Monday, September 1, 2008

Counterpoint with other instruments

Raja has used a huge variety of instruments in his compositions and his techniques have been applied uniformly across the board. If you take sitar, observe the use of it with violins in counterpoint in Hey Padal Onru from Priya (1978) in the interludes. Or, the use of voice (not chorus) in counterpoint with guitar – Meendum Meendum Vaa from Vikram (1986).

He has used even shehnai in counterpoint with guitar and violins in Pothi Vachha Malligai Mottu from Manvasanai (1983). His keyboard and synth interludes are innumerable where he has used to play counterpoint with guitar, flute and violins.

Here are some examples – Maha rajanodu from Sathi Leelavathi (1995), Innum Ennai from Singara Velan (1992), Guruvayoorappa from Puthu Puthu Arthangal (1989), Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe in Agni Natchathiram (1988), Valai Osai from Sathya (1988)- what an amazing counterpoint composition! The first interlude alone has two great counterpoints - the first one with the keyboard and flute - notice the pace of the flute to the keyboard - the second with the violins with the keyboard. Specifically, pay attention tot he following parts: a) 0:05 to 0:10 secs, 1:00 to 1:05 secs and 1:47 to 1:52 secs - these are repeated sections where the synthesizer plays counter to another synthesizer (can be played by a single player) b) 0:15 to 0:24 secs - the synthesizer in counterpoint with the flute c) 0:41 to 0:49 secs - violin in counterpoint to the synthesizer and d) 1:28 to 1:37 secs - Violin in counterpoint with the synthesizer.   Hear the track...

Raja had one of the most talented keyboard players – Viji Manuel, working with him for more than 2 decades and he has a big role in making Raja’s compositions come live.

Raja has used saxophone extensively in this mode – Vaa Vennila from Mella Thiranthathu Kadavu (1986), Mandram vandha from Mouna Raagam (1988).

In my view, the title track of Cheeni Kum (2007) deserves a chapter of analysis. This track goes beyond my little understanding with its astounding orchestration. Why can’t they replace airline music with the Cheeni Kum score? I am yet to see a lobby music produced by an Indian composer better than this. More of Raja’s piano work later when I cover his other forms of music.

I recently listened to Samakozhi Koovuthamma from Ponnu Oorukku Puthusu and the track had all the usual Raja signatures in it, but when I was disappointed that the first and the second interlude did not have any counterpoints at all – very unlike Raja. The third interlude on the synthesizer and violins had exactly what I was looking for – a mind blowing counterpoint!

There are several other songs where Raja has used unconventional use of Indian instruments in counterpoint mode. The second interlude of Punnai Vanathu Kuyile from Muthu KaaLai (Tamil 199x) uses the shehnai in counterpoint with a synthesizer!

Another extremely unconventional use of counterpoint with Indian instruments is the song Kalise Prathi Sandhyalo from the film Aalapana (Telugu 1985). In the second interlude of this song, Raja uses two veenas in counterpoint!  Hear this track and notice how Raja cleverly introduces a counterpoint between 4 and 10 secs in an otherwise predominantly Carnatic instrumental piece...

Bottom line, a great Raja interlude can be outdone only by another Raja interlude!

So why can’t everybody do this with equal ease as Raja? Is creation of a counterpoint as simple as composing two pleasant melodies and playing them at the same time? Negative. There are strict WCM rules governing counterpoint compositions and do not get mislead about the complexity just because Raja makes it appear so easy!

1 comment:

Mahesh said...

I've been hearing this Valaiyosai Song years..Sadly i missed this great technique thanks to u sir.

Expecting this kinda great posts which wud be a great treat to layman like me...