Sunday, 22 March 2015

ILaiyaraaja- The Buoyant Musician

Creative process is very interesting and intriguing.

In fact, even the word process could be a misnomer because creativity as such cannot be a process. A process follows certain steps or even a set of rules. Does creativity follow any rules? If it does, can it be called as creativity at all in the first place? 

Though I am not sure if science has really unravelled the mystery of creativity, I do have a basic understanding of how a human brain functions. The right brain is more involved in abstract thinking and therefore anything creative happens in this hemisphere. The left brain is logical and systematic. Therefore, when we  say 'process', we are talking about the left hemisphere. But creative thinking happens in the right brain. So, how can it be called as 'creative process'? 

Though the fact remains that it is the 'right' which is creative, nothing is possible without the 'left' as it is the one which articulates and expresses that creative work. The right hemisphere is good at grasping an emotion while the left analyses things. The 'right' transmits the feeling to the 'left' which then turns this perception to words. In the absence of the 'left', one may not be able to express the ideas however great and innovative these are. Therefore, for something 'creative' to happen and for that to be expressed, both the hemispheres must work in tandem. At the same time, for some people the right dominates and for some others it is the left which is more active. For very few people, there is balance between the two. Needless to say that these are extraordinary people whose works transcend the time. 

The works of these people carry that  sense of beauty and aesthetics because of the way these are expressed

 Kamban is one such poet.Not only are his poems very creative but these are also articulated so well. His poems are the result of the marriage between creativity and expression 

As an example, let us look at this poem from 'Kamba RamayaNam'. After Rama breaks the Shiva Dhanush, he is taken around the city of Mythila for all the people to have a look at that great warrior who performed what was seemingly impossible. People are also very curious to see the Man would be the son-in-law of Mythila soon. Kamban has devoted an entire chapter with 19 verses exclusively for this where he sees Rama through the eyes of the women of Mythila. Each and every verse is a beauty and one sees the flamboyance of Kamban in these verses. 

Let us see a sample:

மான் இனம் வருவ போன்றும், மயில் இனம் திரிவ போன்றும்,
மீன் இனம் மிளிர வானில் மின் இனம் மிடைவ போன்றும்,
தேன் இனம் சிலம்பி ஆர்ப்ப, சிலம்பு இனம் புலம்ப எங்கும்,
பூ நனை கூந்தல் மாதர் பொம்மெனப் புகுந்து மொய்த்தார்.

'Like a herd of Deer, Like a cluster of Peahens, Like the lightning on the sky amidst the glittering stars, the women throng the place (to have a glimpse of Him) which is filled with the sound of the ankle bells and the sound of the bees which surround the flowers worn by them.' 

There is nothing new in comparing women with deers and peahens while comparing them with the 'stars' and the 'lightning' are somewhat different. But what makes this poem great is way the ornaments worn by them are described. It is not difficult to understand the symbolism of 'bees and flowers' here. And how musical does the description of ankle bells sound! 

This dash of flamboyance is what makes him 'Kavi Chakravarti'.

Isn't it because of the left brain and the way it is balanced with the right one?

We saw a sample of Kavi Chakravarti. Let us see a sample of Isai Chakravarti now. 

We see a perfect balance between the right and the left in 'Isai Chakravarti' too. That is why, his compositions are extraordinary and bubble with the one I have taken up for discussion today. 

'Devatai oru Devatai' from 'Pattakkaththi Bhairavan'(1979) is a romantic composition which is perky and blithesome. One sees the touch of flamboyance in the entire composition which of course has three different interludes full of variety.  

For starters, the composition is based on Pahaadi, that beautiful raag which has a unique magic hidden inside.

Next, there is a recurring flute melody which can be called as the leitmotif of the song.Then, we have his usual play with Laya.

The composition starts with Flute unfurling like a bud blossoming into a beautiful flower even as the Guitar and the Keys hold it like a strong and healthy branch. After 10 cycles of Tisram, another Flute sings like a bird and this indeed is the leitmotif! The Strings that back the Flute subtly, suddenly becomes euphoric and kisses the gentle breeze. The Flute appears again singing briefly like a bird and the translucent Santoor completes the prelude experience.  

Haven't we already seen the glimpse of the angel? 

And that is what SPB sings in his musical bee voice with Janaki approving it in her honey-soaked voice.

pa ga3 pa Sa dha2 Sa/pa dha2/pa ga3 pa Sa dha2 Sa..are swaras of Mohanam if taken just as notes, but the Master clearly shows the distinction by the  giving appropriate stress to the swaras.

The percussion(tabla) which remained quiet in the prelude starts from 'oru' and goes as ta ka dhi mi ta ka/ ta ki ta with the first part in mel kaalam-and therefore 6- and the second part in keezh kaalam -and therefore 3. 

The First interlude is allied to expressive expansionism. It starts with the very brief call and response between the accordion and the bells. With mellifluous impulses, the Keys and the Flute follow to give some passionate interpretations. The accordion-bells continue vividly. The ever-beautiful Strings then envelope us in melodic overtones. The percussion plays in mel kaalam throughout leaving out the second syllable(kaarvai). There are in fact two instruments with the first one playing ta - dhi mi and the second one playing ta ka.

It is obvious that the lines in the CharaNams have been sensitively visualised giving the solid graces of Pahaadi.

If the first line has the higher octave swaras-except the ni3 which peeps in just now and then- the third line perks us up with the repetitive Ga3 Pa Ma1 usage. The Violins back the first two lines with sobriety while the rhapsodic Flute plays blissfully after the third line.

The Second interlude is replete with rich and copious imagery. The Keys play with an enticing spirit. The single Violin rises with an astonishing vigour and goes on a trip in higher octave touching some very new avenues. It finally merges with the group of Violins which lend weight and dignity. The leitmotif appears at the end in its own stylish way. 

The Third interlude is sensitised to rhythmic resonance. The accordion plays with clear musical perceptions and the percussion responds like a bouncing drive as 'ta ka dhi mi ta ka'. After 14 cycles of this rhythmic melody, the keys sound for a cycle and then the rapturous Flute plays with the freshness of an early morning dew. 

Aren't we attacked left right and centre by the melody? 

Yes, it is a perfect point right at the centre of the two hemispheres..

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