Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

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Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:16 am

Just a brief introduction. Counterpoint is a technique of two or more musical phrases or lines or melodies which are very independent from each other when played together sound harmonious and coherent. This is not as simple as quoted, it is the most complicated and a vast subject that has so many theories and intricacies behind it. We are not even scratching the surface. This technique was invented during Medieval period when composers initially used it more on vocals, but the concept itself drastically changed from that period till now. Medieval counterpoint started with masses. Even WCM trios used that as their base for developing their theories further. No wonder, Maestro being an ardent follower of these giants and their WCM theories and concepts, employed some of the best counterpoint techniques widely ever in film music/private albums in whatever small opportunities he got.

Another interesting thing to notice is even though this technique was very popular till 19th century, the usage of this technique even in western countries was drastically diminishing and even disappeared to some extent. The main reason being the advent of contemporary music and the lack of interest to listen to classical music. With songs taking over compositions, now there is absolutely no need for it. It is not a proud moment, but a sad moment for music. Still through Maestro we are gifted to hear this technique once again which stands as a tallest tribute to all WCM heroes. It is a fact that this technique is known to us and all Indians only through Maestro. Maestro's use of counterpoint techniques only shows his hunger and appetite to even surpass whatever he heard already. The sheer brilliance through which he handled this complicated technique will definitely make the above trio and all WCM gurus proud.

Maestro made some really bold statements in music by employing this technique which any other composer would shy away saying audience may not understand these complexities conveniently ignoring their skills first. Maestro proved everyone wrong and took it to listeners and lifted their listening skills to abnormal levels. Today if film world and we listeners are talking about WCM and its techniques, it is only because of Maestro, and every one owes a lot to Maestro.

Maestro's handling of counterpoint is very interesting and very innovative. Some of the variations he employed are below:
1. Guitar - Guitar counterpoint
2. Guitar - Violin counterpoint
3. Guitar - Flute counterpoint
4. Guitar - Vocal counterpoint
5. Violin - Violin counterpoint
6. Violin - Flute counterpoint
7. Violin - Vocal counterpoint
8. Flute - Flute counterpoint
9. Flute - Vocal counterpoint
10. Vocal - Vocal counterpoint
11. Synth - Synth counterpoint
12. Synth - Violin counterpoint
13. Synth - Flute counterpoint
14. Synth - Guitar counterpoint

Let's leave it here for now, as enakku 'ippavE kaNNa kattuthE' feeling. Please share your views and also share any piece of music which constitutes this theory.
We can even change the title if we want to discuss more of WCM in addition to counterpoints.

Let's start music. Smile

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:21 am

First one which comes to my mind is this 'million' song. Yes, this composition contains millions of songs inside. This song does not have just one or two counterpoints, it has loads of it. Every counterpoint is not just associated with two instruments, but with multi-layered instruments. If these independent melodies (which constitute a counterpoint) are extrapolated, they will result in separate compositions of it own. On top of it, it is a lightning fast composition and melody with no time for breath. I have already written more about this composition earlier, but I have taken few bits here below for reference.

Within the first 30 seconds, four different counterpoints, one with violins, second with flute and synthesizer (how softly he introduces the bass guitar), third with veena and bass guitar, fourth flute and bass guitar. The bass guitar gradually getting louder during the fourth. All in sequence. The brainchild is how he cuts the fast running violins abruptly, and how he cuts the flute and synth, before veena taking over and flute stepping in at last.

There is not much counterpoints in second interlude but it has one of the best violin call and response technique. When there is long call there is no bass guitar. But when the call gets shorter the bass guitar enters in and punctuates, Wow! The flute continues singing a duet with guitar, then guitar changes his lover from flute to veena. We saw some three outstanding melodies in this interlude again in just 30 seconds.

Here again in 2nd interlude, Maestro employs the power-packed counterpoint technique. First with Guitar with synthesizer (xylophone like sound). The guitar stops while synth continues. We have couple of seconds to breath here unlike the prelude counter techniques. The counterpoint with synthesizer is little new, so Maestro wants to experiment that with guitar for some time and leaves synth alone.

I have uploaded the prelude and interludes in soundcloud. Please hear it to believe it.

https://soundcloud.com/v_s-2/pagal-nilavu-poomaalaiye-counterpoint

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  app_engine on Fri Dec 07, 2012 5:56 pm

cheers
Great thread and posts, V_Sji!

While listening to the recent magnum opus 'vAnam mellakkeezhiRangi' during the morning drive to work, I was reminded of your writing about the song every now and then.

Most music directors in the Indian film field can only dream of composing such a number! (I doubt whether some of them can even reproduce it properly if the notes are given Laughing )

And the other master stroke 'saRRu munbu', the song's ending had my eyes kalangified! Shocking / stunning / incredible - ippadiyE sollikkittE pOgalAm...

innum niRaiya ezhudhunga!

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:10 pm

Thanks'nga. Smile Intentionally I am not listening to NEPV, as I have stored it to hear in some special time (just like a kid storing sweets for eating later). Yes, NEPV again has tons of counterpoint techniques employed. Will write whatever I know, but really, I don't know anything. :poruththaruLga:

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  SenthilVinu on Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:46 pm

Nice write-up V_S!

My fav song. The counterpoint singing the first saranam is also one of my fav.

En kanmani en kadhali is another song that enchants me. SPB in a interview remarked how difficult it was to get the counterpoint right from tech standpoint.

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  jaiganesh on Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:05 am


Pudhidhaai kaetkum puththam pudhu keerthanam from Raman Abdullah.
Before I begin to describe the intrinsic beauty of this song's interludes, I must present with some
essential hyperlink to wikipedia article Wikipedia on counterpoint which gave me some insights into Raaja's counterpoint technique.
Being an illiterate on such complex subject, I approached to listening to this composition by maestro - purely by my instinct and perception aided by a little notion on 'threading' processes simultaneously as I learnt from my computer programming background. I must say that the resultant vision has made me look at western classical music and Indian classical music with its folk background in a new light. More of that later.
First let us listen to this soothing track for a typical Balu Mahendra 'heroine introduction' song. First thing Raaja establishes is the context - the where part of the song - this is not a 'plains' or a 'seaside' song - it is a hills song - the fact is set by a very simple female chorus harmony in indian tribal style - but there is a sophistication to it - because it is fashioned into a wavy tune of its own which Raaja's flute and synth pickup and then there is a brief interaction between the two finishing/baton passing to a rhythm pattern which is not a simple tabla - but a set of drums alternating with a chendai - this is the base rhythm pattern of the song. It repeats throughout - and not without any reason - more of that too later.
When the lead voice begins - there is no lengthy aalaps - very madhyama sthaayi - simple rendering - because there is no emotional charge in the song - the heroine simply saunters through scenic locations and nothing more - it is a lazy afternoon walk taking in the beauty of ootacamund hills and the music needs to describe ooty and its hills to a blind man and boy it does - by way of superb interludes and we can begin into the simple counterpoints - not very tough to discern. Two sets of instruments - one synthesized flute (or some kind of pipe), and the other - some sort of strings - with a tinge of middle eastern flavor - they play out two different melodies - both dissimilar - this is a puzzle - where can these tracks meet - they break the fundamental definition of counterpoint - there is no combination that yields a harmonic resonance - a little patience yields a sweet surprise - hidden silently were a bank of violins that take flight at the time point when this steady choppy interplay of counterpoint ends and play a pleasant carnatic melody that signifies the 'freedom of the soul' and Balu mahendra takes promt cue and fades out into the orange sky after a flush of blue sky. Then the second charanam plays in the same serene fashion with chitra's completion of every sentence now punctuated by the chendai which is like the fleeting glimpse of a waterfall hidden behind the stretch of hill stretches - visible now , only to vanish , hidden as the traveler's car takes a turn and then reappear again only to provide the pleasant sensation of sight for a brief time in passing.
Then the second interlude manifests and we are in for a surprise again..
The haunting tribal chorus rejoins us and this time it has a pretty integrated counterpoint resonating in a harmonic way with the shrill (small bamboo) flute and this time their counterpoint results in a set of pipes - chiming again in two different tracks in parallel - but this time descending to the ground (as opposed to ascension in a crescendo in the end of the first interlude) - the magic of recreating a picteresque hill side in pure 'sounds' is complete and to paraphrase Kavignar , "I literally search for the ultimate creator who could have conjured up such a spectacle".

Now harping back to my experience after repeatedly hearing this melody is this.. Western classical music - though composed of individual strands - makes tremendous sense only when they come together to describe something beautiful - like nature - just like how a scientist walking into the amazon finds tremendous order in the movements of individual creatures - be it plants or animals - and finally as a ecologist marvels at the tremendous harmony of the rain forest when all the individual movements of every organic being in it - be it a rivulet trekking through a dense forest, or an army of marching ants walking towards their next feast, everything together make the final harmony while the individual strands counterpoint and punctuate each other - there is no better musical system to denote this than Western Classical Music's orchestral form. Carnatic or Indian music is the "aathma darshan" - or the vision of the self - as it plays the part of the silent witness observing and partaking the individual coda of melodies as they emanate from mother nature. There is no need to fuse these together as they are already together and the separation is simply the myth created by ignorance - Raaja made this dawn on me when he used the tribal harmony in an altered fashion to make it harmonize with the flute and pipes in this song. This vision will stay with me thanks to the guru - Shri Raaja.

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:34 am

Wonderful post Jai. You summed it up nicely. Initially (in the prelude) the flute only follows the chorus (as a harmony), but at the end when the chorus sing 'lele' down, flute goes up providing perfect counterpoint.

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  skr on Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:21 pm

Great job V_S ,
Counterpoints is a topic which is abundant in Maestro's music. Apart from IR , you would hardly come across countermelodies not just in TFM but in Indian Film Music in general..
So in a way we can say Maestro is a pioneer in this area and has enhanced the listeners appeal to an alltogether different level.
Also , it was apt that you started with the gargantuan of all counterpoints Poo Malaye.

Speaking about counterpoints or parallel melodies , one other song though not spoken of regularly but which never ceases to amaze me is Poovile Medai also from Pagal Nilavu.
The combination of flute with the keys is just magical.
The prelude is a very nice ringtone one can have Very Happy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ew3ydyh3pKI

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:57 am

skr,
That was a wonderful pick!. The counterpoint between flute and synth keyboard excellently brought out. Thanks for bringing this up.

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Vocal Counterpoint

Post  V_S on Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:05 am

Time for another rare counterpoint technique from Maestro. Vocal-Vocal counterpoint.

I have written about this song earlier in Raja's magical duets. My favorite composition in terms of choir harmony and minimal instruments used, but the result is very grand, thanks to Maestro's exceptional ability to use choir effectively and presenting it like no other. This song not only showcases one of the best vocal harmony, but also demonstrates Maestro in-depth knowledge and authority on the subject he takes; Western Classical music. The tune is purely Indian.

If we listen to the prelude, it starts with a male choir (observe how it takes a wild turn @0:06) followed by female choir providing a perfect harmony, but then he adds another layer of female choir humming 'thagadaga thaa …' providing the vocal counter-melody for the first set of female choir. This repeats for one more cycle. Then both the set of female choir sing the same melody, while male choir sing the bass melody again resulting in another counter-point. Then SJ kicks in a soprano, while male choir provide her the excellent vocal support in 'alto and female choir sing in 'tenor'. If you observe closely, we can hear so many layers of vocal harmony, one after another, one on top of another. If we concentrate on one layer, we can visualize where the melody is leading to. Overall, when everything comes together, the soundscape it creates is breath-taking, remember all done just with vocals and the bass guitar and acoustic drums with no other instruments.

First interlude starts with lead guitar. When Maestro kicks in (from 1:00) with thandaana thananana naa…, observe the bass guitar and how two set of female choir joins. One set very close to the bass guitar rhythm, while the other set is heard farther behind singing a complete different melody (from 1:09). Phew! I continuously rewind this piece to grasp its beauty. When SJ joins, the rhythm guitar, SJ's singing, female choir provide a three-way counter melody. Wonderful exhibition of vocal counterpoint. Highest imagination! Yaarayaavathu panna sollunga intha maathiri! Wherever you turn there is a surprise awaiting for you. In the second interlude when SJ starts singing la.la.la.. at tenor, male choir sings in bass again resulting in a counterpoint. The last 20 seconds of this interlude is one of the finest pieces we have ever heard. Guitar and choir coming to terms in terms of harmony. As I told this composition heavily relies on vocal harmony and counterpoint rather than the instruments, yet see the richness in the composition.

http://www.fileden.com/files/2012/9/16/3348123/Kazhugu%20-%20Ponnoviyam.mp3

Full Song. Ever charming Rajini!

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  skr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:45 pm

V_S ,
Thanks for bringing up Ponoviyam , it was quite a recent find for me and i truly feel its a once in a millenium song.
Pah what a gorgeous composition , no amount of words will be able to justify the grandeur of the song.

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  skr on Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:50 pm

One song which has been fascinating me tremendously is Pongum Aagaya Gangai from Aagaya Gangai.
I couldnt control myself and i happened to write to Mr Chandrasekhar Ranganathan (Purus brother and guitarist of Ilaya Nila) about this song , was thrilled that he replied too.
Posting my message and also his reply.

Sir ,
This song has been fascinating me for quite some time..Wondering how that unison was achieved in the first interlude with the violin counterpoints , on top of that you have a flute also..And whats that guitar technique in the second interlude , is it Flanging ?? To add to all this , you have chorus adding harmony in the prelude plus bass backing , an interesting rhythm pattern , guitar counterpoint with keys in the second interlude and for nativity flavour you have an Indian classical touch in the combination of Mridangam + Flute ..Its astonishing to think all this packaging has been done in a mere 4 and half minute song and best thing it all sounds so amazing.
To achieve this co-ordination , the musicians must have been an extraordinary talented bunch..Imagining how the mood must have been in the studio after this song was recorded..And to think this number was recorded over 30 yrs ago seems even more astounding..I dont think an orchestra would be able to reproduce this number even today with all the technology available .. Vintage 80s music of the highest order..Feel spellbounded by the sound achieved. A big salute to Maestro and team. Please do listen Sir and we would love to know your views.
Pongum Aagaya - Aagaya Gangai


And this was his reply ,
Hi RS,I felt very happy about your analysis.There are many songs which were not big hits at that time.The unimaginable work of Raja will be in each and every bit of music.If I remember right I played the E.Gtr and Sada played Vibraphone !I used a Korg Wah Wah pedal in the 2nd BGM.Phaser is used mostly in all the bits to avoid the static effect of of slow notes.I don't think I used flanger in this song.

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  Punnaimaran on Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:08 am

Nice work V_S, Jai and SKR. Please continue to give more.

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:43 am

Welcome Punnaimaran. Nice to see you here Smile

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  V_S on Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:48 am

skr,
Sorry I missed seeing your wonderful post on pongum aagaaya gangai. Just now seeing it. Thanks a lot for sharing this. What a song!

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  vicks on Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:06 am

I was recently listening to Rajathi Raajan intha Raja song.. this song is the gospel for rhythm arrangements, all throughout the song and in interludes, it is nothing but just vocals and rhythmic intstruments (incl bass guitar),as explained by a rhythm player in that Yugi Sethu show.

But, as I was listening to it, esp in the 1st interlude, I was thinking this could be counterpoints in rhythm - the sounds alternate/overlap between high pitch/low pitch/medium pitch sounds (drums, cymbals etc - enakku ithula ellam knowledge romba kammi). I was curious if our more musically enlightened forum members can tell if this theory is correct?

That is, are there counterpoints/other WCM techniques that can be applied to sounds, as opposed to, notes/chords? If so, I am sure our Raaja has explored that in 1000s of songs!

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Re: Maestro's WCM Sweetheart - The Counterpoints

Post  Punnaimaran on Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:34 am

Thanks V_S. I would be thankful if some one writes about the song "Uravugal Thodarkathai" form Aval Appadithaan.

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