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Lakeer, Salmons and Op. 135
The three of them are not related except for the fact that they all appear together in today’s blog entry. Read on….

  • A. R. Rahman composes for a Hindi flick; Lakeer – his first release for this year. Unfortunately it’s a thorough let down. Of the six tracks, three reuse tunes from Tamil movie Rhythm. The other three disappoint too. Copying tunes from his own score is nothing new for Rahman but not once have I enjoyed the redone, rehashed versions… Now I have some fond memories associated with the original Tamil version. I was in Hong Kong in Aug 2000 and had been there for over 15 days, my first visit away from home and India; naturally, I was terribly homesick. We were working late. It was a stormy night outside and I could clearly see streaks of lightening; with rain gushing down, from my 9th storey cubicle window. Audio for Rhythm had just been released back in India and I had managed to get hold of the first track online – Nilamay Poru Nilamay. Just listening to Shankarm Mahadevan’s voice and Rahman’s captivating score filled me with a strange warmth and vivid emotions - for moments I was back home again. Snap to year 2004; I am listening to Daler Mehndi’s blaring voice reproduce the most unflattering rendition of the same song, dubbed, Nachley – valid reason to be upset?

  • Raj is a great friend and colleague of mine. On our way out to lunch, we often indulge in these strange verbal duets that mostly defy any logical pattern but usually brood on a variety of topics both personal and professional. When I told him about how nonplussed I’ve been at my sudden mood swings of past few days, especially since I’ve been back from home, he quipped – “change of weather my friend - if you were a salmon, you would be swimming upstream against the current to lay eggs”. He was hinting at a topic which is of eternal concern to all moms of the world – seeking lifelong companionship for their sons (or daughters), though I am sure no mom would put it across quite the same way… Fortunately, I am no egg bearing trout though I do act fishy at times… (bad one!)

  • I’ve recently finished my collection of Beethoven’s String Quartets (17 of them including the Op. 133 Grosse Fugue). Its been an interesting journey. His Quartet works are (very imaginatively) classified chronologically as “Early”, “Mid” and “Late”. I got involved with these Quartets about eight months ago, beginning with the Late works (Op. 132 and 135 were the first works I picked, Op. 135 being last Quartet that Beethoven wrote). I was listening to western classical fairly extensively then but was random in my pursuit (Symphony one day, Piano concerto the other and hardly any chamber music). The switch to Quartets was triggered by Milan Kundera’s book – “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” – basically a love story (or may be I am trivializing a bit here) analyzed from a very deep, philosophical perspective. On page 31, there is an account of Beethoven’s Op. 135 quartet (complete with sheet music illustration of final movement’s opening bars!) and on page 191, the famous “Es muss sein” anecdote that its final movement is often associated with. In fact, Op. 135 is a recurring theme throughout the story. Let me quote from the book itself:

    “A certain Dembscher owed Beethoven fifty florins, and when the composer , who was chronically short of funds, reminded him of the debt, Dembscher heaved a mournful sigh and said, ‘Muss es sein?’ To which Beethoven replied, with a hearty laugh, ‘Es muss sein’ and immediately jotted down these words with their melody. On this realistic motif he then composed a canon for four voices: three voices sing ‘Es muss sein, Es muss sein, ja, ja, ja, ja!’ (It must be, It must be, yes, yes, yes, yes!) and the fourth voice chimes in with ‘Heraus mit dem Beutel!’ (Out with the Purse!). A year later the same motif showed up as the basis of the fourth movement of the last quartet, Opus 135. By that time Beethoven had forgotten about Dumbshcer’s purse. The words ‘Es muss sein’ had acquired a much more solemn ring; they seemed to issue directly from lips of Fate. In Kant’s language even the words ‘Good Morning’, suitably pronounced, can take shape of metaphysical thesis. German is a language of heavy words. ‘Es muss sein’ was no longer a joke; it had become ‘der schwer gesfasste Entschluss (the difficult or weighty resolution).”

    Now while I won’t highly recommend the book itself (for several reasons), I would definitely vouch for Beethoven’s string quartets. They are undoubtedly the pinnacle of his musical expression. On one hand, not having anyone around who would appreciate or understand their technical merits sometimes makes me feel terribly lonely, their beauty and vivacity balances this feeling of void out…
posted: 13.1.04

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