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A Technical Celebration of Music - Part IV
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Song: Prema Laedhani...(Telugu)
Film: Abinandhana
Scale : Keeravani

Friday, January 17, 2003

This is the fourth in the series of articles celebrating the music of Maestro Ilayaraja, from a technical standpoint. The article treats the Maestro's music as a textbook on music composition and presents certain technical and non-technical nuances in his music that may be of interest to students of music composition and orchestration as well as to listeners with a technical background in carnatic and western classical music.

The content presented in this article is just an observation made by the author. Please feel free to indicate any analytical errors that you may find.

This a pathos song based on a very common situation in Indian films (love failure).It has been handled in the musically innovative way through the unique orchestration that spells out the trademark of Ilayaraja.

This is yet another song from Ilayaraja in the scale, Keeravani (C harmonic minor), one of the parent scales in carnatic music. This article assumes that the tonic of the song is on the word "Prema" in the first line "Premalaedhani". Taking this as the note Sa, the rest of the song fits into the structure of the scale, Keeravani. Mapping this carnatic scale to the western scales fits the song into C harmonic minor.

The composer's ability to create an expectation (for the next phrase or next part of this phrase) in the listener through the use of unstable notes at the end of the phrases (or end of parts of the phrases) is dominant in this song. The use of the unstable leading note of the scale (B/Ni) at the end of the pallavi (joharu'lu'...) and charanam (laekunti'ni'...) (and also in the first phrase of the charanam) are examples that present this feature.

The use of an accidental (natural E) in the charanam (mugabhoyi nee'vunti'vee...), to support the mood of the song sounds natural in many of Ilayaraja's compositions.

The range of the vocals in the song is between the lower G and middle A flat (i.e roughly alto ). Ilayaraja's command in writing polyphonic music is clearly evident in this song. The prelude that begins with the trumpet (or brass?) is followed by a small 3-part arrangement with guitar spelling out the 3/4 meter. The vocals in the pallavi are backed up by the guitar and bass lines (i'm not sure if the bass is on keyboard or bass guitar), once again harmonizing three voices (including the vocals). The repetition of the pallavi introduces the percussion, which sounds a peculiar rhythm pattern, given that this is a pathos song. Thus the song presents a typical "Ilayaraja" kind of exposition.

The first interlude starts off with the winds and leads to the strings (violins) constantly supported by chord progressions. The use of counterpoint while the percussion is in rest, towards the end of the interlude, is a stereotyped pattern that Ilayaraja follows in many of his compositions. This is found in both the interludes of this song (note the imitative nature of the string arrangement at the end of the second interlude). The vocals in the charanam have excellent background support, not only with the bass lines but also with strings and keyboard. The solo violin typically found in pathos situations, finds a place in the second interlude.

Thanks to Maestro Ilayaraja for giving us yet another song to celebrate.

- RS Balaji

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