Thursday, April 15, 2010

Of Yanni, Enya, Chopin and all things beautiful

Imagine a typical day. Yards and miles of walking. Balmy mornings turning into sultry afternoons. A whole bunch of errands to complete, the sun setting, with you trudging along grimy and tired yet staring at a list of unfinished tasks.

If this doesn't make you all low, I wonder what will. For this certainly puts me all sad, needing some cheering up.

Well Yanni and Enya happen to be my 'cheer-up' people. I am sure all of us have our own ways of pulling ourselves out of the blues. My method is to binge on some Yanni or Enya. Not that they are meant only for the low and blue times, but they generally perk up my spirits whenever I listen to them. And today I sat wondering why they manage to perk me up. Apart from the melodies, I guess an underlying reason is the fact that several songs are associated with sweet memories and listening to the song evokes those memories again.

For instance, I remember a birthday when I was busy wrapping up some work in the dead of the night. There was gentle rain outside and Yanni was playing 'Playing by Heart'. Suddenly around 12 .30 am, a friend called up. It was around 3 am his time, and he'd called up to wish me happy birthday! I found it very very sweet that the chap stayed up all night just to call! And then the day panned out beautifully with some other friends making my day special in their own way. The memories may be dear, but the undercurrent all day long, was Yanni and Playing by Heart.

His 'After the Sunrise' was the song playing in my ears when we finally reached the summit of a mountain I'd climbed and the mellow orange hues we saw then are what come to my mind when I hear that song.

The reason I like Yanni though is for his melodies. You perhaps can't find deep classical insights in his music. But you sure can find a beautiful confluence of different instruments and a lovely tune. Take 'Marching Season' for instance. The beauty lies in the way the song is gentle with plain simple piano notes in the beginning till a crescendo after which almost effortlessly the song meanders into a beat. Likewise in the case of "Nostalgia'. The shamisen like notes in 'Nightingale' give a very oriental feel to the song and almost immediately they bring in my mind images of kimono-clad women against cherry blossoms in Japan! So Yanni's music is really vivid in all respects.

Chopin in contrast is fiercely classical. His Mazurka in F minor is a masterpiece. But it is more like the 'Raagam' that people sing in Carnatic music. Those in the know would know that in Raagam, people take one line of a song and explore the various nuances of a Raag. Likewise, Chopin in Mazurka for instance, takes a single tune and attaches several different nuances that lead to that tune. So, clearly, he does not have several different hummable melodies if I may say so, but rather they make for very mellow listening that doesn't interfere with any cognitive work you may be involved in - You can't be distracted and be led into humming the tune, you see. They're much too difficult to remember and hum!

Then comes Enya. Her music is a lovely confluence of classical tunes, melodies, instruments and also some lovely lyrics every now and then. Take 'The First of Autumn' for instance. You actually have a Cello there, and this leads to a female choir. The beauty in this song is, that I can actually imagine a scene of sorts and play this tune as a background score! Take 'One by One'. This has lovely lyrics - a tad sad, but hopeful, as does 'Only time'. Again, 'The Memory of trees' has a very 'woodsy' feel to it. You can picture walking through glades in forests, surrounded by green hues all around.

And that was when I realized that my love for all these kinds of music springs less from explicit imagery in the song and more from the kinds of imaginative pictures and thoughts this kind of music can evoke. And another thing I realized is that such music also falls under the category of being an acquired taste - much like wine. So try as I might, I realized that it may be impossible to push my tastes down someone else's throat, since it is almost impossible to impose one's imagination and thought images into someone else!

So while the world can groove to their pet passions, for me it will still be the Marching Season, Playing By Heart, Nightingale, A Love for a Life or Book of Days, The First of Autumn, The Memory of Trees and Only Time...

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