Christian Oldham with Jeff Witscher, Pictures at an Exhibition
“Pictures at an Exhibition” has happened at least twice before: the first, a composition by Modest Mussorgsky meant to remember artist and architect Viktor Hartmann; the second, a live rendition of said composition by the progressive British rock band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Mussorgsky’s intention for the piece was to depict an imaginary tour of an art collection, namely, selections of Hartmann’s works, with each title allude to a certain piece and including into his compositions interludes to travel from piece to piece by. It could thus be argued that equal attention was placed by Mussorgsky on the pieces themselves as was placed on the gallery as an environmental extension of Hartmann’s work.
I do not share this focus.
This iteration of the name at present does not concern Viktor Hartmann, or Mussorgsky’s original composition, nor does it concern progressive British rock. The congruency of namesake, Mussorgsky’s and my own, is expressed solely in the intent of the piece. There remain anachronistic variants in said intent, but where we have overlapped; the intent to translate tonally the symbolic nature of ones visceral reaction to a work of art; Mussorgsky to Hartmann, Myself to Rothko, is enough that it seemed proper to brandish the name once again.
Like Yves Klein’s “Monotone Symphony,” I wanted that, these musical arrangements be equivocal audio translations of the pictorial image, like the single note, to Yves Klein’s frames of pure International Klein Blue.
The choice of Rothko felt obvious. The tonal and sonorous qualities I associated with Rothko’s large-scale paintings seem projected from the epicenter of his spatial relations between both shape and color. Such innate acknowledgment of what most certainly feels like stentorian sound, coming from an object relegated to the physics of color fields, is overwhelming. In this sense, these paintings are reliant on the viewer, and their ancient connectivity to just such biomorphic forms and color choices to produce inherent meaning, and internal music. These paintings then are psychic mirrors.
Yet if the painting is a psychic mirror, reflecting our most ancient connectivity to the to the aforementioned symbology, it’s not complete until the viewer comes in contact with it, studies it. My contact then has been represented by these audio recordings. These audio recordings produced by Jeff and I are reflections of my contact. The subjectivity of my experience can be seen as the natural variant of the collected consciousness, when gazing at a psychic mirror.