Meaningful Pauses!

!!! IMPORTANT – Read this first !!!

Last update: 27 May, 2020

I don’t think there is any Carnatic musician who has utilised silence (pauses/gaps) to create such a wide variety of effects in Carnatic music as much as MDR had done. MDR inserted pauses of different durations into appropriate places in the rendition to generate unique effects. Some of the easily noticeable “ways” (list is not exhaustive!) are listed below:

  • Gap between phrases in an AlApana
  • Gap between words/lines in a kruti
  • Gap between swaras/group of swaras
  • Gap between pallavi/anupallavi/charaNams
  • Random gaps

Each of these pauses have their own unique effect on the listener. Some examples are discussed below.

Gap between phrases in an AlApana

One of the first thing a listener notices when he/she hears MDR’s AlApana is that it is slow. One of the factors that give this impression is the deliberate gaps that are present between the phrases. Many gaps are long enough for the violinist to repeat the whole phrase and sometimes even more.

  • Checkout the kalyANi AlApana below. The start itself is with two small phrases, spaced appropriately.

This is one of the commonest type and you can find examples of this approach in most links referred in this site.

Gap between words/lines in a kruti

During a kruti rendition, the words in the line are typically sung by most in a fairly continuous flow, with not much perceivable gaps between birds. But, when MDR renders the same krutis, especially in slow/moderate tempo, he accentuates the gaps between the words to create unique effects. In some cases, even those words which have been joined in the original kruti is split and rendered. Sometimes, these splits and pauses are used to spell out the words more meaningfully, while in other instances, these are employed to generate musical impact. This consistent use of “micro” gaps gives a completely different feel to MDR’s rendition compared to others.

  • In the below “hariharaputram“, MDR gives a lot of space between each and every word:

  • Hear how beautiful the “varugalAmO” sounds with lot of spacing between the words and phrases…

In addition to the overall spacing of words in the kruti, MDR also uses placement of pauses to emphasise the musical effect of some specific parts in a kruti.

  • In this rendering of kaligiyunte, we can see how he is adding explicit pause between “bAguga” and “srI“. And thus he gets the “srI raghurAmuni” in a continuous stretch rather than splitting “srI” and “raghu“:

  • Check how MDR plays with the amount of gap between words and Avartanas in the line “mAmava srI ramaNImaNi madanAshrita mitra”:

See Elephant Gait for more examples of this type of gaps.

Gap between swaras/group of swaras

The gaps between swaras and swara segments can be very subtle or very obvious.

  • Here is an example of very efficient usage of pause and emphasis at the beginning of a specific section (chiTTaswara) – the emphasis on a particular swara (G in this case) in itself is beautiful, in addition, the pause and silence also helps the listener to appreciate the shift from sAhitya to swaras.

  • Se how MDR is starting the kalpanAswaras in this rendition! In the beginning, the tALa cycle has a “long” period of silence followed by 2 swaras, then the number of swaras increases to 3, and then to 4 and finally a “regular” tALa cycle follows! This creates an interesting effect even in a novice listener – once he/she understands the intention, in the further cycles, he can “fairly” guess the swara that is going to come and the place at which it is going to come. So, while MDR is performing on the stage, the listener does the same in his mind too and when things fall at the perfect place from both sides, there is a feeling of satisfaction!

You can observe similar pauses in some of the examples linked in this page as well. See here (in the context of MDR’s laya plays) for few more examples.

Gap between pallavi/anupallavi/charaNams

This is one of the most noticeable type of pauses that MDR employs and happens very frequently in a concert. These gaps are typically long, and, actually gives a lot of scope of the pakkavAdyams to fill in (if you sum up all such gaps in a 3 hour concert, it may come to around 3-5 minutes extra time for pakkavAdyams artists to showcase their creativity!!!). Most of the time, the co-artists lap up the opportunity and plays nice patterns in these gaps. Sometimes, it would appear that MDR does this purposefully, just to enjoy these “fillers” by co-artists 🙂 Depending on the situation, sometimes, MDR skips these long pauses, but, these type of gaps can be observed in most of his concerts.

  • Check the pauses in the “angArakam” around 13:15 and 16:50. The gap is around 35 seconds! And UKS fills in nicely in the first one and he also gets time to tune the mrudangam in the second gap!

  • Interestingly, here is another instance where the gap is again around 35 seconds (note from 5:50)! At the beginning of this period, we can clearly see that he is enjoying the mrudangam play!

  • Yet another ~35 second pause where he is enjoying and appreciating the sound of mrudangam:

  • Another example of how mrudangam is filling up so beautifully – “ninnu vinA gati gAna” (kalyANi):

  • In this “viribONi“, before the charaNam, there is such a long gap! The mrudangam is being adjusted, MDR is having his own side conversations etc. 🙂

  • In this “kanakAngi” (tODi) varNam. After around 45 seconds into the gap, just before he is about to start the charaNam, he is saying “second part”, just to make sure that the everyone is on the same page 🙂

  • In a kruti like the swarajati, there are so many charaNams, so, in such cases, MDR judiciously reduced the time given for the gap between charaNams! Check out an example here with different amount of gaps between the charaNams – note around 1:08:51, 1:10:25, 1:13:15 etc.!

Random gaps

Many times, there is no real pattern on how/when the gap/pause occurs. MDR may randomly stop somewhere in the middle of a rendition and do something else (Eg: Adjusting his kudumi) or start a conversation (This is covered here). At other times, he may just give a small gap just for things to sink in.

  • For example, check the following segment. After the last line of charaNam, MDR sings the pallavi and then gives a pause. Normally, this would indicate completion of charaNam, but MDR again starts the charaNam from beginning after this gap!

  • In this rendering of “brindAvana lOla“, the pallavi itself has multiple gaps/pauses. Towards the end of the pallavi, MDR actually gives one Avartana long breaks two times, in the first instance, TNK gives a reply in violin. Had he done it second time as well, it would have appeared like a mini neraval 🙂

  • One such example of stopping in dead in the middle of a charaNam can be seen below. See his reaction during the gap!

Many times, neraval/kalpanAswara is sung after fully completing the kruti. In many such occasions, MDR gives a reasonable gap between the completion of the kruti and starting of neraval/kalpanAswara. Again, this is a good opportunity for the mrudangam player to fill in with nice patterns and show his creativity.