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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Answer for Background Score - 56

This piece is a compilation of similar background pieces scored for similar situations from 3 different movies Padayappa, Jeans and Boys in that order. A.R.Rahman scored the background score for all the 3 movies. Rahman has a way of tweaking the instrument sounds and exploring and experimenting in the usage of musical instruments fresh and new on a situation. He chooses Hindustani style and this type of Tabla rhythms and heavy bass lines for such situations where the protagonist is suddenly separated from one of their dearest due to a clash or misunderstanding. And it worked well in all the three movies. Now, here is the full version




Friday, April 24, 2009

Answer for Background Score - 55

This piece is a compilation of background score pieces from Vishwa Thulasi. Composer - Illayaraja. Illayaraja gave soul through his musical to a movie that I feel as dud and dead. Do watch the scenes from Vishwa Thulasi from which the background score pieces were ripped.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dum Dum Dum Love Theme

This piece is from “Dum Dum Dum”. Composer – Karthik Raja. I like watching “Dum Dum Dum” (though Madhavan and Jyothika speaking Nellai Tamil was very hard to digest initially) anytime. The sound track of “Dum Dum Dum” is one of Karthik Raja’s best and so is the background score. The theme I posted for quizzing is the main love theme of the movie.

Strangely the theme is first heard not when Aadhi and Ganga fall in love but when Aadhi tells Ganga about falling in love. I like the way Karthik Raja cuts the beautifully developing melody to create a mild anticipation in between and resumes it when Ganga teases Aadhi for the way he was blabbering.

After all the marriage stopping plan fails, the evening before Marriage, Aadhi and Ganga meet and talk about their failed mission. Karthik Raja so subtly and gently introduces the love theme sung when Aadhi says ‘Naama rendu perukkum kalyaanam nadakkathaan poghudho’.

Aadhi and Ganga come to terms with what is going to happen and they start liking each other as they speak. A soft female vocal continues to sing the theme from behind as they continue to speak. The beauty here is that it is so softly and lightly mixed, that we may not even realize that music is playing in the background but for sure we get the intended feel.

The love theme appears in its complete and loudest form just before the intermission when Aadhi and Ganga are parted by their respective fathers. It is for this music bit I bought the original DVD but it got truncated as most part of the theme music plays on the ‘intermission’ card. The very first time I saw the movie in a cinema hall, I got goose bumps by this music cue in this scene and later on multiple viewing I discovered that this theme has been used much before in the movie.

Aadhi goes back to Chennai and Ganga is also in Chennai now to purse her higher studies. In a traffic signal Ganga spots Aadhi and they stare at each other for a while in complete surprise and lot of hesitation. But Karthik Raja doesn’t use the love theme here again; instead he introduces a new theme on harmonica which is yet another motif that is going to be used later in the movie.

But the love theme comes back soon when Aadhi and Ganga accidentally see each other in a cinema hall and we come to know that they indeed are in love with each other. Aadhi instead of watching the movie keeps looking at Ganga and the theme plays out beautifully answering all our doubts.

Then a much lengthier and rich orchestral version of the love theme appears when Aadhi and Ganga have some mundane conversation as they walk on road. The theme beautifully implodes and spreads romantic waves on air in this scene.

In the climax when they finally unite near the mount road signal, I was expecting the love theme to come back with bang but Karthik Raja just hints the theme for a brief moment (but aptly for those same lines he said to Ganga in the beginning about falling in love, the scene in which the theme appeared first) and moves on to the melodies of the songs from the movie.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ayan and Yaavarum Nalam (13B)

Ayan – Harris Jeyaraj

Harris Jeyaraj hits almost every possible wrong note in the background score of Ayan. We know that he isn’t good enough but the level to which he has gone to with Ayan’s background score is unbelievable. What is so heroic about ‘Pala Palakkura’ song melody? Just by playing a tune on trumpet, does it turn heroic? Harris has done exactly that in action sequences. The problem with the score is not the fact that it is bad, but it is done with an intention to make something new, innovative and different. Instead it is illogical, loud and horrendous. Even my friends, who don’t pay much attention to background score, were irritated and complained that the music didn’t match with the scene at many places.

Yaavarum Nalam (13B in Hindi)

Tubby-Parik has done a typical Salim-Sulaiman job in the background score of ‘Yaavarum Nalam’. The movie was much better than a normal Indian thriller but what kept constantly pulling the standard of the movie down is the loudness in the background score. The main theme of the movie is definitely good but they have overdone it by playing the theme loud on strings on every other episode of the movie. Using a chorus shouting on the roof-top for every big revelation pains the ear drums. But while watching the movie in a big cinema hall, it definitely had its impact on the audience who otherwise would have become tired of the pace. On the whole, the score could have been so much quieter and the movie would have sounded saner (while the movie is definitely saner than any other thriller we have seen in Indian cinema in the recent past).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Answer for Background Score - 53

This piece is from Iyarkai. Composer – Vidhyasagar. The only thing that I remember about this movie is this love theme. It is Marudhu’s (Shaam) love theme that is used through out the movie. The theme appears in its full form in the scene where Marudhu saves Nancy’s life from near-death situation. What adds more depth to this already haunting melody is Tippu’s (one of the most expressive singers in Tamil Film Music now) heart felt singing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Maestro's Masterpause

Last weekend, I was watching Maniratnam's 'Thalapathi' probably the 30th time. Shobana gets engaged to the collector Arvind Swamy. She comes to explain her situation to Rajini. But the heart broken Rajini shouts at her and asks her to leave the place. As she leaves, Rajini (with the quintessential sun setting behind him) turns and looks sympathetically at helpless Shobana. The shot of Rajini looking at her lingers for a while. Raaja lifts baton and instructs the string section to go 'Naan Unai Neenga Maataen, Neenginaal Thoonga Maattaen, Saernthathae Nam Jeevanae, Sundari', a pause (can be read as a lump in my throat) and flute takes over to sing 'Kannal Oru Sethi'. A Masterpause it is.

Was Maniratnam aware that Raaja would do something in there, if he allows the shot to linger for a while? I can't imagine the emotions in this scene being conveyed by anything else but Raaja's music. There is of course that mild shake we hear in Rajini's voice as he says the final 'Po' to Shobana, but it is Raaja's music which transfers that mild shake into an earth shattering quake. Hail Illayaraja.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Making of a Score

I had literally nothing to do in my life at that time. I use to compose some scratch tunes. I had just bought a Midi to USB connecter, with which I could connect my keyboard to my laptop, and record as I play. I was also listening to a lot of Hollywood scores at that time. The one that I kept humming was the Fellowship fanfare theme from Lord of the Rings. It is such an infectious tune.

A lazy Wednesday morning, I was humming the Lord of the rings Fellowship theme and was trying to play it. As I was playing around with the main melody and trying to hit the right keys and notes, I got stuck with this part (1) of the theme (2). This part became the ending (2A) of Marudhanayagam theme. I thought of composing a new theme around it that is heroic and that can be made into a grand orchestral piece. I already had the starting phrase (3) of the theme (4) with me for a long time. It was a part of another scratch tune I had composed. I thought of connecting these two phrases with something in between, something that can seamlessly connect them. When I think of it now, I don't exactly know how I got the connecting phrase. In a magical way, it all fell in place and the main 'Marudhanayagam' theme was born.

I composed this theme much before I saw the 'Marudhanayagam' trailer. I had started blog to post my own compositions and had already posted two or three pieces. I was looking for something interesting to make next. At that time, I had the chance of watching the muted trailer of Marudhanayagam (Kamal Haasan's dream project which is yet to be completed). The very first time I saw it, I thought that my melody would perfectly fit the video. I didn't know or didn't think even for a second about whether I would be able to pull a score for the complete trailer. I didn't know that I was getting into something really big and serious (considering my limited knowledge in music). I went ahead thinking that even if I couldn't complete, I would at least gain some experience in orchestrating a piece of music. And so it began.

The main theme (4) was ready. But I realized that I can't simply play the melody over and over in the video. It is a movie trailer. Normally, score for a trailer is not done to match with the cuts and shifts in the visuals, as there usually would be so many of them, showing bits and pieces of the movie in random order. It is really very tough to make the piece sound seamless if we get specific and that is one of the reasons why my score for this trailer ended up with rough musical transitions.

Though this is a trailer, I could see that the scenes are in chronological order and that the complete story of the movie is captured in just 3 minutes. So, I decided to make the music that shifts along with shifts and cuts along with the cuts in the visual. Initially I tried to be too specific and ended up disappointing myself. I composed some beats and pieces and tried to put them together with the visuals thinking that it would fit each and every cut in first 14 seconds of the trailer. But it became too clustered and awful sounding. It didn't match with the visuals at all.

Scraped everything and started from scratch again. I decided to do a basic rhythm pattern for the trailer. I tried playing different rhythms on a wooden Table and tried reproducing them with drum kit in FL studio. After much struggle I got one that fitted well with those initial moments of the trailer. I got this rhythm (5). When played in synch with the visuals it sounded so perfect. I was so happy. Believe me; if I had not gotten this rhythm pattern, I would not have proceeded further.

As the rhythm fitted so well, I threw away all the ideas of bringing themes and melodies in those initial moments and just allowed this rhythm to play. I decided to hint the first few bars of the theme on a subdued trombone as it shifts to the card reading 'Hindustan' and to the shot that shows Kamal writing something. But the sound font of trombone that I had, sounded anything but trombone we get to hear in orchestras. So what you hear now is a combination of many instruments like Saxophone, flute, trumpet and trombone on different pitches and volume levels.

The next part of the trailer is where Kamal is getting introduced as a hero, as a rebel. Initially, I allowed the rhythm (5) to flow in this part also, but it didn't sound right. I wanted a build up in the music as camera moved down to show Kamal slowly lifting his face. The idea of build up got transformed as a small phrase of melody (6) played on cascade of strings. I put a layer of strings playing the melody on lower octaves and after repeating twice, another layer of strings joins playing the same melody on the next higher octave and after repeating twice, one more layer of strings joins in playing it in the next higher octave. I added a bell sound (7) that plays a new rhythm pattern which was soon going to become the next big rhythm of the whole piece and along with it added a heavy drum beat (8). There is also a layer of brass section (9) constantly tugging down under on a single note which I used to maintain a dark mood throughout. When I put all of them together, it sounded right and fitted well with the transformations on the screen.

I liked the new rhythm pattern (10) which I thought for the bell and so it became the next big rhythm of the piece and I used it on drums for the shot of Kamal lifting the face. (Much later I found this rhythm sounding so similar to the one Ilaiyaraaja scored for the trailer of 'Sirai Chaalai' or 'Kaala Pani'. That trailer was continuously played on all television channels then and every time I use to sit and listen, astounded by the grandeur of Ilaiyaraaja's music for the trailer.)

The rhythm plays out continuously for the shot of people getting killed in a row and I decided to stop this brass section (9) as the camera is about to reach Kamal. The idea was to suddenly stop something that would have already settled well in the minds of the listener. This blocking creates a sudden restlessness, thereby helping to create a mild tension in that moment.

When I wanted to sound the shock and surprise of the opponents in seeing Kamal’s rebellious nature, cymbals came to my rescue. It is an age old method. I have seen such heavy use of cymbals in the fight sequences of very old historical movies. But I thought it felt right in the context of this scene, where Kamal suddenly grabs one opponent and bites his neck like an animal. A cymbal sound is introduced the moment he gets up and also the first part of the main theme appears rougher, louder and clearer here, declaring that it is indeed the main theme. To make it sound rough, I made Horns play the theme on a lower octave. For the action sequence that follows, I went back to the first rhythm pattern (5) as I wanted to convey a shift, urgency and chaos which aren’t there in the second one (10).

In the very beginning, I decided that the main theme should be played in its entirety for the first time in that slow motion sequence where Kamal escapes by riding a Bull. But in between the action sequence and 'Kamal riding the bull' sequence, there is a small portion where the card 'He fought for dignity' appears. I used a small melody (11) on Strings here as a connector and a prelude to the main theme that is about to start.

There is also a shift in rhythm pattern as he rides the bull. It is just a single beat (12) that constantly thuds heavily from behind. And there it is finally, the full blown main theme arriving when Kamal is shown to have arrived as a hero, as a rebel. I created two versions of the main theme, with different combination of instruments playing it. The version (13) that is heard first with trumpets and trombones is to match up with the heroic undertone of the visual, and the second (14) version has violin, flute and mild strings put together.

And once the episode for which I was waiting to score was done, I became lazy and I left everything in the middle and didn't go back to the score for almost a week. That laziness shows in the very next sequence where Kamal throws big stones on his enemies from the top of a huge waterfall. I just let the rhythm of the previous part to continue here, which I now realize as the one bit that is so asynchronous and odd with the visuals in the whole trailer.

The trailer turned interesting again with shots showing different phases in the life of the hero. I thought of each of this small episode as a chance to play the main theme again and again on various instruments. Before that, there is a small portion to be scored in between. It is the scene in which Kamal is hit by an enemy's arrow and the CG shot of him falling down from the top. I brought in the prelude (11) again here, but this time the melody (15) is played longer, louder and without any accompaniment. The inspiration was a sequence from 7G, Rainbow Colony, where Yuvan used a cascade of swirling strings when Kathir decides to commit suicide by falling off from a bridge. I wanted it to sound something similar to that.

For 'He lost his roots' episode, I initially thought of putting the main theme in Piano, but it didn't sound the ambience and eeriness in that scene. I then decided to go for wood winds. I wanted the sound of a Duduk, but I had no sound font of Duduk. I tried to put in different flute sounds on various pitches to get the feel I wanted but nothing worked. Finally, I chose to use the ordinary flute playing the theme on a lower register (16), accompanied by an Oboe playing the same.

For 'He lost his loved ones' episode, I instantly chose the solo violin as I had a nice violin sound font. But I did contemplate of using a different melody here, one that I made before, titled 'When Tears Cry..' (17). Though Marudhanayagam has his own theme, I felt a lack of sadness in that melody and that the sympathy came mainly from the tone of violin (18). But this new melody wasn't gelling well with the rest of the piece, so I decided to scrap the idea. Again with just the violin it sounded so plain and superficial, so added a layer of subdued chorus lingering on a single note.

For 'Islam alias peace', I decided to go with a solo instrument without any accompaniment. I wanted to use a Rabaab or a Sarod here - the strings I thought had that sound of Islam. But none of the sound fonts I had was sounding close to what I wanted. Finally it is the Spanish guitar (19) that came to my rescue. I felt that the twing-twang of the guitar string without any other accompanying sound fits perfectly for peace.

After repeating the theme enough on different instruments for the journey of Marudhanayagam thus far, I wanted to shift to something completely different. For the training sequence, where Kamal is shown to be learning sword fight, I again came up with a new rhythm pattern (20), to sound the beginning of a new phase in life. Initially I just played this beat for the entire sword fight sequence, but I recognized that there is a change in momentum and rhythm of the visuals in between. There is a moment where the sword fight turns to slow motion showing Marudhanayagam flying in air to hit his opponent. I sensed an opportunity to bring something new here, that would perfectly sound this shot and so came up with this new melody (21).

In the few seconds, there are quicker cuts and transformations to various shots of Marudhanayagam fighting and struggling. After using this new melody for some time, and when the same old untidy face of Marudhanayagam is shown struggling for peace, I chose to return to the main theme, but here the theme is shifted further to the lower octaves on horns and brass to evoke the darkness that has completely engulfed Marudhanayagam.

My head started spinning as I started to think about what to do for the final battle sequence. I was exhausted and totally uninterested in composing anything new. Infact, while the whole score for the trailer took one month, I finished this battle sequence in just one day. I wanted to complete it as soon as possible. May be that is why when I first published it, many felt that music turned less and less interesting towards the end.

The first thing that I got is the rhythm pattern that is used at the start of the battle sequence, when it frequently cuts to shots showing the logical way of starting a battle. I got this beat (22) and I was simply astounded by how well it fitted with the cuts in the visual. I realized how important it is to analyze the pace and rhythm of the cuts in the visuals to come up with a fitting score. Initially, there was no snare roll layer in the rhythm. I accidentally stumbled upon this snare roll sound font. I knew that a snare would definitely sound more authentic and fitting to the battle sequence and so I overlapped the snare roll along with the drum beat and I was so ecstatic by the outcome. It sounded so perfect to me. And then for the card 'Mohammed Yusuf khan', for obvious reasons, I again brought back the main theme.

The horses on both sides start to move forward and the pace of the movement gradually increases and reaches a high as they clash and cross to fight. For this, I composed a small phrase of melody again (23) which could be played conveniently at different speeds. The music starts slowly as the horses warm up and begin to walk, reaches the next higher tempo as they begin to run, and reaches the highest when they approach each other at maximum speed. Initially I employed just the string section, but I thought I could fill in some more to make is sound more bombastic, and so added a trumpet solo that would just play the same melody along with the strings on and off, and had cymbals hitting continuously underneath. But once this new bit (23) seemed exhausted, I brought in just-before-heard (21) melody played on a higher tempo to match with that of the visuals. Finally when the two sides clash, I went for the main theme to play on two layers in its loudest form, with one layer starting the melody, a note after the other.

Thus, Marudhanayagam trailer score was done. I wanted to share and relive those joyous moments of making it and so this long post. This exercise of making the score for the trailer made me all the more aware of zillion thoughts and ideas that a composer must go through while writing a score for a full length feature film and my respect and admiration for all those great film music composers reached a new peak.

Download all the audio files of this post here.