The Guinness Encyclopedia of UnPopular Music

Edited by Colin Larkin

Volume 5: Primitives - Three's A Crowd

entry for Peter Schickele

Schickele, Peter
b. 17 July 1935, Ames,Iows,USA. Peter Schickele was a composer and humorist who, although he also wrote serious classical music, gained popularity through his satirical compositions recorded as the fictitious character PDQ Bach. Schickele and his family moved to Washington, DC, when he was eight-years-old and there he became exposed to the satirical jazz of Spike Jones. At the age of 12, Schickele moved to North Dakota where he became involved in theatre, learnt to play the bassoon and studied classical music. He became a classical composer while attending college in New York, where he settled in his 20s. He also discovered jazz, fold and rock music while at school, all of which he would later draw on in his composing. Schickele developed the concept of PDQ Bach in 1953. While experimenting with a primitive tape recorder, he taped the first movement of Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto performing all of the wind parts on bassoon. Inspired by one of Bach's few humorous pieces, Coffee Cantata, schickele wrote his own Sanka Cantata and assigned the pseudonym PDQ Bach to the piece as author. By 1959, Schickele (who became known as 'Professor' Peter Schickele) and some of his musical associates began performing humorous classical music in concert at New York's Juilliard music college and in Aspen, colorado. The event became an annual affair, and in 1965 he performed his first non-university public concert at New York's Town Hall. It was recorded and released on Vanguard Records as Music of PDQ Bach (1807-1742?). Schickele concocted an entire 'bioography' for the phony composer and published it in a book, The Definitive Biography of PDQ Bach. Although he continued to write and record serious music, which was performed by several respected orchestras, and worked as an arranger for such pop-folk artists as Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie, Schickele's PDQ Bach albums for Vanguard, and, later Telarc Records, have remained his most recognized works. They have served to introduce many non-classical music fans to that style of music.