Q : What is melharmony?
A : Melharmony is an exciting, yet erudite approach to fusion which has become an important part of the musical calendars all over the world. Melharmony has won critical acclaim not only as an enchanting new age music but also as a highly well-defined concept. Melharmony can be defined as "harmony anchored on rules of highly evolved melodic systems (such as Indian Classical)."
Q : When was Melharmony invented?
A : In the year 2000 in UK Millennium Festival during Ravikiran’s collaboration with artistes of the BBC Philharmonic.
Q : Whet music systems can Melharmony be applied to?
A : Melharmony can be applied to any 12-tone system be it melody-centric like Indian or harmony-centric like Western classical, jazz, pop etc. If a system were to have more than 7 notes/12 tones within an octave (like certain systems in Persian music), it would not be melharmonizable, since rules of chords are based on thirds and triads.
Q : How is it distinctive from other musical systems or approaches?
A : Melharmony is a new system of harmonies that takes into cognizance the rules and aesthetics of both melody and harmony-centered systems (like traditional Indian/Chinese with Western Classical/Jazz) thereby taking fusion/cross-cultural collaborations to a whole new level of solidity as well as beauty. The clear rationale of melharmony not only makes it a tool to create music endearing and enduring to listeners used to either melody or harmony or both.
Q : How is it different from fusion attempts of other Indian classical composers?
A: Notable Indian classical musicians who have pioneered East-West fusion in recent times include sitar maestro Pt Ravi Shankar, Dr L Subramaniam, Dr L Shankar. Their wonderful initiatives paved way for further development of fields like melharmony. Most of the collaborations with Western Classical were concerto-style where the orchestras would accompany the main soloist. In Jazz collaborations, it would often be a more improv-centric approach where each artist was free to stick to their native comfort zones with occasional forays into the other's territory. The magic of these artists resulted in wonderful music. Melharmony aims to consolidate and extend upon all such attempts and take it further not only in practice but also by building a strong theoretical framework that takes into cognizance rules of all systems fused and create a middle-ground like never before. It takes into focus not only scales but sequence, oscillations, prominent/non-prominent notes and other key phrasings of the raga as also chord/counterpoint options that are palatable to listeners of both systems. Further, melharmony arrangements of works of master-melody composers of the classical era like Tyagaraja, Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi and Dikshitar through orchestral arrangements are adding a new dimension to the repertoire of symphonies/chamber orchestras as well as quartets and jazz/world ensembles.
Q : How is it different from fusion attempts of other Indian contemporary or film composers?
Composers such as Ilaiyaraja, A R Rahman and others have successfully created 'raga-fusion' with other genres. In some of the pieces of Tiruvasakam or Tyagaraja, the raga image is kept intact. Melharmony may differ in details of arrangements in such instances. However, in the film music context, a raga is more a suggestion than center point of the piece. The main focus is on building an ambient feel to suit the visuals. So, deviation from the grammar of the raga and/or suggestion of other ragas is not a major issue in such pieces. For instance a chord like D-F-A (Ri-Ma-Da) in Mohanam or a C-E-G (Sa-Ga-Pa) in Shankarabharanam or Kedaram will not be considered a violation in such contexts if a composer relies on triad-concept to harmonize a given note. In the melharmonic approach, the F will never be allowed in Mohanam as the note is not present in the raga. Likewise, CEG will not be used in Shankarabharanam or Kedaram even though those notes are present in both ragas, because that sequence will violate the other characteristics of these ragas.
Q : What kind of scope does melharmony offer?
A : Melharmony offers tremendous scope for new melodies as well as fresh harmonies, opening up new vistas for creative musicians, composers, orchestras, scholars as well as listeners everywhere. Its principles can be applied to any kind of fusion including jazz, popular & film.
Q : What are the chief differences between melody and harmony systems?
A : Basically, melody-based systems like Indian Classical focus on successive notes while harmony-based ones like Western Classical/Jazz are anchored by simultaneous notes (chords/counterpoints).
Q : What is the main functionality of melharmony?
A : The musical rules of melody-based systems and harmony-centric systems are often at loggerheads with each other. Melharmony endeavours to take into cognizance both approaches and aesthetics and then reconcile them in a manner palatable to listeners of both cultures. In short, Melharmony showcases similarities between diverse systems while embracing the distinctions between them.
Q : What inspired melharmony?
A : Melharmony was inspired by the reality that most listeners are culturally attuned for centuries to hearing and being impacted by music in diverse parts of the world. Those who listen to harmony-centric systems like Western music can find many of their pieces irreconcilable with the melodic modal approaches (like the raga concept in Indian music). Likewise, attempts at harmonization by composers not familiar with only melody and not harmony have often been irreconcilable to Western listeners who may perceive several chords or counterpoints not consistent with Western theory and aesthetics.