Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kamalaakarsh on Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:44 pm

ravinat wrote:

This is a packed interlude that has no bridges and uses 5 instruments. Raja uses, Violins (Vi), guitar (Gu), flute (Fl), synthesizer (Sy) and bells (Be) rapidly in this interlude. The pattern of this interlude is as shown below:
   
Fl-Sy x2Gu-Vi x2Fl-Vi x2Gu-Fl x2Vi-Fl x4Vi-Be-Fl



In short form, the arrangement pattern can be said as 2+2+2+2+4+1.
You can see the packing of C&R arrangements for just 26 seconds. Raja has 13 C&R arrangements for just one interlude. What's interesting is that it does not bore the listener. This is the most of C&R arrangements in one interlude that I have heard Raja doing with most instrument combinations!
Do not worry about some of the terminology (example, bridges) that I use. When you read my blog, it will all fall into place. This will get published several months later. However, I was excited and wanted to share this. 
13 C&R arrangements in 26 seconds. Somebody seriously needs to figure out what goes on inside this man's head Surprised

Mind blowing!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  V_S on Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:58 pm

Ravi, Wow! Truly astonishing to hear!! Thanks a lot for enlightening us Very Happy

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  jaiganesh on Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:35 am

heck that is fantastic observation!!!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:50 pm

I listened to the Telugu Song - Kalise Prathi Sandhyalo from Alapana today after a while. This is not one of my favorites from this film. However, I noticed that Raja has done something that I have not seen him doing in any other track of his (correct me if I am wrong):



Listen tot he second interlude between 2:18 and 2:28 in this video. Two veenas in counterpoint. That was brilliant! I have never heard him do this in any other song.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:57 pm

I have heard this song 'Rokkam Irukkira Makkal' from Kaasi (200x) and did not notice the second interlude, till I heard it today.

I am not a particular fan of this song as these type of songs somehow do not resonate with me.



Hear the second interlude between 2:30 and 3:03 - the cascading violins, the flutes, very nice WCM piece hidden inside such an ordinary song! One more Raja test to go figure out the diamond from the rocks...

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sat May 16, 2015 5:46 pm

crimson king wrote:He has integrated the orchestra into the main tune before; I think Ravi discussed the examples earlier - Adhikalai and Swargathin Vaasapadi.  I am sure there are more such.  The difference now is the instrument selection and handling is much more refined and more authentically Western.  In the 80s, the conceptualisation (of harmony and arrangements) was very Western but a lot of the tones were Indianised.   My father pointed this out by comparing O Priya with Sattru Munbu.  The two songs have some similarities but if you get right to the end of the second interlude of O Priya, there is some bell-like synth sound which, when compared with the polish of Sattru Munbu, sticks out like a sore thumb.  I guess he did that at the time because Indian audience would not have been ready for something like Sattru Munbu.  Matter of fact, whether they are ready even now is debatable.  

Sattru Munbu vocal melody does have portions which may sound odd without an orchestra but imo is less dependent on it than say Adhikalai.  Charanam does not need orchestral support at all (and Raja's own treatment is very minimalist in the charanam); it's quite a beautiful melody.



CK and Kiru,


I saw your orchestral thoughts on another thread and chose to respond under this topic as this one if focused on orchestration and not any specific album.


Firstly, CK and Kiru - good observations that I tend to agree in general. However, there are some more thoughts that I want to share here.


In the 80s and 90s, Raja always provided most of his songs with a heavy dosage of ICM and tried to hide his WCM work mostly. There is a small list of his songs that (should be less than 10%) he chose to go purely Western. Examples include songs like Alaigale Vaa, Day by Day, in the 80s and Oh Butterfly, Niram Pirithu,  Virahamay in the 90s. 


I agree with CK in the way he used synthesizers in the Bells mode (something that can be done on a Santoor otherwise) extensively in the 1980s. He has almost quit that mode today. I documented some of his C&R arrangements being delegated to the backseat in my analysis on that topic. C&R is truly Indian spice Smile  


Even his synthesizer experiments in the first decade of this century show reluctance to leave ICM behind as he continued to take the traditional listener along. Example, Swashanthin ThaaLam, has that ICM baggage in a largely WCM orchestrated song.


One of his fine work that went unnoticed is the song Edeya Bagilu where he completely shed the ICM baggage. This song is the true precursor to his 201x musical experiments.  Edeya Bagilu is hard to classify to any particular genre, but one can easily say that there is nothing Indian in that song other than the Kannada lyrics. 


My theory is that he now 'thinks' that he can freely experiment as he 'thinks' that his listeners do not any longer need the Indian spice to be added to every dish. The NEPV, Megha and even Dhoni songs completely lacked the ICM baggage. I have no complaints about that. However, as an analyst, I have still not come to terms with how to figure out his harmony in the new paradigm. He cares less about his traditional 'baroque' elements and more about a polished harmony. My personal view is that some of his arrangements are either at par or better than most Hollywood composers. I was listening to 'Sri rama' from 'Sri Rama Rajyam' recently. Listen to the second interlude. Indian mythological setting and Western harmony - he can only get away with that. And the violin glides in that interlude (with the cellos) - he would never dare to do that with Sri Raghavendra (1980s) or Mogha MuLL (1990s).


As usual, majority of his fan base (forget the general public) cannot go with this lack of Indian spice in the music he dishes out. At best, they latch on tight to the melody. Unfortunately, though the younger generation today have a liking to western music, they still do not understand WCM and its grammar. My view is that, with his new sounds, arrangements,  Raja thinks that he can modernize himself without compromising on the grammar. This is the reason for him still not connecting fully with the current generation. To them, he is doing some Shakespearean stuff when everybody else gets away with the 'f' words easily and sound pretty modern Very Happy . I like the way Raja does what he is doing as he does not care to stoop down. Let him not be the commercially successful composer for the rest of his life - I simply do not care. Commercial success  always comes with a price and he has paid enough of that price in the 70s and 80s. I do not want him to pay that in his 70s and 80s  Smile


I can fully hear (not comprehend) his new paradigm and I think the orchestration sophistication has significantly advanced (compared to even the Raja of the 200s). The only trouble is, I need to spend a little more time to understand the true pattern that he is trying to weave in his work, in the last 5 years. He is hard to typecast into any mold, but we need to try, so that, we can understand big parts of his work in the last 5 years (there will always be outliers).


Thanks Kiru and CK to set me thinking on this. We will slip a few times, but we need to crack this nut, in the next few months.


Last edited by ravinat on Sun May 17, 2015 3:43 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kamalaakarsh on Sun May 17, 2015 7:03 am

Enjoyed reading this above post Ravi. Nicely articulated.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Sun May 17, 2015 12:15 pm

He cares less about his traditional 'baroque' elements and more about a polished harmony.  -  Absolutely.  There's hardly any baroque, if at all, in Sayndhu Sayndhu for example.  There's an almost Yaani-esque passage in fact in the second interlude though the resolution is more IR-esque (not that I like Yaani, heavens no!).  As you said, this is basically very sophisticated handling of Western harmony and arrangements on par with anything you would find in Hollywood.  The whole vocabulary is completely different from anything else he has done before.  The seeds though can probably be traced to the Oru Poongavanam-Day by Day-Niram Pirithu Paarthen-Kurangu Kaiyil Maalai thread.  What was built up gingerly and sporadically in isolated tracks spread thin across several films has suddenly blossomed into a full fledged style.  Even in the lightweight Shamitabh soundtrack his handling of baroque elements is much more restrained and subtle than before, save the very throwback Ishq-e-Phillum.  It's a stunning transformation.  I cannot fathom how somebody can retool the harmony kit so completely at such a late stage in his career; it really demonstrates his hunger to grapple with and master new ideas and approaches.  Unfortunately, since it's all happened on the harmony side, which Indians by and large don't understand, the fans, old and young, are blindsided to it and accuse him of regurgitating old ideas when nothing could be further from the truth.  You cannot focus only on what you understand - melody - and then claim Raja is not doing anything new.  If what is new in it does not interest or impress you, that's absolutely fine and entirely your prerogative.  But to say there is nothing new only reveals what all you appreciate and don't appreciate in music.  Alas, it's a lost cause and in the time Raja has traversed this journey to the absolute apex of handling Western arrangements, Western music, at least the mainstream, itself has declined steeply and rhythm has supplanted harmony.  So only art music nuts like us are going to understand what he's attempted on albums like NEPV and Megha and the rest aren't going to give a s***.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Tue May 19, 2015 4:26 am

Ravi.. awesome .. I am completely with you and I think we are all on one page that the audience might (still) be not ready to receive the heavy WCM songs (sadly). @CK - agree on the saRRu munbu charanam being standalone. I think that gives us a clue - the innovation probably now is moving things to the pallavi. For sure, a large percentage of his songs have string backing for the second half of the charanam. May be the difference now is he does all this tricks in the pallavi itself. Note, we have a history of 'fills' in TFM/IFM so the listeners are ok with it (eg. adhikaalai subhavElai). But something like in 'vaanam mella' where the orchestra starts playing from t=0 might be too much for the audience and that is why he did not do it earlier (Ravi's indian spice point). So, I am inclined to call the new trend 'symphonic' vs (just) 'harmonic'.  Some of the examples cited here were new to me (alaigalE vaa) or I cant find a place to listen (like virahamai or day by day). Looks like alaigalE vaa must have been done around 'my dear kuttichaathan' times. Most other examples, I like to put them into the 'fills' bucket. When niRam pirithu came out I was absolutely thrilled out .. that I thought was basically the start of the 'symphonic' trend (even though in retrospect my dear kuttichaathan gave an inkling of it) .. the instruments are co-singers rather than backup singers. I will let you guys discuss more technically.
(Re: re-tooling - I dont think he is doing anything different .. he just keeps doing his stuff and he gets better at it. Unfortunately, not all our MDs work this way, their work style is not helping them grow.. we get latest stuff but not necessarily 'more musical' stuff. There was an amateur composer rjay in tfmpage he says IR is a very good example of 'genius is 99% perspiration 1% inspiration' and I agree. But to IR personally it does not seem like hard work).

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Tue May 19, 2015 5:08 pm

Kiru

   You have to hear Alaigale Vaa from the early 80s. I think he wanted an Opera in Tamil and he used SPB and Uma Ramanan in this song. The strings in this song are equally fantastic. Too ahead of its times... I guess as a young composer, he gave up on that style as it went unappreciated...

  Day by Day was his first attempt with Jazz in a non descript film called Honest Raj. He was definitely honest Raja and the audience were not Very Happy

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Wed May 20, 2015 3:20 am

@kiru 

Just try to compare the harmony of Ennulle (basically guitar in this song) with Sattru Munbu.  The former has a classic baroque formation and the tempo is fast (again, typical of baroque).  There's very little baroque harmony in Sattru Munbu and mostly the notes are being played at one per bar, no doubling/tripling.  This is also what creates the effect of there being more space which I referred to.  It was one of the reasons why composers originally moved from baroque to classical in Europe back in the day.  The thing is, baroque is such a signature aspect of Raja's music, so all pervasive that I find it stunning he would start writing so many songs with little if any baroque harmony so late in his career.  It is as if Lata Mangeshkar suddenly began to sing in a Carnatic style in all her songs.  He has achieved this transformation subtly by retaining some other aspects that give away his trademark but we are basically now dealing with a 'different' composer from the late 70s to early 2000s Raja.  I think apart from the jazz trail, there was another with these kind of relatively baroque-less tracks.  Dhalapathi was probably the first such album, esp Sundari and Chinna Thayaval.  Again, his progress in this direction was sporadic (evident again on Thiruvasagam, Unnai Vidai, Elangathu) but he has finally put the pieces together and evolved an approach to instrumentation that's very different from what he had been doing before.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Wed May 20, 2015 8:53 am

@CK - agree. I do notice the difference, but my point was at a high level (BTW, some how I get the expression ennuLLE feels like 'chamber' music. Is that also a baroque effect ?) What do you think about 'My Dear Kuttichaathan' music ? I feel for IR, even WCM is not different from ICM. Instead of improvising in the linear time scale, the harmonies are concurrently happening, atleast that is my pet theory :-) 
@Ravi - yes , I like alaigalE vaa. Waiting for your more detailed analysis.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Thu May 21, 2015 3:18 am

Well, Haydn is credited with popularizing modern chamber music so that's post-baroque.  But many of Bach's works can be performed by a string quartet so it's possible that the baroque influence lends it a chamber-like feel in the case of Ennulle.  I need to listen to Kutichattan properly, just skipped it when I first began to listen to IR and never returned to it.

Re developing harmony concurrently, that is how it is done in Western music anyway.  Harmony and melody are supposed to be like two pieces of  a jigsaw puzzle.  Many Western rock/pop tracks cannot be performed without at least a guitar or keyboard accompaniment because they would sound incomplete if only the melody were rendered.  So we can say that in some of these recent soundtracks, IR has at times crossed over almost completely into Western territory.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Thu May 21, 2015 11:38 pm

I am presenting a preliminary set of theories and we can debate over it and adjust as we go. As I mentioned before, like science, we will falter and adjust till we find the theory that fits a number of wide ranging compositions in the last 5 years:

The 80s theory of Raja harmony

These were the years when Raja was enamored by the WCM masters such as Bach, Haydn and the like. However, he was not sure if their work would stick here with an audience that has been largely influenced by Carnatic traditions. He decided to make the Carnatic melody as the driver and he would do what I call as 'horizontal integration'. The western harmony was weaved into the Indian melody. CSR used to call this as harmonizing ICM. Songs such as Poonkadhave or Andhi Mazhai are examples. He also extended this horizontal harmony integration to folk centric songs. Here, he would replace the CCM with folk but harmony integration remained the same. Example for this approach is Rasathi Unnai Kanadha Nenju.

The 90s theory of Raja harmony

Having tasted acceptance (I did not use the term popularity, please note), it was time to shift the paradigm.  These were the years where he focused on leaving the melody as purely ICM, CCM or folk, but the WCM harmony simply existed on its own in the interludes. He had a clever way of somehow integrating these two aspects so that few complained. Take out the interludes and these songs sound like they were done by any decent composer. With the interludes which was diametrically opposite in sound with the melody, he played with the idea of vertical harmony. Examples include songs such as Rasati Rasati or Kaatule Kambam Kaatule  where this vertical integration between folk and western harmony can be easily seen to coexist. Kannale Kaadhal Kavidhai or Endhan Nenjil are CCM examples of this.The acceptance of this style of harmony is still suspect as far as his audience go.

The 2000s theory of Raja harmony

Even in the 90s, Raja was replacing the harmony elements with synthesizers doing the job. Vertical harmonization along with Indian melody and some synth pads as percussion did not find much fans as he replaced his harmony elements with cheap electronics. In the 2000s, he continued to do what he tried in the 90s and the lone savior for Raja on several occasions was his melody. There was way too much riding on the melody. His Malayalam work, which was the hallmark of this decade, was a bit of a mish mash as he played with CCM and light melodies along with vertical harmony in synthesizers.

The 201x theory of Raja harmony

Screw the vertical or horizontal way of harmonizing music. Conceive a melody with harmonic elements and create a melody that will be part of the harmony. To the director who approves the song, they heard a melody in the 80s, 90s or 2000s - nothing really changed. But Raja the master orchestrator now thinks only harmony and the melody seems to fall into it as though it is a part of it. We no longer can separate the melody and the harmony. I was hearing 'Vaanam Enna' and realized that the harmony plays along with the melody as though they were created together. The Megha songs are similar. He does not bother to write counter melodies and any other frills. Keep it simple - harmony drives everything. He makes exception for some pure CCM songs. I think he has figured a way to now camouflage this. We call some of his orchestration as 'hide and seek' and so on. It is all one set of harmonies and voices are there at places due to the Indian requirement.

Obviously, you will find that there are exceptions to this in each decade. This is my preliminary theory, which can be modified as we debate this...

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  jaiganesh on Fri May 22, 2015 12:08 am

i am in agreement with this theory.. hypothesis..
His interludes these days are more laid-back with more time gaps..
Probably he is adjusting to the fact that he can use a full fledged Symphony orchestra
 and doesn't want to confuse them too much - most of the scores from NEPV and Megha are
 moderato - not much of allegro that he used in Hey Ram symphonic score.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Fri May 22, 2015 11:42 pm

Ravi, that is a very good summarization, I guess. 2000s was the synth decade for sure. I like the 'vertical' vs 'horizontal' characterization as well. I think, just like Jai, I think his music writing has morphed to take into account that it is going to be played by a full-fledged orchestra that is conducted by their own people. Also, even though IR has been using WCM for a long time, it now 'sounds' more western than before. I dont know whether it is because of any musical technique or it is just that I am noticing it only now. I first noticed it in Dhoni, later OAK and now even in the rustic kida poosari magudi.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Sat May 23, 2015 8:36 pm

Great discussion folks. 2 things. 1 is a minor clarification. The other is a request for help Smile

Day by Day from Honest Raj was not the 1980s. The YT upload says it's 1984. It is wrong. Film is from 1994. I've seen the film but I'm not sure I remember this song from the film. I have my doubts if this song was featured in the film. So ya it's from the 1990s.

The request. I'm not able to spot which song is Virahamai from which film. Please provide the link and pilis helppu me Razz

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sat May 23, 2015 9:00 pm

DM

  Virahamai Vibhalamai is from Man of the Match (Malayalam 1996). The songs is one of Raja's outstanding compositions. I have heard this song at least a few hundred times just for its drumming and saxaphone work. 

  Let me know if you cannot get hold of it.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sat May 23, 2015 9:05 pm

DM

http://www.inbaminge.com/m/m/Man%20of%20the%20Match/Virahamaay%20[M].eng.html

I love the Chitra version more than Das's

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Sat May 23, 2015 9:11 pm

Thanks a lot Smile turns out, I have it in my collection too and am hearing just now. Superb song. Top class drumming and sax work indeed. But some of the synth is mildly coming in the way of complete surrender. But the tune itself is so lovely in the charanam and the transition at lolamaay and the following drum work is SO good that the synth is not so much an issue Razz

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  jaiganesh on Sun May 24, 2015 11:00 am

Drunkenmunk wrote:Thanks a lot Smile turns out, I have it in my collection too and am hearing just now. Superb song. Top class drumming and sax work indeed. But some of the synth is mildly coming in the way of complete surrender. But the tune itself is so lovely in the charanam and the transition at lolamaay and the following drum work is SO good that the synth is not so much an issue Razz
I frankly dont understand this wild hatred for synth.
Sure it is not the actual acoustic instrument that is playing the notes, but the 
composition has its own beauty which ought to be obvious.
I see lotsa "soap dabba" mentions abound. Frankly KPM songs are so good, that
if he had replaced all the acoustics with just computer sounds, it wouldn't have made
 any difference to the emotional connect...
Even the vocals in Kida poosaari magudi are so complexly structured akin to a complex interlude..
I feel we are being more irreverent and inconsiderate when "listening".
There is so much of "Look at me I am the guy who can listen to a Raaja interlude and appreciate it, when compared to the 
beat thumping head banging ignoramus next to me" seeped into us that we quickly put down Raaja too often in 
mentioning soap dappa synth etc.,
A nicer way to put it would be "Would have sounded better with live orchestra" - but even then who can say what sounds are live these days?
Even his Ramanamaalai and ramada geetham albums have loads of synth - however the emotional fitment never suffers because that is not in 
how the notes were reproduced, but what was in the notes..


Last edited by jaiganesh on Sun May 24, 2015 11:01 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : poruL kutram.)

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Sun May 24, 2015 4:44 pm

@ ravi:  Agreed that harmony now drives Raja's compositions.  In itself, that is not a revolutionary approach and it has had the effect of making his compositions more Westernised than before;  arguably the earlier Indo-Western synthesis approach was more seminal.  But it doesn't HAVE to be revolutionary to be good.   What's noteworthy is how a master orchestrator like IR uses this harmony approach and the wonders it works in his music.  What I notice is in place of busy countermelodies, Raja is using dynamics in a much more nuanced way than before.  I would say it is at the level of the best art rock/jazz on the planet and it's not surprising that that AllAboutJazz reviewer drew a comparison with Pat Metheny, in that limited aspect.  This heightened sense of dynamism is especially noticeable, again, in Sattru Munbu where the strings play incredibly soft at places in the interlude, so that you have to sometimes strain a little bit to know what's going on (if you are listening on speakers instead of headphones, that is).   And this is not used in the manner of sharp soft-loud contrasts but rather layers of varying levels of dynamics. The moment this happens, I know it is a good sign because only music with very sophisticated instrumentation has this quality.  Possibly IR had to wait till he could work with the BSO musicians to hone this approach and couldn't coax it out of his local troupe earlier.  This would not surprise me because from my limited experience in singing with a troupe, in which some of the musicians had played in Bollywood, they don't pay attention to dynamics and especially live can tend to play everything at a needlessly loud level.  It is not a concept alien to Indian music but dynamics is certainly more important in Western.  It seems to me that IR is almost reliving the journey from baroque to classical through his own music because then too, the dilution of contrapuntal complexity in favour of simpler forms freed up space for more dynamic contrast as a means to convey emotions.  This is what IR is also doing now, using the varying dynamic levels to express himself rather than trying to invent more and more incredible note combinations.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Wed May 27, 2015 12:21 am

@CK - is using dynamics a new thing in his music ? I thought I have noticed some thing like this before. It could be as simple as - how could I get this whole orchestra doing something, instead of sitting idle (this is not the same film music orchestra which can be tasked at your whims and fancy) Or it is quite possible, he is employing new techniques. Recent times, the back drop of a songs whether during vocals or not, is fully harmonized eg. I see quite a bit of piano layers these days. Still I think he is more of a 'note' guy rather than an 'effect' guy ie he does not care how his music sounds. I believe, that he believes Smile  if he gets the science right ie. the combination/sequence of notes right the emotion would just happen. Anyways, my points are at the level of a normal listener rather than a music savvy/musician POV. After all these years of listening, I believe IR is out to make the vocals part of an orchestra vs orchestra backing the vocals (Ravi mentioned this point, I guess). As feared before, the audience may not be (still) ready but I as a listener who is culturally not into WCM (some of my ICM savvy friends just cannot listen to WCM) and not well versed in ICM am very happy to get this fusion from IR. To me, I am living in 'interesting times' as they say :-)

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  app_engine on Wed May 27, 2015 12:51 am

Awesome discussion!

At this point of time, while we get to hear incredible work from him, as one twitlonger (or FB post from his "official page") mentions, the opportunities these days are quite few and far between Sad

I wish more big bud projects come his way (whichever language it can happen doesn't matter), the more fortunate we listeners will be! Budget has always been a constraint IMHO (i.e. despite the composer allowed to not make money Embarassed )

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Wed May 27, 2015 1:52 am

We seem to be in agreement with his orchestration style and it did surprise me as we might have completely missed the point or just got lucky with our interpretation.  I doubt if we are so lucky.  

The only way to prove my theory of his current decade approach is to get hold of a karaoke track of a recent composition and replace the human voices with a synthesized tone to see what he was hiding successfully.  Till then , this is just theory.  If this experiment is successful , it must sound  like a JW track. Especially the tracks such as mugilo meghamo.

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