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Monday, September 27, 2010

Nothing But Wind

Nothing But Wind is a compilation of background score cues from following films

Nothing But Wind

1. Paadum Paravaigal - 00:00 - 00:37
2. Idhayaththai Thirudathey - 00:38 - 01:02
3. Pithamagan - 01:03 - 01:48
4. Thalabadhi - 01:49 - 01:54
5. Idhayam - 01:55 - 02:20
6. Agni Nakshatram - 02:21 - 02:48
7. Aan Paavam - 02:49 - 03:31
8. Gopura Vaasalilae - 03:32 - 04:25
9. Guna - 04:26 - 04:42
10. Ninaivellam Nithya - 04:43 - 05:27
11. Vanna Vanna Pookal - 05:26 - 06:01
12. Vetri Vizha - 06:02 - 07:04
13. Ullaasa Paravaigal - 07:05 - 07:31
14. Naadodi Thendral - 07:32 - 08:32
15. Singaara Velan - 08:33 - 09:17
16. Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai - 09:18 - 09:49
17. Visha Thulasi - 09:50 - 10:45

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Moods of Ilaiyaraaja

The earlier one was “How to Name it”, and now, here, we have

Nothing But Wind

A collection of themes picked from 18 films and yes, you may guess the films. Most of them are hugely popular themes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why did you use British Actors?

Producer of the film “Keralavarma Pazhassi Raaja" asked Ilaiyaraaja, “Why do we need a symphony orchestra to record background score of a Malayalam film?”. Ilaiyaraaja replied, “Why did you use British actors in the film?”. Ilaiyaraaja remembered this conversation in the press meet he attended after winning the National Award for Best Background Score. Ilaiyaraaja wanted to use symphony orchestra to recreate the British era. I agree, but the film is also set in Kerala.

The background score cues for the War scenes sound too Western. If a cue from one of the war scenes of the film is played to someone who has not seen the film, he/she cannot guess that this is a music cue from a film set in 18th century Kerala. I feel that Ilaiyaraaja has deliberately done this to make the score and thereby the film sound global. For a film set in Kerala and for one that has so much of action, there is very little Kerala Chenda in the film. Again, this could also be a deliberate decision of Ilaiyaraaja, who never succumbs to such written rules.

For this film, I was expecting a score in which the Timpani in the symphony orchestra is replaced by Kerala Chenda and tribal drums, like how Tan Dun replaced Timpani with Taiko drums for "Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon" and “Heroes”. But, that was just my expectation. I cannot say Ilaiyaraaja about what should or should not have done.

On the other hand, listen to this piece. It is the cue played when Manoj and Padmapriya share a pleasant, private moment. The piece is true to the emotion, the romance and breeziness of the moment are perfectly captured, but there is not anything that suggests that Manoj and Padmapriya are Tribal folks. May be, it is not always necessary to stick to the roots. Emotion is the key. Melody is the key for emotions in music. The basic melodies in all background music cues are true to the roots but just that the instruments he uses and the way he orchestrates the pieces are quite western. Ilaiyaraaja himself told that in the press meet.

I am also not being cynical here. I am just having a loud thought and trying to decipher the reason. Maybe I should go back and watch the film again, entirely in one stretch. I saw the film only once on DVD and that too in two parts. First time while I was watching the film, I dozed-off in the middle of the film. I saw the remaining film a few days later.

P.S: Can some audio company do a nation-wide release of “Pazhassi Raja” background score CD with National Award winning background score tag, at least now?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

National Award for Ilaiyaraaja

The first ever National Award given for “Best Background Score” in a separate category goes to Ilaiyaraaja for his score in "Pazhassi Raaja".

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Doug Adams speaks about the book "Music of LOTR films"

Doug Adams, the author of “Music of the Lord of the Rings Films” speaks to backgroundscore.com about the book.

Your blog (musicoflotr.com) Posts, articles in film score monthly magazine, your interviews with Howard Shore and Complete recordings’ liner notes - I have read almost everything that was written on the music of Lord of the rings films so far. What is new in it (the book) for me?

The materials that you’ve read before, namely the sections on Themes and the Annotated Score have been previously available in a condensed, reduced form. These were originally written in a more complete form for the book, then were altered and transported over for The Complete Recordings. Now that the book is finally being released you’ll see these pieces in their full forms. There are still a handful of themes we’ve never discussed, and the Annotated Score digs into the material much more seriously.

We also open and close the book with large chapters that tell the story of the production – how Howard came to this project, how it and where was recorded. You’ll meet the performers, and see how Shore worked with the filmmakers. So the book is really two stories wrapped together – the story of the production, and Tolkien’s narrative. And of course we also have material that relates to the Rarities Archive, so you’ll see new choral texts, etc. in there. With all the pieces in place, it’s a pretty unique experience!

Did all those other writings of yours on the score make the book-writing easier? What was the toughest part of writing this book?

As I noted, the book actually existed first. When some of that material was selected for use with The Complete Recordings, it was abbreviated and adapted. Then, when the time came to reassemble the material and incorporate it into the full book, we reformed everything and vastly improved it. The book we have now is not the book we would have had back then, and it’s much, much better for that process. It’s was a strangely circuitous path, but it worked for us!

As for the toughest part – well, it’s hard to say. It was a dream project. I got to work with brilliant people on something I felt very passionate about. The constant stream of airplanes, rental cars, hotels, and coffee shops was physically taxing, of course. But it was such a thrill, I never really noticed.

Does this book go beyond just annotating the score? Would we get to read in the book, any new way of approaching a film score?

The book is structured as a ‘narrative analysis.’ In many ways, this book is a storybook – it’s the story of the analysis. Tolkien loved myths and tales, and I wanted to stay true to that spirit, even when dealing with what is essentially analytic subject matter. I think that’s a fairly unique thing … and this is why the book should appeal to both musicians and non-musicians – it’s a dramatic work. The characters are themes, the plot is their development. And if we use a technical term, we simply define it with a footnote. I think people will be shocked how easily this material can be understood, and how moving it can be when contextualized properly.

LOTR music is hugely popular, but not every LOTR fan would be a connoisseur of orchestral film scores to understand the subtleties in it. They would have gone home whistling Fellowship theme, Shire theme, Rohan theme or Ring theme, but they would not have gone deep to the extent of realizing that war at Helm’s deep opens with “Lothlorien theme”. Will the book engage such listeners, who listen to film scores just on the surface? Could you elaborate what is there in the book for them?

If the book is successful it will bring in ‘surface-listeners’ and reveal a whole new level of meaning to them. In fact, I hope it’s a revelation to many people. The book should reveal the music’s true face and show readers what’s really happening in Shore’s carefully crafted music. It’s not just moods, it’s an incredible web-like structure that’s every bit as involved as Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I want this book to enrich listeners’ perspectives.

In the sample chapters of the book, I could see that there are staff notations of the score - both hand written and printed. There are a lot of technical descriptions of the music, but how have you handled the emotional part of the score? Sometimes those staff notations and musical jargons may put-off the starters, who are just beginning to embrace and understand the orchestral film scores?

The music examples are there to further illustrate points to those who can read them, but they exist on their own level. The real analysis, and the real emotion of the ‘narrative,’ is in the text. You should be able to read straight through the book without the ability to read the music examples and still walk away with a profound understanding of Shore’s work.

How significant are the images from the films and the original sketches by John Howe and Alan lee for the book? What gap do you think these sketches would fill in the communication between your words in the book and the readers? If you have an image from the scene in the film or the original sketch included in the book, does it reduce your job of having to explain the whole scene from the scratch?

I think that John and Alan’s incredible sketches – and the film stills, as well – help us to create that storybook feeling. They’re transportive; they take you right into Middle-earth. Tolkien’s stories have inspired so much art: visual, musical, literature, etc. I wanted to represent as much of that as possible in the book. Each art has to have its own integrity, and together they cumulate to create a satisfying whole. I tried and make my writing just as strong as the musical and visual aspects … I don’t pretend to know if I pulled it off, but that was the goal!

Complete Recordings CDs or Movie DVDs of LOTR – which one of these a reader of the book must go to refer or verify while reading the book and why?

The book should be its own experience, I think. The theatrical films, the DVD edits, the original soundtracks, The Complete Recordings – each of these told the story of The Lord of the Rings in its own way. The book should do that too. And just as the films make you want to hear the CDs, and the CDs make you want to see the films, the book should make you want to return to the films and the CDs. They should all work together.

I always felt that there is a necessity of new mediums of communication through which common film goers can understand the nuances of a film score. We have DVDs where there are options to watch the film with audio commentaries of Production designer, Costume designer, screenplay writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, VFX supervisors and even the actors. I always wished for an audio option with just composer (Howard Shore) and a musicologist like you discussing the score in each and every single scene of the film. Is that the next step?

If they want some commentary for a deluxe Blu-ray edition of the films, I’m ready to take their call!

Now that, you have spent a few years of your life into LOTR film scores and have come up with this book, do you feel that there is nothing much left in LOTR music for you to dig into or understand better? I guess you know LOTR film score better than Howard shore himself.

I’ve sat with Howard during the Live to Projection performances, and sometimes he’ll lean over during a certain passage and say, “I think I should re-orchestrate the trombone part there, I don’t like the voicings.” You’re never really done with a big project like this, I suppose. I think that’s true for everyone. There’s always some new observation waiting to be discovered, and I’m sure I’ll think of something that I’ll wish I had mentioned in the book! The scores, like the stories, are endlessly revealing. That said, Howard and I are confident that the book sheds light on all the themes, the developments, and all that makes this score such an important work. We worked a long time to make it a truly comprehensive document.

Howard often tells me I know the scores better than he does, but I take it in the spirit of good humor. He has such a brilliant mind; he’s always a step ahead of everyone else.

The book seems to be a complete package with a rarities CD including 21 alternate score material unheard before. Why is this necessary? What does it add to the book? Is it meant just for the listening experience?

It’s meant as a beautiful listening experience, but it also enhances the part of the book that details the creation of the score. It shows you some of Shore’s early ideas, some of his alternate concepts, and gives you an insight into his creative process in a purely musical way. It’s a wonderful collection, and can be listened to either straight through as an album, or scrutinized as an archive.

We have heard a lot about the clash between the score and sound, in films. Even in liner notes of Complete recordings, I remember reading that some of the musical score cues were replaced with sound effects? Does the book talk about this clash between sound and music in LOTR films and about what went behind in choosing one over the other? It would make a fascinating read.

This is quite typical for a production such as this, so I wouldn’t want to characterize it as a “clash.” Composers often write music for scenes knowing that directors can choose between either music or sound effects alone. There’s rarely any specific reason one is chosen over the other. It’s part of a director’s creative process, and is more instinct than anything else. It’s almost always a case of “It just feels right.”

Now that, the book is on the verge of release, how do you feel about this whole LOTR journey? What is your take away from this experience?

It’s truly been the adventure of a lifetime. I hope we can go back again when The Hobbit comes around.

I am sure Howard Shore was with you throughout the journey of this book. What did Howard Shore say to you when he saw the final print of the book?

As a young musician, Howard was one of my idols. He is now a dear friend. I’m not sure I have enough words to express what that transition has meant to me. Howard called when the book finally came in and simply said, “It’s beautiful, Doug.”

Sometimes the simplest statements are the most meaningful.

Have you heard Indian film music? What do you have to say about it? What did you think of A.R.Rahman's score for Slumdog Millionaire and the subsequent Oscar win?

I actually studied Hindustani classical music a good bit when I was in music school. I think it’s fantastic to see these traditions represented in film. We’re entering a world now where musical borders are becoming increasingly diminished, and that can only be a good thing for the art!

Finally, can I say “Music of the Lord of the Rings Films” is the One Book to Read Them All?

Yes, I think you should say that! 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Harishchandrachi Factory Background Score

If you have not seen the Marathi film “Harishchandrachi Factory” (Director - Paresh Mokashi) yet, please buy a DVD and watch it. Besides the immaculate production design and costumes, the background score (Music Director – Anand Modak and Music Arranger – Narendra Bhide) in “Harishchandrachi Factory” plays a vital role in recreating the aura and feel of 1910s, the period in which the story begins.

I have uploaded all the background score pieces from Harishchandrachi Factory here. Officially, there was no soundtrack release for the film, and I am sure there never will be one.

Track Listing

01. Title Music
02. Phalke runs
03. Phalke in Projector Room
04. Phalke is Obsessed with Cinema
05. Phalke in London – String Quartet
06. Phalke moves to Dadar
07. Camera
08. Film starts to roll
09. Outdoor Shoot
10. Raja Harishchandra Releases
11. End Credits

Composer – Anand Modak
Arranger – Narendra Bhide


Flute – Sandeep Kulkarni
String Quatret – Suresh Lalvani, Jitendra Thakur, Dastaan, Uka Honda
Sitar – Umashankar Shukla
Keyboard – Darshana Nandurkar
Rhythm – Dr.Rajendra Doorkar, Kedar More, Arun
Organ – Rajeev Paranjape
Trumpet – Joseph
Shehnai – Yogesh More
Clarinet – Suresh Yadav

The earliest of Indian films that came after sound came into movies had background score that sounds like what we hear in Harishchandrachi Factory. For composers of those films, harmony is when all instruments of the orchestra play the same melody together. The harmony in music cues of Harishchandrachi Factory is of that kind. The instruments (Shehnai, Gabgubi, Sitar, Organ etc.,) that are authentic to the place and period in the film are used, and they are also mixed together without any digital tweaking. Background music is mostly used for silent, Chaplinesque montages, and such montages are there in plenty throughout the film. Music per se is truly melodious and works on its own after watching the film.

Phalke, in the film, accidentally meets a Harmonium player on the road and asks him to play Harmonium on location, when he shoots the film. Phalke asks one of his actors to listen to the music and feel the emotion while performing. Though the first Indian film “Raja Harishchandra” did not have any background score for the audience to listen to, it had a background score, when the film was shot, for the actors to listen to and get the emotions right. It is Phalke’s yet another way of making the actors - who are all from stage drama troupes and are so used to a musical accompaniment while performing on stage, feel comfortable in this new setup where they perform to no live audience.

Throughout the film, we could hear the Harmonium player playing melodies that are perfectly in sync with the mood of the scene that Phalke is shooting. It is also quite hilarious to hear the Harmonium player playing music even for Phalke’s emotions, when Phalke gets angry during the film-shoot and struggles to make the actors perform. I do not know if Phalke, when he made his first film knew about using background score, but, intuitively he had felt that a musical accompaniment is a must for Cinema, in any which way possible.

Typical of such films, in which a genuine effort is put in writing the background music, the title credits of “Harishchandrachi Factory” begins to roll with the main musical theme of the film, and the end credits scroll with a delicious suite compiled with all main themes from the film in the chronological order. It is the theme that is first heard when Phalke moves to a bungalow in Dadar, after he returns from London. It is in this bungalow, the pre-production, casting and the shooting of the India’s first ever feature film happen. The End credits music is.

I doubted the originality of the String quartet that plays throughout the journey of Phalke in London, but my doubts were cleared when we I noticed that the main motif of the quartet is the first piece of melody that is heard on Strings in the track “Phalke obsessed with films”. Anand Modak just hints at the theme when Phalke gets obsessed with films and tries to understand film making with limited means available in India, but, when Phalke leaves to London, the same melody is elaborated on a string quartet to imply the wider avenues available for Phalke now. With very few extras walking on the streets, tight close-ups and low angle shots in the London episode, it is the western classical string quartet piece that makes us believe that Phalke is really in London.

“Harishchandrachi Factory” was India’s official selection for Oscars in 2009. Given the film’s popularity, I am sure that the film is going to fetch few National Award trophies, and there is a very good chance for Anand Modak to be the winner of first ever “Best Background Score” national award, beating Ilaiyaraaja’s “Paa” and “Pazhassi Raaja”. National Film Awards committee may also give us a jolt by giving it to Salim-Suleiman for one of the Hindi films that they scored in 2009.

Please let me know the films that you saw from other regional languages in 2009 that has an impressive background score.

P.S. Iruvar is also a story set amidst a bygone era of films and film making, but Rahman had a totally different approach in its background score. Rahman did not use any of the background scoring techniques of the films that were made in the era that is under focus in Iruvar. The visual language and the emotional tone of Iruvar and Harishchandrachi Factory are poles apart. I wonder whether a background score like the one in “Harishchandrachi Factory” would work in Iruvar.