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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Onayum Aatukuttiyum Score - Ilaiyaraaja (2)

Onayum Aatukuttiyum Score - Ilaiyaraaja (1)

I don’t know how well the Onayum Aatukuttiyum score has been absorbed and appreciated by the general music listeners. If you are one of those who find the score boring, I can understand why. There is a sense of monotony with lots of sad music, Solo Violin cues, dense string section and a slightly more pronounced western classical flavour than usual in the score. All the pieces may sound similar. But, Ilaiyaraaja’s orchestral scores, in general, are anything but monotonous, and definitely not this one.

Film score is incidental, narrative music that has to flow slavishly to the visuals, so there will be moments of long pause, a long stretched single note, a sustain, a bang, sections of no major action except strings simmering underneath, and these are not the kind of music one listens to on iPod at work every day for Joy. The pleasures are of different kind here.

Furthermore, having not seen the movie yet, there is no way one can visualize the movie while listening to the piece of music and marvel at the sync of mood and emotions between the movie and the music. Ilaiyaraaja has already primed us enough with his album The Music Messiah, where you don’t have any direct visuals to help you decipher the emotions the music plays for, you paints your own image in your mind from the music, deriving from your past experience of watching movies and listening – consciously or unconsciously to a film score. The Music Messiah is the score of a film that never got made (I know themes from Malayalam film Guru is used, but I haven’t seen Guru. But I could hear cues from Pithamagan too). Listening to Onayum Aatukuttiyum score before watching the movie is like listening to The Music Messiah.

Ilaiyaraaja has written a score that is intricately spun around many main musical motifs. It seems to be a score (I haven’t seen the movie yet) tightly knit to the visual narrative in the movie, and that has the incredibly unique quality of narrating a story, some story - though we won’t be able to connect all the dots - even without the visuals.

I don’t know how to make others hear the beauty I hear in a piece of music, but I believe if one listens intently and spots these themes in an orchestral score and follows their journey through the score – at least that is how I have been doing it, it would be a lot easier to experience the beauty of the music score in its entirety. So, here I have compiled some of the main themes that run through the score and its variations. The themes appear at different points in the different pieces. I am sure the ten clips Mysskin shared in his website for free download is not the entire score, so there could be many more occurrences and variations of these themes in the movie.

Listen to the clips and see if it helps. Listen closely to the development, subtle variations in each occurrence of the theme in the score. Also, let me know if you find any piece that doesn’t sound like the variation of the theme

Theme 1

Using a sharp half note in the start brings a dramatic suddenness – could be for an emotion or an action, that precisely marks the moment when sudden shift occurs in the mood or emotion or action. I like how the sharpness is gradually blunted out as the theme progresses in the course of the score, implying a gradual subsidy in the intensity of that which it implies.

Theme 2

This theme could easily be identifies as the main theme of the film.

Theme 3

The Redemption Theme – The piece of music for which Mysskin wanted Ilaiyaraaja. There is a Piano part and Violin Part of the theme. I didn't want to split them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Onayum Aatukuttiyum Score - Ilaiyaraaja

A quick post on the Onayum Aatukuttiyum Score, this is like screaming in Ecstasy. I am sure it will take many more rounds of listening to absorb all of its beauties and nuances.

First all Thanks a zillion to Mysskin for releasing cues from Ilaiyaraaja’s background score for Onayum Aatukuttiyum, online for free download, even before the release of the film. I guess, this was possible, because, Mysskin is the producer of the film too.

When I first saw the trailer of the film with those brisk cuts, chases and action sequences, with a dramatic orchestral score (not composed by Ilaiyaraaja), I expected the background score to be something with hyper violin runs, bombastic brass and pounding percussion. But, the 19 minutes of orchestral score that Mysskin has shared so far online is exactly the opposite - quiet, subdued, Solo - Solo Violin! Solo flute!! Solo Cello!!! - Instrumental pieces without a single percussion stroke.

The solo instrumental melodies aided abundantly by dense string section ooze various tender emotions kindness, sympathy, yearning, longing, solitude throughout the score. It is difficult to catch hold of a motif on the first hearing, but the last track “Somebody Loves Us All” comes to rescue, which is arranged like the film’s score suite with the themes playing in queue one after the other. Once we have heard this track, it is easier to listen to other tracks where the themes appear in various instrumental forms.

You don’t need the track name Growl to tell you that the theme is for Onai, the stomach churning bass register on which the staccato theme is played speaks for itself. So, is the redemption part of the score, the sudden melt down from tense lower octaves to a relieving, tender middle speaks for the sudden splash of light in the dark, the change of heart of villain that Mysskin keeps talking about in his interviews. That brilliantly subdued all-brass arrangement in suspenseful "The Grim reaper" is something I have not heard before from Ilaiyaraaja, maybe it is just because of listening to the score in such High quality.

And Ah! That Walk between Life and Death – actually a Waltz between Life and Death – the Strings section is quite soul-stirring. I had tears instantly. This is music in its purest form. Thank You! Yes, Mysskin, “Somebody loves us all” and that somebody is Ilaiyaraaja.

I am glad that movies are getting made in Tamil that deserve such a Score.

I can’t wait to watch the film!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ehsaas-e-Kashmir Concert - Zubin Mehta

I don’t know the political or historic significance of the Ehsaas-e-Kashmir Concert (Performed by Bavarian State Orchestral from Munich and Conducted by Zubin Mehta), I got to know the date and time of the live telecast of the Concert on DD National Channel because I follow on A.R.Rahman on Twitter whose timely tweet on the same helped and as a follower of Ilaiyaraaja’s music for past 20 years, I developed some taste for Orchestral music and such Western classical concerts happen very rarely in India.

Few years ago, Zubin Mehta had come to Chennai to conduct an Orchestra for a Concert celebrating 250th Anniversary of Mozart in Music Academy. I badly wanted to attend, because, then, I hadn’t seen in my life even one live performance of any Symphony Orchestra, but later, every time I got a chance to travel out of India, I attended at least one Concert by the local Symphony Orchestra. It is an experience listening and also watching a collective sound emerging from hundred musicians all doing all different things at once.

The first piece of the concert was a real surprise; I didn’t think they would try such a thing. The piece had a simple and charming folksy Kashmiri melody tossed between the Western Symphony Orchestra and an ensemble of traditional Kashmiri instruments (Oud, Rabaab, and Santoor) and it was a delightful sound. The conversation between the two worlds was simple, gentle with each supporting the others’ statement and without major counterpoints. Western orchestra brings an exuberance and largeness to the sweet little bouncy Indian melody. I woke up with this melody playing in my head the next day. It is usual practice to end such Classical concerts ends with an energetic piece with loud pounding percussion, clashing cymbals, roaring brass and the strings running in a hyper speed and Strauss’s piece Lightning and Thunder did that for this Concert but surprisingly Zubin Mehta wanted the audience leave on a different kind of high and quite fittingly the reprise of the first piece, the Kashmiri music, though just the last few bars were played, helped the concert end on a much elated note.

I am not used to listening to full length Symphony concerts. Some sections of Symphonies or Concertos tend to meander a lot. But, I guess they knew that Indians are not really that much into Western classical music, they have wisely chosen pieces or parts of the pieces (usually the third movement of a Symphony or a Concerto), which is brisk, rhythmic and where all parts of the orchestra actively engaged in the overall sound of the piece and such pieces keeps even a beginner engaged.

My idea of listening to these pieces is to catch hold of the main motif and follow its transformations and its journey through the piece and always staying alert for any new motif that spring in the subsequent movements. Of the Western classical pieces performed, the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto sounded incredible. I heard two varied motifs, one very melancholic and soulful, and other almost comical and bouncy. The Violin Soloist was totally into the piece; at one moment, he was about to fall as he was playing with his mind and body totally in Sync with the rhythm and contour of the piece. I always love the section of a Western Classical piece where the main motif is played as a Solo by each section of the orchestra, and even more so, when the melody is as delightful as it is in this one.

Hayden’s Trumpet Concerto, I don’t remember much. I have heard Beethoven’s 5th symphony before, and I am sure most of us would have heard bits and pieces of it or at least the main four-note motif “Pa Pa Pa Pom” somewhere (it was also sampled in the track “Main Hoon Yuvraaj” in Yuvraaj Soundtrack). The piece was explosive, and especially for the third movement everyone in the audience there (most of whom were yawning for earlier pieces) was listening to with rapt attention, with their heads shaking and feet tapping. I am no expert and I haven’t heard many live performances of Beethoven’s Fifth, and I cannot say how differently Zubin Mehta has interpreted the piece. In fact, I am yet to fully understand the role of a Conductor and what he brings to a piece being performed. I could just Google and read, but I am waiting for the purpose to hit me like the role of filmmaker in a film hit me or the role of a film score and a composer of it of a film hit me on its own without no one ever telling me about it.

DD’s coverage was neat, but I don’t know why they switched to a far off Camera, whenever the piece moved to sections where the whole orchestra explodes at a moment in the piece, at that distance, the Orchestra was barely visible. The camera rightly focused on the sections of the orchestra where the main action is at any given point of the piece. The sound could have been better, but then it is Open air and also I wasn’t watching in HD.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and I am eagerly waiting to watch it on YouTube again when I get back to the place where Internet speeds allow me to stream it at decent speed.