Not Joking

Conventional wisdom holds that nothing is quite as un-funny as a joke explained. I was reminded of this last week when I felt compelled to explain to a class of 18-22-year-old music theory students why d-minor is the saddest of all keys.

But could it also be the case that the funniest joke results from the over-explanation of a joke which was never actually very funny to begin with? To test this hypothesis, I propose the following social-annotation-with-transparencies game: The text is the score to the fourth movement of Haydn’s Op.33 No. 2 quartet—known as “The Joke.” We’ll listen to a recording two or three times. Each participant has an identical loop of string that they use to enclose the area on the score that they consider most humorous. Shapes of string loops are traced on transparencies and overlaid.

Chris Peck is a composer/performer whose work has been presented extensively around the US and internationally. His works involving collaboration with contemporary dance, audience participation, various mixtures of trained and “untrained” performers, and site specificity have been performed at the Venice Biennale, Performa, ImPulsTanz, Improvised and Otherwise, The Whitney Museum, and The Kitchen, and reviewed…

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