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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wolf's Growl - Onayum Aatukuttiyum - Ilaiyaraaja (3)

Listen to

Wolf’s Growl -

Ilaiyaraaja’s Musical Growl -

A decade ago, when I was discovering Western Classical music, I use to buy those “Best of Western Classical Music” CDs. In one of those CDs, I first heard the piece The Flight of the Bumble bee (Composed by - Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov). I was awestruck. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t know that this was possible - carving a musical piece out of a natural and not necessarily a musical sound. The rhythm, the flutter, the restlessness – not a note lingers on for more than a Nano second I guess - the dynamics in the piece, the way the strings go low and high in volume like the sound of a buzzing Bee while approaching and furthering from our ears, catching a musical motif from the DNA of the sound and putting all these ideas organically together on paper to create a musical bumbling bee - this is Breathtaking Achievement.

Ilaiyaraaja, who is a great fan of western classical music, adapted the idea behind the Bumble bee piece for the orchestration of the song Kothumbi in Thiruvasakam. But, Ilaiyaraaja does something similar and equally astonishing with the Sound of a Wolf in Onayum Aatukuttiyum score. Though the piece here is not as richly orchestrated, it creates the effect it intends to create in a listener.

You don’t need the name of the track The Growl to tell you that the theme is for Onai – the Wolf, the stomach churning bass register of Cello Section on which the staccato theme is played speaks for itself. Ilaiyaraaja is one of the very few composers who can effectively set darker emotions, sounds of evil and eeriness to melody for the background score of a film. Evil doesn’t always have to be an eerie noise or sound sample. Yes, the eerie electronic sound samples with the limitless possibilities of tweaking on digital machines do sound refreshing sometimes and there is nothing wrong in using them if it fits the character perfectly, but what is the role of composer in this – selecting the right sample from hundreds of them saved in a folder in his PC or a MAC. Between non-musical sound and Music, if the music and filmmaker decides to go for a sound for a character, then I would like it if it were done the way Hans Zimmer did in The Dark Knight, that eerie Cello theme for Joker, which is how you merge the Sound and music and create something totally fresh.

It takes a different kind of effort and musical acumen to create a musical motif that works just as equally as a mere sound, for evil or villain in the film. I was stunned when I heard “The Growl” track the first time. Ilaiyaraaja takes one of the most basic characteristics of a sound of an animal to define a human character whose actions and intentions are metaphorically linked to the animal. He doesn’t choose the high pitched Howl of a Wolf, clearly the villain is a Wolf who is crouching and scheming and doesn’t announce his arrival before the attack. He creates a piece that is in a frequency of that of a Wolf’s Growl, through not any ready-made sound fonts, but with a well defined melodic and rhythmic riff and the dynamics with which it is played with the staccato notes in the melody implying the calculated steps of the Wolf in its approach to attack.

I haven’t seen the movie, and Ilaiyaraaja might surprise me by using it for an entirely different character, mood or a situation. Can’t wait to watch the movie, especially, to hear how this piece of music is used.

Do you know any such pieces from movie scores or even other forms of music, where a Sound, which often we consider a noise, is turned into a musical piece? Please do share here.

P.S – In Yanni’s Nightingale (one of my all time favourites) there is an extremely nuanced piece in the beginning and the end where Flutist musically imitates the cooing of a Nightingale.

Onayum Aatukuttiyum Score - Ilaiyaraaja (1)

Onayum Aatukuttiyum Score - Ilaiyaraaja (2)


Unknown said...

of course he stiches "the growl" to 1 character b4 interval and another character after interval..just to show how 2 characters expose in different ways..exactly what director intent to show..no other music director can do this using natural instruments and create errie sound. amazing.

Anonymous said...

why the disclaimer about not having watched the film yet? we know what you are going to write;such is the predictable nature of fan sites??
thanks anyway

Unknown said...

Not quite like this, but I remember Ralph Vaughan Williams' 'The Lark Ascending' while reading this post.

Madan said...

Suresh, any chance you will be reviewing Megha? Or at least Kalvane song standalone? :P

Anonymous said...

Hi Suresh,
Indeed, a nice analysis. Your writing way flows flawless.
Did you ever listen to Armand Amar' scores?
As you mentioned, it is on par with Yanni, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and all.
If you really want to immerse in his music,just listen his works for "The Home 2009"
Take & sample from qobit@cooltoad.

Niranjan Fraud said...

Nice to read the article & about Ilaiyaraaja’s Musical Growl review.

Shal said...

As you said..., Most of the tracks doesn't need a name. music itself is tells us what its.

Did you forgot Rahman's Mosquitoes?