The CD Project: Other people’s laughter

Ripped in the last few days: about eight or nine PDQ Bach albums and a bunch of jazz (Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck). —Let’s read that back. Eight or nine PDQ Bach albums. Surely, as with the Anonymous 4 recordings, one or two would suffice?

To hear me tell a joke today (or to read this blog), one would never guess that I used to gather comedic material like a beetle collects dung. Bill Cosby, Allen Sherman, the Smothers Brothers… and the psychotic classical tweakings of Peter Schickele, professor of music at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.

I remember getting about a third of the musical jokes. Mostly, though, I remember listening with my parents and their friends as they roared at the musical jokes—which they did get. And I think I wanted that laughter, or that attention.

So I memorized the album that we had (“Portrait of PDQ Bach,”) then chased PDQ through album after album, listening to such wonders as the oratorio “The Seasonings” and “Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice: An Opera in One Unnatural Act.” And after a while, I stopped laughing. Either Schickele was running out of material, I was losing my sense of humor, or both.

But one weird connection in the last recording in my list (The Short-Tempered Clavier): playing piano in the title work is none other than Christopher O’Riley, better known (or perhaps more infamous) for his piano renditions of Radiohead pieces. Who knew?