A discussion on the album `Vanaprastham' will be held on December 10 as part of the M.T. Vasudevan Nair retrospective.
We chose to use only the basic scales of certain choice ragas. The focus was on the moods the ragas evoked to suit different situations. SREEVALSAN
A story can be read and interpreted in a thousand ways. M.T. Vasudevan Nair's celebrated short story `Vanaprastham' is no exception. On the surface, it is the story of untold love. If you delve into the story, it can be read as the story of man's journey through different stages of life.
And now Sreevalsan J. Menon, Carnatic vocalist, gives a musical interpretation to this award-winning story. The album `Vanaprastham,' produced by Moozhikulam Sala, was released in Kochi recently.
A discussion on the album will be held on December 10 as part of the M.T. Vasudevan Nair Retrospective to be held as part of the International Film Festival of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram.
The story has been divided into eight segments, based on the developments in the narration of the story. This is to provide a link between the music and the story. Before one embarks on a musical voyage through these segments, Sreevalsan, who has composed and created this work, introduces the listeners to the main theme.
This is one man's journey through Balyam, Kaumaram, Youvanam, Garhasthyam, Vanaprastham and Sanyasam. Composed in Sindhubhairavi raga, it sets the tone for the whole musical magic to follow.
What is striking is the simple, soothing music. The musical stands out as a fine independent, innovative musical composition. And for those who have read the short story and are still haunted by it, the music is sure to be a new experience.
"The story is so delicate, narrated so very subtly that even a loud reading would shatter its soul. So the music also had to be like that. We chose to use only the basic scales of certain choice ragas. The focus was on the moods the ragas evoked to suit different situations," Sreevalsan explains. The musical interpretation begins with a schoolmaster waiting for Vinodini, one of his former students. The mood is one of longing. He waits for her, not sure whether she would come or not. In the second segment, titled in the elaborate inlay card as `The Meeting,' we have the female and male voice, that of Kalyani Menon and Sreevalsan, a short aalap, blending with the main music.
"Only in this and in the final segment, when the main characters part at the end of the pilgrimage, have we used voices. It has been done to give representation to the characters. Moreover, only in this segment is there a focus of the physical experiences. Right through, it is all about the psychological and emotional experiences of the characters."
A vibrant chorus is used, harmoniously integrated with the music, as it goes on to paint a picture of the ascent to Sarvanja Peetom and the climb downwards. The ragas used are Hamsanandhi and Lavangi. Here, the music assumes the style of Dhrupad. In terms of orchestration and structure, the chorus serves to portray the hardships of man, the grandeur of that journey.
Perhaps the best part of this musical composition is the section that describes a night at Kudajadri. For anyone who has spent a night there, with the expanse of the sky illuminated by a thousand stars, and silence for company, this short musical segment is bound to enchant. Khamas raga has been handled beautifully.
The violins, sitar, flute, keyboard and percussion have all been played with a lot of restraint, suiting the mood of the composition.
Balakrishna Kamath is outstanding on the mridangam.
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