years
- C., F.C. [Which is to say, the FCC. Listed alphabetically under C in the index, of course.]
- VI, Pope Pius [Listed alphabetically between van Swieten, Gottfried and view, another.]
The index also contains an entry for each of the individual letters a through m; it turns out those all point to p. 53, where the letters appear as labels for the parts in a diagram of the instrument called the Pandemonium.