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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I am on a long vacation. Will be back here soon, with more quests and posts.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Avatar Score

Today, I downloaded the digital version of ‘Avatar’ original soundtrack from musicmp3.ru. The cue ‘Into the Na’vi world’ (that is available as sample track in avatarscore.com), which according to me is the most bombastic track, loudly revealing the main motif of the film - is not heard anywhere in the official soundtrack. James Horner’s score is full of inspirations from his own earlier works with even bits and pieces of his earlier film themes (Troy battle theme, the synth-symphony blend of Titanic and Beautiful Mind) sneaking in here, but it isn’t too much of a distraction. James Horner whips up a score that is as atmospheric, colorful, epic and exotic as the film seems to be. With a varied concoction of eastern hymns, rhythms, sounds and western orchestral and choral parts, it successfully puts us in that ‘Other’ world, where we have never been before. As of now, I haven’t figured out all the musical motifs, but for sure, there are too many running in parallel. With the film already getting rave reviews, I am sure that the soundtrack would sound more accessible and punchy, when heard after watching the film. I am eagerly waiting to listen to the soundtrack in CD quality (hope they release it in India on December 15).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Roots and the Beginnings

Salem 1998. I was studying in 11th standard. ‘Titanic’ was playing in Saraswathi Theatre, a cinema theatre in our locality. We had heard a lot of good things about this film through Sun TV’s Film reviewing programme ‘Thirai Vimarsanam’. We, school mates decided to go and watch the film on a weekend. I pleaded my parents to allow me go to an “English” film with friends and for Rs.15. (Cost of first class Balcony Ticket) and somehow they agreed. The day of ‘Titanic’ arrived.

The film began and the flash back started with a bang of an orchestral music, accompanying the breath taking visuals that reveal the gigantic beauty of the ship ‘Titanic’. I felt an electric shock wave passing through my body. I had goose flesh. It was that precise moment, I remember so vividly even now, that I became conscious of this amazing art form called ‘Film Background Music Scoring’. For the first time with all consciousness, I was physically and emotionally experiencing the impact of background music. The synth-choir-orchestral symphony was something I had never heard before in my life. This cue is Track 3 – Southampton in Original Soundtrack CD of the film. I even liked the Irish party theme instantly on the very first viewing of the film, which plays as Jack and his friend rushes to get into the ship.

Before Titanic, Jurassic Park was the only English film I had seen in a cinema theatre. That was at a much younger age, so I couldn’t realise the greatness of John Williams’ score for that film.

Few years later, I realized that even before watching ‘Titanic’, Ilaiyaraaja’s innumerable background score pieces from films of 80’s and 90’s - that I saw on satellite television, got firmly etched in my memory, without me ever being aware of it. Yet, Titanic is the one that woke up my consciousness towards ‘Background scores’ in films.

Now, eagerly waiting for ‘Avatar’ and its score.

It would be great to know your ‘Background Score’ awareness moment. Please share.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Needle Drops

  • Ilaiyaraaja brings Budapest Symphony Orchestra again for the background score of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. The trailer of the film with grand orchestral background score is available here.

  • Recently bought an mp3 of A.R.Rahman’s collections with Mudhalvan, Kadhalar Dhinam and Enakku 20 Unakku 18 and complete background score of ‘Aa Aah’ (Anbe Aaruyirae) in high quality. Did Five Star Audio legally acquire rights to release the background score of ‘Aa Aah’?

  • 30 seconds clips of all cues from Avatar Soundtrack are available for listening here. Here is a short interview with James Horner on the last day of recording Avatar Score. And here is a short review on the Avatar Score.

  • Though the sample cue ‘Into the Navi World’ from Avatar Score is available for listening in avatarscore.com, it is not part of the original soundtrack track listing posted in the website. It is such a breath taking synth-orchestral piece. I hope it is a part of one of the tracks listed. Or is it a strategy to release version 2 of the soundtrack like they did for Titanic?

  • There is a fixed playlist on arrahman.com ever since the site went live. In the playlist, there is a track titled ‘Killing Innocence’ from Mangal Pandey. This music piece plays in the End Credits of the movie. Full version can be heard here (Track 21). When the film got released, there were rumors about a separate Original Soundtrack CD release, which seems to be true.

  • Surprisingly, in Pixar’s ‘UP’ DVD, there are no enough special features on Michael Giacchino’s Score. Even this video that seemed to be a part of the DVD special features is not available in the disk.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Needle Drops

  • The most eagerly awaited James Horner’s “Avatar” Score is releasing on December 15th. The offical soundtrack tracklisting is available in avatarscore.com

  • Oh! That serene solo violin in ‘Paa’ trailer music is bliss. I expected some instrumental themes in ‘Paa’ Soundtrack. ‘Cheenikum’ had a Veg and a Non-Veg Melody but here we get just a Paa theme remix. Paa Theme remix is not done by Ilaiyaraaja, it is by Vickky Goswami. I am a bit hopeful because, of all things, director Balki chose to talk about Ilaiyaraaja’s background score in the press meet.

  • I love Karthik Raaja’s score for ‘Anything for you’ trailer, with an innate Indian melody, soulful orchestration, it is vintage Karthik Raja. Why doesn’t this guy do some non-film instrumental works like his father?

  • It is good to see budding composers talking about their background scores as much as their songs. James Vasanthan says he has enrolled himself in a course on ‘Film Score Orchestration’.

  • Recently finished reading a book called “Behind the Curtain – Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios”; it had some extensive information about how background scores were recorded earlier in Hindi films. The book is a very emotional account of the life of musicians in film orchestras that existed earlier and their subsequent downfall. And not so surprisingly, the music assistants and arrangers themselves admit in their interviews that almost 90% of the composers in Hindi films didn’t care about background scores. The video snippets of the interviews of musicians are available here.

  • I haven’t seen ‘Yuvraaj’ yet, but I listened to the beautiful background score of the film here. How many more such movies, Rahman is going to waste his music on?

  • And yes, I stole the title for this post ‘Needle Drops’ from John O’brien’s comment on ‘Listening Couples Retreat’ post.

Friday, October 30, 2009


‘Background Score’ blog turns 2 today.

It has been quite a journey and a great learning experience so far. Thank you.

On this happy occasion, here is a feast for film score fans.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Score Quest Fest Answers

Score Quest Fest

Track 9 is from Punnagai Mannan. Composer – Ilaiyaraaja. I like to call this piece the prelude to the popular love theme. It appears when Kamal is deeply disturbed by the hallucination of him dancing with Revathi and angrily hits the Piano. It is a short piece with a beautiful melody and counter melodies.

Track 10 is from Raam. Composer – Yuvan Shankar Raja. It is the title score of the movie in which the scene takes us through every little detail of the place of crime. Yuvan uses a background score cue from the 7G, Rainbow colony and shifts to a new theme as the visuals shifts to the crime scene. I don’t remember where else the theme is used in the film as I didn’t like the film.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Score Quest Fest Answers

Score Quest Fest

Track 7 is from Parthiban Kanavu. Composer – Vidhyasagar. This simple sweet melody is the main love theme of the movie. It appears first when Srikanth sees Sneha and falls in love with her instantly. It continues to play in all the scenes where Srikanth chases her to find her place and identity.

Track 8 is from Porkaalam. Composer – Deva. This haunting melody is Meena’s theme in the movie. Right from the beginning, ever silent Meena expresses her love for Murali through this melody. Once everything collapses and Murali decides to marry a disabled girl, the shattered world of Meena is heard through the orchestral version of the same theme in the climax. The impact of the orchestral version is higher as we audience don’t know what is going to happen and we get shocked to see Meena walking with the disabled girl, whom Murali is getting married to.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Score Quest Fest Answers

Score Quest Fest

Track 5 is from Nattamai. Composer – Sirpi. This is the theme for the chief of the Nattamai family. Though overused throughout the film, the theme aptly adds to the honesty and regal of the head family of the village.

Track 6 is from Kushi. Composer – Deva. This is the omnipresent main love theme of the film that appears every time Siva and Jennifer meet. It sounds best in the scene where Siva and Jennifer both run to save the dying flame of a lamp in the temple. In this scene, music perfectly complemented every single shot. It seems as if the shots were composed and carefully edited keeping music in mind.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Score Quest Fest - Answers

Score Quest Fest

Track 3 is from Dasavatharam. Composer - Devi Sri Prasad. This is the title score. Though I am not sure how genuine this composition is, when played in the title credits, it gave a majestic entry to the much hyped film.

Track 4 is from Ivan. Composer - Ilaiyaraaja or Karthik Raja. I am not sure who the composer is as the piece has unmistakable Karthik Raja touch. It is Deetchanya's theme. It plays in the scene where Deetchanya dreams in which she asks Parthiban to write a poem. It is a scintillating orchestral piece for a very poetic scene. The shift to a melody on bells when she says 'Kavithai' and the following strings piece to imply the ecstasy of Deetchanya is simply hair-rising stuff.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Score Quest Fest - Answers

Score Quest Fest

Track 1 is the main theme of 13B (Yaavarum Nalam), Composed by Tubby and Parik. The theme is omnipresent in the film. This is the version that appears in the Titles (one of the most sensibly done titles in a while) which elaborately hints at the concept and secret on which the whole film is based. Some guessed it as ‘Eeram’ which is good as this piece would have easily fitted in ‘Eeram’ also.

Track 2 is from Autograph composed by Sabesh - Murali. It is played when Senthil first meets Lathika in Kerala. The serene ambience of the backwaters of Kerala, beauty of Lathika (in the eyes of Senthil), the tempo with which boat moved all are beautifully captured in this piece.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Score Quest Fest

Guess the Tamil movies from the score cues

1 -

2 -

3 -

4 -

5 -

6 -

7 -

8 -

9 -

10 -

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Listening 'Couples Retreat'

‘Couples Retreat’ is in a way the true entry of A.R.Rahman into Hollywood. He did some stage musicals, there were some Hollywood movies which used his Indian songs, he was a co-composer in ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ and also it was a movie by an Indian Director, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was never meant to be such a huge success and even A.R.Rahman didn’t believe it was his ‘Ticket to Hollywood’ while working on that movie and moreover it was a movie set in India. But with ‘Couples Retreat’ is none of the above. The world knows who A.R.Rahman is and they expect him to go ‘Jai Ho’ again. Has he?

‘Sajna’ is a breezy romantic ballad done on a template ripped straight out of ‘Dreams on Fire’ (a gem which is yet to get its due) with simple lyrics and a catchy Hindi hook phrase ‘Sajna Re’. Except for that hook, the melody of song sounds simple and too much worked upon as they have tried hard to fit in lyrics for Rahman’s tune. It gets better with vocal harmony countering the main melody and is truly elevated at the end with a soulful string section smoothing the rough edges of the melody. But overall, this song is a very underwhelming start to the soundtrack.

But wait, a full instrumental version of the song comes up in ‘Tour to the Villas’. The melody of the phrase ‘Sajna Re’ is almost the main theme of the movie. The sweeping grandeur of this theme as played on full throttled string section begins the track ‘Tour to the Villas’. I can imagine ‘Tour to the Villa’ being played when the couples enter the ‘Eden Resort’ in an Island and take a tour around the resort checking out what is in store for them. The music just follows them as they move through various sections. The track shifts from the main melody to another beautiful melody played on ‘Erhu’ (a Chinese Spa in the resort or a mediation or Yoga centre??), and to more ambient, soundscape music filled with ethnic percussions and exotic instruments that effectively puts the listeners right in the middle of the mood and space that it wants to create.

There is another main theme in the movie which first appears in the track ‘Jason and Cynitia Suite’. It is a simple, soothing melody oozing romanticism. The melody is introduced in the very beginning on a guitar solo, and then it turns into a guitar concerto with strings joining in and replying to the guitar phrase by phrase. The melody slowly ascends up and turns into a full throttled orchestral piece proving that A.R.Rahman is easily capable of doing a very conventional Hollywood movie score. It moves up, up and up until there is nowhere to go, takes a breath, and turns to the ‘Sajna Re’ theme. A serene Santoor tickles and a pleasing atmospheric melody on velvety flute join the ‘Sajna Re’ melody on soft strings gently dancing in the air. Aah! BLISS.

The ‘Sajna Re’ theme again appears exquisitely in the track ‘The Waterfalls’, which one can easily imagine is for when the couple is watching a beautiful waterfalls and gets into a romantic mood. And for the romance Rahman brings in the ‘Jason and Cynitia Theme’ for a brief moment towards the end.

Having played the theme enough with the orchestra, it is time for ‘Jason and Cynitia Theme’ to travel on solo instruments. To further reveal its yet uncorked beauty, the theme is played on quietening Piano, mellifluous Oboe (sounds divine in this avatar), aching cello and all carried as a one whole by a soft bed of supporting strings in ‘Jason and Cynitia Piano Theme’.

‘Kuru Kuru Kan’ with its zing-swing rhythm is instantly addictive, the shakers keeps our head shaking with the melody and Rahman gently whispers the melody laced over cute and simple Tamizh lyrics. The language isn’t a problem here, as the melody and the ambient orchestration beautifully sprinkles the romance in the air. That whistle melody is the coolest thing I have heard in a while. And when you expect the song to slowly fade over, the mood is further enhanced as Rahman introduces a twist to the song with a layer of soulful strings soaring over the melody.

Clearly ‘Shark’ theme is going to play out when Vince Vaughn is thrown into the sea surrounded by Sharks. It is a very dramatic piece predominantly on strings playing a very Indian melody. A short phrase repeating on strings forming a chaotic harmony for the Sharks approaching, biting and reaching and Vince’s attempt to escape. It comes to a grand halt as it finally bites Vince Vaughn and Rahman’s cry follows sympathising what this guy has just gone through. From those visuals in the trailer, it is easy to imagine how fitting this music would be for that situation.

As you can see in the trailer of the movie, ‘Marcel’ is an Asian, and in one of the shots in the trailer the second item in the Itinerary is titled ‘Dr.Marcel’s Activity’, and I guess ‘Meeting Marcel’ track plays out in the scenes related to that. That explains why the music sounds totally Asian. Filled with deep windy flutes, Indian chants and drums, dramatic strings it is hard to predict what happens on screen, but as a standalone track it is a soothing transcending meditational music. On the same lines, ‘Intervention’ is a serious and a deeply spiritual music with beautifully written harmony of strings.

‘Animal Spirits’ is an eclectic piece and a glittering gem of a track. Strangely, it starts with the same melody and Rahman’s vocals that begins the track ‘Intervention’. The track keeps changing its colour, flavour, genre but all bound together for one purpose – Creating a heavenly aural ambience. Heavenly, is how I felt when the track stops its rhythm and beats and a sitar begins to a relaxing start with ‘Sajna Re’ slowly fading in on soft strings. Another twist ends the track with the most euphoric version of the ‘Sajna Re’ theme.

Now, wait, wasn’t this soundtrack meant for a ‘Romantic Comedy’, but so far we heard mostly serious and romantic music, where is the comedy?

It is obvious that a comedy need not have a comic music always. I guess here the comedy comedy is out of the people who are put in serious situations. For the victims of comedy, it is a serious moment. So, the music should be as serious as the people who are put in the situation so that the people outside can feel them genuinely funny.

Rahman uses staccatos and pizzicatos to its maximum in the track ‘Itinerary’. It is for the scene in which the couples get a list of tasks that they have to complete in this package. The whole track is highly dependent on the visual proceedings but for sure a very interestingly orchestrated piece with varied instruments. Having seen the visuals, ‘Undress’ could be the funniest track of the soundtrack - think of English men reluctantly undressing accompanied by Indian strings (a lingering Tanpura throughout) and percussions (Ghatam in this case). The music slowly builds up as each man undress one after the other and comes to a grinding halt with a blow when it comes to undressing the black man who says he is not wearing the inners.

In ‘Salvadore’, Spanish flamenco meets Indian Taraana and the very thought of such a combination is intriguing and Rahman pulls of it brilliantly with ample support from the talented Kailash Kher. I can’t really imagine where this music would fit it but it could be for that guy (whose name could be Salvadore) who comes to teach ‘Yoga’ to the couples in a hilarious scene. ‘NaNa’ is a true-to-genre hippy-peppy beach party dance song in the soundtrack. The non-stop rapping, the swing in the rhythm, the ever intruding trumpets all nicely put together to make an effective stress buster of a song. ‘Luau’ sprinkled with Spanish guitars is an impressive instrumental track with nice percussion arrangements (composed by John O’Brien).

‘Couples Retreat’ as a whole has something for everyone who comes to hear specific stuff from A.R.Rahman, but no ‘Jai Ho’ here and that is not a complaint. This soundtrack may not be spoken about like how every movie review spoke about ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ score, and it may not win any awards, but that is not the point. The music should fit the movie and some of it should get a life of its own outside and I am sure ‘Couples Retreat’ has got both.

Audio Clips from http://www.couplesretreatsoundtrack.com

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Listening 'Passage'

Shekhar Kapur’s Passage (an A.R.Rahman musical in a way, the only moment there is no music behind is when a character says “the music has stopped”) opens with most unlikely sound for a film set in Venice - A Saarangi. Also in Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”, Rahman used the same instrument for the track “Divinity theme”. So, we don’t know whether it really is Rahman’s choice or Shekhar Kapur’s. The melody that is played on Saarangi could have been easily replaced by a cello, while Saarangi is pitched higher, a cello if pitched lower playing the same melody would have yielded the same effect. With a Cello, it would have easily sounded European grounded in the soil where the story takes place.

We may also need to completely understand the intensity of emotions that are on display here – loss, separation, reconciliation - to understand why the loudness is. How big the loss is? How long they have been separated? What this reunion means to them? Only if all these questions are clearly answered and understood, one can understand the loudness of the emotion put on display with the Saarangi. Only a non-Indian who has never heard the sound of ‘Saarangi’ before can say what it did to him while listening to it with the visuals. So, while I am sure that it is great music as a stand-alone track, I am not sure if it is a great score. But I must admit that this piece is such an important narrative tool for Shekhar Kapur without which it wouldn’t have been possible for him to convey what he wanted to in a short time. With just the sound of Saarangi you get that there was something devastating that “happened in the future” of those 3 little girls merrily playing there on the streets.

The very sound of Saarangi has a feel of longingness in it which is much louder and instantly striking than that of a Cello. But adding a universal touch over this very Indian string piece is a layer of melody on Piano which deepens the emotion further and adds a serene touch and eternality to the piece as a whole. The Saarangi and Piano meet and part, fuse and diffuse perfectly creating a sombre mood. The Piano theme is so haunting that it is sure to bring tears when heard in solitude. The Harp that keeps looping behind aptly fits the rhythm of the visuals and the kaleidoscopic visualization of the emotions and not to forget the thin layer of e-sounds carefully picked and mixed creating a dream-like aural ambience.

The next piece ‘Tango’ is not composed by A.R.Rahman, it is a music played in a dancing bar so it need not be an original composition but it is genre of music which A.R.Rahman also could have done convincingly. When all the three sisters finally get together, ‘Saarangi’ is not to be heard anymore in ‘Atmosphere’. Now that they have met, there is no more deep pain and only traces of it still remains maintained by continuing the Piano melody as the three walk to meet someone (parents??).

The piece that follows, in later of part the track ‘Atmosphere’, is not composed by A.R.Rahman (I did not know this, though I doubted that it can’t be A.R.Rahman’s, the end credits in the movie clarifies that); it is from ‘Requiem in D Minor’ composed by Mozart (the unfinished piece he composed on his death bed). I have cried out of overwhelm many times watching the ultimatum of this breath taking climactic sequence in the movie ‘Amadeus’ where he dictates notes for this requiem to Salieri. The choice of this piece in this movie at this precise moment raises a lot of questions. It plays for a brief time when 3 sisters get into the place where they want Abbey to audition or perform or record her song.

And thus comes the finale, the ‘Aria’ composed by A.R.Rahman and sung by Kavitha Balliga. Unlike the music of western classical masters, this piece has got an easily relatable, identifiable, memorable and a not so complex melody that instantly sticks to your mind and heart. The melody is so expressive and emotional though I don’t understand a word of what is sung. Sung exquisitely by Kavitha, the orchestral accompaniment makes the song more operatic towards the end. There is a sense of redemption, relief and heal that one gets as the piece reaches its end with which the movie also comes to a close. This is the song which Abbey was trying to sing as she cries in the beginning of the movie and it seems she was really frustrated that she lost her voice.

With the closing Waltz piece, A.R.Rahman announces yet again that he is fully ready and equipped to take off his international journey and he can easily write a conventional orchestral Hollywood score, showing no signs of where he is from. Let us hope this ‘Passage’ opens more doors in international arena for A.R.Rahman.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A.R.Rahman's Couples Retreat

Here are the samples of A.R.Rahman's music for 'Couples Retreat', his first mainstream Hollywood Soundtrack post Oscars. Enjoy.

Couples Retreat - Track 1
Couples Retreat - Track 2
Couples Retreat - Track 3
Couples Retreat - Track 4
Couples Retreat - Track 5

Complete Soundtrack is available for listening in http://www.couplesretreatsoundtrack.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Background Score - 67 is from

This piece is from Dum Dum Dum. Composer – Karthik Raaja. We already discussed the main Love theme of movie. Now we move on to the theme for other genre to which the movie ‘Dum Dum Dum’ belongs to – Comedy (not a laugh-out-loud comedy though). Aadhi (Madhavan) and Ganga (Jyothika), with mutual consent make plans to stop their marriage. The first half of the movie is about how every single plan of theirs fails. It is a common practice in Hollywood to use staccatos and pizzicatos for comic situations but it is not used so much in Indian films.

When I first saw the movie, the background score and especially this piece sounded totally out of place. It sounded odd for a movie that it is set in a village though this isn’t as village as that of in a Bharathiraaja movie. But on multiple viewings, I realized how big a risk Karthik Raaja is taking by trying what not many have tried before in comedy movies. Now I love this piece and also the way it has been used in the movie. The theme is introduced right up in the opening credits of the movie, and next used in a scene where Aadhi begins to execute his first marriage-breaking plan by asking his going-to-be father-in-law Murali not to give any money as dowry, when Aadhi’s kith and kin come asking for it.

The second part of the BGM that I posted appears when the dowry plan actually fails, where unexpectedly Aadhi’s father is impressed by Murali who was stubborn in not giving dowry. In a way this grand orchestral piece is a prelude to the brilliant ‘Desingu Raaja’ song which carries this grandeur further in its interludes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

YMP Upgrade

For the sort of write-ups that this blog is filled with, an inline Yahoo Media player is a boon. It helps the readers to listen to the audio and read the description without scrolling the pages. Impressed with its reader friendliness, I decided to upgrade all my score analysis write-ups with Yahoo Media player. Here are some which I have upgraded, others will follow soon

Making of a Score - Marudhanayagam
Kaadhalukku Mariyaathai
Kadhal Konden

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ilaiyaraaja's Incredits

1976. When the opening titles of “Annakkili” scrolls down to the card “Music – Ilaiyaraaja (Introducing)”, all the fierce folk drums, blowing Nadhaswaram and the rushing strings that have been blasting the soundtrack for a while, come to a pause. The ensemble takes a deep breath for a fraction of a second and bounces back with much more rigour to play the catchiest phrases of the catchiest song of the film’s soundtrack – Machchaana Paatheengala. The precision in the shift to the melody of the song in the title music is to make the audience notice the name of this debutante music composer. Ilaiyaraaja’s music not just drew the audience’s attention to his name but also to the art of background score in films. If not for Ilaiyaraaja, we would not be discussing background scores as much as we do now.

Ilaiyaraaja is the one who brought the thematic background music scoring to Tamil films. By creating distinct motifs and leitmotifs, Ilaiyaraaja created a unique identity to each of the films he scored music for. The experience of watching Naayagan wouldn’t be the same without the omnipresent flute that plays the melody of the song Thenpaandi Chemmayilae in the score, or Guna without those layers of cascading strings that bow heavenly strands of musical phrases for the shot of Moon on the full-moon day in the climax, or Chinna Veedu without that jaunty Nadhirdhaana dhiranana na theme, and, more recently, Paa without that flamboyant Celtic violin piece.

Ilaiyaraaja would play these motifs and leitmotifs repeatedly throughout the film. They get registered firmly in viewers' mind even though the viewers may not consciously have paid any attention to the music playing behind the scenes in the film. These melodies though repeated many times throughout the film, never sound monotonous. Ilaiyaraaja would orchestrate the same melody in different ways and give it a musical shape, tone and aura that is appropriate to the given mood or the situation in which it has to play in the film. Just like any notable film score composer in the world, most of these scores have something for the inclined to take home to hum for a day or two after watching the film. These themes could be the melody derived from one of the songs of the film, which were already composed for the moods and emotions of the scenes in the film. Ilaiyaraaja would orchestrate the melodies of the songs differently to suit the cuts, length of the shot and emotional sync points in the visuals.

In Maniratnam’s Thalapathi, there arises a situation in which Subbulakshmi (Shobana) has to sacrifice her love - Surya (Rajini) and get married to someone else - Arjun (Arvind Swamy). Subbulakshmi comes to meet Surya to explain her situation and defend her decision. The heartbroken Surya shouts at her and asks her to leave the place. When the dejected Subbulakshmi leaves, Surya turns and looks sympathetically at helpless Subbulakshmi, and that shot lingers for a while. Ilaiyaraaja lifts the baton and instructs the string section of his orchestra to go Naan Unai Neenga Maataen, Neenginaal Thoonga Maattaen, Saernthathae Nam Jeevanae, Sundari and a pause. Read that pause as a lump in the throat of anyone who has ever experienced this film. A flute then takes over to sing 'Kannaal Oru Sethi'. Did Maniratnam deliberately allow that shot to linger to create space for Ilaiyaraaja's music? It is totally unthinkable for the emotions in this scene being effectively conveyed by anything else but Ilaiyaraaja's music. There is, of course, that mild shake we hear in Surya's voice, when he says the final 'Po' (Go) to Subbulakshmi. However, it is Ilaiyaraaja's music, which transfers that mild shake into an earth shattering emotional quake.

The most fascinating aspect of Ilaiyaraaja’s background score is precision. The precisely timed, seamless transitions from one emotion to the other in background music, without ever compromising on the natural flow and the musicality of the piece is the single most prominent quality that puts Ilaiyaraaja on par with or sometimes, even above any film music composer in the world. The aspect of precision could be best illustrated through a scene and its score, from the film Thalapathi. It is the scene in which Surya comes to Arjun’s house and asks him to leave the city. A heroic trumpet piece, which could be labelled “Clash theme”, plays in all the scenes of confrontation between Arjun’s group and Devarajan’s (Mamooty) group. When Arjun comes to talk to Surya, the clash theme proudly pronounces Arjun’s perception of this meeting – yet another verbal clash. When Arjun says “Bhayamuruthiriyaa” (Are you threatening me?), Surya replies “Illai, Kenji Kaetkuraen” (No, I am Pleading), and in between Ilaiyaraaja brings down the clash theme from a high-headed trumpet to a subdued Oboe. The real masterstroke is when in parallel strings play Chinna Thaayaval song’s melody. While Oboe version of clash theme is to sound how Arjun perceives this conversation, the Chinna Thaayaval melody is to sound Surya’s emotions. The ironic emotions at play in the visuals are underlined by a piece that plays two different themes that represent the two different emotions as a counterpoint to one another.

Ilaiyaraaja understands the film much better than the director of the film, which is why irrespective of the quality of the visual telling of the story, Ilaiyaraaja’s score always stays in viewers' mind. The background score of the film Ninaivellam Nithya and particularly the love theme of the film is one classic example of Ilaiyaraaja trying everything to prevent a film that is suffering from a poor script, screenplay, direction and the stony expressions of the lead pair. There is no romance in anything in this film except Ilaiyaraaja’s music.

The initial flute bit that plays when the lead pair meets for the first time is a lovely warm up melody for the flute that is so eagerly waiting to play the gorgeous love theme. Ilaiyaraaja firmly registers the place of action with a classic guitar accompaniment playing a rhythmic riff. Ilaiyaraaja amazingly plays with the rhythm of the theme for different moods on various situations - sometimes as chords on piano, sometimes as staccato on strings, and sometimes on rustic tribal percussions to differentiate the subtlety of the emotions in different situations. Initially, we hear an understated bass line running parallel to the main love theme, and it perfectly works for the lighter moments of romance. But, once relationship turns stronger, and when one becomes an emotional burden on the other, the bass line gets heavier. The heavy bass line beautifully works for the heaviness of the situation in which the guy slaps the girl he loves the most in this world. Musically too, the bass line is a brilliant counter melody to the main theme. Ilaiyaraaja rightfully brings in multiple layers of western choirs in latter portions for the love that suffers more opposition and reaches a musically epic end. To make the theme sound more sympathetic, Ilaiyaraaja adds another layer of Oboe to the version of the main theme that plays in all sombre moments.

Ilaiyaraaja, who broke all conventions and grammars in song music, did similar experiments in background scores too. Ilaiyaraaja never bowed down to these restrictions imposed by the time and place. To Ilaiyaraaja, what matters the most is the emotion. It is a fair argument to say that an Indian film score should sound Indian, but when dealing with a universal emotion, there is no harm in the music sounding slightly alien, if the composer knows how to use the liberty without compromising the essence of the native emotions. Only an Ilaiyaraaja can get away with using Ennio Morricone style Spanish Guitars and trumpets in a film, which looks and feels as earthy as Bharathi Raaja’s Mudhal Mariyaathai. The piece works so effectively for the zeal of Sivaji Ganesan, who plays the role of middle-aged Man in the film, in lifting the giant rock to prove that he is young enough to marry Raadhaa. No one care about the alien sound of the guitars and trumpets in the scene, because the mood it creates for the moment in the film could not get any better.

It is necessary for a score composer to keep all of these musical manipulations just in the background. One would not have heard or paid attention to these buried beauties while they were watching the film for the first time, but surely they would have carried home the intended emotions. It is only when one begins to contemplate about those that remain in the background and re-views the film to dig it deeper the genius emerges to the fore. Ilaiyaraaja brings his music into the scene and feeds the feel of the scene into the audience's mind without their knowledge. We often think that all the emotions that we go through while watching the film are because of the actors and the story but, so subtly in the background, Ilaiyaraaja’s music stands tall than anything else in the film as the vital aspect that keeps us emotionally engaged with the film.

A rough estimate says that Ilaiyaraaja has composed background score for at the least 900 Indian films. The talkie portions in Indian films are usually 120 minutes long. Let us assume that on an average 60 minutes of a film has background music. Ilaiyaraaja has composed at least 5400 minutes of background music for films so far. Ilaiyaraaja is still actively making music for films. There is enough music material in Ilaiyaraaja’s repertoire for the listeners to listen to, study and dig deep into for at least another century. However, let us kick start the discussion with the cues Ilaiyaraaja wrote for opening title sequence in films.

Just like how ‘Background Score’ or ‘Re-Recording’ (that is how it is widely called by the industry insiders) was something that Tamil film composers or the film makers did not invest much time into before Ilaiyaraaja stormed into Tamil Film Music scene, the music for the opening credits of the film were also mostly stock, or instrumental versions of the popular songs from the film. Ilaiyaraaja too has used and still uses instrumental versions of the songs from the film for the opening credits of the film, but he has done and still continues to do a lot more than just that.

The music in the opening credits of Annakkili was just a beginning to the countless wonders that Ilaiyaraaja was going to do with this idea of having music in the opening credits, in hundreds of films, for decades to come. When I decided to go on this journey through music in opening credits of hundreds of his films, I recognized various patterns in the way Ilaiyaraaja writes these opening credits music pieces. However, all the patterns and the theories written about Ilaiyaraaja’s music mostly are just an interpretation. The idea behind making the music the way it is could be something totally different. The intent of this analysis is not to find the exact thought process that went behind creating opening credits music in each of these films, for it cannot be known until Ilaiyaraaja himself decides to speak about them.

Typically, the opening credits sequence of the film is the last reel for which the composer writes the score. By the time the opening credits reel is taken up for scoring, Ilaiyaraaja would have already created varied motifs and completed the entire score for the film. The music for the opening credits is created as a suite of various principal motifs of the film. The best example of the opening credits music made in this way is that of Mouna Raagam.

In Mouna Raagam titles, Ilaiyaraaja strings all the main motifs from the film - except for Chandrakumar (Mohan) theme – into one single musical piece for the title sequence that zooms into the pictures of Divya (Revathi) in various stages of her life. All the themes selected are from the life of Divya so far - the main Piano theme, the funnier version of the same theme, mischief theme (that is used when Divya and her sister pour a tank full of water from the terrace on her brother). Ilaiyaraaja does not introduce the Chandrakumar theme, which is used as a recurring motif in the film number of times more than even the most popular Manohar (Karthik) Piano theme. Ilaiyaraaja, in the opening credits music, wants to give us a musical brief of what Divya has gone through so far in life and not what she is going to go through in the future.

Opening credits of Tamil films are at least two minutes long. Now, here is a situation. Ilaiyaraaja is not interested in playing instrumental version of a song from the film as the opening credits music. Moreover, the main musical motif of the film is too short. Mostly Ilaiyaraaja tends to keep the melodic phrases in the main motifs of a film’s background score short, simple, sweet and extremely malleable, so that he could twist, turn, and stretch and orchestrate it in any which way he wants throughout the film. Ilaiyaraaja does all of that with the main love theme of the film Idhayam in the opening credits of the film.

Ilaiyaraaja does not allow us to listen to the complete love theme instantly in the opening credits. Before establishing the main theme in its entirety, in its original form, he teases us with a scrambled version of the theme. He makes a fresh orchestral piece, by patiently building each and every phrase of the melody on various instruments of the orchestra, adding counter melodies and sub-themes around. All of these layers play in various permutations and combinations, and only towards the end of the piece Ilaiyaraaja allows the main theme to attain its most mature form, and the form that we would listen to throughout the film. Idhayam opening credits music is done in this way and is a sheer delight to listen to, and it is necessary to note that this version of the love theme is not used anywhere else in the film.

When the main Anjali theme plays in its entirety on bells, guitar, Harpsichord and piano, it is not so difficult for someone to imagine that the film is about children. The simplicity, innocence and melancholy in the theme epitomize every emotion that the film wants to capture in its child protagonist.

The exquisite flute sonata piece - in which a free flowing flute melody is countered by an equally intriguing melody looping on Guitar - plays out in the title of ‘Vanna Vanna Pookal’ and it is indeed the main motif of the film. The theme has a romantic tenderness and the aura of wild life in which the romance is set, and there could not be a more appropriate piece to play in the opening credits through which the audience is primed to moods and tones of the narrative. The main theme is followed by another theme from the film, which is heard in the film, when Prasanth rides his cycle enthusiastically to the forest every day to visit his lady love.

The opening credits of Nooravadhu Naal has got every single sound and background score piece used in the film except for the piece heard in the most pivotal scene, when Nalini is finally in the scene of crime and sees the bald headed Satyaraj. That is the moment when she witnesses her nightmare unfolding right in front of her, in reality. The trumpet theme used for this crucial moment is one of the scariest background music piece heard in Tamil films. Ilaiyaraaja plays a teaser of this trumpet theme in the opening credits. There is a rhythm produced by hitting a Tabla with a small hammer in quick succession, and this I would say is the signature sound of the film and Ilaiyaraaja rightfully introduces the same in the very beginning of the opening credits of the film.

The opening credits music discussed thus far are some of the themes that recur throughout the respective films. In some films, Ilaiyaraaja chooses to use for opening credits, the cue he scored for one of the high points of the film. Like in Virumandi, the opening credits music is a full-length version of an aching violin solo that is heard when Virumandi begins to narrate his version of the past and talks about Annalakshmi. In Heyram, though it aptly begins with the Kamal’s exquisitely operatic chant of Raghupathi Raaghava Raajaram, the music shifts to symphonic piece that is used in the scene in which Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated.

In Mahanadhi, the sombre theme, which is going to be heard in every tragic incident, in the life of Krishna, plays in the opening credits of the film. The opening credits music is a pleasant flute fiesta. It sounds the life of Krishna, which has been as peaceful, serene and undisturbed like a river stream, so far. The flow of the flute piece suddenly comes to an end when the bells begin to play the main tragedy theme with heavy chords and bass lines. The spine-chilling Veena piece that spreads a sense of danger throughout the later part of the film does not feature in the opening credits. While the title cards are on, the visuals show us the interiors of a Jail. The visuals in the background demand a raw and harsh sound and that cannot be anything but the real ambient sound and that is why Ilaiyaraaja goes silent. If the film had opening credits shown with a blank screen in the background, Ilaiyaraaja would have seamlessly woven even the Kamal-Suganya love motif into the opening credits music.

The opening credits need not necessarily scroll over a blank screen always. Sometimes the film straight away jumps into the main story and the related visuals, with the credits simultaneously laid over these visuals. In such opening credits, Ilaiyaraaja scores music just the way he scored any other scene in the film. He does not mind the scrolling credits; his music follows the action in the visuals behind the scrolling credits.

The opening credits music in Aditya 369 is an apt example for credits scrolling over a visual montage. When the title of the film appears, Ilaiyaraaja begins with a bang by introducing the main motif of the film. The opening credits are laid over the montage that captures the actions of Tinu Anand. He is working hard in his lab to invent a Time Machine. The opening credits music is laid over this montage. The music begins with some strange sounds tentatively popping up here and there and the track proceeds without any identifiable rhythm or meter. When Tinu Anand makes progress, an Oboe subtly hints the main theme of the film. When we see that Tinu Anand is marching in the right direction, a solo violin plays the main theme of the film in its entirety and is accompanied by dissonant counter violin layers. The theme moves further and expands on an orchestra when Tinu Anand becomes even more confident of his experiment. Once the success of the experiment is confirmed Ilaiyaraaja drifts away from the main theme, and the orchestra slowly builds up to a crescendo at the peak of which the whole orchestra bangs the main theme to bring the piece to a contextual closure. The Time Machine is ready.

There are films in which Ilaiyaraaja uses neither the main motif of the film nor the instrumental version of a popular song from the film. Ilaiyaraaja composes a new piece of music for opening credits, and he does not use them anywhere else in the film. This happens mostly in films, where the opening credits are laid over a visual montage that sets the stage and ambience for the film’s main narrative to take off.

Vetri Vizha opens with the visuals that celebrate the scenic beauty of the vast shores and Tall coconut trees of Goa. Ilaiyaraaja supports the visuals with a music piece that is soothing and calming like the shot of the sun that rises over the shore. Ilaiyaraaja adds a Goan folk touch by using his own rustic vocals in conversation with the flute. However, as the film drifts far apart and away from the scenic beauty of Goa, Ilaiyaraaja finds no place anywhere else in the film to use this piece again.

The music that plays in the opening credits of Singara Velan is totally out of sync with the overall tone and mood of the film. If one were to decide the genre of the film, just by listening to the opening credits music of the film, one would easily assume it as a Bharathiraaja film. However, the music in the opening credits is apt for what is being shown. The village, the farm fields, the cattle, greeneries and overall pleasing ambience are gently echoed by an intoxicating flute piece and Ilaiyaraaja’s signature strings accompanied by Tabla rhythms.

In opening credits of Vishwa Thulasi, B.Kannan’s camera aesthetically captures the mirror-like clean and still water bodies that mix the pure vanilla white of the sky above with the dark green of the dense bushes around. Not so surprisingly Ilaiyaraaja resorts to mesmerising flutes and strings again and plays a melody that is not the main love theme of the film, but one that fits and flows in sync with the slide show of exquisite images, and the mood that it evokes.

Who can forget the western violin theme of Netrikkan? Despite having such an infectious theme, Ilaiyaraaja is in no hurry to play it in the opening credits of the film. Ilaiyaraaja plays only what is necessary for the visuals in opening credits sequence of the film. He alternates between western trumpets, guitars and violins for Father Rajini, who is a womanizer and flute and Veena for ‘Obedient’ son Rajini to sound the contrast between the characters as they and their daily routines are introduced to us in the visuals. The feel of the western melody played on Violin used in the opening credits is same as that of the main theme with a dominant violin solo, and it plays out like one long prelude to the main theme. It even sounds as if the main theme may break out from it anytime.

In the opening credits of Brahmma, the focus is on an artist (Satyaraj) who is making a portrait of a face. Sometimes films begin with a prologue to the main story and not the credits as it does in Brahmma. The intriguing score creates just enough curiosity about the face that the artist is painting. Idhayathai Thirudathey opens with the mournful flutes, oboes, and bass cellos reflecting the brooding territory that the film will end up being in the latter half.

Ilaiyaraaja, in some films, joins a melody of one of the popular songs of the film with one of the main motifs from the background score of the film as one single piece for the opening credits. The full throttled orchestral action cue that is used in all action sequences is played in the opening credits of Captain Prabhakaran, and suddenly out of nowhere a flute version of Aatama Therottama song pops up in between. Even in the opening credits of Netrikkan, the piece shifts to the melody of Raamanin Mohanam song when the spotlight is on the character of the Son-Rajini. The most beautiful and the seamless fusion of background score theme and the melody of a song happens in the opening credits of Gopuar Vaasalilae. The main flute theme seamlessly fuses with the melody of Devathai poloru song in between.

Ilaiyaraaja mixes the melodies of the songs of the film and background score themes of the film. He compiles and sequences them in such a way that the piece as a whole musically narrates the central theme or plot of the film. In the opening credits of Veera, music begins with the seriousness of brassy orchestral swells and bangs. A classical alaap follows. A western classical waltz on strings takes over, and it plays as a prelude to flute version of Konji Konji Alaigal Oda song. It comes to an end with Ilaiyaraaja hitting the notes of Malaikovil Vaasalil on temple bells and is accompanied by the addictive rhythm from the original song. The line-up of themes and songs and the sudden jumps from one piece to the other may make it sound as a piece put hastily together with random music bits. But, there is the reason behind the choice of every single section of music and the order in which it plays out in the opening credits music. The music concentrates only on the Rajini-Meena Love story which obviously is the emotional crux of the film. The classical alaap is chosen because it is through classical music Rajini gets to interact with Meena. Konji Konji is the song Meena teaches Rajini for the music competition. Malaikovil Vaasalil is the song that finally brings Rajini and Meena together in the back story, and so the title score ends exactly from where the story takes off in the beginning of the film.

A native folk rhythm for the village backdrop, a temple bell for Hindu boy, a church bell, a western classical waltz and flute sonata pieces for the British girl, an Indian flute playing an earthy melody for the gypsy girl, play one after the other in the opening credits of the film Nadodi Thendral which is about the love triangle between a gypsy girl, a British lady and a Tamil Brahmin man set in a south Indian village, in the pre-independence era.

In the opening credits of Alaigal Oivathillai, a rolling rhythm on Mirudangam is for the significance of the part Carnatic classical music plays in the love story. A rustic voice sings a folk melody for the village backdrop. Church bell gongs for the girl, who is a Christian. Sanskrit slogans and temple bell are for the boy, who is a Hindu. The western classical section of strings and choir is for the romance between the Hindu boy and Christian girl. A female chorus sings a Carnatic crescendo with Swaram and all of it ends with the energetic folk melody and rhythm, reminding the place in which the story is set.

In Arangettra Velai, the whole film hangs onto a singular incident that happens because of a wrong phone call. For the opening credits of this film, Ilaiyaraaja samples the telephone ringing sound and uses this sample like an instrument with which he plays a melody. Could music in the opening credits of a film become any better contextual than this?

Ilaiyaraaja uses just melody of one song from the film and re-orchestrates it to play in the opening credits of the film. The best example of this type of scoring opening credits is that of Azhaghi. In the visuals, a camera is tracking the footstep marks on the sands of the seashore. A man in love is searching for his lost soul. To elevate this emotion Ilaiyaraaja picks the melody of the song Oliyilae and orchestrates it heavily with strings. He adds more depth and emotion to the melody with counter melodies that play on cascading layers of violins in the string section.

Sometimes, he would retain the complete backing orchestration of the song as it is in the film and would replace just the lead melody with a solo instrument or a chorus. In Madhu, the melody of best song of the film Kaetkavillaya is played on a solo violin while the orchestral backing remains the same as that of the original song.

The animation film Inimey Naangathaan opens with the sight of a beautiful dawn of the day and Ilaiyaraaja beautifies the moment further with a scintillating orchestral piece. When the camera begins to track the journey of a leaf that just fell on a river stream, Ilaiyaraaja plays the melody of the theme song of the film Unnai kael on strings. The music beautifully goes with the colourful visuals. In the opening credits, of Payanangal Mudivathillai a wholly new orchestral version of the best song of the film Ilaiya Nila plays. The orchestration of this version of the song is a stuff that only an Ilaiyaraaja can pull off.

Ilaiyaraaja sometimes goes for a totally strange approach. For the opening credits, he writes music that has nothing to do with the any of the principal characters or overall theme or mood of the film. The classic example is Moondram Pirai. There are quite a lot of themes in the film that he could have played in the opening credits – the melancholic strings that is heard when Seenu searches for Viji or the music used in the dream sequence in which Seenu imagines Viji coming out of the room as a mature woman. Ilaiyaraaja strangely chooses Silk Smitha’s theme and uses it is in the opening credits. It is the music heard when she makes love with her rich, old aged husband.

Similarly in Rettai Vaal Kuruvi, Ilaiyaraaja does not use the emotionally moving theme that is used throughout the film whenever Mohan’s love for children is on spotlight. There is also the hilarious trumpet theme that plays when Mohan is caught between two wives in the hospital. Raaja uses none of these and composes an entirely new theme to play in the opening credits of the film, and it is not used anywhere else in the film.

In the opening credits of Aarilirunthu Arubadhu Varai, Ilaiyaraaja plays a differently orchestrated version of the interludes of the song Kanmaniyae Kaadhal Yenbadhu. For a film, that has far and few happy moments, the ecstatic title music misleads. For the opening credits, of a crime thriller and a court room drama like Mounam Sammatham, Ilaiyaraaja uses the melody of a song from the film and that song is not the popular Kalyana Thennila but it is Amala’s introduction song.

Ilaiyaraaja is also the one who introduced the trend of using a whole song, with lyrics and vocals in the opening credits of the film. At the peak of his career, it was even believed that if Ilaiyaraaja sung the song composed for the opening credits of the film, the film would become a massive hit. There are hundreds of films in which Ilaiyaraaja has used songs. One can go on and on like this, discussing just about the title music of hundreds of other Ilaiyaraaja films. This is just a small beginning and a droplet of a drop of the ocean.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Background Score - 66 is from

This piece is from Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam. Composer – Illayaraja. It is a compilation of cues from two most exhilarating moments from the movie. The symphony of strings, keyboards, flutes all running across each other playing a stirring melody (in the both the situations for Seenu running towards Thulasi) converges to a flute solo playing the haunting love theme (for coming together of Seenu and Thulasi). See and Listen to experience the exhilaration

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Background Score - 65 is from

This piece is from Achamundu Achamundu. Composer - Karthik Raja. This is the theme instrumental piece as in the OST CD of the movie. I actually thought of watching the movie before putting this post and give my opinion on the background score of the movie, but I couldn't, I am yet to watch the movie. Anyways after Illayaraja, Karthik Raja is the only one who can write such orchestral pieces in Tamil Films.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Background Score - 64 is From

This piece is a compilation of some of the Orffian chants and choirs of A.R.Rahman. The pieces are from Ayutha Ezhuthu (Yuva), Sivaji and Mangal Pandey in that order. The ‘Yuva’ piece appears first in the opening credits of the movie and comes back only after the three parallel narratives merge and move into full-blown action. Sivaji’s piece is fitting for the grand opening credits of the most awaited movie of the year 2007. The theme piece of Mangal Pandey is again a bombastic material to add to the scorching screen presence of Aamir Khan as Mangal Pandey when he first appears in the movie.

Mangal Pandey



Thursday, July 2, 2009

A.R.Rahman in Apple Interview

A.R.Rahman in Apple Interview says

Describe your method for scoring a film.

I mostly don't write to specifically defined cues. I just watch the film a couple of times, stop watching it, then write something that comes to my mind from the film. This way, when I try to sync the music, the results are that much more wholesome. You get something extra that you don't get when you're looking at specific points in the timeline. The music is much more organic this way, not jumping cue to cue. It's more about counterpointing and, sometimes, walking hand-in-hand. Most of the time it works out. If you watch the picture and try to have a specific chord change here, a tempo change there, when the director comes back and wants to move picture, you find that you've wasted time. I think this way is more appealing to me and to the people watching the film. Click tracks and following the SMPTE are necessary for some things, but once you have everything in Logic, then afterwards you can edit and make minor changes.

Rahman’s is a complete antithesis to way Illayaraja works and yet his music works equally well (at least for me) – This bewildering thought never stops to amaze me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Background Score - 63 is From

This piece is from Geetanjali (Idhayathai Thirdathey in Tamil). Composer – Illayaraja. Prakash (Nagarjuna) who is going to die soon because of some incurable disease is dejected in life and mourns his own fate. On the other side Geetanjali (Girija), who also suffers from the same disease leads a happy life without worrying about what happens tomorrow. When the two meet, the attitude of Geetanjali amazes Prakash. After some serious contemplation, Prakash too decides to stop worrying and changes his own perspective towards life. Illayaraja’s lively riff of strings from ‘I Love you Mozart’ perfectly reflects the new rhythm to which Prakash's heart beat dances to as he embraces a fresh attitude towards life.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Background Score - 62 is From

This piece is from Lajja. Composer – Illayaraja. It is the main theme of the movie and is the version that plays in the Title Credits of the movie. The movie in which the director himself claims to have gone for loud drama to make a greater impact, the use of full on symphony orchestra to elevate the drama is completely justified. And this haunting piece is an absolute gem. There is a pinch of sadness, melancholy and sympathy evoking feel in it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Giacchino Scores UP

It would take atleast one or two months for me to move away from Michael Giacchino's 'UP' score. I already wrote in length about the score. Here is an interesting video on making of the score.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Background Score - 61 Is From

This piece is main theme of Mounam Pesiyathey. Composer – Yuvan Shankar Raja. It seems to be quite popular theme music. No one gave a wrong answer on this one. This piece is yet another sample showcasing Yuvan’s interest in doing background scores. A very breezy romantic piece it is. It is introduced right up in the title credits of the movie and again appears only after Surya falls in love. Listen to other versions of this beautiful theme in the videos below

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Most Wanted

Ever since I saw this promo of Univercell Vijay Awards 2008, the theme music that plays in the background kept ringing in my ears. The melody is so haunting and catchy that I have been constantly humming this melody for past one week. On Sunday, when I was reading the back issues of Film Score Monthly magazine, I came to know that this piece is from the soundtrack of ‘Wanted’ composed by Danny Elfman. One of the reliance advertisements also uses this melody.

Success Montage – Wanted

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Listening 'UP'

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie ‘UP’ yet. I have tried to connect the music with the story of the movie that I read on the net.

With swinging rhythm, the mute trumpets, clarinets and xylophone tickles in ‘UP with Titles’ Michael Giacchino takes us back in time, sets up a laid back mood and builds curiosity in a listener’s mind who has just come back from listening to his music at his bombastic best in ‘Star Trek’. The moment the piano hits the first four notes of the gorgeous main (Ellie’s) theme on Piano in ‘We’re in the club now’, it is evident that this is the main theme of the movie that is going to be rechristened itself into various forms; that is going to be played on every single instrument of the orchestra and that is going to be hummed by every single member of the audience who come out of the cinema hall after watching the movie.

The main motif that is every bit nostalgic, romantic, touching, emotional, intimate, serene and simple is the heart and soul of the score of ‘UP’, which is so evident in the very next track ‘Married life’ where it is floated on a waltz rhythm, swaying its way through the emotional highs and lows of the life journey of Carl so far. Every soloist in the orchestra gets his few seconds of fame by playing the theme. The pace and the fact the theme has been played only on solo instruments thus far indicate Carl’s laid back, lazy and lonely life after his wife’s death.

In ‘Carl Goes Up’, for the first time in the score, the string section wakes up (so does we the listeners, wake up to the sudden appearance of an enchanting string section that sounds refreshing and uplifting after umpteen solo versions of the theme) to a brisk swirling and stirring for Carl gearing up to fly high with his house. Carl attempts to liberate himself from the loneliness and the darkness that has now completely engulfed his life. It is in this piece, the main theme moves on from solo instruments to a group of violins as Carl moves out from loneliness to an adventuresome journey in his life. After the initial hullaballoo created by string section for taking off, a serene peace sets in as Carl’s fly becomes steady and stable. The orchestra descends down in its volume playing its final notes and leaves its way to a solo guitar to play the main theme piece to sound that serene peace.

The full orchestra show up for the first time with a dominant brass section in ’52 Chachki Pickup’ playing an edge of the seat action cue. ‘Paradise Found’ is an ambient piece with soothing strings cascading one over the other to reveal a picturesque beauty of the place. ‘Walkin’ the House’ has a comical rhythm to it and feels like it is setup to the rhythm in which Carl’s floating house moves in air.

The moment I heard the pulsating rush in the riff that plays on strings in the beginning of the next track, I thought of Michael Giacchino’s earlier works ‘100 Mile dash’ from ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘100 Rat Dash’ from ‘Ratatouille’ and when immediately saw this track’s name I smiled. Yes, it is another dashing theme; it is ‘Three Dogs dash’ this time. Two of the other dashing themes are my all time favorites in term of orchestration and here is another one. There is at least one scene in every Pixar movie where things dash each other and Michael Giacchino puts a connecting link to all the movie scores through a similar musical riff.

In ‘Kevin Beak’n’ enters the bird Kevin, which is one of the principal characters of the movie. It has got its own beautiful theme which is established here, which sways to its characteristics. The Congo drums adding a unique rhythm to the way Kevin moves, piccolo and bass clarinet plays the main theme for Kevin’s salient features. Giacchino often uses different drums and Chinese percussions instead of usual Timpani’s in his action cues and such percussions work well in ‘Canine Conundrum’ where the Carl and Co seems to be in danger; the malicious flute theme further add to the effect.

Until I heard ‘The Nickel tour’ I was thinking of the theme that got introduced in ‘Up with Titles’ as a one-off piece. In this track, the theme reprises in its orchestral form and I understood the complete beauty of the theme in this track. In the immediate next track ‘The Explorer Motel’, the same theme turns darker. The first high rush, bombastic action cue arrives in ‘Escape from Muntz Mountain’, and from the name it is very clear that Carl is escaping from Muntz who wants the bird Kevin. The music slavishly twists and turns according to the visual action, and in spite of the randomness that could easily creep in such action cues the composer maintains coherence with catchy leitmotifs and travels on it throughout, keeping it as a one homogenous piece and easy listen even off the visuals.

‘Giving Muntz the bird’ starts on a happy note with Kevin’s theme and suddenly darkness spreads over as Muntz is chasing to take the bird from Carl. The Muntz’s theme (the theme from the track ‘Up with Titles’) turns completely dark in this track. As Muntz’s devilish intention become clearer, the theme gradually moves on from soothing string section to the darker parts of audacious brass section.

‘Stuff we did’ made me realize how terribly I missed the main theme of the movie thus far. The theme reappears to evoke nostalgia and the chords and counter melodies helps the theme in bringing the emotion to complete effect.

Don’t believe the negativity in the title ‘Memories can weigh you down’ of this track, the sound is anything but negative. All this while, I was lying on my bed and listening to the soundtrack on my iPod. When I heard the whole orchestra freaking and breaking out playing the reprise of the main theme that we didn’t hear for quite some time, in its most energetic form, I got goose bumps all over. The love theme is played like a fanfare theme in all its glory with brilliant counter melodies and harmonies. It sounds like Carl has pumped up all his energy from his memories of Ellie to fight Muntz. And that glorious streak continues in ‘The small mailman returns’.

‘He’s got the bird’ and ‘The Spirit of Adventure’ follows up with Carl’s high energy and his actions to encounter Muntz to win over Kevin. It is a freaking roller coaster ride of action music that alternates between Ellie’s and Muntz’s theme with the whole orchestra playing with an adrenaline rush, pumping more and more energy and pace into the music. I can’t wait to watch this final battle with this music on big screen.

‘It’s just a house’ starts with the theme we heard in ‘Walkin’ the house’ and soon moves on to a spirited orchestral version of Ellie’s theme. I couldn’t decipher the real meaning of this piece; it may be that Carl has finally learnt his lesson. I guess at the end of all things, after having realized that the memories of Ellie is more important than the house, Carl leaves the house behind. I think so because the theme as it progresses grows weaker and leaves way to the overpowering orchestral version of Ellie’s theme. In ‘Ellie’s badge’ the theme returns to its original simplistic form.

‘Up with End titles’ is a compilation of all major motifs from the movie. Ellie’s theme, Muntz’s theme, House theme is all connected into one seamless music piece. In spite of having listened to them in various forms all through the soundtrack, when all the major themes from the movie parade one after the other with a new orchestration, it is hard to skip.

The OST of ‘UP’ is one wholesome soundtrack. I can listen to each and every track of this score without skipping. The last Hollywood movie OST that I could say the same about was that of ‘Wall-E’. ‘UP’ music has created a lot of curiosity in me about the movie. I am sure my admiration and liking to this score will be even greater after watching the movie. My only grouse is that the score is not released in CD; it is only available for digital download on amazon.com and on iTunes.

Michael Giacchino – It’s time for an Oscar. Of course I expect something big from James Horner for James Cameroon’s ‘Avatar’. But considering that it is a sci-fi movie, I doubt if it could outdo the simplistic charm of your score for ‘UP’.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Call off RRRC

I call off Re-Recording Raaja Contest. It is a huge flop. There was only one registered contestant. With my publicity skills, I couldn’t reach out to all those who would be interested in such a contest.

Thanks to all those who posted the link of my announcement post in their blogs.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vijay Awards

Last year I wondered about the absence of an award category in Vijay TV’s Vijay Awards inspite of Madan (movie critic) being one of the jury members. But it seems this year; there will be a category for background score. Last Sunday, in one of the shows leading to the finale, the jury members discussed about the best background scores (they call it RR) in the Tamil movies released in 2008. Madan rightly pointed out two of my favourite background scores in 2008 – James Vasanthan’s score in Subramaniyapuram and Sundar C.Babu’s Anjaathey as note worthy scores in 2008.