Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Alkan 'Perpetuum Mobile' Op. 30 Transcription

I've had this Alkan piece on my mind since the initial consideration for a blog page and it happens to be one of my favorite piano transcriptions. Although the transcription remains my basic note-for-note translation of the work, the issue with rendering music (especially from the piano) to the guitar, is the necessity to make all the legerdemain look and feel natural. Luckily, here, we have the piano part which is entirely melodic; if we were to take a more harmonic oeuvre from Alkan, such as the 'Symphonie Op. 39 No's 4-7,' we would certainly need to write for multiple guitars. The need for fluid transitioning, which should respect both picking and fretting, should not be overstated. Alkan's works are not insurmountable, even by the guitar's standard, but if we cannot negotiate the changes with grace the music falls apart and loses its appeal. Keep in mind that this kind of duplication offers a myriad of choices - the majority of notes on the guitar can be played in a multitude of places along the fretboard. Op. 30 is a tricky piece written in perpetuum mobile (perpetual motion) but, along with every other Alkan work I've ever heard, it is not without musical merit. I could never justifiably navigate the subtle and misconstrued history of the composer, however, the late Ronald Smith's 'Alkan: The Man, The Music' and Jack Gibbon's insightful essay entitled 'The Myths of Alkan,' are the best possible places to start.

Hold on to your socks!

N.B: Seeing as the transcription is almost 200 bars, I decided to add fingerings rather than picking instructions. Fingerings are easier to agree upon, whereas picking (unless specified for the exercise or etude) isn't always going to remain constant. For the sake of getting through the piece I use a bit of everything but for the areas with open string passages I've included the words 'hybrid picking' and use a combination of the pick (thumb and index) and my middle finger to pluck the open strings.

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