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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Humor and wit in music

Music can be funny or witty, but how so? It might be interesting to look at various kinds of musical wit. I'm reminded that scherzo means joke, so we might think certain movements of longer works are meant to be playful. 

Then we have intertextuality, like a quotation in a jazz solo. I think Parker quotes "White Christmas" in a solo on "Ornithology." 

There is irony, as in the use of excessively simple or saccharine melodies that we don't feel are to be taken seriously.  Parody as well.  

The frustration of expectations, or misdirection, or surprise.  The use of odd juxtapositions. 

Funny timbres and tonalities, dissonances. It might be funny to use a kazoo.  

I think Haydn is funnier than Mozart, and Monk funnier than Mingus, though the latter can be witty as well. Ellington is witty in a sophisticated way. 

I never went in for the PDQ Bach stuff for some reason.  

It takes some sophistication to hear humor in music, because many people approach music, especially classical music, with a deadly earnestness. 

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