Apart from literary creations, Ray's contribution to the world of music is also noteworthy. During his early days as a filmmaker, Ray worked with legends of Indian Classical Music looking to extract the best out of them, completely depending on their knowledge, proficiency, skill and understanding of the classical gharanas. He went ahead with Pt. Ravi Shankar for the Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito & Apur Sansar) and Parash Pathar (The Philosopher's Stone, 1958) Ustad Vilayat Khanfor Jalsaghar(The Music Room, 1958) and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for Devi (The Goddess, 1960).
During Ray's association with these legendary musical figures it happened that Ray's own understanding of music did not always meet, giving rise to an occasion for resentment. Ray's over exuberant musical ideas, and professional musician's offence in being guided too much, led him to compose music himself for all his films later on. So ever since Teen Kanya (Three Daughters, 1961), he himself took over the mantle of music direction.
Satyajit Ray always believed that music is an integral part of films, as it helps to uphold the sensibility, emotion and true pulse of the film. So it maintained that thorough work needs to done on the musical aspect right from the step of script writing. He took special care of the fact that the narrative of the film and the corresponding musical score evolved simultaneously. He would often keep regular notes of musical ideas and thoughts as a when they evolved, and meticulously jotting down music either in Indian or western notation, depending on the musicians he had on board. The composing of music would give him immense satisfaction as he once wrote in an article of his that "... The pleasure of finding out that the music sounds as you had imagined it would, more than compensates for the hard work that goes into it. The final pleasure, of course, is in finding out that it not only sounds right but is also right for the scene for which it was meant".
Satyajit Ray was of the option that musical notes often made a complex narrative simpler, thus helping the audience to understand better. Often an expression can be better expressed through musical notes than by human acting. He could himself play a number of musical instruments and had an enthusiastic and keen sense for tune and rhythm. Ray was an avid listener to western classical music. He was an ardent listener of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach, and even incorporated their compositions in his own creations. He composed particular theme music for feature films and usually used it as background score, and this did not necessarily fit into a given or established musical establishment and was often the culmination of different musical strains.
Apart from doing the musical composition for all his films post Devi, Satyajit Ray also scored the music for documentaries like Glimpses of West Bengal, Gangasagar Mela and Darjeeling: Himalayan Fantasy directed by Bansi Chandragupta, House that Never Dies by Tony Meyer, Max Mueller by John Thiele, and Quest of Health by Harisadhan Dasgupta.
Satyajit Ray scored music for feature films which were directed by others as well like Baksa Badal (Director: Nityananda Datta), Shakespeare Wallah (Director: James Ivory) and Fatikchand (Director: Sandip Ray) as also for Sandip's TV serials like Satyajit Ray Presents (Part I and II).
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