View Full Version : TFM & Western Classical Music (Kanchana)

1st March 2006, 12:43 PM
TFM & Western Classical Music

By Kanchana

This article focusses on the 18th century Classical Era in western music here, and will not cover the medieval/renaissance/baroque preceding the Classical Era nor 19th century the Romantic Era following the Classical Era. Two music forms came out of the Classical Era: the Viennese Symphony and the Italian Opera.

I'll focus on symphony first.

DEFINITION: A symphony is a musical piece written for the entire orchestra. Typically, it is rather long and divided into movements which are large, independent sections of instrumental compositions.

HISTORY: Haydn, called the father of the symphonies, wrote about 104 symphonies out of which only about 16 are played today. Mozart composed 50 symphonies out of which 10 are played today. In the next generation, Beethoven composed 9, and all of them are played today. Two generations later, Brahms wrote 4 and all 4 are being played today. Haydn and Mozart wrote shorter, lghter symphonies while Beethoven and later-day composers saw their works as long, serious efforts.

Melody. The unifying thread or plot of a long musical work--also called a theme.

Texture, Counterpoint, Harmony.
Counterpoint. When two melodies are sounded at the same time while retaining their independent rhythms or when the same melody is sounded at different times as in "row, row, row a boat". A TFM example discussed before: iLayarAjA'a en kaNmaNi from chittukkuruvi(?). There are multiple ways of achieving counterpoints.
Harmony. Introduces the impression of "musical space" by providing a background and support to the melody.
Counterpoints and harmony help in enriching the texture of the music.

Rhythm. Controlled movement of music in time, which in a larger sense controls all the relationships within a composition.

Tempo. Pace of the music which carries emotional implications. Some common Italian markings for various tempos:
solemn (very, very slow): grave
broad (very slow): largo
quite slow: adagio
slow: lento
a walking pace: andante
somewhat faster than walking: andantino
moderate: moderato
moderately fast: allegretto
fast (cheerful): allegro
lively: vivace
very fast: presto
very, very fast: prestissimo

Words which indicate a change of tempo are:
getting faster: accelerando
getting slower: ritardando
return to original tempo: a tempo

Dynamics: Musical Volume Degree of loudness or softness tied to the emotions, and along with tempo, used by the composer for effective musical expression.

Main dynamic indications are:
very soft: pianissimo (pp)
soft: piano (p)
moderately soft: mezzo piano (mp)
moderately loud: mezzo forte (mf)
loud: forte (f)
very loud: fortissimo (ff)

Of importance are the directions to change the dynamics:
growing louder: crescendo
growing softer: decrescendo
sudden stress: sforzando (forced)

1. String Section: violin, viola, cello, double bass
2. Wind Section: Flute, piccolo, oboe, english horn, clarinets, bassoon, sax.
3. Brass Section: french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba
4. Percussion Section: different types of drums, etc.
5. Other (as necessary): piano, harp, organ.
A typical big city orchestra today has roughly about 60+ players in the Strings, 12+ in Wind, 14+ in Brass and 3+ in Percussion.

Important to note that the composer does not write the music for "main instrument" first and then for the rest of the orchestra. Rather, he hears, visualizes, feels the music for the entire orchestra as a whole in detail and writes it down as such.

I'll use Mozart's Symphony No. 40 same to discuss the structure of a symphony very briefly.

First Movement.
Has three parts:
1. Exposition: the two themes are presented or exposed with violins, Wind & Brass, with a "transition" piece when moving from one theme to the other.
2. Development: the themes are developed & presented in different musical ways. Mozart works only with the first theme here and does the following: (1) he repeats the first half of the theme three times in different keys, (2) adds a counterpoint where the violins and the lower strings actually exchange plaing the theme and the countermelody in different keys, (3) fragments the theme in such a way that the notes are tossed back & forth between the flute, clarinet and the violins.
3. Recapitulation: Mozart literally returns to the theme which began the movement, with exact repetitions first and then changing.

Second Movement
Usually the second movement of a symphony is slow and melodious. Mozart uses two themes here also, starts in andante and proceeds with a gentle rocking melody.

Third Movement
Begins at a moderately fast speed (allegretto) in strings, wind, violins and bassoon. The theme reappears with violins. [some technical structures here like the minuet and trio which I'm skipping because I don't recollect it fully]

Fourth Movement
Lively and brilliant, this rapid paced allegro provides a great finish to the symphony. Two themes again which go thru the exposition, development and recapitulation phases with appropriate transitions.

To novices it may sound like the same "tune" playing in different volumes. Within each movement the same themes repeat in different keys, played by different instruments, embellished with counterpoints and other variations.

Several of these classical concepts have been used by our TFM MDs. Loosely speaking, iLayarAja seems to think "symphonically" often even in TFM, with his interludes being mini-movements by themselves and his orchestral emphasis is on strings and flute in his richer works like andhi mazhai pozhigiradhu (raaja paarvai). He also has continued to use harmony, counterpoints and other techniques effectively. Naturally, I'm curious about his "real" Symphony which is yet to be released.

Coming to Rahman, I thought I saw some classical--symphonic "touches" fused with Indian tribal music in veerapANdik kOttaiyilE from thirudA thirudA and classical--operatic "touches" in his strawberry kaNNE from minsArak kanavu.


Let me present an example..

A 90s song which has fascinated me in terms of the deceptively simple elegance of its composition is rAsAththi en usiru ennadhillE from thirudA thirudA sung by Sahul Hameed & Choral Group; music composed by Rahman (Listen here (http://www.raaga.com/channels/tamil/movie/T0000173.html)). Let me briefly outline the structure of that song as I see it:

Instruments: None. Solo and Choral Group Vocals.

Lines 1 & 2: Hameed solo followed by harmonized humming by choral group.

Lines 3 & 4: Same as 1 & 2; choral lead introduced for the choral section.

charaNams 1 & 2
Instruments: Solo Vocal. Choral Group alone is supported very gently by rhythm guitar. No other instruments.

Lines 1 & 2: First half sung by Hameed and second sung in countermelody by Sujatha & chorus. Line 2 as example:
tharisakkAttu OdaiyilE kaNdAngi thuvaikkaiyilE//
thuNiyai nanaiya vittu manasaip pizhinjavaLE
(// indicates the split between Hameed's & Choral Group's sections)

Lines 3 & 4: same as lines 1 & 2, but now with partially overlapping countermelodies. Example:
kalyANach chElaiyilE kaNNeeraith thudachchikkittu pORavA pORavAthAn//
pORavA pORavAthAn poNjAdhiyAp pORavAthAn
(such a partial overlap is called "stretto".)

Lines 5 & 6: Hameed finishes his lyrics and continues into the choral section with a strong humming as a countermelody, and the female lead projects her countermelodic humming into Hameed's solo lyrical section.

nAn thandha malligaiyai nattAththil pOttu vittu
araLip poochchoodi azhdhapadi pORavaLE //
kadalaik kAttukkuLLE kai adichchu sonna puLLE
kAththilE ezhudhaNum pombaLainga sonna sollE
(stretto plus a conventional counterpoint thru strong humming)

This song appears to borrow from the fugue concept, where the overall theme is split and alternated between several "groups" (here, Hameed and the choral group). The charaNams build up "tension" by increasing the degrees of overlap between the countermelodies. Two different types of counterpoints seem to be used.

The fundamental melodic concepts are from the green rice fields of TN, where groups of women in colorful sarees sing simple lines in unpretentious tunes as a group as they go about their work. (idhu nAn siRu vayadhil pArththu, kEttu, rasiththu, innum maRakkAdha gAnamum kAtchiyum.)

Overall, the song has a very rich texture with minimal instrument usage, and good use of harmony and counterpoints in vocals.

(C) Author, 2006.

(Republished from the author's 1998 posts.)

10th April 2006, 12:21 PM
Simply Class write-up. If TFM admin guys are in touch with Kanchana, please persuade her to join this forum again. This write-up is one of the jewels of TFMPage.