We need to have some general rules on what is not considered a conversation within our analysis:
- Musical phrases that alternate between two voices, which is part of the main song. As an example Poomalaiye Thol Seravaa from Pagal Nilavu (Tamil 1985) uses the male and female voices in C&R mode throughout the pallavi of the song
- Musical phrases, where the instrument responds to the phrases in the pallavi or charanam. In other words, as part of this analysis, you will not hear such wonderful arrangements such as ‘Sorgathin Vasarpadi’ from Unnai Solli Kutramillai (Tamil 1990) where the instrumental music responds 16 times to the musical phrases in the pallavi
- A chorus responding to the main singer’s pallavi or charanam phrases. Example, Etho Mogam (Kozhi Koovudhu Tamil 1979)
- One chorus making a call and another responding to the call (this has been already covered under the choir analysis)
One can technically argue that the above phenomenon is also ‘Call & Response’. However, keeping these items out will shift the focus to unusual conversations that Raja has done. The phenomenon #4 will be avoided to ensure that there is no repletion between the analysis on choir and this analysis.
In other words, we will only consider instrument conversations or conversations that involve one musical instrument at the minimum. For example, we can consider a voice making a call and an instrument responding to it is fine.
Technically, we need to define the methodology of identifying a musical conversation or C&R. Here is the method that we will use, though there is no theoretical or technical compulsion to do so:
- The call must be made by a single instrument with a small melody
- The response must be made by a single instrument with a small melody
- The call must be repeated at least twice
- The response must be repeated at least twice
- Neither the call nor the response should be part of any harmony arrangement (multiple voices)
- 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
The above methodology has been chosen to avoid any ambiguity in identifying C&R segments within instrument music.
Even with all the above rules, one is likely to end up several hundred conversations and this blog has to be converted into an hourly blog which is never the intent. More importantly, with several repetitive segments, it can get boring quickly and it defeats the purpose of this blog - showcasing the genius of Raja. How do we get to show something unique about Raja’s work in this area?
By filtering out usual instrument conversations.
Most Raja detractors have claimed that he uses a lot of these three instruments in his interludes:
So, conversations involving these three instruments can be treated as ‘usual conversations’, even if they satisfy all the rules of C&R arrangement. Conversations such as these (you will hear this for the last time in this section of analysis):
- Violins - Violins conversation. Example - Kanna Unai Thedugiraen - Manadhil Urudhi Vendum (Tamil 1987)
- Violin - Guitar conversation. Example - Raja Raja Chozhan - Rettai Vaal Kuruvi (Tamil 1987)
- Violin - Flute conversation. Example - Poo Mudithu - En Purushan Thaan Enakku Mattum Thaan (Tamil 1989)
- Guitar - Guitar conversation. Example - Poo Maalai Oru Paavai - Thanga Magan (Tamil 1983)
- Guitar - Flute conversation. Example - Idhazhil Kadhai Ezhudum - Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (Tamil 1989)
- Flute - Flute conversation. Example - Vana Kuyilae - Priyanka (Tamil 1994)
If we take out these six type of major conversations, we can uncover the ‘unusual conversations’ that Raja has arranged. The analysis also gets to a manageable size and it showcases the composer’s ability to handle ‘unusual instrument conversations’. We will still have a deluge to deal with, but quite manageable. The ground rules of C&R will fully apply.
How do we approach the analysis of unusual conversations? We will base it on a lead instrument that is neither Violin, or guitar or flute and cover conversations of this instrument with all other instruments. Here are the categories:
- Bass Guitar unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with Veena or Flute and the bass guitar
- Bells unusual conversations. Bells are a special use of a synthesizer (in bell mode) and Raja has used bells extensively in his compositions. We will cover the unusual conversations with Flute, guitar, percussion, Shehnai, Synthesizer, Violins
- Chorus unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with Flute, Guitar, violins and chorus
- Jathi unusual conversations. This is drawn from the traditional bharathanatyam tradition and we will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, violins, mirudhangam and jathi
- Mirudhangam unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, table, veena and the mirudhangam
- Percussion unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, percussion, violins, synthesizers, violins and percussion (you read it right, both sides can be percussion)
- Sax/Trumpet unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, guitar, violins, chorus and the Sax/Trumpet
- Shehnai unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with Bells, Flute, Guitar, Violins, Synthesizer and the Shehnai
- Sitar unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, guitar, synthesizer, violins and the sitar
- Synthesizer unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with chorus, drums, flute, guitar, mirudhangam, Other percussion, Sax, Solo Violin, Synth, Veena, Violins, Voice and the Synthesizer (you read it right again, synth to synth conversations are very common in Raja’s music). There is no composer who has used the synthesizer in conversation with so many other instruments as Raja
- Tabla unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, mirudhangam, synthesizer and the tabla
- Veena unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, guitar, percussion, synthesizer, trumpets, violins, voice and the veena. No other composer has created so many veena conversation pieces as Raja.
- Voice unusual conversations. We will cover some of the unusual conversations that Raja has arranged with flute, guitar, percussion, synth, trumpet, voice, viiolins and voice. ‘Voice’ here does not mean chorus or choir, typically humming in interludes. No other composer has created such unusual conversations with instruments and voice.
- Other unusual conversations. As usual, this is a catch all bucket. We will cover unusual conversations such as percussion and water sounds, bird chirps that are part of interludes arranged as conversations, harmonium and guitar etc.
Even taking out the categories that have been alleged as overuse instruments, we can see that there are 14 categories of unusual conversations that have been part of Raja’s long 4 decade career. No other Indian film music composer has such breadth and depth in orchestration. We are just talking about one technique…
While presenting each category, we will try and combine all conversations between two named instruments into a single clip to avoid too many clips being presented.
As with all analysis, there may be oversight in not including a few clips that belong to the category being discussed. Readers are encouraged to comment on tracks I may have missed.