The concert soon returned to the tender zone with Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai theme. In his speech in Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai pre-release press meet Ilaiyaraaja said, “When you hear the title music, you won’t hear the music you have already imagined Ilaiyaraaja would create for a village-based movie titled as Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai. Switch-off your cell phones. Be Silent for ten minutes. Relieve yourself from all your problems and issues in your lives. Keep your mind calm and listen to the title music of Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai, and if you don’t shed a tear on listening to the piece, I will stop making music forever”.Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai Theme
I don’t know if anyone ever had a chance or time to prepare to the experience Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai title music in a way Ilaiyaraaja expects a listener to, but, the mood and vibe of the audience in the concert hall that day was closer. In a live concert, even a song you heard thousand times before could give an entirely new experience, or a song you liked but you never thought anything more than it being good could give an experience you won’t forget the rest of your life, because when you come in for a concert you have already tuned your antennas to the frequency that best receives everything the composer is going to feed you. You are a willing participant. I can never forget the experience of listening to Naan Thedum Sevvandhi Poovidhu in one of the earliest concerts Ilaiyaraaja did for Jaya TV in 2006. I have always liked the song, but never knew it could soak you in so much joy.
When Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai theme was performed in one of Jaya TV concerts, it was terrible to watch many people in Nehru Indoor Stadium who walked out of the instrumental performance like it was a sort of loo-break; they were talking on phone, texting, talking to people sitting next to them. The utter lack of discipline spoiled the experience of even those few who wanted to concentrate on the music. Fortunately none of that happened in this concert.
Though the other Hungarian Guitarist was there, I was glad when Sadhanandham stood from his seat with his guitar and was the chosen one to play Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai theme on stage. I didn’t really like that jazzy improvisatory twinge to the theme in the name of dynamics in one of those Jaya TV Ilaiyaraaja Concerts. The so called artistic interpretation of a water tight composition spoiled the piece for me. A musicians’ mind works in improvisatory mode; there is nothing concrete, even after hours of rehearsals, something new might come up on the day of performance, but Ilaiyaraaja’s composition isn’t the field to play that game.
Most of the live music performances are about the musicians flaunting their virtuosity in playing an instrument, the way they can traverse or jump octaves with utmost ease and without going off anywhere while doing so. If the excitement of a musician isn’t carefully controlled in concerts, the creation, the composition, the emotion takes a hit. Music composed to be performed live usually has significant parts for each instrumentalist playing on stage, so that there could be equal spotlight on all the performers. The question to be asked here is whether a particular composition (melody) inherently requires all these instruments to serve its true purpose. The additional instrumental sections are there because the instrumentalists have to be used some way or the other. Striking a fine balance between the showmanship and the integrity of a composition and yet maintaining tightness of the performance with no tentative or lazy moments is very tough. Needless to mention, Ilaiyaraaja has written pieces that helps a musician exhibit his mastery of the instrument like “How to name it” and “Nothing but wind”; pieces in these albums are absolute delights to perform and also to listen to on recordings or live performances.
Ilaiyaraaja’s songs and compositions performed in concert were never meant for such musician-friendly live performances, though always recorded in the studio with a live orchestra, it has always been about the overall composition. Any instrumental part in an Ilaiyaraaja creation always feel innately born out of the needs of the melody and the mood of the piece, more than the logical needs of composer having to utilise every instrumentalist available to him or for the pressure to give some meaty part for every chief instrumentalist to play. I remember a violinist from Budapest Symphony Orchestra mentioning in the Making of Thiruvasagam DVD, that Ilaiyaraaja’s writing in Thiruvasagam is “Simple Music but divine music”. I can’t agree more. Complexity of a composition is hardly a measure of its greatness or eternity. I like that Mr. Bean performance in London Olympics opening ceremony — thought intended to evoke laughter, that single note which he was pressing on a keyboard throughout the Chariots of Fire piece, which is so integral to the composition and a key layer of the piece; it could be a simple monotonous part to play and a musician doing that may not draw the audience’s attention or any thunderous applause but you can’t imagine Chariots of Fire theme without that loop.
As a musician, you don’t interpret Ilaiyaraaja’s music, you just execute. Yet when musicians play Ilaiyaraaja’s composition, they get a rewarding experience, they get a sense of satisfaction, because though what they played was a simple phrase, it was an important part of the piece as whole, if they don’t play it the way it has to be played, the piece as a whole would suffer. It is like the satisfaction of resolving a complex problem by working as a team, in which each individual got a simple problem to solve, by which the lager complex problem gets resolved by itself. No one person can be singled out as responsible for the victory and yet all are equally responsible for the victory. One such synergic triumph of the orchestra was the performance of Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai theme.
Backed by intense silence, Sadhanandham played the main theme on his guitar exactly the way it is in the original, no additional touches, not slower or faster, just the way it is and the way it should be. Ilaiyaraaja introduces the main motif in its simplest and purest form on a solo Guitar without any accompaniments. With that short phrase, Ilaiyaraaja makes you switch off your mobile phones, calms your mind, and primes you for a pleasurable ride. The piece takes off with a Guitar Ostinato making an exhilarating entry into the piece flapping its notes in a speed close to that of the wings of a butterfly just freed from a cage. With the guitar ostinato suddenly changes its course, a velvety lute plays the secondary motif, and the piece gets to the pivotal moment where Ilaiyaraaja’s favourite Oboe would take the theme over from Guitar and pronounce the theme in its entirety and reveal the melody’s complete beauty. While an acoustic guitar is playing the secondary melody, a solo flute emerges playing a soul stirring counter melody casually triggering your tear glands on its course. However, in no time flute makes a peaceful pact with the Oboe, and together they reprise the main motif again. The breezy string section that was merely doing a supporting part in the piece until now takes the lead and plays the secondary motif, and the deep Cello section joins the conversation. Oboe rises above everything else again and plays a haunting new melody. The ensuing strings gradually take the piece to a soothing end, but the piece does not end without reprising and reminding us the main theme on a serene Solo guitar.
All of this happened right in front of me in just two and half minutes. I just didn’t know where to look and focus. The questions, the answers, the conversations, the arguments, the agreements between the various instruments in Ilaiyaraaja’s orchestral pieces, the permutation and the combination in the order in which, all of these, some of these or one of these happen in a per-ordained randomness or a sequence create such monstrous complexity and intriguing drama in the orchestral piece that leaves you stunned and even if you don’t care much for these intricacies, there is that emotion that all of it put together leaves behind that stays with a listener for a lifetime.