Pic­tures At An Ex­hi­bi­tion

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges this pow­er­ful piece, once a cor­ner­stone of prog-pomp as per­formed by Emer­son, Lake & Palmer.

To make the ar­range­ment work well for solo gui­tar I’ve trans­posed the orig­i­nal key from B flat down to a.

Pic­tures At An ex­hi­bi­tion was com­posed in 1874, soon after the tragic death of Mod­est Mus­sorgsky’s friend, the artist and ar­chi­tect, Vik­tor Hart­mann with whom the com­poser shared a rus­sian na­tion­al­is­tic artis­tic vi­sion. A ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion of Hart­mann’s works (some of which were owned by Mus­sorsky) in­spired the com­poser to write a piece which de­picted the lis­tener walk­ing around a gallery and stop­ping to look at var­i­ous paint­ings (many of which were ac­tual Hart­mann works). each paint­ing is rep­re­sented by a dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal move­ment and their moods are cap­tured beau­ti­fully. How­ever, the most fa­mous is the open­ing and re­cur­ring theme, Prom­e­nade, rep­re­sent­ing the gallery vis­i­tor’s walk be­tween the ex­hibits. it’s this sec­tion of the com­po­si­tion that i’ve ar­ranged and tran­scribed for you here.

Prom­e­nade is a stun­ningly sim­ple yet rad­i­cal piece of mu­sic, char­ac­terised by an en­gag­ing melodic mo­tif which is pre­sented as a sin­gle line, and also har­monised with a sur­pris­ing and sat­is­fy­ing chord se­quence.

the piece is also in­ter­est­ing rhyth­mi­cally, as it’s set at stan­dard walk­ing pace, and although it’s made up almost en­tirely of crotch­ets and qua­vers, in­volves a switch­ing 5/4 to 6/4 me­ter. this asym­met­ric me­ter is un­usual yet en­tirely ac­ces­si­ble, as it presents the melody so nat­u­rally (for a sim­i­lar ex­am­ple of this idea from the popular mu­sic genre check out the verse sec­tions of the Bea­tles’ All You need is Love). Although a vir­tu­osic solo pi­ano piece, Pic­tures At An ex­hi­bi­tion is per­haps bet­ter known by ravel’s gor­geous or­ches­tral ar­range­ment.

to make the ar­range­ment work for solo gui­tar i’ve trans­posed the orig­i­nal key of Bb down to A (you can use a capo at the first fret if you want to repli­cate the orig­i­nal key).

the main tech­ni­cal chal­lenge to over­come here is when switch­ing from chord to chord. This needs to be ex­e­cuted flu­ently so as to main­tain the melodic line - the mu­sic cap­tions should help you nav­i­gate any par­tic­u­larly tricky sec­tions. Wth that in mind you might want to prac­tise the piece in sec­tions; you’ll need to de­velop mus­cle mem­ory for some of the more chal­leng­ing chord changes, to play it with an ap­pro­pri­ately re­laxed flu­ency.

Keith Emer­son at the helm of his ‘Mis­sion Con­trol’

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