Monday, November 3, 2008

Voice therapy

Chorus singing has been part of Indian film music for decades. Choral singers have been called ‘melody singers’ traditionally. Raja has used them in many of his compositions; it is one of his music signatures. In most of these situations a swaram is given to the melody singers (mostly female) for singing together. Example, Malargale Nadaswarangal from Kizhakke Pogum Rayil (1978). Another example is Thoothu Solvathaaradi from Singara Velan (1992). Manamagale Manamagale from Thevar Magan (1992) is entirely executed as a chorus song. However, he has tried to use the western concepts such as ‘sight reading’ and singing from a sheet (notice that we never use the term ‘singing from the same sheet’ as harmony is not part of our music culture!) and promoted the use of voice conductors and professional western choir type singing.

I consider this track as the height of his innovation in this area: Vaanam Thottu Pona from Thevar Magan (1992). The song’s melody line is similar to the other song in the movie – Potri Paadadi Penne. Observe the interludes – it has nothing to do with the folk lines – Raja uses western choral singing with a group of professional male singers to deliver the message of social grief. I have never heard anything like this before in Indian film music. A fitting use of a grand western technique for a situation in a village where the headman dies and everyone grieves. That’s genius! Hear the interlude...

In a different situation, Raja has very successfully used these techniques in his score for 'Guru' (Malayalam - 1997). I think Guru deserves a separate section, as in my view, this is Raja's finest orchestration work till date - the finest in Indian cinema.

A body of singers who perform together is called a choir or chorus. "Choir" has the secondary definition of a subset of an ensemble; thus one speaks of the "woodwind choir" of an orchestra, or different "choirs" of voices and/or instruments in a polychoral composition. Choirs are often led by a conductor or choirmaster. Most often choirs consist of four sections intended to sing in four part harmony, but there is no limit to the number of possible parts as long as there is a singer available to sing the part:

Choirs can be categorized by the voices they include:

  • Mixed choirs (i.e., with male and female voices). This is perhaps the most common type, usually consisting of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, often abbreviated as SATB. Often one or more voices is divided into two, e.g., SSAATTBB, where each voice is divided into two parts, and SATBSATB, where the choir is divided into two semi-independent four-part choirs. Occasionally baritone voice is also used (e.g., SATBarB), often sung by the higher basses. In smaller choirs with fewer men, SAB, or Soprano, Alto, and Baritone arrangements allow the few men to share the role of both the tenor and bass in a single part.
  • Male choirs, with the same SATB voicing as mixed choirs, but with boys singing the upper part (often called treble or boy soprano) and men singing alto (in falsetto), also known as countertenor.
  • Female choirs, usually consisting of soprano and alto voices, two parts in each, often abbreviated as SSAA, or as soprano, soprano II, and alto, abbreviated SSA
  • Men's choirs, usually consisting of two tenors, baritone, and bass, often abbreviated as TTBB (or ATBB if the upper part sings falsetto in alto range like barbershop music, even though this notation is not normally used in barbershop music). Occasionally, a men's choir will have Basso Profondo, the lowest of all male vocal ranges.

The point is, the chorus singing also needs to be written in a score sheet the same way all orchestration with instruments is written. Raja is very skilled in writing this according to his choral conductor Sebastian Joseph. Some outstanding choral tracks of Raja include: Ithu Oru Nila Kalam from Tik Tik Tik (1981), Devathai Ilam Devi from Aayiram Nilave Vaa (1983), Engiruntho Ilanguyilin from Brahma (1991). You will notice that all these three tracks mentioned have a male choir arrangement. All these songs use the same technique, but the choir arrangements are entirely different. Lastly, these are not the only songs with this type of arrangement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mannava Mannava from Walter Vetrivel had a mindblowing gents-lady mixed choir in the 2nd interlude to denote the baby dying owing to milk-poisoning.Mark of a born genius!