Sunday, June 2, 2019

Intricate harmonies in obscure films/songs – part 14/18

Our journey on uncovering intricate harmonies from obscurity continues…

Kaadhal Kavidhai background score (Tamil 1998)

It is embarrassing to figure out why Raja would ever do such a fantastic set of harmonies for such an undeserving  movie.  I saw this movie because of this score and it was unbearable. Incoherence, amateur histrionics, you name it  - you have everything in this movie. I do not want anybody who has not watched the film to suffer. Just experience Raja's work. The only thing I can think of is that when ideas flow through him, he has no way to stop it and reserve it to another decent film.

As two scores from the background music of this film are fitting for a maestro, I will do two posts. The theme we will cover is a score called 'Exhilaration' from the obscure film - 'Kaadhal Kavidhai’ (Tamil 1998). It is one of my standard ring tones and it is the work of a true maestro. The folks who think that Synthesizer based themes of Raja are bad have to hear this. I rate this as one of the finest mix of synthesizer, violins, and flutes .

Harmony passage 01: From 01 to 06 seconds - it is a nice synthesizer melody played with the bass. This is in prep for the harmonies that follow. You can hear the ascending melody throughout these 6 seconds and it is nicely arranged with the guitar chords.

Harmony passage 02: From 07 to 11 seconds - the violins play their own melody counter to the synthesizer. The synthesizer based exhilaration theme continues.

Harmony passage 03:From 12 to 18 seconds - the exhilaration theme (rapid ascension of a melody) is now played equally by the violins and the synthesizer. Note that the chords are played by violins and not the guitar anymore. Masterstroke. Passage 3 is hardly different from passage 2, but switching of instrumentation makes a HUGE difference. Only a master arranger can think of such a fantastic score.

Harmony passage 04: from 18 seconds to 30 seconds - Raja takes the whole score to another level by adding flutes into the theme. The driver of this passage is both the flutes and the violins with the guitar providing the support. Raja cuts out the synthesizer for this passage and the melody has a new color due to the change of the instrumentation. Worth a million bucks.

I would take a bow before the maestro for just these 30 seconds.

I rate this as one of the finest by the maestro for an undeserving and obscure film. As I could not find a good source, I posted it on sound cloud.

Kadal Kaatin (Friends – Malayalam – 1999)

I am relaxing the criteria to include the song of this post, as the film was hardly obscure. Friends (Malayalam 1999) was a popular film and the songs in the film were a big hit. However, the song I will discuss in this post does not make rounds even among Raja fans. The harmonies weaved by Raja in this song are very special.

While emotional, melodramatic scenes are quite common in Indian films, harmonies do not pack such emotions normally. Most Indian composers use it for its traditional intent - melody, beauty, aesthetics etc. They are just very pleasant to hear and at best make you appreciate the beauty of the composer’s work. This song has some arrangement that are very Indian, though the composition is very western. It is hard to draw a parallel from the 
Western world, though I will try to compare it with one of the very emotional scores of John Williams.

The track we will discuss today is Kadal Kaattin from Friends (Malayalam 1999). There is a Yesudas version and also a Sujatha version. The interludes are identical.

Harmony passage 01: 06 to 24 secs. (prelude) All the four parts are beautifully arranged with repetition as a tool to drive home the emotion – The violins always take the S part and play its melody with the basslines taking care of the B and the guitar and cellos taking care of the remaining parts. The use of cellos and double bases in this song is very special. With the right audio (I will post the instrument clip alone) you can easily feel swept away by the arrangement.

Harmony passage 02: 1:19 to 1:29 secs. (interlude 1) The violins play initially only a single part along with the bass. The strumming of the guitar along with the violins is almost like an artist painting a scene – this technique alone drives tension and remorse more than anything else. This is an outstanding arrangement with just two parts where it almost gives you an impression of an opposing emotion of love and hatred simultaneously.

Harmony passage 03: 1:30 to 1:40 secs (interlude 1). The violins play their part with a different melody, but the strumming takes a completely different meaning now along with the bass lines as it now almost takes all the opposing emotion out of the composition and drives the listener to the days of togetherness or harmony (pun intended). Same instrumentation, but a different effect – this is what a master does with harmony.

Harmony passage 04: 1:50 to 2:00 secs (interlude 1). Raja uses the synthesizer along with the violins to now  to portray almost a little walk back into the past – this is typically the arrangement that western composers like JW use for broad landscape shoots. Raja has a very simple melody that keeps repeating with the violins but beautifully punctuated by the synthesizers with single notes. Imagine this part of the score without those synthesizer single tones – it will be quite boring. Two simple things together make the whole harmony so exotic.

Harmony passage 05: 3:00 to 3:15 secs (interlude 2). How to arrange melancholy with harmony? Use a nice melodic line with both the flute and a violin playing together and use the synthesizer to punctuate it along with the bass lines. If these parts do not move a listener, then I am not sure, what else will.

Harmony passage 06: 3:15 to 3:29 secs (interlude 2). The melody is different from passage 05, but Raja does something very unusual, he uses slapping bass to accentuate his rhythm. Now, a slapping bass is used to the best of my knowledge only with happy songs with a very fast time to let the listeners go crazy. He uses this technique in this emotional song and does not throw away any of the mood that he built, but uses it to enhance the mood. This has always been my conclusion when you analyze Raja’s instrumentation. It negates all common perceptions about any arrangement. He can bend anything to fit his need.

Harmony passage 07
: 3:30 to 3:39 secs (interlude 2). Like the prelude, what is striking about this part of the use of the double bass with the violin melody as it turns over to the charanam. You can hear it very clearly between 3:35 and 3:36. The harmony is punctuated by synthesizer throughout these 9 seconds.

Raja single handedly dramatizes the song with his harmonies that is hard to ignore. I have not heard such an emotional harmony arrangement, even with other Raja songs. The Tamil equivalent Poongatre Konjam by Hari has much simpler orchestration than its Malayalam counterpart.

This is harmony that moves you. Salute the maestro.

Let’s hear Kadal Kaatin