From the Vault...


P.D.Q. Bach
"Oedipus Tex"

© Telarc Records

Year of Release: 1990

track listing
  • Introduction (track 1) Oedipus Tex:
  • I. Prologue: "Tragedy"
  • Recitative: "Well"
  • II. Aria With Chorus:
    "Howdy There"
  • Recitative: "And It
    Wasn't Long"
  • III. Duet With Chorus:
    "My Heart"
  • Recitative: "But"
  • IV. Aria: "You Murdered
    Your Father"
  • Recitative:
    "When Billie Jo
  • V. Aria With Chorus:
  • Recitative:
    "When Oedipus
  • VI. Chorale And Finale
  • Introduction (track 13) Classical Rap:
  • Introduction (track 15) Knock Knock:
  • I. Recitative And Chorus:
    "Knock Knock"
  • II. Recitative And Chorus:
    "How Many
  • III. Recitative And
    "What Is
    The Question"
  • IV. Recitative And
    "So This Guy"
  • Introduction (track 20) Birthday Ode To
    Big Daddy" Bach

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    P.D.Q. Bach
    "Oedipus Tex"

    P.D.Q. Bach returns once again this week, with his 1990 release, Oedipus Tex (And Other Choral Calamities). I've always been a fan, as Peter Schickele, the brainchaild behind P.D.Q. Bach, cooks up his mix of comedy accomapanied with Classical music. No doubt, excluding the fact that many may not have like his outlook mixing comedy with Classical, or even yet, making fun of it, most Classical fans turn their noses on the "music" of P.D.Q. Bach. P.D.Q. Bach is really just a character, based on classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach. (And to let you know, PDQ stands for "Pretty Darn Quick.")

    Putting the comedy aside, the classical (and opera) have always been a comforting listen. No doubt, listening to this particular release, there is a wide mix of Classical, Opera, and even Gregorian music heard.

    Oedipus Tex is a parody of Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, an Althenian tragedy by Sophocles that was first performed in c. 429 BC. The original story chronicles Oedipus, a man who becomes the king of Thebes while in th process unwittingly fulfilling a prophecy that he would murder his father. Laius, and marry his mother, Jocasta. A classic tragedy, on his own faults and downfall.

    PDQ Bach's rendition is grouped into the first set: Oedipus Tex, consisting of 11 tracks, (both short and in length). An introduction at the very beginning, is a phone call, explaining... A "new" discovery, Shickele discovered the manuscript for Oedipus Tex sewn into the shirt worn by Davy Crockett at the Alamo. Instruments throughout are interesting, that of cello and keyboard harmonica, and solo horn part, which starts as mouthpiece alone and gradually adds pieces of tubing in successive movements. (If you tolerate these "effects," this is a very good piece of Classical music, in the opening prologue, "Tragedy."

    Throughout this section, are small Recitatives, less than 1 minute each, and sometimes shorter than that, showcasing small pieces of classical and/or opera music: "Well," "And It Wasn't Long," "But," "When Billie Jo Heard," "When Oedipus Heard." Actually, they are more Opera sounding, rather than Classical. (As described in the liner notes: "Opedipus Text is, by far as this musicologist (Peter Schickele) knows, unique in that it exists in both an oratorio and an opera version, the latter featuring spoken dialogue instead of recitatives.") The comedy senses are performed by Schickele, as he mixes classical on the Aria with Chorus "Howdy There," and comedy mixed with Classical and Opera on the duet with Chorus "My Heart." The Aria "You Murdered Your Father" is more of an opera, as it showcases the main storyline of how Oedipus yearns to murder his father. The Aria with Chorus "Goodbye" is opera, and the Choral and Finale takes on the standard song "The Eyes Of Texas (Are Upon You)" and ends as a typical Classical music piece. (Again, as mentioned from the liner notes: "Oediupus Tex will certainly put the town of Thebes Gulch, Texas on the map, but that's not where it surfaced. The manuscript of this prototypically Western work was found, quite by chance, during a visit to San Antonio's most popular tourist shrine, the Alamo. Few people, incidentally, are aware of the derivation of that name: it comes from the French, maeaning 'in the style of one of The Three Stooges' Noticing something light-colored peeking out of a tear in the shirt worn by Davy Crockett, the present author received permission to open the case and examine it. Imagine his surprise when he found that entire scope of Oediopus Tex had been sewn into the shirt in a vain attempt to create a bullet-proof vest. Fortunately, it proved possible to reconstruct the missing notes, notes that were presumably buried with and within the body of the scout, politician, solider and violinist [did you know that?] who became one of America's most famous and beloved matyrs."

    "Classical Rap" is probably the most humorous track -- (from liner notes): "as it deals with the trials and tribulations of this underpitied class of urban dwellers, and it is hoped that the present author's updating of the text, with today's American audience in mind, leaves the spirit of the work intact, even though the letter of the work, as it, to speak, were, has been thoroughly manhandled. Discerning listeners may rest assured that the text's updating is the only fly in the ointment of authencity regarding this vibrant performance, by Grandmaster Flab and the Hoople Funkharmonic." In the beginning of this track, it's "sound" is no way of that of hip-hop; just a lyrical approach to hip hop music, and almost talking hip-hop, as in today's standards. Yet towards the end of this track, it does get into a more almost common hip-hop mood.

    There are 4 introductions -- tracks 1, 13, 15, and 20 -- where they are basicall intros to the next available segments -- Oedipus Tex, Classical Rap, Knock Knock and Birthday Ode to "Big Daddy" Bach.

    We've heard Classical, we've heard Opera, Gregorian? It seems that way, with Classical, on the Knock Knock segment. The ending segment, "Birthday to 'Big Daddy' Bach" is strange, Shickele Gregorian? Yet it does have a classical build towards the end.

    In listening to this album, and excluding the comedy, it is a very soothing, relaxing album, on Classical, Opera, and Gregorian overtones. Professor Peter Schickele does it again, where taking a lesser-known type of music, and giving it a whole new outlook on it. I highly recommend the "works" of PDQ Bach. Not only are they soothing in sound, it's way different than the loudness of Rock, the vulgarity of Rap, the sadness of Country, etc. Some may identify Classical and/or Opera as "boring," but i totally disagree. It's a great getaway from the other genres of commonday Popular Music. Grab some PDQ Bach, and soak up the creativity of Schickele's adventures. It's worth the listening.

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    Soundtrack--That Thing You Do!