Thursday, February 28, 2013

“Prelúdio in A minor”

It’s Thursday, so hope you’re ready for some great guitar music!

I’ve been featuring the extraordinary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell in February, & here on the month’s last day we get to listen to his performance of his own composition, “Prelúdio in A minor,” from a concert late in his career. Baden Powell, who was born in 1937, passed away in 2000.

The “Prelúdio in A minor” is built entirely on groups of  sextuplets (also known as sestoles & other variations), which is a series of six notes played over a single beat. The most familiar such grouping to the general listener’s ear is the triplet, which is three notes played against a single beat, & is in fact the basis of the shuffle rhythm heard in blues & related types of music—the shuffle consists of the first & last notes of the triplet figure, with the middle note omitted, thus giving them a “swung” sound.

This type of note grouping is called “irrational rhythm,” because it divides the notes in ways that seem to work against the general feel of the music—the underlying pulse, so to speak. For a piece in 4/4 time (four quarter notes per measure, & a beat to each quarter note), the pulse would indicate that notes would be divided into groups of that will evenly divide four or are evenly divided by four, which six is not. Thus the flow of six sixteenth notes per beat in the melody plays against the steady four of the bass strings. It really is a masterful work & challenging to play—even once you would get all those 16 notes down, you still have to play those repeating figures in a musical manner, while keeping up the strong bass movement. For those who are interested, there two standard notation/tab versions on this page dedicated to Baden Powell’s music—it’s a delight to explore, for certain!

That’s a lot of technical music stuff, but don’t be dismayed! There won’t be a quiz; & hearing Baden Powell’s beautiful playing will be worth it.


Image of Baden Powell links to its source on Wiki Commons, which claims fair use for making the image available. There are instances of this same image in much higher resolution available elsewhere on the web.

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