P.D.Q. Bach
Definitions to Help You Understand the Introduction

(This page was created for our Middle School Band members who are getting an
introduction into this wonderful piece of musical heritage.)

Who is PDQ Bach???

P.D.Q. Bach is the creation of Peter Schickele who claims to be a professor at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople (also fictional). PDQ never really existed. So why create all of this stuff for someone who never existed????? It's fun! What about Harry Potter? We sure know a lot about him and he never existed! Fiction is fun.

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His 21st son?

Johann Sebastian Bach DID live in Leipzig. JS Bach is real; Leipzig is real. JS Bach had 20 children, not 21. PDQ is fiction.

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Exhume & other grave matters

To exhume a body means to dig it up. Sometime famous people (like Mozart) who were buried in unmarked graves (too poor to have a nice grave site with a head stone) were later exhumed and reburied in a better graveyard & with a head stone. It happened the other way around for PDQ; he was in a decent site & later exhumed & reburied in an unmarked pauper's grave! (Yet another hint that something is fishy in this story! And another hint that PDQ was not a particularly well liked person!)

PDQ was rather slovenly, (which means he didn't take care of himself), lazy, drank too much and generally did not live up to the highly esteemed Bach name!

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Stand for something!

When people have really strong beliefs that they will "stand up for", we often say something like, "She is a wonderful person; she stands for truth, justice and the equality of all people!" To "stand for" something means that you will speak up, work hard toward whatever it may be and that you are not afraid to be seen. PDQ? He stood for nothing... and there is a pun because remember, the PDQ was just initials, no name (so it didn't stand for anything).

And Wilhelm Friedemann Bach really was Johann Sebastian's oldest son.


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The Musical Saw


Odd as it may seem, the musical saw is a real instrument, not something created for PDQ Bach!

Click here for more information on how to play a musical saw!!
The Saw Lady's (Natalia Paruz) website is a wealth of knowledge with audio and video examples\

Here is another site with lots of info about musical saws.

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Echo Sonata

An echo sonata is a real kind of music -- it requires two groups of musicians, usually on opposite sides of the audience. One group plays a phrase & the second echoes it. Group one plays, group two echoes, etc. This type of music was very popular in the Baroque period.

Now if you were a composer writing a piece of music and you wanted to show that the two groups were unfriendly, what would you do? Think about it for a moment, then click here to see some of the things other students have suggested.




Ideas for an Echo Sonata with two unfriendly groups of instruments.

Other students have said they would:

  • have the instruments not match in sound (very high and very low, strings & percussion, very soft & very loud)
  • have the second group not cooperate
  • have the second group play in the wrong style
  • have the second group play too loud
  • have the second group play the wrong notes or in the wrong key

PDQ Bach does all of this and more in his Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments.

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