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Sunday, 16 August 2009





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Importance of music to cinema

Music plays a pivotal role in cinema. From the early days of cinema music has been used to supplement or as an augment to give a third dimension to motion picture. The filmmakers commenced to experiment with the potentials of music earlier on.

Early films like Rene Clair's Entre actre (1924) Fernand Leger's Ballet Mecanique (1924-25) and even abstract or "avant-garde" films seemed to have depended on the musical theory for much of their visual effects. It has been recorded that filmmaker began to work with musicians even before sound was added to films. For instance, Hans Richter's vormittagesspuk (Ghost Before Breakfast, 1928) had a music score which was played live by Hindemith. It should be mentioned here that Walter Ruttmann's Berlin-Symphony of a City (1927) even had a live symphonic score.

Soon music has become an integral part of film experience; live performed music was added to silence films. Even the film makers of the silence period had discovered the musical potentials of the image. For instance, Sergei Eisenstein constructed an elaborate music score for his film Alexander Nevsky to correlate the visual images with the music score. Music for the film was made by famous composer Prokofiev. In the film like Stanley Kubrick's 2001; A Space Odyssey, music often leads the visual images.

Although international cinema has exploited the subtle but defining effects of music on visual images, it has, unfortunately, been not exploited by Sri Lankan filmmakers.

The early phase of Sri Lankan film music in Sri Lanka was marked by overarching influence of Indian Music. In fact, Sri Lankan film music was grown under the shadow of Indian film music. Ramaya Muttusamy (1926-1988) who composed music scores for over 200 films can be considered as the pioneer in the Sri Lankan film music. Muttusamy composed music for K.

Gunaratnam's productions. He influenced subsequent film music composers like Pundit W. D. Ameradeva and Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa. It is odd if a film music composer of 1950's had not been influenced by R. Muttusamy's music.

His music was highly influenced by Indian film music. Therefore, the music scores composed by Muttusamy were more Indian with little or no motifs of Sri Lankan music. However, Pundit W. D. Ameradeva's entry into the arena of Sri Lankan film music marked a watershed in the evolution of Sri Lankan film music with Ran Muthu Duwa in 1962. For the first time, Ameradeva created distinctly non- Indian music for films. These film music scores were distinctly Sri Lankan in character and captured the rhythm of the soil.

Ameradeva salvaged Sri Lankan film music from the influence of the Indian film music.

Dr. Lester James Peries's Gamperaliya, for which Pundit Ameradeva made music, was also an important film that marked an important period in the evolution of Sri Lankan film music. He also composed music for large number of films including, Gatavarayo (1964), Delovak Atara (1965), Ransalu (1967) and Sakman Maluwa (2003).

Dr. Lester James Peiris's discovery of Premasiri Khemadasa as composer for his film Golu Hadawatha, in actual terms, had revolutionised Sri Lankan Film Music. Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa is considered as the most influential film music composer in Sri Lanka. His larger than life shadow, it seems, has a permanently cast on, in the arena of film music in Sri Lanka. Departing from the tradition of just laying down music for films, he made music an integral part of the work. It is no exaggeration that success of films such as Gamperaliya, Nidhanaya (1972) at international audience, partly, was partly due to incomparable organic music scores by maestro Premasiri Khemadasa.

Khemadasa's signature in Sri Lankan film music is marked by his combination of Western Classical music and elements of music from folk and other traditional sources. Though he composed music, for the first time, for Sirisena Wimalaweera's Roddie Kella, it was Golu Hadawatha and Nidhanaya which sealed his fame as film music composer. He was greatly influenced by Western Composer of Opera such as Giuseppe Verdi and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Sarah Fernando who composed music for films such as Maha Gedara (1982), Adara Kathava (1985) and Udu Gan Yamaya (2006), is also a gifted musician who could have made a contribution to film music. Nimal Mendis is also belonged to this category of film music composers. The Present generation of film music composers like Rohana Weerasinghe, Nawarathne Gamage, and Pradeep Ratnayake have also contributed in their own ways to the growth of distinctly Sri Lankan tradition of film music.

Composers like Lakshman Joseph De Saram, Harsha Makalanda have very little space for creativity in the arena of Sri Lankan film music.

One of the reasons that hamper the growth of distinctly Sri Lankan tradition of film music is the lack of films which demands higher quality film music.

However, new generation of film makers like Prasanna Vithanage, Ashoka Handagama, Vimukthi Jayasundara and Boodee Keerthisena, have made a new dimension in Sri Lankan film music. The predominant characteristic of these films is that they demand music scores which are not confined to songs or few here and there laid music scores merely intended to intensify emotions of some scenes but be an integral part of the work. The future of Sri Lankan film music lies in the filmmaker's ability to exploit intrinsic property of music to correlate to visual images rather than haphazard laying of music or confining music to few songs in the films. It is imperative that film music score should be an important character of the film like the last music score of Akasa Kusum. The music for the film was composed by Lakshman Joseph De Saram.



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