Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ஒய் பழம்நீஅப்பன் ஈஸ் காட்

Plum Niyappa @nom_d_plum

It is not that important for me to write this, but, well, I have a few minutes to jot this down, and you, presumably, going by your brave click a few seconds ago, have a few minutes to read so why not?
It seems like the old chestnut of Composing vs Music direction has been discovered for just about the 297356785th time in History.
In the context of Tamil Film Music, this has been sufficiently addressed by professional musicians and amateurs far more qualified than I am about 15-16 years ago in what was then an excellent forum of high quality for discussions on tamil film music -
What I will be regurgitating in the following paragraphs is a diluted extract of those discussions such as still remain in my memory.

The facebook post I refer to adequately defines a composer's job and an arranger's job, while claiming that only IR and ARR, among Tamil Film music-directors, can be called composers.
This is a disputable claim, with your opinion depending on how you view the definition of the terms.
Wiki can give you a rough idea of the terms but I'll stick to my instinctive understanding from the discussions I referred to.

In the complete process of creation of a song or a musical piece, a creator creates the tune, arranges it, orchestrate or gets it done or gets it done and does the instrumentation or gets it done. There is a lot of overlap between the jobs that a person doing the latter 3 jobs, and you wont get a uniform mutually exclusive definition of those terms. The term instrumentation may not be separately needed at all depending on the definitions you take.

Sufficient to say orchestration is the process of writing music for an orchestra. In Film music context, it is a practice for a lot of Music-Directors to engage an orchestrator even outside the context of IFM. This definition clearly means a MD like MSV clearly is not in the reckoning to do this job as he doesn't write music for an orchestra. That is, presumably, the job that the likes of Joseph Krishna and Henry Daniel performed for him. We'll come back to this

Arrangement, in simple terms, is the process of adding meat to a composition. In western contexts, they say that an arranger can either create fresh arrangements for an original piece or adapt a previous composition to a particular new style. For example, the Birmingham orchestra adapting Rahman songs to a WCM style. This should give you a clue that the original Rahman song that was adapted had a different style of arrangement.
An arranger offers creative input is how I internalised it. So, a session musician giving inputs on to how the meat is added is, in fact, a co-composer.

It follows that having inputs into the arrangement essentially gives you a part-role, at the least, as a composer of the song/musical piece.

So, in summary, you'd expect a composer to
1) Tune the song 2) Have inputs into its arrangement

When it comes to orchestration/instrumentation, it seems to me the term "composer" is used even in cases where a separate orchestrator is identified and credited for scores. (i.e.) the tune creator with inputs into the style of arrangement is called a composer conventionally in film music terms with the understanding that a separate orchestrator/instrumentator may be employed to write the scores for specific instruments, even decide on the specific mix of instruments and decide on which instrument plays or sustains specific notes.

Given this context, let's see what our MDs do:
1. MSV -
MSV, of course, is a master tunesmith. In terms of the arrangement and orchestration, we clearly saw earlier that whatever he is, an orchestrator he is not, for he lacks the formal education to be one.
Is he an arranger? What does he contribute to the decisions on how to flesh out the composition in terms of the actual music that plays out in the interludes and BGM.
It seems to me, on evidence of inputs from his assistants and others who witnessed his composing and recording sessions, that he did have significant input into this.

We have, on the words of no less an authority than...Ilayaraja...that MSV used to decide on which instruments to be used, and what tunes they play out by humming out the tunes. (i.e) not just the pallavi and saranam tune sung by the singer but the interlude tunes to be played out by specific instruments.

To me, this is sufficient to mark him as a contributor to the arrangement, and in fact, the orchestration/instrumentation process. It does seem like he has an organic vision of the orchestration and it is only the limitations of formal education that prevent him from writing the notes out.

However, I have a question that is not sufficiently answered in my mind: discussions like bass orchestration of MSV leave me slightly baffled, since writing bass notes, to me, seems like not being a layman job, more of an orchestration intricacy, strictly to be attempted by trained professionals!

I am not sure either where composing the bass part comes - arrangement or orchestration/instrumentation. My guess is instrumentation, which is why I don't take this as disqualifying MSV from being an arranger as well. You may want to differ based on the demarcation you place between arrangement-orchestration-instrumentation in your mind.

So, yes, in my mind, MSV does qualify as a composer, if not one as complete a composer as Ilayaraja.
What you can dispute here is that MSV is responsible for the complete arrangement of the song - did he really hum out the background violin score that accompanies the pallavi in kaNgaL enGE; then again, I will file that under orchestration and ignore it as a strict requirement for me to use the term arranger for MSV.

In fact, I think I am on very shifty ground with my claim - you can easily demolish my arguments for MSV being an arranger. But I am not going to do it for you :)

2. Ilayaraja - Well, the way I have defined it, this man does everything, right down to the instrumentation. Obviously, my definition of what a complete composer does seems to have been tailor-made for this little fellow.

3. AR Rahman

In simple terms, if I accept MSV as an arranger, then Rahman is probably one, too, being as he decides down to the final mix of the sounds his songs encompass. He clearly has a vision of how to arrange the sounds available to him into a cohesive whole.

However, the disputable aspects of calling Rahman a composer, come here in a different form:
1) Aspects of the tune being contributed by a singer. It is said that often a singer is allowed to sing in a particular raga, then Rahman takes portions of it and mixes a final song. This, to me, takes away partial composing credit from Rahman to the singer
2) Rahman clearly has a lot of inputs into arranging the song from deciding the style, genres used, instruments mimicked etc. Where, again, the dispute comes is that he is said to mix final output from others - say, Naveen plays a long piece on the flute, Rahman stores it and eventually takes portions of it and mixes it in the orchestration of his song - to create a song or piece of his own. To me, this takea away his orchestrating credit, the same as MSV, with the difference being MSV is at least reputed to have decided what the instruments will play as tune and only was unable to write it out; Rahman, it seems, allows the co-composing session musician to orchestrate all by himself!

In short, if Rahman is given credit for arranging and orchestrating, MSV can very much be given the same credit. It is clear that both of them do not stand out indisputably as complete owners of their creation,say, like IR, in this context.

This is not unusual in Indian film music history either. We have heard tales of Jerry Amaldev completely taking care of arrangement and orchestration for Naushad, and on occasions contributing to tune as well. Jerry, decades later, lamented the lack of reognition for his *ocmposing* contributions to Naushad.

In general, by default, the average Indian Film MD leaves the arrangement and orchestration to others, especially in Hindi Film Music, whose history tells us that save for Salil Chowdhury, very few were complete composers. You can also see that in the arrangements and style being common for each era.
Composers like SD Burman, Shankar-Jaikishen, RD Burman seem to have had their inputs into arrangement, in the same way as MSV and ARR, as it is seen in the distinct style of arrangements one can discern in their music.

In TFM, KVM is known to have left the arrangements *completely* to Pugazhendhi so it was actually a composing duo Mahadevan-Pugazhendhi, the same as MSV-TKR.

However, what I find funny is that the said fb post asserting that ONLY IR and ARR can be called "composers", if you define composition as the complete process from tune creation down to mixing. This is not true at all for several reasons
* As we saw above, Raja is in a different league. We can only loosely argue that what Raja does in terms of complete composition is the same as MSV/ARR (I say this as a die-hard fan of MSV, someone who started out musical discussions in life in MSV's camp AGAINST Raja fans)
* If ARR is considered a composer with inputs into arrangement/orchestration, MSV is EVEN MORE OF a composer than ARR for reasons discussed above.

That is not all. In casually stating that all MDs before IR didnt have inputs into arrangement/orchestration, the said poster has erred in recording history.

It is a fact that Saluri Rajeshwara Rao was one of the earliest ones to take orchestration seriously as part of his job. He is known to have strong knowledge of arrangement/orchestration, and is said to have been one of the pioneer MDs in this regard.

The earliest MD IR refers to Khemchand Prakash is also of similar reputation.

Jerry Amaldev, when turned composer for Malaualam movies decades afer his experience with Naushad, can also be considered a complete composer for he took care of the arrangement and orchestration, too.

In conclusion, if we go for all-round contribution to the process of music-making for films, there are two names that stand tall above others in terms of complete ownership of their compositions, and unparalleled long-term success and vitality - Salil Chowdhury and Ilayaraja. Everything else is just opinion.

P.S: I'll leave you with this link, and encourage you to make your own conclusion:

QUOTE All songs composed,arranged,programmed,recorded and mixed by D.Imman UNQUOTE

30th April 2014 from TwitLonger

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