Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Wed May 27, 2015 3:27 am

@kiru:  IR has always used dynamics in his music to greater effect than his predecessors in HFM/TFM.  As a composer who idolises the Western classics it could not have been any other way since dynamics is THAT fundamental to their music and is used in a lot of their non classical music as well.  However even if he had so desired he could not have achieved such a refined and sophisticated level of dynamism as evidenced on NEPV with a local orchestra unless the musicians were that skilled.  As I said the differences in level in some passages in Sattru Munbu are very subtle and it is one thing to conceive them and another to be able to play them.  In the BSO he may have finally found musicians who can both interpret what he desires and also execute it.  Recall violin Prabhakar's remarks on the level of dynamism expected by Raja being totally different.  Even Raja in his interviews has remarked that these foreign musicians play with soul.  What he may have referred to as soul may simply be the ability to infuse dynamism and bring the expression latent in the score to life.  We are told from childhood to sing/play everything at the same level strictly.  An approach that may be appropriate for Carnatic music but certainly not for anything that involves IR-level Western influence.  Speaking of which I would disagree and classify dynamism as a component of expression rather than effect.  I understand effect as something that is added on to the music during production to enhance the experience of the listener.  Whereas dynamism is as much a part of the music as are the notes themselves.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Wed May 27, 2015 4:16 am

@CK - got it. You are saying the dynamism is brought out well in the new recordings. Yup, even I can hear it. I take back 'dynamism' as effect thing. It is integral to the WCM score. My son is learning piano and when I asked why he is playing so soft .. he said he is just following the notation. I am sure IR is writing them in and getting more value out of these properly trained musicians.
@Ravi - mugilO mEgamO, IMHO, is an extraordinary song. I doubt any other MD in India can pull off some thing like that. (I went back and heard Naushad's albums for a while (after our discussion here). Well, he is one guy who could have done something like that. I have heard his songs when I was a kid but at that time I did not care who the MD was. The Babul song that I originally gave as example was from Ravindra Jain, apparently .. Still there are other songs (like in saathi) which I feel are heavy on WCM)
@App - Rudramma Devi might have awesome re-recording. IR made it a point to mention it in the magudi audio launch (I am sure you have seen it).

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Wed May 27, 2015 6:19 pm

Exactly...it forms part of the score so in Western it is considered a part of the composition itself.  With that said, often times the dynamic level required may not be indicated in the score and the musicians may be trusted to interpret the work in keeping with the broad contours of the composition.  Maybe IR finds that the BSO musicians use their imagination well and arrive at what he has in mind due to their familiarity with that kind of music.  Yeah, ironic as it sounds, notwithstanding the Tamil lyrics, some of the recent compositions like Kalvane are almost more Western than Indian.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  crimson king on Thu May 28, 2015 3:00 am

Another significant aspect of the new recordings, which aids heightened use of dynamics, is the drumming.  It is soft, sensitive and un-intrusive, again on par with anything you'd hear in the best art rock.  The double congo beat that was a trademark of IR and his imitators in the 80s, on the other hand, would, in my reckoning, restrict the scope for dynamics a lot more.  That is why a song like Mandram Vandha, with its percussion-less pallavi and softer but more rock-like beats in the charanam had more dynamics than say a Thenpoove poove vaa, which is pretty typical of zillions of songs IR must have done at that time.  IR rarely got into that Mandram Vandha zone at the time, now it's a lot of the time.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Sat May 30, 2015 4:19 am

@CK ..makes sense and educative for me .thanks.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:08 pm

DM

Your question is this : Is the 2nd interlude of Oru devathai vandhadhu similar to the 2nd interlude of Poomaalai vaangi from SB?

Fair question.  However , a few observations here:

- it does not matter if it is saranga or Kanada. As I mentioned let the Carnatic ragam not bother you.
- Harmony is simply presenting multiple voices simultaneously to make music a pleasure to listen - that's all there is to it.
- Is this second interlude a harmonical arrangement?  Perhaps yes
- Is this a 4 part harmony ? It is hard to tell. To me , this sounds more like a C&R arrangement which has parallels in ICM. 
- However , there is nothing like a simple C&R in Raja's world. A few more voices added to a C&R is no big deal for him
All I can say is that the focus is not on harmony but on C&R.

However, this is my view. If Raja reads this he may laugh at it and I will not be surprised Very Happy

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:57 pm

The unique aspect of Raja that leaves me awestruck  is how he does the blending between multiple musical systems. CSR used to call it as harmonizing CCM. There is nobody who has done this better than him before and after him.

I can go on to explain harmony in all its nuts and bolts - but for Raja, it is like breathing. You do not talk about breathing all the time Very Happy It is so boring!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Wed Sep 09, 2015 4:34 pm

Aah much thanks Smile I guess I can keep bothering you here or on Twitter now that you're there Razz I'll look up your old blogposts on this too.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Wed Sep 09, 2015 7:15 pm

Drunkenmunk wrote:Aah much thanks Smile I guess I can keep bothering you here or on Twitter now that you're there Razz I'll look up your old blogposts on this too.

These type of questions are best asked here. It may benefit the community. Also, when I respond, it may provide Raja a chance to laugh at my knowledge Very Happy

Twitter is best used to poke me. Most of my answers will break that 200 letter limit!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Fri Sep 11, 2015 5:16 pm

Ok one question.

This song, Vaai Thiravaai from Nee Thodumbodhu



Interlude 2. The portion from 2:36 to 2:47. That is a fugue right? Guitar plays on. What sounds like keyboard-synth (?) plays a counterpoint to the guitar and the flute imitates that. All this while, a bassline, unrelated to the guitar and its counterpoint melody plays beneath the surface. Staggering arrangement!!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Fri Sep 11, 2015 9:22 pm

Drunkenmunk wrote:Ok one question.

This song, Vaai Thiravaai from Nee Thodumbodhu



Interlude 2. The portion from 2:36 to 2:47. That is a fugue right? Guitar plays on. What sounds like keyboard-synth (?) plays a counterpoint to the guitar and the flute imitates that. All this while, a bassline, unrelated to the guitar and its counterpoint melody plays beneath the surface. Staggering arrangement!!

DM


   You got the idea almost with one exception. It is a fugue arrangement, but you cannot determine that it is fugue within the interval you have mentioned here. You need to consider 2:28 to 2:47. The melody that gets played on the guitar alone between 2:28 and 2:36 is equally important. This is the original. As you can hear, the original melody is a simple one. The 2:36 to 2:47 is the imitation of the same melody with the flute playing counter to the guitar. The guitar is also not exactly repeating the original melody, but playing it at a half note higher than the original and the melody slightly altered. Together it is perfect fugue.

  You will also notice that between 2:19 and 2:28, it is a simple call and response between the guitar and the sitar.  You will notice that the basic melody Raja has decided to play with starts with 2:19 itself.

  This is vintage Raja. Try to box him and the largest container is not enough Very Happy

  I have never heard this song. Thanks for sharing. Is there a better version? The song appears to be digitized from an audio tape. I can even decipher the tape's unsteady rotation!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Sat Sep 12, 2015 9:23 am

ravinat wrote:
DM

   You got the idea almost with one exception. It is a fugue arrangement, but you cannot determine that it is fugue within the interval you have mentioned here. You need to consider 2:28 to 2:47. The melody that gets played on the guitar alone between 2:28 and 2:36 is equally important. This is the original. As you can hear, the original melody is a simple one. The 2:36 to 2:47 is the imitation of the same melody with the flute playing counter to the guitar. The guitar is also not exactly repeating the original melody, but playing it at a half note higher than the original and the melody slightly altered. Together it is perfect fugue.

  You will also notice that between 2:19 and 2:28, it is a simple call and response between the guitar and the sitar.  You will notice that the basic melody Raja has decided to play with starts with 2:19 itself.

  This is vintage Raja. Try to box him and the largest container is not enough Very Happy

  I have never heard this song. Thanks for sharing. Is there a better version? The song appears to be digitized from an audio tape. I can even decipher the tape's unsteady rotation!

Thank you! Your explanation clears it even more Smile

You can try this video version for a better audio. Rajsmed works on the audio a bit before uploading. He is one uploader with a lot of dedication:



Did not share this initially since the picturization is kind of cringeworthy. But even here, the audio has a grainy sound in the charanam.

I have a better audio than what I uploaded on YT (the version I first shared was my upload. The video uploader Rajsmed loved the song and decided to upload the video). That audio is better than both uploads but the tape's unsteady rotation kind of remains in the charanam. If you can PM me your email id, I shall be glad to share the audio version with you.

PS: The same film has this excellent song too:



Discovered this through a sondcloud link (is a twitter favorite among mafia, mainly our Suresh) and uploaded it on YT and in the process discovered Vaai Thiravaai more than a yr back Smile Both songs are now all time favorites and regular fixtures in my audio playlist on laptop, mobile.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  kiru on Tue Sep 15, 2015 5:03 am

@Ravi - thanks for explaining. I am also trying to learn (probably slower than DM or others Sad  ) and this was helpful. I went to wikipedia and then youtube and lo and behold witnessed a Mozart - Bach altercation ("Mozart is better for this subject as he uses melody on melody as opposed to random notes amounting to noise as Bach does" - " Mozart was good at creating short, shitty catchy bullshit. That's it.") . Our fights here or in tfmpage pale in comparison :-)

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Raaga_Suresh on Tue Sep 15, 2015 7:50 pm

/Digression

Kiru,

Here is an interesting thread. Select the best 9 symphonies starting from Symphony 1 to Symphony 9. No composer should be represented twice. What this means is, whose Symphony No.1 is the best symphony, whose symphony No2. is best etc. It is not the best 9 symphonies of WCM. Hope you got the point. A very interesting selection.

https://www.reddit.com/r/classicalmusic/comments/3dsb7d/_/

/End

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  jaiganesh on Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:54 pm

Listened to the meditative piano concerto # 20 today morning.. would have been dubbed as "dated" "jaded" "too complex" by today's reviewers..
The surprise was when cello and violins joined around the 15th minute and then faded away to let piano do the talking.. very fugue and very calming.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Thu Sep 24, 2015 8:51 pm

Doubt.

Song is an all time favorite. Paarijaatha Poove. Raaja clearly invokes a 50s TFM feel in this song's tune and the charanam's tune progression is incredibly sweet that it's oh so lilting. But what exactly does Raaja do to differentiate from a 50s song? How does he convince people it is a song with his stamp and signature? Does he let his signature go but create an incredibly beautiful song influenced by the 50s composers like CR Subburaman and MSV-TKR of the 50s? Or does his stamp make itself evident in the arrangements in the interludes? The first interlude. 1:17-1:31. Isn't that a counterpoint so to say between the guitar and violins? And the second interlude. What exactly is he doing in that harmony with flute, guitar and the tambourine with the rhythm with bongo drum? Is there anything novel there?


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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sun Sep 27, 2015 12:16 am

Drunkenmunk wrote:Doubt.

Song is an all time favorite. Paarijaatha Poove. Raaja clearly invokes a 50s TFM feel in this song's tune and the charanam's tune progression is incredibly sweet that it's oh so lilting. But what exactly does Raaja do to differentiate from a 50s song? How does he convince people it is a song with his stamp and signature? Does he let his signature go but create an incredibly beautiful song influenced by the 50s composers like CR Subburaman and MSV-TKR of the 50s? Or does his stamp make itself evident in the arrangements in the interludes? The first interlude. 1:17-1:31. Isn't that a counterpoint so to say between the guitar and violins? And the second interlude. What exactly is he doing in that harmony with flute, guitar and the tambourine with the rhythm with bongo drum? Is there anything novel there?

DM

   There is no exquisite harmonies that I can hear in this track as Raja usually arranges. He plays with the rhythm arrangement that brings the feel of the fifties. He also uses homophony which was very prevalent in the 50s and 60s by letting the violins, flutes and tambourines play together, at the exactly same pitch and makes no effort harmonize any of the instrument play.

  The giveaway for me is the pizzicatto he uses which was never prevalent in the 50s. Pizzicatto is using the violin and plucking the strings instead of using the bow and playing continuous notes. The other thing that gives it away is the background strings in the charanam. Raja, should have avoided it in this song, though one can argue that MSV-TKR did use them in their 60s work. 

  Otherwise, this track simply demonstrates that Raja is a great tunesmith, not a great orchestrator. But, he meets the film situation requirement. That's all there is to it.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Sun Sep 27, 2015 7:16 pm

Thank you Smile

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  Drunkenmunk on Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:44 pm

In Vaan Megangale, in the second interlude from 2:24 onward, there is what sounds like a veenai from 2:33 (or is it a guitar? saththiyamA not able to make out if it's veenai or the guitar), and soon, it is joined by what is certainly veenai at 2:37. It is a counterpoint now till 2:53. If both are veenais, isn't it the first time it's a counterpoint with 2 veenais? Remember us discussing how Aalapana's Kalise Prathi Sandhyalu has a counterpoint with 2 veenais. Is this the first time then if the first instrument is a veenai? Even if it is a guitar, it's brilliant how he makes it sound like a veenai (I get an inkling it could be guitar because of the difference in sound with the veenai that follows and hence I get my doubt).


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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Fri Nov 06, 2015 6:36 pm

Punammi Puvvai from Rudrammadevi

_______________________________

 

A number of folks have written about this song's melody and how beautifully Shreya has sang this song. While all this is true, my focus is on its orchestration. I heard this song repeatedly for about 10 times to understand what Raja was doing with its orchestration. Three things struck me as worthwhile writing about.

 

1. The choir arrangement in this song

2. The harmony arrangement that is non-traditional Raja

3. The brilliant use of the 'triangle'

 

Let me go through it by topics.

 

The choir arrangement

 

 The song begins with the choir arrangement and that was the hook that made me repeat this song. The prelude uses a technique that Raja has perfected over the past 4 decades. One of his best arrangements in this area was 'Halli Lavaniyalli' from 'Namoora Mandara Hoove' (1997 Kannada). I had written in detail about this in my blog some time back...

 

http://geniusraja.blogspot.ca/2012/11/usage-of-carnatic-and-western-choir-in.html

 

In the 'Halli Lavaniyalli' track, Raja played with a synthesized flute and female voices. This time, he has tried to use a triple combo that blew me away - a nice fingered bass, female voices and a sitar (could be also a synthesized tone - it is hard to figure out these days). Outstanding arrangement for something that comes for less than 7 seconds! Listen to the prelude between 18 and 25 seconds. The same arrangement is used between 2:51 and 2:58 again in the second interlude. The prelude arrangement and the interlude arrangement are different. The prelude arrangement is at least 2 notes higher than the 2nd interlude. You can hear the Raja elevates the sitar and the voices to the same level in both these cases. He just goes about his business as though these things are simple. It definitely is not. I have included the youtube clip at the end.

 

The untraditional harmony arrangement

 

If you hear the first few lines of the charanam, Raja has his usual 4 part violin score in the background which is just a mention here to show that was his traditional harmony with violins. In the first charanam, I am talking about the violin arrangement behind these lines...

 

Nelaa paikki dhookke tholi vaana aathala
Ninki anjhu thaakke alaloni paathala
Mounamm aalapynche navarakam edho
Pranamm aalaginche abhimaanamm edho


 

However, observe what Raja does for the remaining part of the charanam...

 

Kondavaakuloni kodha alanjadhilo
Gunde ponkudhunna santhadilo
Bathanaalu dhati chinthuladu vadilo
Kindhu meethu leni thontharalo
Nenena nijhamkaana aane bavam kaliki


 

The four parts are arranged between a guitar, a bass line (can be synthesized or Mr. Munniyandi's work), a synthesizer and a fourth instrument that sounds like a sarangi. You will never realize the harmony switch unless you pay close attention to this arrangement. That is simply master class. There is nobody of Indian origin who can pull this off. Go back to your harmony rule books and Raja will check on every one of them!

 

The use of the triangle

Throughout the pallavi in all occasions, Raja uses the triangle to ride on the synthesizer. It is very simple but extremely effective. I have not seen many composers in India who take fancy to this traditional instrument. It is a simple instrument that requires a very talented composer to place it. Raja does it with aplomb. Listen carefully to these lines when you look for the triangle…


Cheralaanu vidicchi
Adhunithi ani thalacchi athuperukani
Muripaemu pillichi
Madhura bavanala sutthala



Mind you, you need some very good headphones to enjoy and hear the triangle. The youtube stuff with computer headphones – forget it. A Sennheiser or Nakamichi will make you enjoy this great work of Raja better.

 

 


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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:13 pm

This is the type of video I have been waiting for a while. Salute Raja!

https://www.facebook.com/Loveandloveonly.Movie/videos/775906702515933/

Look at the way he writes the guitar chords and I just saw him play the keys just once. 

Thanks Swaminathan for the share!

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sun Nov 15, 2015 12:04 am

Going by the comments that went with that Facebook post, most folks do not fully comprehend what Raja does. It may be worthwhile using this example to document what Raja does when he does his background score.

Before we dive into the detail, most composers (and even the best) operate like the 'Pacman' 2-d game that most of us are familiar. They are single threaded and at best use a single processor to determine the next move all the time. Raja's brain works like a modern graphics pipeline attached to a GPU like the NVidia GForce series, which does both shading and lighting management along with the associated physics engine (for lighting) and manages to process at a few teraflops, several gigabytes of data, as the scene advances in any modern video game. Most gamers love these graphics engines as they render (rendering is a complex computing problem) the scenes seamlessly giving them a breezy experience by creating real life like situations in their XBox or PS consoles.  More on this in Tamil, which I wrote some time back here: http://solvanam.com/?p=34481

Now. let's see how a typical (single threaded) composer would add music to the scene that we saw:
1. Pass 1, is to observe the scene with the view of doing what's called as marking - this is to understand the stretch of the scene and also where conversations have to be kept as is and where music needs to be added.
2. Pass 2, using the markings (there are digital tools available for this), determine the number of bars of music that needs to be composed. The digital tools do both marking and timing - before digital tools, folks used a stop clock and paper, and would play the reel several times. 
3. Pass 3, think about the overall scene's ambiance to select the various instruments and decide on the music that needs to fill the gaps. This step also includes writing the score sheet for the various music pieces. There will be separate scores for the various music pieces, as defined by the time markings. The score is typically divided as sub-parts. For example, if the scene is called 'Scene15' and it has 3 musical pieces, the scores will be written as 'Scene15-1', 'Scene15-2' and 'Scene 15-3'.
4. Pass 4, work through the score to ensure that the bars of music indeed ties up with the markings done in step 1. 90% of the composers do not get this right as they mostly overshoot or come under - in many films, you can see these professional shortcomings being patched by synthesized fillers.
5. Pass 5, get an orchestra to practice - normally this is another music conductor who sweats this out to get the right music out of the band
6. Pass 6, do the final take where the fade-in and fade-out of the background score is managed, so that the viewer does not feel that something got artificially introduced and is able to relate to the scene better than the raw shoot.

These six passes take an enormous amount of time and energy and even the best composers do get challenged with background music as a result.

The scene we saw is for about 2.5 minutes and the scene is about the woman speaking about her ex-boyfriend or husband. The couple stroll through some busy lane filled with several people. However, what the viewer needs to fully appreciate is the message of the woman about her ex-boyfriend (I hope I understood the scene, as I have not watched any other footage from this film). 

Raja does this in 3 passes. 
Pass 1, as he watches the film, conventional pass 1,2,3,4 run in parallel in his head.No digital markers, no stop watches, nothing. There is a super pass that runs through his brain, which is the emotional content of the scene. This is the music nVidia phase where his music pipeline processes every moment as his eyes watches it and he keeps writing music as though he is just writing down the time details!
Pass 2, he gets involved in ensuring the right bowing is in place for the violins and the right chords for the guitar (he does this for his satisfaction)
Pass 3, final take and the fade-in and fade-outs

You must remember that passes 2,3 and 4 are the most cumbersome and they can involve several sub-passes too. You will notice that Raja does not write music for his sub-scenes at all. He just leaves the gap in his musical score and everything is automatically taken care of! A huge productivity jump that you can watch in this video. You will also notice that the last few seconds of the clip has conversations still going on between the couple, and Raja chooses to fade that out with his violins. I hope I have captured the most modern MPU (Musical Processing Unit) that ever existed - Raja! Though the clip is for about 2.5 minutes, there are several hundred decisions that his mind has already made when those 2.5 minutes was shown to him and he executes those decisions in real time.

One of my friends who does short films once told me that the hardest part of movie making is the music mixing and post production work. Raja makes it look like child's play.

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  V_S on Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:49 am

Wow! What a brilliant post Ravi!! I cannot imagine this possibility by a human and you have beautifully brought out Maestro's extra-ordinary and unbelievable (even this word is not apt for describing his skill) composing skill in your writing.

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Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth - Pablo Picasso

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:09 pm

I was squirming watching Vijay TV super singer this Friday, when the contestants sang with minimal instrumentation - mostly, they had a cajon and a guitar. The Raja songs were unbearable, and regardless of who sang it, and it sounded so hollow. 

One of the contestants sang 'Amma Endraizaikatha' and it sounded totally bizarre.  Why would a Kalyani sound so hollow, given Raja's tunesmith abilities? A thought occurred to me - this is Rajakalyani and not mere kalyani and there was no bass guitar

For those who simply do not understand Raja's bass work, simply listen to this episode and go back to the original and see the sea of difference. This episode helped me find a demonstration piece for two of Raja's finest aspects of orchestration: 

a) Basslines enhance and punctuate a melody even in a classical Raja song
b) Raja songs sound so hollow when the voice is not an instrument in his ensemble

ravinat

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Re: Unusual observations on Raja's orchestration

Post  ravinat on Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:50 pm

I pushed some wrong buttons with my iPod by accident and this track of Raja (only the interlude) started playing repeatedly and I never realized that the track was being repeated. Only after about 30 minutes, I came out of this track and realized that the device was repeating the same track. This track runs for 1:09 minutes - try and hear this in repeat mode till your brain registers that you are hearing a different track. This interlude will transport you to another world, guaranteed.

https://soundcloud.com/ravinat14/a-minute-with-the-maestro

I called this as a minute with the maestro. Identify the track after any number of repeats. More than identifying the track, the joy of hearing it is important. Who does such music these days? The wrong push of buttons with the iPod revealed another dimension to Raja's music.

ravinat

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