Thursday, September 1, 2016

Blog trivia

If you are visiting this site for the first time, it is important to read this post. The intention of this blog is to present arguments in a pre-determined sequence. OLDER posts are actually NEWER posts within a month. As I keep adding new posts I change the time stamp to an earlier time so that you can read the posts in sequence. If you notice, all the posts within a month have the same date. Only the time stamp varies. Newer posts have earlier time to help you read in sequence.

If this site interests you and you want to read the earlier months (I would recommend starting from month 1 before reading month 2) start from the earliest month. I have ensured that within a month the posts are sequenced properly.



Tech Notes

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For those who read this blog regularly, please treat this as a little nuisance and continue reading.

Thanks

Ravi Natarajan

Guitar based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x –interludes

As we begin this journey on PolyCaRe arrangements of Raja, with his compositions based on guitar as the background melody instrument. In this post we will particularly focus on his interlude compositions after 2010. As we made it very clear in the definition, the PolyCaRe arrangement not only requires a background guitar melody, it also requires two call and response melodies in the foreground played according to our rules of CaRe arrangements.

Let’s consider the prelude melody Maatallo Cheppeleni  from Abbayitho Ammayi  (2016 Telugu).  An outstanding arrangement for a film song in 2016, where composers are busy doing electronic shortcuts, the prelude is deeply rooted in beautiful harmonies.

Song
Film
Year
Background instrument
CaRe - Instrument1
CaRe - Instrument2
Maatallo Cheppaleni prelude
Abbayitho Ammayi
2016
Guitar
Piano
Synthesizer

  1. The first 2 seconds of the clip is a beautiful counter melody between the Guitar and the piano, not very different from many Raja compositions
  2.  Between 3 secs and 8 secs, the Piano plays a call melody for which at 8 secs there is a short synthesized flute response
  3. Between 8 and 15 secs, the piano repeats the melody on top of the background guitar melody and the synthesized flute continues
  4. Pay attention to the background guitar melody that remains constant throughout these 15 seconds, simply repeating over and over


This is a slightly different call and response as the two CaRe arrangements are not clearly separated and the synthesized flute keeps playing it melody. However, the foreground call from the piano is a distinct melody that falls perfectly in line with our traditional definition. Nice camouflaging of the CaRe arrangement by Raja in this melodious prelude.

As we mentioned in the introduction, this is four polyphonic compositions arranged one after the other. The foreground melodies can stand on their own feet as simple CaRe arrangement. The background guitar melody makes them polyphonic and hence PolyCaRe.


Let’s hear the prelude melody Maatallo Cheppeleni  from Abbayitho Ammayi  …

Guitar based PolyCaRe arrangements in 199x – Background Scores

We will continue the journey on PolyCaRe arrangements of Raja, with his compositions based on guitar as the background melody instrument. In this post,  we will particularly focus on his background compositions in the 199x. As we made it very clear in the definition, the PolyCaRe arrangement not only requires a background guitar melody, it also requires two call and response melodies in the foreground played according to our rules of CaRe arrangements.

Let’s first start with the background score of Idhayam (Tamil 1991). This segment, which is part of the background score has guitar as its background instrument. Here is how the segment is structured:

Score
Film
Year
Background instrument
CaRe - Instrument1
CaRe - Instrument2
Idhayam BGM
Idhayam
1991
Guitar
Synthesizer
Violins


  1. The first 8 seconds of this clip is not PolyCaRe. It has some nice guitar play in preparation for the PolyCaRe arrangement
  2. The guitar tune from 8 seconds to the end of the clip is a simple melody upon which the CaRe melodies need to be layered
  3. The violins play their melody first and the synthesizers respond between 9 secs and 15 seconds. The background guitar melody continues when this happens
  4.  Now, between 16 seconds and 21 seconds, the violins repeat the melody and the synthesizers respond exactly the same way they did before



As we mentioned in the introduction, this is four polyphonic compositions arranged one after the other. The foreground melodies can stand on their own feet as simple CaRe arrangement. The background guitar melody makes them polyphonic and hence PolyCaRe.

Let’s hear the PolyCaRe segment of Idhayam’s background score…




Next, let’s hear a segment of the background score of the film Vanna Vanna Pookal (Tamil 1991). This segment, which is part of the background score has guitar as its background instrument. Here is how the segment is structured:

Score
Film
Year
Background instrument
CaRe - Instrument1
CaRe - Instrument2
Vanna Vanna Pookal BGM (Title)
Vanna Vanna Pookal
1991
Guitar
Synthesizer
Flute
  1. The score is punctuated by a beautiful guitar melody that plays throughout the clip in the background
  2. There are 5 CaRe arrangements in this clip of 24 seconds riding on the background guitar melody
  3. The response from the synthesizer is always the same and so is the background guitar melody
  4. The flute calls all the five times are different melodies if you pay close attention. The 5th melody is drastically different from the others


This is a monster in 24 seconds. This is 10 polyphonic compositions arranged one after the other. The foreground melodies can stand on their own feet as simple CaRe arrangement. The background guitar melody makes them polyphonic and hence PolyCaRe.  Without this view, most folks would have just enjoyed this as a simple melody. Raja hides complexity very well and makes the listener completely at ease with his work. However, when you uncover the underlying complexity, you can clearly see the work of a mind that is no ordinary one.


Let’s hear the background score segment of Vanna Vanna Pookal…

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

PolyCaRe analysis methodology

The analysis is based on the following candidates:

  • 1,600 of the best songs of Raja that I have used as my database (it keeps growing with time) for most analysis purposes. This represents about 35% of his overall number of compositions. These songs are drawn from all the 5 decades from 197x to 201x. It is also from all languages that he has worked on – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi
  • About 600 interludes collected from Raja compositions over time (this is a subset of the 1,600 songs)
  • About 400 background scores from various sources including Navin


Having got this database of potential candidates, shortlisting  PolyCaRe candidates is a laborious manual process:

  1. Scan the 1,600 songs’ interludes for PolyCaRe arrangements
  2. A subset of this analysis are the 600 interludes which focus only on the instrument based interludes
  3.  Scan the 400 background scores for PolyCaRe arrangements
  4. Once a candidate has been identified, document the track, its year of release, language, decade of the release (Excel)
  5. For the track, identify  the background instrumentCall and Response foreground instruments and document them
  6. For background scores, exactly identify the start and end positions of a PolyCaRe arrangement in a long recording 
  7.  Pivot the data to identify the PolyCaRe arrangement by background instrument, decade of film release and alphabetic sort of the song within this selection
  8. The data is now available for presentation after these 7 steps. All the exact PolyCaRe arrangements have to be manually extracted from the tracks

Here is the definition of decades as it applies to Raja’s work:

Decade
Year range
197x
1976-1979
198x
1980-1989
199x
1990-1999
200x
2000-2009
201x
2010-2016

With this approach, there may be a few songs/BGM scores that qualify more than once as the background instrument is different in two qualifying PolyCaRe arrangements within the same song/BGM scores.


Also, I will present 201x first followed by 200x and so on. This is done deliberately to address detractors who opine that Raja does not do orchestration as well as he used to do in his earlier part of his career. There are several examples from all the decades for many background instruments

PolyCaRe categories

All the posts in this category will be based on the background instrument that is used to create the PolyCaRe arrangement. Within the background instrument, we will explore by decade, one decade at a time, in the reverse chronological order.

1.       Guitar based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use guitar as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.      Guitar based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x
b.      Guitar based PolyCaRe arrangements in 199x
c.       Guitar based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

2.       Piano based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use Piano as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Piano  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x
b.      Piano  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 199x

3.       Synthesizer based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use synthesizer as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Synthesizer  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x
b.      Synthesizer based PolyCaRe arrangements in 200x
c.       Synthesizer  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 199x
d.      Synthesizer  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

4.       Veena based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use Veena as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Veena  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

5.       Flute based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use Flute as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Flute  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x

6.       Pizzicato Strings based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use Pizzicato Strings as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Pizzicato Strings  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x
b.      Pizzicato Strings  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

7.       Violins based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use Violins as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Violins  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 201x
b.      Violins  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 199x
c.       Violins  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

8.       Sax based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use Sax as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Sax  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

9.       Voice  based PolyCaRe arrangements: In this broad category, both song interludes and background scores will be showcased that use human voice as the background instrument. There will further be sub –posts by decade:
a.       Voice  based PolyCaRe arrangements in 198x

I would like to thank Navin for his great work in posting quality background scores of Raja, and some of the posts will use PolyCaRe qualifying clips from his posts.

I strongly encourage readers to provide feedback on what they consider as a good PolyCaRe arrangement, that I may have missed. As the process is quite manually intensive, oversight on some good compositions is possible.  Let us celebrate the greatest level of polyphonic sophistication achieved by a composer such as Raja, who is doing this work during our lifetimes. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Introducing PolyCaRe

Is PolyCaRe something to do with taking care of polyethylene plastics and what the hell is that doing in a blog site about music?

Is PolyCaRe something to do with taking care of polyester fabrics?

Is PolyCaRe something to take care of the ice creams and the tulips at the same time?

Humor aside, first thing is the assurance that you are still in the musical blog on Raja. Second thing is we are about to analyze an exciting new musical idea that Raja has used  over the years but has never been explored.

In the earlier posts on polyphony, we defined what polyphony in music is. You can revisit the simple version of the definition, going back by almost 8 years:

http://geniusraja.blogspot.ca/2008/08/introduction-to-polyphony.html

Before, we even go into polyphony, it is important to understand in simple terms, the difference between harmony and polyphony.

  • Harmony in music involves two or more voices (can be instrument or human) being played simultaneously
  • Polyphony in music involves more than one melody being played simultaneously


We also discussed at length about counterpoints, fugue with various instruments, which is all part of polyphony. Polyphony itself is harmony too as more than one melody involves more than one voice too. However, harmony is not polyphony.

We also discussed for a full year about Raja’s Call and Response arrangements in the ‘unusual’ category. Here is how we defined Call and response type arrangement:

http://geniusraja.blogspot.ca/2013/08/unusual-conversations-introduction.html

Most Call and Response arrangements are like conversations between two instruments or voices. This is a very common Indian musical feature.

What if these two musical ideas come together?

Will that work together, or work against each other?

While it may sound a bit of a stretch and difficult thing to do, it may also be a bit scary to the composers of limited talent.

Fortunately, Raja has frequently used these two musical ideas together and has been delivering great music for the last 5 decades in his interludes and background scores.

Now, ‘Poly’phony + ‘Ca’ll and ‘Re’sponse becomes ‘PolyCaRe’!

It is hard enough to do polyphony. How do you do PolyCaRe? Very hard, unless you are a musical genius where everything comes easy. 

Let’s elaborate a little more about what PolyCaRe involves.
  1. A call and response involves at least two instruments playing the same or different melodies
  2. A counter melody involves two melodies being played simultaneously
  3. So, in a PolyCaRe arrangement, there must be at least three melodies  in the whole arrangement
  4. To be more specific, there must be a background melody that continues throughout the PolyCaRe arrangement and the Call and Response melodies will be foreground melodies that come and go
  5. At any time throughout a PolyCaRe arrangement, there are always two simultaneous melodies. This qualifies the whole arrangement as polyphonic
  6. In other words, in a PolyCaRe arrangement, there are multiple serial counter melodies  that together can constitute a PolyCaRe arrangementthe series of  counter melodies have an inter-relationship among themselves, by way of Call and Response
  7. There must be at least 4 members to the series of counter melodies for a PolyCaRe arrangement. Two CaRe arrangements make it four foreground melodies and the background melody is normally a constant link to the series of four counter melodies.


Hope that provides clarity on the definition of a PolyCaRe arrangement. This is one of the most complex orchestral arrangements one can do combining multiple techniques and it requires a very deep understanding of these component musical ideas. You will not cross a handful number of compositions if you scan any other Indian composer’s work. Fortunately, I ended up with about 80 qualifying compositions in Raja’s work, despite all the constraints I have thrown into this analysis. Hopefully, this analysis posts will throw light on the high level of sophistication in Raja’s work in both his songs and background scores.

In my analysis, I found that not one of these 80 arrangements sound like a childish experiment.  Raja has kept these foreground CaRe arrangements, melodious as usual, that most of us have passed them as simple melodious CaRe arrangements.


A word of caution. Do not start searching for the term PolyCaRe in musicology texts - you'll find none. Most Western music does not treat relationship melodies beyond simultaneity. At best, the definition of fugue tries to add a layer of complexity by defining two different pitches for the two melodies that are original and imitated. Indian music, though uses Call and Response as a staple technique, does not really bother to define it . As I mentioned in the sections on 'Unusual conversations', the requirement to have two calls and two responses to qualify as a CaRe is arbitrary. I have not seen such a definition. I did that for ensuring that there is total clarity in understanding the technique.

Rules to PolyCaRe analysis

New techniques require new approaches in analysis. However, like most other analysis topics, some clearly defined rules apply. Also, caveats need to be defined very clearly.

A big part of Raja’s music includes the singing bass. There are several hundred songs that use Raja’s signature singing bass line. Such singing bass lines will not be considered as the background melody that will define a PolyCaRe arrangement. Though technically a call and response arrangement with a background singing bass qualifies as a PolyCaRe arrangement, there are two difficulties with this: 
  1. Most listeners do not have good stereo equipment to decipher the singing bass and 
  2. there are too many such compositions. 


As a result, singing bass based compositions featuring a call and response do not qualify.


Let’s next discuss the rules of PolyCaRe analysis. We will borrow the same rules of the Call and response arrangement and add the polyphony rules on top of it.


Here is the method that we will use, though there is no theoretical or technical compulsion to do so:
  1. The call must be made by a single instrument with a small melody. When this call is happening, there must be a melody in the background playing in counter to it
  2. The response must be made by a single instrument with a small melody. When this response is happening, there must be a melody in the background playing in counter to it. It must be the exact same background melody that got played when the call was made
  3. The call must be repeated at least twice
  4. The response must be repeated at least twice
  5. Point 3 or point 4 must be valid. Sometimes, the response for the second time may be with a slightly modified melody compared to the first response

We will also avoid C&R arrangements that have too many synthesizer tones that are hard to tell one from the other. Some of the modern compositions of Raja are so densely arranged with synthesizer banks, it is hard to tell the foreground from the background melodies.  The saving grace in this activity is that Raja keeps one of his tunes very simple and writes complex melodies on top of it. The simple melody will navigate the entire PolyCaRe composition. This is the background tune that we need to anchor to ensure that we understand the PolyCaRe composition.