Monday, June 27, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life-21 ( dedicated to a friend and an accomplished artist)

Jottings : Slice of life-21
To appreciate an art in its finer forms, one needs to be inducted into its secrets. Nowhere is this need so visible as it is in music, the most prevalent and accessible of all arts. It is one thing to just allow sound to envelop you in its melody or rhythm , and it is a totally different experience to listen to the same piece of sound with a finer ear for details. That is the reason not many of us can enjoy Classical music - whether it be Indian or western. And the reason is not far to seek. There are intricate forms of sound and harmony in a well conceived and studied composition that is not readily apparent to an average listening ear, unless it is pointed out by a Master or a connoisseur or by someone who has a natural ear to pick those nuances. And once its hidden beauty is indicated, an astute listener picks up that insight instantaneously, after which the experience of listening to Music undergoes a gestalt change. There arises richer depth and profound aesthetic satisfaction to the act of listening itself..
I remember a moment nearly thirty years ago, when a good friend inadvertently changed my musical experience in this manner. It was a late evening in Madurai, and Rajkumar (a close family friend) was in my room listening to one of most melodious compositions of the Late KV Mahadevan ( unnai kaanatha kannum kan alla..). Until that time, to me music was predominantly vocal. A song was evaluated based on who sang it, and what was being sung. Orchestration, beauty of musical arrangements, the eclectic mix of instruments and their internal harmony - all these were only considered props to the actual song itself. I did not pay much heed to them. On that particular evening, however, as both of us were listening to the song, all of sudden Rajkumar stopped the player, turned towards me and said:
“Sunder, did you observe the slow movement of violins in the interlude, gradually picking up pace and rhythm, and gently merging into the mellifluous voice of susheela..”.. Rajkumar asked me.
I obviously said no. So we rewound the tape a little and played it back. And Lo! This time, my ears caught the subdued beginnings of violin gracefully picking up from where the vocal trailed off, gathering momentum and then tapering off into the singers voice again. This violin interlude was present all the time, but it needed a guide to point my attention to it in a meaningful way. The overall beauty of that transitional moment simply took my breath away. It was deep insight into how music should be listened to - An openness to the entirety of sound and to enjoy its holistic movement, and not just a part of it. From that moment onward, the quality of my listening experience changed forever.
I am reminded of this incident today because I spoke to Rajkumar and his wife today morning, after a very long time.. He is a great artist himself. Untutored, naturally gifted, he has been playing the Veena for decades now. Completely unorthodox; yet,when he plays this divine instrument, it would seem as though the melodious notes that issue from its tenuous strings transform themselves into something transcendental. Stripped of words, his rendering of some of the finest vocals would lift the tune from the burden of words and present the pure form of sound and emotion it represents . That is the highest level a musician can attain- when pure, unadulterated sound can transport a listener to different space within, and the musician is equally lost in the music as a stream loses itself in the sea.. Recently, he had sent me about ten of his recordings of evergreen melodies in Indian cinema; and each day, on my drive to office and back, they have been solace and balm. A few of these songs invariably move me to tears. The depth of feeling he brings to every touch is incredible. To reach such heights of artistry in the midst of leading a successful professional life, being a great father, a loving husband and a dutiful son only adds to his stature, commitment and integrity.
I would like to conclude this jotting with a song played by Rajkumar. I am taking the liberty of attaching it. Its one of the finest compositions of Ilayaraja for the 1976 film Bhadrakali. For my readers, who may not be familiar with this work, I request you to listen to it nevertheless. A song like this has no boundaries. All that it requires is taste, appreciation and an ear for good music. And the manner in which Rajkumar renders it make the composition truly timeless. Listen to it....
God bless…
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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