A Scherzo for the 21st Century

Humor has always been an important part of my life and it always will be. It is therefore an unfortunate fact that, despite my love of comedy, I am not a particularly funny person. When I crack a joke the best I can hope for is usually a groan, although occasionally I will get a mild chuckle when I am (and this happens so rarely it’s barely worth mentioning) “on fire”. I leave humor to the professionals and it is for that reason that I am always on the lookout for a good laugh.

Contrast my love for humor to my current vocation: Classical music. I’m sure John Gay’s “Beggar’s Opera”, an English spoof on Italian high opera, got a lot of laughs in 1728 but its humor would most probably be lost on today’s audience. The same goes for “Opera Buffa” (Italian for “funny opera”)—its humor is also lost on the modern audience. Sure, I’ve played plenty of movements entitled “scherzo” (which in Italian literally means “joke”), but the humor contained in those movements is really only identified by the most astute musicians. And, even then, the “joke” really isn’t that funny (That Schubert Scherzo takes a Minuet form but it sounds far too bright and jocular to be a Minuet! And yet it has a Trio accompanying it, just like a Minuet would! ROFLMAO!!!). There are a few exceptions (Victor Borge comes to mind) but for the most part people who do classical music are not “in it for the lulz”. Don’t get me wrong, learning to interpret a piece in a playful manner is important when you’re doing classical music, but you’re still not allowed to laugh at any “serious” classical concert.

A while back, during my never-ending quest for a good laugh, I stumbled upon the Nerdist Podcast. It is easily the most hilarious, insightful, and intelligent podcast that I have ever heard and I now listen to every episode that comes out. When I first heard the theme song to the show, Anamanaguchi’s wonderful piece “Jetpack Blues, Sunset Hues”, I was immediately intrigued. Its quick tempo and playful nature sounded like a boisterous 8-bit scherzo to me.

After a while I decided that this piece would be an excellent candidate for a classical guitar duet. I arranged the piece, got my good friend and accomplice Nick Lanzer to play along, and I even included (against my better judgement) a “scherzo” of my own: At the end of the video I make a reference to the show (“Enjoy your burrito!”, the line that concludes each podcast), only I translated it into Italian. Why? Again, I am not that great with humor, but let’s face it: By classical music standards I am downright hilarious. But in all seriousness Italian really is the standard language of classical music: We play movements entitled “Allegro”, “Andante”, “Adagio”, “Scherzo”… Why not have the language of the classical Nerdist podcast theme be Italian?

I never thought anything would come of the video. I know, I always say that. I thought that nothing would come of the videos I did of works by Amanda Palmer, Otep, and I never thought anyone would ever see my rendition of the theme song to Doctor Who (I’m mentioned in issue 441 of Doctor Who Magazine! On sale now!). I swear it’s still a surprise every time it happens!!! (Ladies and gentleman, behold the most shameless humblebrag of all time. In all seriousness I am totally surprised every time my work is recognized by anybody). Let me get to the point: The creator of the Nerdist podcast, Chris Hardwick, apparently saw the video, liked what he heard, and posted the video on the official Nerdist website.

Wouldn’t you know, a few people had a mild chuckle at this video. I’m on fire! So here it is, my Scherzo for the 21st century:

Needless to say all of the kind feedback I have received for my arrangement has really touched me deeply. It feels great to have my work appreciated by so many people, so I can’t thank Mr. Hardwick enough for introducing his listeners to my work. I truly am honored beyond words.

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