This isn't the first time Peter Schickele has taken on classical broadcasting. (Remember "P.D.Q. Bach on the Air"?) But it is by all odds the most pungent - partly, one suspects, because the target itself has taken on a more frightening aspect in recent years.
Want to hear what classical radio can be like? Then drop an ear on APR's "Schickele Mix" (which airs Saturdays at 11 a.m. on KUER), Schickele's own typically irreverent, entertaining and - dare I say it? - educational approach to the problem.What it often is like, at least outside Utah, is alarmingly close to what one hears on the above-listed CD, an hour's worth of programming on WTWP (the letters stand for "wall-to-wall Pachelbel"), a station whose motto is "We play the music you don't mind hearing."
The result is a little like Gene Pack meets "Car Talk," as "Professor Pete," as he is now called, is engulfed by co-hosts Blondie and Jocko, a pair of happy hyperventilators who find even their tolerance level tested by the umpteenth repetition of the Pachelbel Canon.
That's just one of the rules at WTWP - the complete works of Pachelbel must be played every week. Among the others: "It can't be over 11 minutes long. No vocal music during office hours. Nothing written after 1912, except for `Bolero,' `Appalachian Spring' and the Gershwin Preludes for Piano. . . . Everything has to be in a major key until after 11 p.m. . . . Every ninth piece has to be by Grieg." You get the idea.
The call-in quiz deals with such heavy questions as "How much would Domenico Scarlatti have weighed on Jupiter?" (The poor caller mistakenly gives Allessandro's weight.) The period-instrument debate centers on whether Zubin Maytag should or should not have conducted "The Rite of Spring" with a plastic baton.
Predictably, into all this is mixed a little "P.D.Q. Bach" (despite a pledge-break promise not to play him if you phone in $100). Selections include the "Canzon per Sonar a Sei - Count Them - Sei," the Canzonetta "La Hooplina" and the "Safe" Sextet, so named because that's where it was found -left behind in a burgled safe. Best of all: the "Four Folk Song Upsettings," the last of which, "The Farmer on the Dole," applies its devilishly clever lyrics to the subject of crop subsidies.
That same song is further spiced by the flatulent hootings of the pastaphone, made from "two pieces of uncooked manicotti." But the most plaintive cry here may be that of Schickele himself, whose title for this program - "The Last Gasp" - undoubtedly reflects more than its 11 p.m. time slot. After all, how does one get rid of the happy-talk advocates whose Q-rating consciousness has overtaken everything from Monday-night football to the evening news?
Maybe the answer is contained in a line from the second of the "Four Folk Song Upsettings," "Oft of an E'en Ere Night Is Nigh":
They won't be back again today./I belong to the NRA.