Thursday, November 8, 2018

Innocent Sexual Advance


Innocent Sexual Advance

“The single most important act any organism does in life is procreation.”

The first and very obvious difficulty that must be dealt with, before another word is written, is the question; “Can the word innocent actually be associated with anything sexual in nature; for isn’t ‘carnal knowledge’ considered the end of innocence?” But the issue here really isn’t ‘sexual knowledge’, rather the word ‘innocent’ and what it could mean or represent ‘in context’. Innocence itself does not mean lack of knowledge, for that is ignorance, and in a legal scenario, mere lack of knowledge will not render a person innocent, but potentially culpable as negligent, for example in a road accident case. On the other hand, knowledge may not make a person guilty as a criminal, of an act that they intentionally committed, for example a murder in self-defence. The ‘innocent’ that we are dealing with today is thus a legal creature, that could encompass both knowledge, and lack thereof, of the acts committed and their meaning. This particular creature can therefore exist alongside sexual knowledge.

But what does this phrase, ‘Innocent Sexual Advance’, really mean and encompass? And also, why does it need to be advanced? These questions have some very complex answers, but even before we get to those answers, a lot of seemingly unrelated issues need to be addressed in priority. Now these issues need to be addressed first, for without setting the perspective right, it is a distinct possibility that proper appreciation of the discussion to follow might not happen. This is the case because a lot of misconceptions have been drummed into both public and intellectual minds, over the last many decades, extending across more than a century. So please bear with this writer for the moment, as we dissect these so called red-herrings.

Nature – Justice, Crime, and Natural Commonsense

There is a reason why I have used the phrase ‘Natural Commonsense’ above, and not ‘Natural Law’. There is no such thing as ‘Natural Law’, for there is no ‘Justice’, or ‘Crime’, in nature, the later duo being exclusively the creations of an ‘intellectual’ society, born out of its very specific needs. What instead happens in nature is; organisms apply commonsense to survive, the ‘Natural Commonsense’. Let us consider some examples.

There is no ‘Murder’ in nature, for organisms kill organisms everyday for food, territory, mating rights, defence, or out of sheer aggression. There is no ‘Natural Law’ to punish these perpetrators, but rather ‘Natural Commonsense’ amongst the weaker beings, to know when to back off, hide, run, or move to a new territory. There is no ‘Robbery’, ‘Trespass’, ‘Larceny’, ‘Loitering’, and so on, for the stronger animals goes wherever they want to, and take whatever they want. There is no law to punish them, but only commonsense of the weaker animals to avoid, move on, or run. There is no such thing as ‘choice for mammalian females’, for the males determine amongst themselves, always violently, as to who gets to mate with the girl, irrespective of whom the girl likes. There is no law that can provide redress to either the losing male, or the chosen female, although ‘Natural Commonsense’ might prompt either or both of them, to move to another territory if they so wish. There is no ‘Rape’, ‘Sexual Assault’, or ‘Molestation’ in nature, for stronger mammalian males have been known to have forced themselves on females, even hurting them if they resist. There is no ‘Natural Law’ that punishes them, although ‘Natural Commonsense’ might make the females co-operate, or shift territory if they are so desperate. And if anyone finds that offensive, then consider how there is no such thing as ‘paedophilia’ in nature, for in nature, if an organism is sexually mature, then they are on the market. In fact, even in many human cultures which are not yet fully enlightened intellectually, young kids (generally girls) are still being married off to anyone, from another young kid to a much grown up individual.

The examples will go on and on, but the conclusion would be simple; ‘Law’ and ‘Justice’ are creatures of human intellect, designed to assist the smooth running of our complicated societies. Unlike animals, weaker humans can’t just run away from the society, but rather need it even more to protect their interests, and hence the need for ‘justice’, ‘law’, and above all, ‘criminalizing certain behavioural patterns’ and then ‘sanctioning’ them. There was never any ‘Natural Law’, even though intellectuals might be tempted to use that phrase.

Democratic Law:

It is really a shame that most people living in the advanced democracies today, like the US, India, Australia, UK, etc, don’t really appreciate the stark contrast between what we today classify as ‘Democratic Law’, as opposed to the universally decried different versions of ‘Authoritarian Rule’ of yore. They don’t understand why certain features exist in their laws today that need to be upheld above everything else. The general public in these modern societies doesn’t have the memories of those darker times, to compare their current experience with. People don’t really understand what they lose when they actually compromise a democratic legal principle, misguided by those who should have actually been their trusted allies; the media. Let us consider an example of the ‘due-process’, before we get to the ones most important for the topic of this piece. Now the next two paragraphs might seem out of place in this piece, but nevertheless they are necessary to build up the real context of the situation. This is what I call, ‘keeping big picture in mind all the time’, something most people, including intellectuals, are not used to anymore.

Post ‘September 11’ attacks on the ‘WTC’, media went into an overdrive with fear mongering, presenting a dire picture to the people in western societies like the US, Australia, and UK. Day after day, year after year, exaggerating stories, or creating them out of thin yarn, the western media created an ‘Anti-Muslim’ atmosphere, so much that when acts like ‘The Patriot Act’ in the US, and some varied ‘Anti-Terrorism’ legislation in other nations were introduced, the ones that justified the denial of ‘due-process’ to ‘suspects’ in the name of ‘national security’, the masses just thought such laws will protect them against dangerous outside threats, and likely, only affect the ‘hateable Muslims’. What however they didn’t understand was; these laws didn’t say they are only applicable to outsiders, Muslims, or will not set the ground work for similar transgressions in other legal areas. If people can be guided to support the subversion of ‘democratic legal principles’ in one sphere, they can always be motivated to do so in another. Before long, those who control and actually run every society, the resource rich, would effectively take democratic societies back towards a more authoritarian rule. A conspiracy theory, is it? Wait till we get to the topic of concern here, the ‘innocent sexual advance’, and what is under threat next. For now, let us just remind ourselves of the actual real world situation that we have today.

Today, our governments are elected by us, from amongst political parties and candidates, who are lavishly supported by the big resourceful businessmen, who when elected, bring out laws that assist those same big resourceful business people to grow further. Their interests lie in having absolute control over people, and they can do so today, for everything we write or say is recorded and snooped upon; ‘la mass surveillance’. Gone are the days when high profile leaders like Martin Luther King were subjects of covert FBI operations, to discredit or control them. Today anyone, whose thoughts and opinions could be a threat to future planning, could easily be discredited and nullified even before they hit a minimum threshold of supporters. Today the weapons technology has already advance so much that even a race as strong as the Spartans will not be able to stand against a single adequately equipped opponent. Imagine the power that would stand against the so called ‘99%’, should it opt for a revolution in some future years to come. In fact, ‘99%’ is not going to opt for another revolution anytime soon in centuries to come. The ‘99%’ of the ‘99%’ are cowards and intellectually inefficient, and half of them are always against the other half. It’s only the ‘1%’ out of the ‘99%’, who actually have the ability to guide the rest of the ‘99%’ towards a meaningful direction. In today’s world, with means at the disposal of the authorities, those ‘1%’ of the ‘99%’ will never even get an audience with the rest of the ‘99%’. On top of it; any further tweaking of the ‘democratic legal principles’, will render futile any hopes of a legal respite for those marked for extinction.

Now coming to some relevant ‘democratic legal principles’ for today, let us consider a simple statement; “A hundred rapists might escape, but not even a single innocent man should get punished for a rape he didn’t commit.” For those who feel offended by this simple restatement of a very basic democratic legal principle, let me remind them; the most heinous crime that could be committed against any person irrespective of their sex is ‘murder’, for then the victim ceases to exist, and those left behind are much worse off. Today what feminists are proposing; ‘believe every woman’; not only is that against all human life experience, and commonsense, but it directly attacks the above noted, and many other ‘democratic legal principles’, that are enshrined in democratic law, ones that reverse what we used to classify as features of cruel regimes.

No human being is saintly; neither man, nor woman. They all are capable of lying for the pettiest of reasons, and have committed the most heinous of crimes. This we know from human experience. Moreover, commonsense too tells us that not only people lie, but when they do so, they do it to show that they were absolutely honest, or mostly so, while the other party was a demon. But if one is to believe the accuser as soon as they accuse, that means they are already holding the accused guilty even before it is established if they actually committed a crime. This is what some of the harshest regimes in human history used to do; guilty as charged unless proved otherwise. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ reversed exactly that scenario.

The next principles that get attacked here in one single shot are the ‘onus of proof’, and the ‘standard of proof’. If what a woman says is truth, then it is up to the accused man to prove that she is lying. Rather than accuser establishing guilt beyond doubt, the accused needs to establish innocence on the balance of probabilities. The reason certain ‘standards and onuses’ of proof were set in place was that it was always easier to establish guilt on the balance of probabilities for the prosecution, generally the ruling authority with vast resources. Similarly, it was easier for the accused person to raise a reasonable doubt in the story of the all powerful prosecution, rather than proving their innocence on the balance of probabilities. Life seldom gives people at the receiving end of ‘high stakes power’, an ability to establish innocence on the balance of probabilities, let alone beyond doubt.

Today under threat are ‘democratic legal principles’ of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, the ‘onus of proof’, ‘the standard of proof’, and ‘personal dignity’, and that too for crimes like ‘molestation’ (I’ll explain my disdain below), leave alone much serious offences of ‘sexual assault’ and ‘rape’. Today media is busy building frenzy, trying to create an atmosphere for another publically supported subversion of ‘democratic legal principles’. What do you think is going to happen tomorrow? What about the most heinous crime of murder, or perhaps grievous bodily harm, and so on? How much power is going to be handed back to the authorities in ‘Democratic Legal Systems’? Will these systems still be identifiable as ‘Democratic Legal Systems’, beyond the fact that the societies might still be ‘paper democracies’, albeit ‘authoritarian democracies’ on ground? Above all; is it really worth the agenda that is being pursued over here?

The real problem, the agenda, and an uncomfortable truth:

Feminists have been trying to balance the power dispersal between the two sexes for more than a century now, even to the extent of never questioning if such an exercise is truly necessary, possible, or even a sensible course. These latter questions aside for the moment, let’s first consider a problem society has been aware of all along; one of the biggest hurdles women have faced in most career lines thus far has been the ‘Bed Hurdle’ along the ladder of success, and sometimes even in the path of having a career itself. Many a talented women never enjoyed a stable or prolonged career because some other less talented woman was ready to pay the price that they weren’t; that of sleeping with the ‘proverbial’ enemy. This happened when all these women were well and truly aware of the norms of the society at the time. Every person on the street knew exactly in which industries women were exploited the most in lieu of career and success. Speaking anything else would be a blatant lie in the face of human life experience.

Today however, it is the same women who made the deal back in the day, who are waging a war against the tide of bad male behaviour. But can lofty intentions justify blatant lies, or absolve them of their own wrong doing? Would any of this been necessary if they had done the right thing in the first place, and like those virtuous women who refused to lower their morality, held on to their moral ground? They are no victims, but rather opportunists trying to turn into saints. But the worst is the cost democratic societies risk paying should this ‘wild bush fire’ of a blame game be left to rage untamed, and wipe out entire communities built around the bush lands.

Now before we dismantle and investigate the real agenda, detail how it is not only detrimental to democratic legal principles but is also against the essence of ‘laissez fair’, and natural behaviour, it is imperative to point out the ugly truth that perhaps no one would fathom easily; “The so called ‘Sexual harassment at workplace’ will never ever end.” This statement is not based on any presumption that women will not be able to even out the stakes in socio-economic ladder at every juncture, but rather takes into account the fact that they will, sooner rather than later. This statement is based on the fact that ‘sex’ is actually as important an organic act for women, as it is to men, so much that when women would be in similar positions as men have been thus far, they too would abuse their positions to gain sexual favours from men seeking success. If anyone thinks this won’t be the case (it probably already is), then they probably haven’t experienced human life and appreciated its history properly, yet. And if anyone thinks that ‘sexual harassment’ could and should be wiped out irrespective of the sex instigating it, then wait till you read the arguments against any such blanket ban; the arguments that would emerge from the very freedoms that proponents of such a blanket ban would like to preserve.

Let us talk about the current agenda now. It includes, at a philosophical level, providing a safe working space to women, and fair opportunity to succeed. At a much deeper level however it aims to bring about a change that would otherwise still take decades to happen, in normal course; that of dividing power and power structures equally between the two sexes. But then, at a much more sinister level, and possibly quite contrary to the real intentions of the most well meaning feminists, it is all about taming society even further via unhealthy legal changes, as described above. Every time a great social cause is born and then brought to culmination, it is not just the needy and deserving whose interests get upheld, but it is also the unscrupulous and devious who get special service. It is the unavoidable hazard of every great cause. However, when the unavoidable hazard is not only disastrous, but the cause itself can be expected to have some real bad side-effects, then perhaps the cause needs another plan of action. Now of course if the ugly truth stated above is true, then there really is no need for a new plan, which of course raises the question; “Will, or should, such an unhealthy scenario continue to persist in our work spaces?” And this question is arising even before we have touched upon the so far elusive concept of ‘Innocent Sexual Advance’. Perhaps we need to address a few more red-herrings here.

‘Women as property’, or really, a ‘Moral Right’ – Current Situation

We need to revisit sexual reproduction and related sexual activity in nature, across various mammalian species, to comprehend the damage that current feminist endeavours will eventually cause. But even before that, we need to address a more basic question of ‘presentation’ or ‘dressing up’ over here; something that is really behind the psychological interpretation of sexual advances. Now I don’t like the instigating terminology employed by the feminists since their earliest days, that of labelling male attitude towards women as if they were their ‘property’. Ask yourselves; “When a man cheats on his wife (or partner), do they feel hurt because they believe their man was their property, or because they felt that their moral rights have been violated?” The phrase coined by feminists was designed to hard sell their agenda, although the fact was, and to this day is; both sexes when in a committed relationship, believe they have certain moral rights (and sexual rights too) over their counterparts. If men were more aggressive and assertive in expressing and exercising their rights, then that’s because men have always been the more physically assertive sex, thanks to ‘Testosterone’, the hormone of, among other things, territoriality, that their bodies produce. It wasn’t because they considered women their property. But irrespective of whether feminists agree with my assertion, and irrespective of which term we employ, the real point here is; the difference in attitudes towards sexual advances between men and women exists because the women’s thinking still hasn’t moved on from those times when their men were more assertive of their moral and sexual rights over their bodies. How?

If women were to kiss, fondle, caress, or even grab at an unwilling man, the man won’t think he has been sexually assaulted. In fact, a man might not even think too much if a woman was to rape him, or make him establish a sexual relationship just for perks and success. Yet, if a man was to kiss an unwilling woman, or grope at her, all hell would break lose, what to talk about rape. Why this difference in reaction if not because men still consider it freedom and achievement if they were to sleep with many women, while women still consider that their bodies are somehow out of bounds for men they are not in a relationship with? Are women really mentally free of that ‘external moral bondage’? Now we are not going to talk about the resulting moral and social morass that would emerge if women were to become as free as men, just yet. We need to cover a few more confronting issues before that. But before moving on, let us address another notion that stems from this very ‘women as property’, or ‘moral right’, line of thinking.

Feminists have always projected sex as an act where a woman’s body is used by a man. Now if we just step back for a moment and consider the act impartially, we will not miss the fact that a woman’s body is no more involved in the act than what a man’s body is. A woman’s body is not touched anymore than what a man’s body gets touched in the act. As far as the dynamics of the act are concerned, they are a direct result of the way the two bodies are designed in nature. Yet if anyone thinks that the woman’s body is being used as a vessel, then it is because they are still considering woman’s body as someone’s property, rather than as a ‘standalone individual piece’, and man’s body as a deployed device, rather than as ‘another individual piece in interaction’.

Feminists versus Nature:

Nature is not only cruel, but it is also very sexist. The females in nature, or at least the mammalian females, are always the weaker sex, the sex that cares for the young, the sex that can be forced to eat last, and the sex that really has very limited sexual rights. Feminists, no doubt, have never accepted nature as the truth. They have always insisted that women and men are same; the ‘nature’ perhaps is merely a myth for all we know. Not only is it a lie that men and women have different physical features, physical proportions, and physiological features, but also, the hormones produced in the two sexes don’t really give them different characteristics. Testosterone may, once when testicles have descended in males, change their appearance, voice, and make them aggressive, Oestrogen might make women’s bodies grown differently, hormonal imbalances of menopause might affect female moods extremely, the extra sex chromosomes in genetically defective babies might make them extremely aggressive, volatile, or unpredictable; it however does not mean that men and women are different because of differing hormones. At least not from feministic standpoint! Further, it doesn’t matter how male and female athletes, all of whom have been training extremely hard and leaving no stone unturned for decades now, their world records never have hit parity. Females, according to feminists, are the same as the males. Now you can believe nature all you want to, but do so at your own peril!

It hasn’t just been the case of questioning entire male developed knowledge, as that from the standpoint of ‘the other’, but feminism has been all about questioning everything, including commonsense, human life experience, and nature. Step back and look towards the nature, at all other mammalian species, and see how the two sexes in them interact. How do males in different species approach females, to see if they are sexually interested in mating; does it involve touching, caressing, or the rest? Then consider how when humans, who for all purposes were animals, would have behaved sexually, even after organizing into societies. Did this behaviour not pass on from generation to generation, to this day and age, as a natural act that initiates a bond between the two sexes?

What feminists question today, has been the way human sexes have interacted ever since their evolution into sexually reproducing organisms. Not only that, but generations have come and gone, all learning the same basic techniques of sexual interaction from previous generations, to this day and age. Now suddenly feminists want to develop a totally new yardstick of proper interaction, which not only threatens the already strained bond that exists between the two sexes today, but which by their own reasoning, cannot be universally applicable (we’ll get to that). With this new yardstick they want to judge, and then crucify those judged, for actions that were committed at a time when the entire society around those individuals was used to those actions as normal means of interaction between sexes in particular contexts.

If a man in power position touched an aspiring female to see if she was willing to sleep with him for career or success, then it might not have been an act that the woman’s father, husband, brother, son or partner may have liked, but it was a perfectly normal physical contact to see if the female involved was interested. It was not a sexual assault, even if it were an ‘unwanted sexual advance’. It was a man’s weak moment, but then it is not only men who have weak moments. The only difference is; so far both sexes have been keeping each other’s weak moments a secret, for they were never worthy of being blown out of proportions and causing embarrassment to the concerned individuals. But now suddenly, feminists have started pushing an agenda for which they want women to blurt out things that were not even worthy of another thought beyond the instant they transpired (we’ll get to a reverse example later). Now of course, to make it clear; for those women who bit the bullet back in the day, and got their career, or success, it was something that they had tacitly consented to for their own benefit other than sexual gratification. Perhaps it is time to consider ‘innocent sexual advance’, and see how feminist yardstick can’t be universally applicable.

Innocent Sexual Advance:

In an old English case of a school boy, the English court held that pushing, pulling, and horseplay in the playground, that happens in normal life scenarios, is not an event of assault, and the perpetrator cannot thus be held liable. Can such an innocent contact exist in ‘sexual’ context too? The better question is; has such an innocent contact always existed?

We have already discussed how sexual contact happens across sexually reproducing species, and how humans too, after developing into societies, have continued to use similar actions to approach the opposite sex till today. So if we consider nature, and then commonsense, and note how such a contact actually keeps an unspoken bond between the two sexes alive, then merely by the force of natural reasoning and commonsense, such an ‘innocent sexual advance’ should continue to exist. If a man or a woman makes a physical contact with a member of the other sex, to see if their sexual interest will be reciprocated, and perhaps a consummated bond, howsoever short, may transpire, then that contact has to be considered ‘innocent’, for it is a natural act that satisfies the most vital species need; the need to procreate and keep the specie alive. Sex is the single most important act of any organism’s life, for it doesn’t matter how successfully a group of animals hunts, feeds, defends, and survives, if they don’t reproduce, their species dies with them.

Now of course, feminists have this issue with physical contact; they want everything to be spelled out in language. But let us revisit one of feminists own theories, that every individual is different, and then think from a commonsense point of view; will every man, and above all, every woman, want them to be asked sexual questions (more on this below), or would many prefer the things to flow in a more natural unspoken manner? What feminists want cannot be applied universally, by their own yardsticks, then how could it be a solution? Besides, do we really need a solution, when there really isn’t any problem in the first place? Is being sexually interested in opposite sex, and approaching the opposite sex to see if these feelings are reciprocated, really a problem for humanity now? Furthermore, as already discussed above, the problem with sexual contact is not in the contact itself, but rather how it is perceived by the two sexes. In such a scenario, it is important to reinforce this idea, that all sexual contacts are not an event of assault.

Whenever a man or a woman make a sexual advance towards a person of the opposite sex for the first time, unaware if their sexual interest is reciprocated or not, that sexual advance happens to be an ‘Innocent Sexual Advance’, born out of, and guided by the natural requirements of species to procreate. This of course rules out as ‘non innocent’, any contact that happens after the person has been made aware of the other person’s lack of interest in establishing a sexual relationship with them, even if that communication had been made to a verbal question, and not a physical contact.

Now unrelated to this very particular topic, but still very relevant in the context of sexual activity, is the grey area of ‘consent’. Feminist approach, which has unfortunately been accepted by many courts today, somehow presumes that men really don’t have any sexual rights, and that all sexual rights in a sexual act rest with the woman; ‘A woman can say no at anytime.’ But can this be really legally, naturally, and from commonsense point of view, be correct? The approach once again is based on the flawed ‘women as property’ mentality, that somehow considers that only women are involved in the sexual act, or perhaps more involved than men in the sexual act. The truth however, as commonsense will tell us, is that both sexes are equally involved in the act. Law gives us rights, but law also makes it clear that our rights are balanced by the corresponding rights of the other. Women do have a right to ‘consent’, but that right, once the act initiates, get’s balanced by the right of the man involved, to complete the act. Think it from nature’s point of view, and how hormones impact our minds and behaviour. Then consider all the feminist theory about individual characteristics and differences; while hormones may affect different individuals differently, different individuals may also exhibit different levels of self control. Once the ‘sexual act’ is initiated, the hormones that rush over and take control, of both male and female bodies, those hormones may make them susceptible to lack of control to varying degrees. A woman’s right to consent ends when the ‘foreplay’ begins. After that the man has every right to finish what has been started. If a woman didn’t want to have sex with that man, then she shouldn’t have been there in that situation in the first place, for every woman in society is always aware of where certain situations lead to. No artificial yardstick of self control, derived by feminists, can be universally applied to all men, because all men are different, and unique.

The approach about ‘Innocent Sexual Advance’ noted above, however, if legally accepted, does raise quite a few concerning questions; especially about workplace sexual harassment, and the general public behaviour and morality.

As already noted, sexual harassment at workplace will never end, but rather even women will come to become abusive protagonists ultimately. This is true because human need for sex will always override their better judgment. In fact, all the feminists have been trying to achieve at the end of their quest, the ultimate yardstick of freedom et al, is; ‘sexual freedom for women’. What they really want is; that rather than men approaching women, women should even get to decide which of the men around them can actually approach them. It’s a clear case of one-sided thinking; that only women have rights, conveniently overlooking that the same yardstick works the other way around too, and in all its ways. But if that is true; then isn’t the best option that any form of sexual harassment, irrespective of the abusive sex, be banned? The important question arising out of this one is not that ‘can it be’ but rather, ‘should it be’.

If a man and a woman working at the same place were to fall in love and then decide to date, hoping to eventually settle down together and start a family, would it be justified to fire and blacklist them? Would you consider it too abusive and too intrusive into people’s private lives? Would you rather like to live in a society where you cannot marry a person you love simply because you work at the same place? Do you want such a future? If the answer is ‘no’, then consider this; “Doesn’t a relationship between two lovers not involve sex, or consummation?” And then consider this; “What if a person was only interested in a non-binding sexual relationship, which might, or might not, lead to a life-long, settled relationship?” Would it not be artificial, discriminatory, and intrusive to say that one can be interested in love that leads to sex, but not in pure sex that may or may not lead to love? At the end of it all, both forms of interests really serve sexual needs of the people involved, and you want to create an artificial barrier in the way of natural sexual rights of individuals only interested in sex, while allowing a free run to those who want to pursue the same potential mates but with a rose in their hand. Can you really justify discrimination against one individual’s natural sexual rights, to give preferential treatment to another’s? But it is not just about ‘natural rights in competition’, for there is something going on at an even more basic level.

‘Laissez Fair’, or Capitalism, means you are free to create your own destiny, just like in nature, where you are free to mark your own territory. The essence of ‘territory’ is; it comes with everything included in it. Mammalian males mark their territories, then fight and defend them, because these territories come with rights to resources and mating rights. Humans are still animals in their basic needs; they still need food and water, safety, and procreation. When a man or a woman works hard to get to a position, where they can not only create and milk opportunities for themselves, but also create opportunities that can be shared with others who have no right whatsoever to those opportunities, then they also create a right to determine as to whom they would share those opportunities with. This freedom is the essence of both democracy, and ‘Laissez Fair’. So if such resourceful men and women want to share their ‘self created’ opportunities with only those members of the opposite sex, who are willing to sleep with them, where is any moral wrong in that? One is getting what one has no right to, and that too with a right to refuse this offer, should they consider their sexual right to be superior than their desire to avail the offered opportunity? The only problem I see is that feminists don’t think women are capable of such behaviour as men, something contrary to commonsense.

But of course, the real problem here with having ‘innocent sexual advance’ as a legal creature, and not banning all forms of ‘sexual behaviour’ (as opposed to ‘sexual harassment’, thus including love relationships too), is the moral chaos that could potentially engulf the streets. Would every man and woman then touch every person of the opposite sex at least once to see if they are interested in having a sexual relationship? Would sexual contact then become the norm of the everyday human life? These questions however arise not because we needed to create a new legal creature, but rather because feminists were stupid enough not to consider the consequences of the path they have started on, and have rather learnt nothing from their past mistakes, or more aptly, blunders. The result of their current mindless quest would be far more destructive, than adjusting to a new society where contact between men and women would be seen in a new light (in fact, better light, as discussed below). Let us just discuss a few new red-herrings, and a few results that arise out of current mess, to get a better picture.

Mixing ‘two worlds’:

Before I say anything else, it is important to make one thing very clear; “I want to see women working with equal force in most of the industries.” Now the operative words are, ‘in most of’, and not ‘in all of’, because I believe certain industries could, and should be left only for men, while certain others should be left only for women. I make this statement, because as a ‘Familist’ I know, every family would want both their sons and daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters, to have an equal opportunity to succeed, and furthermore, unlike ‘Feminists’, I both respect and appreciate the differences that exist between the two sexes by nature. For example, I would rather leave ‘Child Care’ in the absolute control of women, while something like ‘plumbing’ or ‘mining labour’ can be left only for men. I would rather have women doctors, women scientists and researchers because in space-age, we need both sexes to guide humanity forward, together. I would rather have equal number of jobs for both men and women in every shared industry, with an equal number of concurrent promotions.

There are always proper ways (and reasons), and improper ways (and reasons) of doing something. Feminists have always managed to deploy only the improper reasons and ways, to achieve their ends, and there is a reason why this has been the case. Feminists are partially blind; they don’t see one sex (more on this below). They have never looked at half the picture, and they have never considered the real picture. Above all, for every issue they have dealt with, their approach has always been destructive.

When feminists started their work, they started with the premise that men keep women out of men’s world, and that men are unnecessarily and unabashedly violent towards women. What feminists didn’t stop to consider was; there was always a women’s world, which was much more peaceful, easier, and tranquil than the men’s world which was out of bounds for women. The so called men’s world, back then, had no air-conditioned offices, but were rather open fields, harsh factories, and deep mines, where work would start with sun-rise and end with sun-set, work that required heavy manual labour even when it was to be done by very simple but heavy machines, and that work was supervised by people who treated them worst than prisoners. If men kept their women out of this world, it was only because they loved them, and didn’t want them to suffer like them. Early feminists, who belonged to the privileged class in those days, only saw women troubled by their husbands, but didn’t realize, those women were much more harassed by the privileged class whose households they worked for, including perhaps the feminists themselves, who gave them work for pay, presumably.

Feminists wanted to empower women, but was there really empowerment in working in a mine where a manager who had no relationship with the woman, would be more abusive towards her than her own husband at home. Coming to husbands abusing wives; was every man a wife beater? Coming to homes; can a ship really have two captains? Feminists gave the ship of ‘family’ two captains, and now ship after ship is capsizing. There were a few wife-beaters, but to fix that issue feminists created a situation where no man and woman can make a stable family. Female empowerment might not have given them a comfortable life, but it certainly has given every man and woman a broken home. Feminists might object to the notion of men maintaining discipline in most of the homes (there were always female dominated households too), but their solution itself involved someone maintaining discipline by force; ‘Courts by force of law’, an outside force that is, instead of the naturally stronger sex. At the end of the day, in a family, someone has to make a decision and someone has to accept it. Not only the involvement of external factors into the internal workings of marriage dismantled the institution of family, worst part is; the rapid development of female personalities into ones that confronted male personalities at every chance meant that more and more members of the two sexes became disenchanted with the opposite sex. The rise in ‘homosexuality’ is a direct result of the unprofessional work done by the feminists. And now after all this destruction, and all these years, the feminists are themselves coming back to the same conclusions and solutions as the much maligned ‘male chauvinists’ had many centuries before them. Here are two examples to consider.

When ‘Feminism’ picked up heat, women wanted to break free of the shackles of linen; the freedom to show skin, and be considered sexy and beautiful, the freedom from ‘the veil of male dictated morality’. Today the same ‘Feminists’ want the world to know that women are not sex symbols, and that shows like ‘Miss America’, where women are judged for their physical beauty are wrong, and that women shouldn’t have to show their flesh to be considered beautiful. How is this different from a ‘Muslim Cleric’ saying that women are not sex symbols, and should cover up? It is the same wine in a different bottle, served by a different sex, but the outcome would still be the same; women will cover up. And then this madness about men even touching women without so called ‘permission’, what is going to be the end result of this; that men and women should maintain proper distance? Is that different from saying men should remain amongst men, and women amongst women? Old wine new bottle! Whatever changes feminists brought about from the male dominated world, they are leading those changes around in a circle, and back towards where they started. And let me make this clear; from where we started, that was not a good place, and certainly not where our future should end up at. We not only need freedom, but we need to understand what freedom really involves, how it really works, or should work, and how it is to be nurtured, for and towards, a better future.

Let’s be honest and accept this; “Women wanted to be a part of men’s world, because women wanted to be with men”. Similarly, men want to have women by their side, they always have, and they always will. This necessarily means the interaction between the two sexes, at every level including the most important ‘sexual’ level, will increase, will become intense, and will become much more complicated. If we are worried about how the two sexes are going to behave publically in the future to come, then that future was always coming, right from the day the women first marched out of their world, and into men’s world. Change is never welcome, but a change for the better always persists into future. Women working alongside men, that wasn’t a change welcome to most men, and yet it was a good change, and luckily is permanent, and should remain so. Similarly, men and women expressing sexual interest in each other free of the bondage of taboo and old world morality, is a change not easily palpable for most of the conservatives today, but it is a change that would give true sexual freedom to both sexes, and is certainly better than the alternative which current madness will bring about. Let us discuss these downsides of the feminist alternative now.

Driving a wedge between sexes:

Men and women are not only different in physiology, but also different in likes and dislikes. Feminists have always claimed that men have imposed beauty standards on women, but the truth is; all standards develop naturally as a result of human interactions. If there is a woman that looks extremely attractive to men, then she will have more suitors than other women. Those other women will then first notice everything different about that woman, and then, in order to satisfy their natural need of a mate, they will try to alter their own selves to get some much needed male attention. This is how beauty standards emerge, and this is why it is important to understand nature, human chemistry, human interactions, and both sexes’ desires. If you think that only women’s desires could, or should, be considered in exclusion to male desires, then you simply don’t understand how sexes interact, and how nature plays its’ part. You cannot promote one sex without considering the needs and desires of the other sex; the mistake feminists have always made, which is why their reasons and ways are always improper.

The problem with feminists is; they are so cocooned in their thinking that they have even started to confuse female desires with female needs, and have always regarded male needs as male desires, or rather not even considered them, for men, according to them, already had everything. Take the case of ‘sexual’ matters. Women would want to have absolute control in the matters of sex and sexual advances. This is women’s desire. But do they really need this much control? And if women need this much control because they are physically involved in sex, then men too need equal control for they are equally involved in it? Notice the impracticality? Men need to have a say in the matters of sex, especially about when a female’s ‘consent’ becomes irrevocable, so that they have a certainty as to when they are not being criminals. This is men’s need, not their desire. Now consider, with regards to sexual activities, all those women who have, or are, having extra-marital sexual affairs, or in many strict societies, having sex without, as well as outside marriage; if men were to start a campaign and start naming and shaming those women for what they are doing, would that really be a constructive or welcome outcome?

When feminists turned women into confronting wives, the homes broke down. When feminists turned women into headstrong individuals not ready to consider men’s desires, their approachability diminished. The more women became demanding, the lesser men started to appear. Majority of people, both men and women, are shy at opening up to the other sex, and some even so woefully inept, they start disliking the attitude of the opposite sex. When such individuals, who find it easier to develop meaningful relationships with members of their own sex, who find members of their own sex better in terms of behaviour and attitudes, when such individuals end up associating sexual pleasure with members of the same sex, they end up homosexuals. This is what blind rise of feminism has done to western societies. It has broken the bonds between the weakest members of the two sexes, and pushed them towards homosexuality. And with current agenda, they are going to drive this wedge even further up the ladder.

What the feminists are proposing right now; “the verbal sexual advance, or no sexual contact at all”; what this would ultimately result in is, widening the gulf of communication between the two sexes at the very basic level, and then breaking the natural bond of sexual interest and interaction at a more deeper psychological level. There will be a lot more members of the two sexes who wouldn’t adapt well to the ‘verbal model’, and will be pushed towards homosexuality. In fact, while at this, even the ‘verbal sexual advance’ will ultimately come to be considered as ‘sexual harassment’, should we to continue down this path. Now would that take us forward into the future, or back towards some distant past?

The ‘Society of Ants’:

The salient feature of a colony of ants is; there is a queen and drones, who enjoy sexual and other pleasures, and then there are workers that work their entire lives to sustain the colony, and if the need be, defend the queen. Humans however are not ants. But they will become ants, or ant like, if we are going to continue down this slide. Stable relations in western nations are already becoming a part of history books. A few more years down the line, and especially if feminist’s sexual model becomes the norm, even sex life would become a seasonal affair for most human beings. While the rich and resourceful will enjoy everything, including sex, the rest would only really be living to work, and make the resourceful more rich. Does that sound a bit ant like? But we know that is not the real question over here. The real question is; “Will such a thing really ever happen?” Well, perhaps the reality won’t be as bad as an ant colony, but it certainly won’t be nice and pretty.

Losing the cause of democracy:

The biggest problem with feminist model has always been the fact that it requires the weakening of men, not physically, but legally, and as a side effect, psychologically. And yet, feminists have never really provided an adequate substitute to the society, to replenish what the society loses at every stage. Now we are not going to discuss the issues regarding ‘democratic legal principles’ all over again, for much has already been written above. But what we really need to consider is the cost that comes when a society’s men become weaker.

Women are, by nature, designed to think for themselves and their children first. They are selfish by nature. Men on the other hand suffer from ‘Testosterone’. Yes, this hormone that makes them territorial also imbues them with features like false bravado, and a notion of rising up and dying for higher social cause. The reason ‘Feminism’ has been a success for women so far is not because women were fighting for a higher cause, but because women were fighting for a personal cause; a bit of selfishness imbued in there perhaps, which is why feminists never stopped to consider the consequences for society or men (the others).

A world war might not happen in a world where women have an equal say as men, but that doesn’t mean that such a world would truly be a better world. To make space for women, men’s natural instincts need a curbing through legislation; an unnatural process to curtail natural flair. The more and more legislation subdues men, more subservient becomes a society. First of all, the entire population becomes less aggressive, for it gets used to living in a much more controlled society, but this is more pertinent in the case of men, who are directly impacted by the ever increasing legal containment. Secondly, women think differently from men, their preferences are different, and their reactions to social causes that need sustained suffering over a long period of time, are different. If a cause is not something that gives every woman something at a personal level, they probably won’t be interested in it. For example; women in US are more interested in ‘equal pay for equal work’, but there is no similar impetus for ‘better pay for every work’. Women somehow are less concerned about men getting paid less, if they are themselves getting paid less than men. Women joining work force has never really strengthened worker movements. Now of course those movements are weakening because of many external factors, like migrants, corruption at leadership levels, hidden agendas, and so on. But the fact is; women haven’t given strength to those movements, even if they have swelled the numbers of the workforce.

Feminist approach or ‘Innocent Sexual Advance’:

Finally, after a long drawn out discussion, it is time to balance what the two approaches have to offer. While feminist approach is going to be another destructive solution going forward into the future, time has come to recognize a new legal creature, which in reality has existed even before humanity became intellectually enlightened over and above the level of a basic animal. This approach might sound radical at the moment, but is more balanced, and certainly constructive rather than being destructive, when compared to the feminist approach. Future will see a lot more free interaction between men and women, and there is no good way, or for that matter even recommended way, of stopping or breaking the sexual connection between the two sexes. Humanity will be served better if it removes certain old world ‘moral bondages’ that will not assist future families, or their cause. Restraint will not produce ‘great societies’, but disciplined freedom will. Let this discipline come as a consequence of natural balance that would develop on its own in a free society. Do not try to impose artificial discipline, for that would be not just counter-productive, but rather destructive.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss,
Amanpreet Singh Rai


Monday, November 5, 2018

Simplifying Music - Modes, Scales, and Ragas


Simplifying Music – Modes, Scales, and Ragas

“Ragas are the original songs sans lyrics, nothing more, and nothing less.”

What came first; music or lyrics? Alas that’s not even half as intriguing as the original counterpart of this puzzle, for music has existed even before humanity developed language. The bird and animal calls that we humans don’t understand, the sound of wind whizzing through trees, rocks, bends and natural orifices; they all must have been the first musical notes human conscience would have experienced, not to mention humanity’s own innate abilities to whistle and modulate sound with objects without the use or need of any language. Needless to say; human experience of music must, by commonsense, predate human concoction of words into rhymes and melodies. In fact, humanity must have experienced a re-discovery of music, when the first and simplest most musical instruments must have been designed. From thereon, inquisitive intellectual minds must have gone on to discover, one by one, the twelve different notes that can be played with a proper musical instrument.

Now it’s not that there can’t be other tones in between those twelve tones. But perhaps, their sounds wouldn’t be so far different from either ones above or below their pitch, to warrant an individual place in musical notation. And even more importantly, even those twelve notes are never really used to create one single musical composition. In fact, as I will describe below, an entire composition can really be created with as little as four notes, and maybe even less if one is willing to experiment. However, for the basic purpose of any musical discussion, the most important sounds that notes make, happens to be the familiar:

Do (Sa), Re (Re), Mi (Ga), Fa (Ma), So (Pa), La (Dha), Ti (Ni), Do (Sa).

This is what has come to be globally regarded as the basic musical sound, or ‘Sargam’ in Indian music (I am imagining Pentatonic music experts agreeing, but with slight distaste).

The origin of musical theory:
The discovery of different notes, and resulting sound variations that could be created by using different tones, would naturally have given rise to the first expert created melodies. It wouldn’t have been too long after that, the musical masters worldwide would have established how certain notes work well together while some other notes, when inserted amongst a particular set, rather sounded off. This would have created the first scales of music; the pentatonic, the heptatonic, and so on. This must have been the time, when the above mentioned familiar octave sound, the ‘Sargam’, must have become an accepted musical language in many societies, and so would have become common the knowledge that music can influence mood in various ways. This of course means the music would have really split up into two streams from that point onwards; the simplistic common or folk music, and the much detailed classical music of various societies. Let us try to comprehend the resulting development of music theory by studying the origin of Greek Modes, and then Modern Modes.

The Modes of Music:
Faith has played a central part in development of all human societies from the very beginning, and it is no surprise that the first songs that became popular happened to be religious chants and prayers. Now most of these chants and prayers were musically correct as they were stitched up as rhyming word melodies, but nevertheless, none of these were really composed in any classical style of music. Examples would include various Aartis performed in India, and perhaps the ancient Byzantine chants. But music scholars of those times must have studied these to understand how the note patterns were coming together, creating moving melodies of words and music. The study of Byzantine chants led to the formation of the Greek Musical Modes. This was basically Greeks grouping up notes, inspired by those chants, into formulaic patterns that became the core of classical music learning of that time; scales for some, melodies for others. Interesting however, is the case of Modern Modes.

If you sit with a piano or a keyboard, and just play the white keys from ‘C’ of one octave to the ‘C’ of the next higher in pitch, you get the familiar ‘Sargam’ sound described above, and today in Western Music, identified as ‘C Major Scale’. Now if you move from ‘C’ to ‘D’, and then play from ‘D’ to ‘D’; you will still get the same sound, but it would have shifted in pitch by a tone. Now this process can be repeated for all the other white keys, and you will notice the same shifting of pitch, by either a tone or a semitone, and yet getting that familiar ‘Sargam’ sound. What however happens as you do this experiment is; the mood of the octaves changes with the change in pitch. In fact, while the octave beginning and ending at ‘C’ notes (or ‘Sa’, ‘Do’), is positively positive in sound, the one beginning and ending at the ‘A’ notes (or ‘Dha’, ‘La’), is sad or grave in sound. This is what we know in Western music as relative of ‘C Major Scale’, the ‘A Minor Scale’. But what one is really doing while doing this experiment is; they are really playing the seven modes that make up ‘Modern Modes’; modern albeit is a bit out of place word here, for modern ‘Western Popular Music’ really doesn’t use these modes anymore.

Now, and even more importantly, what becomes clear with this experiment is; just like the note patterns making up the ‘C Mode’ (or ‘Ionian’ mode, or ‘C Major Scale’), and ‘A Mode’ (or ‘Aeolian’ mode, or ‘A Minor Scale’) can be used to develop corresponding major and minor scales for all other eleven notes, so can the note patters making up the other modes be used. Above all, these modes, or scales if you want to call them so, would each have a unique mood to them. But the question really is; is this complexity really needed? Perhaps the answer rests in the question; why is this complexity not a part of the Modern Western Music today, and why ‘Modern Modes’ have lost favour?

The dominance of two ‘Scales’:
Most songs across the globe, irrespective of their language and cultural origins, can be set to music using either a ‘Major Scale’, or a ‘Minor Scale’, even though these songs may represent an array of moods. A bit of experimentation will easily show how some notes outside these strict scales, might appear to compliment the melody and lyrics of those compositions, including Western compositions, a lot better than their counterparts from within the bounding scale. Such notes are what I would classify as ‘Real Accidentals’, as opposed to the formal accidentals in ‘Western Music’, the sharps and flats. They are not supposed to be there in the piece based on the scale, but are still more suitable, and can only be discovered through experimentation; hence ‘Accidental (finds)’. In short, they will enhance the mood of the composition, even if each composition is nevertheless brilliant on its own. This is why a song in an Indian Raga might enliven a mood more than the same song done in a traditional Western scale; the impact of these ‘Real Accidentals’. Now Ragas need a bit of elaboration of their own, and we will get to that in a moment, but for now, let us consider why the other five modes lost favour.

If what I say above is true; that all songs can be done in either the positive scale (the Major Scale), or the negative scale (the Minor Scale), and the enhanced mood could be achieved merely by simple experimentation, is the complexity of five more modes, that would add sixty more scales into the musical theory mix, really necessary? Absolutely not, if one were to consider as to how many notes are really needed to make up a composition. There is a reason why some societies developed ‘Pentatonic Scales’; you only need five notes at the most to create a brilliant composition, and even less, to create a good composition. Now I make this statement from my experience.

Generally all one needs are the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth notes of a scale to create a brilliant composition, and perhaps occasionally replace one of them with the seventh, but I have myself done a complete song using only four notes, and that includes the ‘Chords’ that I used in that composition, and I am not the first one to do something like this. The song was from my third English album, ‘Someone U Can Kiss’, and is called, ‘All Eyes on Me’. Now of course I am not counting the notes I actually sung, for voice often covers a lot more notes than one needs to create a composition, especially if the singer is not a real singer (cough, cough!). But the most important thing is; the mood actually rests in the rhythm of the piece, rather than the sounds. The same notes can be used to create a dance track, a ballad, a haunting song, a romantic song, or even a song about heart-break. It is not the notes, but how they are arranged that gives one the kick, and note arrangement is all about rhythm, not melody. Indian ‘Ragas’ use note patterns to enhance the mood of the ‘Raga’, while the speed and flow of the raga, again elements of rhythm, create the basic mood layer. Of course dynamics like loudness or softness too have a role to play.

So if one thing becomes clear here is; mood does not need complexity of theory, but rather expertise of the composer. Two scales are one too many, to cover an array of human emotions. There never really was a need for any more complexity to cater to music lovers taste, and perhaps why the disuse of Modern Mode system. (I don’t agree art is only what is displeasing, confronting, or complicated. In fact, it is far tougher, complex, and artistic to create a piece that actually pleases the majority of its audience. It is not easy to be a ‘Please all’; in fact, it is positively the toughest and most challenging of tasks, while the reverse is a cakewalk!)

The complex structures called Ragas:
Indian Classical music, even though based on the same basic heptatonic sound, the ‘Sargam’, however evolved into a much complex system of ‘Ragas’. There are over forty thousand of these ‘Ragas’, most ancient, but many as recent as dying Middle Ages, and yet most classical maestros barely manage to master forty to fifty odd out of them. These ‘Ragas’ are bound to the moods they create, are much larger and complex than mere scales, or simple melodies and note patterns, and some take over an hour for a complete recital. What on earth are these musical creatures?

If we go back to the ancient times, when Greeks were getting inspired by Byzantine chants, Indian music scholars were besotted by the Indian counterparts; the Aartis. Folk music, the music not bound by rules of classical theory, was the first to originate all over the world. It originated the very first time a melody was hummed by a human being, or a simple rhyme sung. The chants, the aartis, they were all a unique by-product of folk art, specific in their intent and purpose; to please a higher being. The musical scholars in India, like every other scholar of those times, were the sages and saints, who had devoted their life to education and prayer. Those scholars, when they started dissecting sounds into notes, and note patterns began emerging, it was but natural, that their next step was to formalize the relationship between various note combinations. Simple scales may or may not have originated in Indian music scene at any time, but the knowledge that music moves mind, became the centre piece of scholarly research.

Indian musicians started experimenting, and creating complex note structures, that when played created a specific mood. By more research, experimentation, and proper record keeping, these note structures developed into elaborate ‘Ragas’, and these ‘Ragas’ became a unique and integral feature of Indian classical music. ‘Ragas’ were songs that no ordinary human being could sing, but only a musical scholar of great training could master. ‘Ragas’ became a ‘Class’ characteristic that separated real music and real musicians from the lesser mortals, and they have remained so till this day and age. But what really are these ‘Ragas’?

Let us revisit the last song from my very first music album, the album being ‘I’m Fine’, and the song being ‘City of Cowards’. Now this song is a very hard hitting musical composition that incites, invigorates, energizes, and pumps up aggressive feelings in the listener. Now if we were to convert this song into musical notes, we will notice following features:
a)    There will only be a few notes out of the twelve natural tones that would appear in this song; the scale.
b)    These notes would have a repeating melody and accompaniment parts; the harmonics and the rhythm.
c)    The notes would be arranged in some very particular rhythmic patterns; the note and chord patterns.
d)    Some note patterns would specifically enhance the feelings of incitement, invigoration, energy, and aggression; the mood creators.
Now if I was to make this song’s note structure, as described above, a free for public use structure, that anyone was free to learn, get inspired by, and use in their own compositions, including by transposing the note patterns, then my song would actually become a ‘Raga’. This one would be the ‘Raga’ that creates all the mood elements mentioned above.

And this above, is really what all the ‘Ragas’ of Indian music really are; the original songs sans words (for they were created without words, using only note sounds), which have always been in public domain for anyone to learn, master, perform, and use. If they appear different or more complex than songs, then it is only because we have come to associate songs and compositions with words, or specific individualistic works, rather than as some ubiquitous, all encompassing musical species.

Now I know I have already irritated all the Indian Musical Masters, but if I am here, then I may as well go the entire distance and raise this question; “Does a music producer really need the knowledge of ‘Ragas’, to be a good, or complete, music producer?”

The answer to this question is simple yet complex. It is as simple as asking, “How many great Western Music Producers know Indian ‘Ragas’?” But it is complex because we are talking about something which gives any hardworking musician, a head start over the competition. Imagine having the privilege of scores of ‘Free for any type of use’ musical compositions, each a master of a particular mood that a music producer can use at their free will. Even the least talented of music producers, who barely know the basics of composition, can actually create a brilliant finished product, provided they are good at the ‘Ragas’ that matter for their project. In music, training and hard work never goes to waste, and learning any ‘Raga’ is one tough job that very few can complete. Now of course, if you are naturally talented, then even some basic music knowledge is enough for you to create a good song that would please majority of the populace, even if it means you have to experiment that much harder to get it right. But there could be no denying, the knowledge of ‘Ragas’ will give you an unfair advantage, or perhaps fair advantage.

So where do we really stand after all this very simplistic dissection of the most important facets of music? Well, this piece may not give you an in depth knowledge about any of those facets, but my intention was to give you the clarity about what each really is. At the end of the day, the most basic knowledge is enough to create good music, provided you are either talented, or hard working. Music doesn’t have to come naturally to everyone, but everyone has been listening to the music since the day they were born. Everyone’s ear is already trained to the music. All one needs is a bit of fine-tuning.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss,
Amanpreet Singh Rai


Sunday, November 4, 2018

When Mind is a Scrambled Egg


When Mind is a Scrambled Egg

"Life is always a mind game; one is either always fighting against, or for one’s own current desires."

Success maybe a habit, but it becomes so only after perseverance has become one's virtue. This is especially true when motivation is all but a wavering or missing influence. Just like a war never ends until at least one side actually and comprehensively wins it, success is never achieved until the struggles have ended. And struggles are so called for one is always trying to stay afloat for one more stab at the cherries before they finally give up and drown in a sea of failures.

Now all of what I've just written may sound like a 'horrifying ordeal to glory', but when one is in the midst of the action, it seldom feels like that. One's motivation to succeed makes them completely ignore the pile of mounting failures, and one's dedication to their work makes them ignore how and where the process hurts. It's only when those outside the thick of the action start reminding them of their fruitless attempts and gaping time wounds, that  the pain really sets in and starts to pinch, and steps become heavy. But even this is not a catastrophic event. What is though is the demise of desire, and setting in of mental disenchantment. This is when a creative mind experiences what I call a 'scrambled egg state’.

When the ‘desire to succeed’ goes missing, and is instead replaced by the grave knowledge of fruitless attempts, a mind can easily become disinterested in the activities that it had not so long ago passionately pursued. Then when every time one goads their selves to pitch in some more efforts, the mind gets distracted by the most meaningless of pursuits; the escapist ventures. In my case, I recently found myself sitting in front of my computer screen, stacking cards in game after game of 'Spider Solitaire', than working my grey cells on the Ableton Live DAW. My mind would simply not invest itself into the process of music making or writing, but rather seemed bewitched by a game that even toddlers can master in under an hour. This disenchantment, in spite of my being acutely aware of the fact that for my life to prosper I need to be creating music or writing another book, is what made me investigate as to how I reached this 'scrambled egg state', and then subsequently come up with its resolution. So how did I get to this state; how did I lose my desire?

To lose one’s desire, one generally goes through three stages; loss of motivation, realization of failed attempts, disenchantment with the work. This is the stage where a mind is in what I call a ‘scrambled egg state’. Now let me take you through my personal story to explain how this process works, before I explain the very simple resolution.

When I finished my third English album, I had done enough tracks that were better than many that get aired on commercial radio, and yet I had found myself without a fan-base to boast of, or a bank balance to bank upon. This was in spite of my varied, and often documented efforts, to get public involved with my work; from performing in the middle of a market, to distributing CDs and literature door to door, all on numerous occasions, recorded live either in the form of social media posts or videos. My attempts to get social acceptance had been vast and varied, and yet the public indifference pointed out to something more sinister going on behind the scenes. Now that of course is a recipe for conspiracy theories, until one has evidence to support one of them, but facts, theories, and evidence aside, the events still take an emotional and psychological toll. The knowledge that someone else could be blamed for your troubles doesn't mean the troubles won't affect you psychologically. They will still drain you, and that's what they did to me.

So I started work on my fourth English album, fully aware that I won't be allowed entry into the club of successful and great through any of its regular doors. I rather started work on it because I had finally become the master of my trade, and my mind knew I need to persist with the work to create my own new door into the club. There was no motivation to get a fan-base from there on, but just the knowledge that what I want to achieve requires me to attain a socially elevated pedestal, and to get that elevated position, I need to get some good work done that would help me tear down the walls and create my own door. The motivation had already begun to wane, getting replaced rather by knowledge. With this knowledge however in mind, I managed to bring out seven songs in that album before tragedy struck.

On 9th September 2017, my mom lost her battle to a relapsing cancer, and her loss was the biggest shock of my life. One single event changed the meaning of my life and efforts for me, forever; one moment she was there nodding to my words, and the next gone. Suddenly the one person, who would have enjoyed and cherished my well earned success and respect the most, was gone forever. I struggled to find a reason to continue doing anything anymore, for suddenly the society and all its love and adulation had lost all their charm for me. Above all, its moral standing to deserve anything from me, whether creative, reformist, or intellectual, was gone. From there on even the knowledge of what I needed to do to succeed became meaningless, and the first stage was complete; the motivation in any form, including knowledge, was gone.

Now as long as I was away from my extended family of uncles, aunts, and cousins, I was cocooned from their concerned narrative about my efforts, and above all, lack of success to justify them. But once back in India, by my father’s side in this tough hour, there was no hiding from their prying questions. They were all concerned about my future, or lack thereof, from where I stood. I was repeatedly questioned as to what I want to achieve on the one hand, and equally reminded how I have failed to achieve that in over seven years. My expertise was questioned, my rationale was questioned, my decisions were questioned, and my future prospects autopsied. My pile of mounting failures was pasted on to my face repeatedly, not because they took pleasure in doing so, but because they were hurting at watching me hurt. But nonetheless, their concerned words were not helping me anyway. So far I had been in the thick of action, creating work after work, never stopping to look at my failures, but now, I had been forced to confront the same. No, I wasn’t ashamed that I had failed so many times; rather I was devastated that after so many great attempts, I still couldn’t give a proper reply to their words. While I couldn’t justify my further attempts, my prolonged spell of failed attempts justified all their words. The second stage was complete; my presumed failures were in my face, and I had no defence.

Now of course, for a person as strong minded and strong willed as me, even this confronting experience wouldn’t have been much of an impact, for I knew the flaw wasn’t in my works, or my marketing attempts, but rather somewhere else. What however complicated the scenario was my father. My father is a very pessimistic person by nature, and there’s nothing I can do about it for he’s been like that all his life. He never wanted me to become a music producer, and is too scared of me taking political risks. He is a man who never had the acumen or heart of a businessman, leave alone being an entrepreneur or a leader, very unlike my mother, and a reason why even my mother’s demise couldn’t bring me any closer to him compared to my relationship with my mother. My extended family may not be by my side every day, but my father always is, talking about the same negative things about my efforts and works, only that I have to listen to them all the time. Now the problem with persistent negative talk is; it makes every subsequent setback and hardship appear much worse than what they actually are. And in my case; hardships and setbacks are the two final stages of every work that I have put out till date.

So there I was; in spite of all negative tidings in my life, continuing with my work. It might have taken two and a half months for my production gear to finally reach me from Australia, but I started in the earnest; releasing two final singles to complete my first Punjabi album, and the eighth single from my fourth English album. Then it was time to market the Punjabi album. Now as I mentioned above, my efforts and works had provided me no bank balance to support my endeavours, and I was left to dig in deep and find the last reserves that were left with me. From some good old times, when I used to work for the Government of Punjab as a High School Science teacher, I had with me about a hundred fifty thousand Indian rupees, that I had left with my father, and that was the cash that I was banking upon now; roughly three grand Aussie bucks.

The first thing I did was to get in touch with a few recording companies, only to find they were not interested in investing any money at all, while I was ready to pitch in my last bit of cash above, plus a similar amount that I could have borrowed from my father. Without this recording label support, the minimum budget for a proper campaign for an album is roughly around seventeen hundred thousand to twenty hundred thousand Indian rupees; about thirty four to forty thousand Aussie dollars. That is more than ten times of what I had. So there never really was a chance for me to promote myself in a big way; another setback, adding up to all the negativity surrounding me all the time. But it won’t be me if I won’t find a solution, for I don’t believe in superstitions, but science and reason. There is nothing called luck; only hard work and ability to milk every opportunity that arises out of probability. I set out to start what would become the starting point of my own movie production pipeline; the ‘Kind Man Productions’.

With just about twenty two thousand Indian rupees (or AUD 440), I assembled all the equipment I needed to shoot with my two year old 40 USD Chinese made action camera; a dolly and track, three point LED lighting system that pumps around 24000 lumens of light, green-screen frames and screen. Armed with the equipment, I shot two music videos; ‘Ve Lalariya’ for about Rs 18000 (AUD 360), and ‘Jandi Jandi’ for Rs 4500 (AUD 90), while the market price for a similar project is Rs 250,000 (AUD 5000). After the first one of these was shot, the next step was to promote it. So having tackled the hardship of budgeting, it was time to tackle promotions. And needless to say; obstacles didn’t disappoint me here either.

To promote a musical compilation, the advertisement needs to be done on music channels, but unfortunately for me, the Punjabi Music channels simply refused to play my music (in fact, I would have had to borrow money from my father to even put my music on some of them for a week). Music channels like ‘PTC Chakde’, ‘MHOne’, ‘Tashan’, ‘Josh’, and ‘Punjabi Hits’, one after the other, turned down my video saying it wasn’t up to the standard of videos they play on their music channel. With very few options left, I approached an infotainment channel, ‘Chardikla Time TV’, that happily played my song, not for one week, but for ten days, and even did a feature interview with me. And if that wasn’t enough, I made sure I put a full colour ad in the leading newspaper of the region, to support the TV campaign. I didn’t let the hardship defeat me, but I found my way around it. Unfortunately however, the shortcoming of having a video played on infotainment channel during daytime instead of prime time on a music channel meant that it badly, and expectedly so, underperformed. The hardship may not have defeated me, but the setback gave fresh ammunition to all those around me who are concerned about me, especially my father.

Now I may not have truly been overwhelmed by another failure, for I know what the limitations are that I am working with. I know I am trying to create a million dollars out of a petty penny, and that’s what I tell my well wishers what my real ability is. But such an unhappy situation still does affect one’s psychology and morale. My work started to lose its’ efficiency, and it took me at least one month too long to even completely shoot the second video, that of ‘Jandi Jandi’, and another extra month to create a finished product. By the time I finished this project and started working on my ninth song from fourth English album, I noticed myself spending less and less time on production work, but wasting more time playing ‘Spider Solitaire’. This song took me more than four weeks, when in ordinary course I can churn out a new song in about nine days, and then spend another three to perfect it to another level. This is when I realized something wasn’t right; I just didn’t feel the desire anymore; the third stage, that of ‘disenchantment with work’, was complete. My mind was like a scrambled egg, ready to waste time on anything except work. And this got me thinking; what has happened, and how to fix it?

Now I have already explained what had happened, and I am sure anyone else out there who is feeling a similar loss of desire, would easily be able to identify such a pattern in their own life. The important thing however is; how to fix it? The solution however, is really very simple.

The first and the most important thing is to accept that you are facing a loss of desire, and believe me, there could be a lot of mental struggle to bring your mind to terms with this acceptance. Once you have accepted the issue, you need to thrash out how you reached that point, just like I thrashed out what had weighed upon me. Then the solution is as simple as working out where you really want to get in your life, and then applying symptomatic treatment to the causative agents.

In my case, I know I am going to tear down any and every wall that stands in my way, stomp down on any neck that grows in my way, but get what I want. I love my father, and my family, even though none of them is as close to me as my mother. So I am going to simply listen to their words, for I know they are born out of love and real concern for me, but I am not going to let their words bog me down. Just like success becomes a habit once you succeed, even perseverance can be made a habit, and a good one at that, for life. ‘Never give up’; the solution is as simple as that.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss
Amanpreet Singh Rai

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Mastering - Why Not to


Mastering – Why Not to

“Mastering degrades the timbres, and is nothing but ‘Loud-Garbage-Out’.”

There’s a term ‘GIGO’ in mastering parlance, used to describe audio files that arrive with no headroom for a mastering engineer to work with; hence, Garbage-In-Garbage-Out. But today, and much to the chagrin of those very sound engineers I am sure, who have all made much money destroying the music in music, I make the statement that makes the headline. Now let me assure you; like every big statement I’ve ever made, I will present facts in light of commonsense to support it.

A quick tip:

Before I start with the nitty-gritty of what digital sound, sample rates, bit depth, headroom, and mastering work truly involves, let me point you to an article about mastering that I did a few years back. I explained what plugins you may want to use, and why use them, when mastering a track. Now add to that information, this tip:

“If you render out a sound file with ample headspace, and you import it into a new project in your DAW, then you can layer the file any number of times to raise the volume of the final product, apply effects like reverb to the master chain or any other chain, or in general, master individual chains by filtering out and working on very specific frequency ranges.”

Now let me add this information to the above tip, that I have myself tried this method on more than one occasion, and achieved exactly the same results in sound as any big commercial release, yet I have not released even a single song with that sound. I just didn’t like that sound! Call it a musicians’ ego if you want to, but there were good reasons (details below).

Getting a head around headspace:

Mastering needs 3-6 decibels headspace for the engineers to work their magic. But what really is this headspace; just lowering the volume of the mix (or individual tracks) down? At a more basic level; what is ‘Digital Sound’ really?

1.    What is Sound:
Any sound, from any source or instrument, is a mixture of audible frequencies, with bits scattered all over the spectrum, from the lower levels towards the higher levels. A few peak frequencies give a source its’ distinct voice. Try a low pass filter on hitats, and see how far below can you drop the shelf before you stop hearing any sound at all. Try it on a piano or a pad! You will know how each sound is a mix of many wavelengths and frequencies, each adding their own ‘timbre’ to the overall ‘timbre’ of the sound. Now consider a sound mix, like a song, where many sounds have been mixed together to create one sound. Do you think, with all their frequency ranges intertwined, you can really separate the instruments completely using any filters, equalizers, or the like?

2.    Analog Sound:
An analog sound recording is a continuous record of all the wavelengths and frequencies that make up a sound, along with their amplitudes, much like a line-graph. When recorded on a medium like a tape, it is played back in a flowing continuity.

3.    Digital Sound:
Digital sound, for example the industry standard PCM wave, on the contrary, is a disjointed record of the sound; that is, it is made up of chunks of data. From afar it appears like a line graph, but a closer inspection reveals its dotted make; the quantization (see below).

4.    The chunks of digital data:
Consider for example a ‘one second long sound sample’, made up of 16 different wavelengths. This sound’s analog record with include all the values that those 16 wavelengths will assume, as a part of their rising and falling amplitudes, over the course of one second. However, digital data is recorded in bits and bytes, which are not the same as a continuous line drawn on a piece of paper. Digital sound is recorded by breaking that continuous one second sound data, into many smaller chunks; for example, 44,100 chunks of a single second (44.1KHz), or 48,000 chunks of that second (48KHz). These chunks are called samples, and hence ‘sample rate’ defines how many samples per second a wave file contains.

Then of course, these chunks themselves have chunks of data; for our current example, all 16 wavelengths will be present as 16 small pieces, each with a range of data, albeit a much smaller range. Say if you chop a piece of pipe into smaller pieces, each piece would still have two ends, and water will still take time to pass from one end to the other. But a ‘Digital Sound’ can only be recorded using a set number of data points, with each point stating a precise value; for example, each sample can be described by using 16 (our current example), or 24, or 32 markers, with each marker having a single precise value (and not a range of values) for that particular sample. The number of markers so used to describe the details of a sound sample, they represent the depth of detail; the bit-depth.

Thus a one second sound chopped into 44,100 pieces, will be represented by that many blocks of data, with each block’s data encoded using 16, 24, or 32 markers. But what does each one of these markers really represent?

5.    The data markers:
In our example, let us assume that each marker is associated with one out of the 16 waves. Now each marker will represent the average amplitude of that wave’s piece in that sample. Thus the range between highest and lowest values would be lost in favour of one single average value. What does this means? This means, the analog wave that looked like a continuous line, gets converted into a dotted line in digital world, which would look continuous from a distance, but dotted up close. This is what is described as quantization error, as intervening values are lost in favour of single average value. In practical world, 50-60 KHz sampling rates yield results that can simulate an analog sound for the purpose of human hearing abilities. Anything beyond is non-detectable overkill. And that is why 48 KHz (more continuity in sound) is a good sample rate to render, with a 24 bit depth (more headspace).

But what has all this got to do with headroom, clipping, and mastering? Or wait; what did I just explain up there?

1.    The working of bit depth:
Suppose you have 16 one litre bowls to fill (16 bit information per sample), and a bucket full of water (a song made of many sounds). You pour water in each one of them to different levels (this is what your 16 bit wave sample would look like). Imagine each of those bowls represent a bit that is attached to a section of the audible frequency range, say bowl one to 20-100 Hz, bowl two to 100-300 Hz, and so on so forth. When you are creating a song, each instrument will add its’ sound (or water in our example) to more than one bowl; (because each sound is a mixture of many wavelengths). The bowl that would overflow, would lose water (that is, the amplitude for a particular frequency/wavelength section, that goes beyond what the system is capable of mapping, generally 0 db tops, that amplitude’s true value would be lost, and the resulting average information recorded wouldn’t be accurate, and would sound as a distortion, called clipping, and besides, the average value for extreme variations is generally inaccurate information). Remember how when you are producing a song, and all sounds are peaking well below the 0db level, and then you add one sound that just goes way over the charts and the master chain starts recording clipping; yeah, that is one bowl clearly full beyond full, and that full bowl is what the master mix is recording as error.

2.    Dealing with near full bits:
So when you send a song, with all the bowls full, or nearly full, there is nothing left for the engineers to add to that sound (of course, what they add is what I despise, as described below). So when a mastering engineer, say for example, needs to jack up the midrange, and that range’s bowl is already full, they have no choice but to empty some of it, to create space for the jacking up (layering and filtering tricks can help here). But of course, as you already know now; every frequency segment contains frequencies from more than one sound source. So you end up with one sound getting improved (allegedly), while many others take the hit. And this is why it is called GIGO!

On the contrary, if you give them plenty of room in the bits, to work with, the mastering engineers can really jack up the levels that need to be jacked up, without destroying anything else (allegedly, once more).

Putting timbres on timbre:

Of course, in a perfect world mastering engineers would be able to add or remove only the frequencies that need to be so, but unfortunately, in real world these frequencies, as already noted above, are intertwined. This is the very reason why the mastering engineers also don’t want you to add any effects to the song you dispatch to them. All the effects, like reverb, flanging, chorus, delays etc, they all add newer frequencies to the sound, covering an even bigger range, and complicating the maze. Now remember; you are sending a mastering engineer a single complex sound, a song, and not individual tracks that they could work on, and then mix together to create a gorgeous product for you to claim as your own artistic achievement. This is what makes mastering a good intentioned job done to create a poor end product.

1.    The amazing sound timbres you create:
All the gorgeous sounds that you create or mix, while creating a composition, they all have some very particular dominant frequencies. It is the sound of these frequencies, and how they mix with the rest of their own non-dominant frequencies, that makes them appealing to you. Each sound may have one or two peak frequencies, but the rest are not just absent, but are rather pushed out of prominence, in a prominent yet gradual way; consider a wave that stays low for a long time, then rises up sharply, and falls down quickly, and finally fades out slowly again. This is what all sounds are; some just have a smaller foot print in one or the other direction of their peak.

2.    The timbres that mastering adds:
When a mastering engineer is working with a mix of sounds, they may limit their impact to a particular frequency range, with an intention to improve a sound peaking in that range. Unfortunately however, whatever they do with that range, will also impact other sounds that might as such be peaking in other ranges, but have some bits of their limbs in the impacted range. Suddenly the overall character of those impacted sounds changes. Suddenly the ‘hihats’ may start sounding trashier even if you had tuned them to sound soft and rounded. The ‘kick’ may start sounding duller, even if flatter. The ‘bells’ may become rough, and ‘whistles’ and ‘pads’ might become heavier or shriller. The list is endless, and now you know why I haven’t released any of my songs with a commercially mastered sound in spite of my understanding of the subject matter.

This is what my dear friend, I call LGO. You lose the charm of the sounds that you create, only to get a louder product. So, do you really need mastering for your compositions? Well, this question is better answered by asking these questions:
a)    Can you increase the volume of your song enough by layering some elements of the song (experience will teach you which ones)?
b)    Are there really any sounds that matter so much to you that you would rather not master the track?
c)    Do you rather want a commercial sound than pamper your artistic ego?
Answer these for yourself and you can figure out whether you need mastering in a particular instance, or not.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss


Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Art of Compositions


The Art of Compositions

“A Composition is a home in which many a song may live.”

A Composition is a construct, a complete building, in which more than one song may reside at a time; a perfect example would be the famous song from an all time hit Bollywood movie ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’, the song being ‘Antakshri’. This particular composition is a house in which scores of older Bollywood tunes reside as if they were always a part of it, and yet it is all but one Musical Composition. To put the point precisely;

“When one is composing a piece of music, they are constructing a structure of which a song may only be but a small part. There could also be introductory prelude, intermediary phases, independent melodies, and closing postlude, to complete the shape.”

Of course, the simplest of compositions are all but one song long. But what really goes into making such simple constructs; is far from simple.

For the ease of explanation, a simple composition can be broken down into two parts: melody, and accompaniment. Be sure however, that barely scratches the surface of what really goes into making one. The nuances of composing get complicated like a maze when one starts dibbling into rhythms, melodies, lyrics, accompaniments, riffs, vamps, hooks, and ostinati. What do all these really mean for a composer, and how do they really fit in with each other?

There are three ways a composition may come to life; from lyrics, from melody, and from a rhythm. There is no hard and fast rule as to which method is better that the others, yet individual composers have their own preferences. A good composer however can deploy either one of these three methods according to their needs, and create a respectable work. So to be a good composer one needs to know what these three most important parts of a composition mean, before even considering their relationship with everything else that can go into making a complete composition.

1.    Lyrics: Generally a song is born from an idea or a phrase, when the lyricist goes about filling in all the gaps left behind by it; that is, creating the body of the song. Lyrics can also be written by converting the notes in a melody into words, or lining phrases to a rhythm. I generally start with a phrase, or even less; I’ve written an entire song from the word(s) ‘Time-Machine’, just by staying true to all the meanings that it could convey, and then developing one meaning into a story of its’ own. In a song, the lyrics represent the melody part of the song, and they may or may not be supported by an instrumental melody in the composition. Compositions however, can also exist without any lyrics at all, and even melody as such. Rhythm and accompaniment may suffice to create a composition.
2.    Melody: A melody, like lyrics, can be the sole source of an entire song, or be there in supporting cast. A melody can thus be a complete idea, that is, the lyrics or meaning of the song; but could also be a musical representation of the lyrics, a complementary piece, or a contrast. When lyrics are converted into notes, the melody is merely a musical representation of the words. When a melody is complementary in nature, it could complement either the lyrics or the accompaniment; that is, it is a musical phrase that copies neither, but goes well with either. When a melody is in contrast, then of course, the intention is to heighten the emotions identifiable from the lyrics. As a general rule, however, a melody cannot be in contrast to the rhythm, simply because rhythm is there to lower or enhance the feeling, but not to identify an emotion. Such contrasting melodies are used in electronic dance music a lot, where the lyrics flow smoothly until the contrasting melody is introduced over a vibrant rhythm.
3.    Rhythm: The single most important aspect of the composition is its’ rhythm. The feeling that a composition generates, is really felt through its’ rhythm, while the attached emotions are identified by the lyrics and melodies, the latter duo thus being there only to give a name to the experience, or heighten its perception. For example, a pulsating beat gives one the feeling of excitement, while lyrics and melodies can help associate that feeling with fear, energy, happiness, anger, or something else. Even a piece with no use of percussion and drums, has a rhythm to it. Rhythm thus is the ‘felt’ part of the music, while lyrics and melodies are the ‘perceived’ part. In fact, a different rhythm can give a very different feel to the same lyrics or melody.

A good composer can start with either of the above three aspects of a composition, but once when the actual construction begins, the first element to be put in place happens to be the rhythm.

1.    Creating the Rhythm: The very first considerations to be dealt with are tempo, scale, syncopation, and note patterns; generally in that order. When the method deployed is that of “Rhythm to Composition”, then these issues are merely a matter of choice for the composer, but when the method deployed is one of the other two, then the answers to these queries are provided by the lyrics or melodies themselves. Consider the rhythm that I have used in my song ‘Time-Machine’; a simple ‘di-chi dhee-chi dhee-chi rest, dheeee-cha-chaa’. This rhythm easily decipherable from the way the lyrics are sung. I may have started with the lyrics, but converting those lyrics into a beat was the first step to get them feeling groovy, and give the composition a starting framework to build upon. A simple kick drum and snare can generate that rhythm, but that rhythm feels empty. Surely, Hihats can fill some gap, and ‘rest’ is also an integral part of the composition, for it enhances the meaning and perception of melodies and rhythms, but still the rhythm is empty without other elements; together referred to as accompaniment.
2.    Bringing in the Accompaniment: Chords, Percussion, Pads, Bassline, and Chorus, these are elements that build upon the rhythm to create a complete structure.
a)    Chords: The first element that adds weight to the rhythm is a chord pattern (or a note pattern, or a mix of the two in some instances). A soft sounding instrument, like a piano played at pianissimo, or a wind instrument, like a Saxophone (as in the case of ‘Time-Machine’), is added to either complement the basic rhythm, or to copy it. For example, in House music, a 4/4 chord pattern on the beat copies the beat, while off-beat, it complements it. In ‘Time-Machine’ the Saxophone sound both complements, and copies the rhythm.
b)    Percussion: Shakers, claps, finger snips, cowbells, and all, can help fill some gaps by complementing the rhythm, or copy the rhythm like the Chords above; an example would be the use of 4/4 claps in House music.
c)    Pads: These are generally used to smoothen out the rhythm, so that the gaps in the rhythm, chords, and percussion pattern don’t sound jarring. But they can also serve an important role in heightening the perception of lyrics, melodies, and rhythms, by adding a supporting voice underneath.
d)    Bassline: This generally gives a deeper feel to the rhythm, by tying together all the different sounds making up the rhythm and accompaniment. They do so generally by imitating the combined sound generated by the rhythm and the accompaniment, but can on occasions do so by adding a complementary touch. Occasionally these may assume an entirely different role in addition to this, which is discussed below.
e)    Chorus: Chorus voices, vocals or instrumentals, are generally there to fill the gaps in both rhythm and lyrics or melodies, and in the process, add to the character of the composition. They can copy rhythm, copy lyrics or melodies, or assume their own distinct identity.
3.    Creating the Identity: While a rhythm supported by an accompaniment is enough to create a composition, without the need of lyrics or melodies, yet to make it last longer in the memory of its audience, it needs elements that exist within the realm of the latter duo. These elements often become the defining features of particular compositions, and audience remembers and identifies these compositions through their defining elements. The best classified amongst these elements are hooks, riffs, vamps, and ostinati.
a.    Hooks: Hooks are the catch-lines of a composition; the sounds that hook a listener to a tune, much like a fishing hook. These could be melodies, like the complementing ‘Bassline’ driven melodies of songs ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Like a G6’, or the flute from the song ‘Dil Deewana’ from Bollywood movie ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. These could be also be vocal phrases, like the word ‘Panda’ from the song ‘Panda’ by ‘Desiigner’. Their sole purpose is to give the composition its’ distinct identity that would hook the listener to the tune.
b.    Riffs: Riffs are musical phrases that are generally used to transition between one part of the composition to another, one melody to another, or one phrase to another. They serve to signal a change. A good example would be the sounds of violins, keypads, pianos, that are generally used when one lyrical line ends, and before the next one starts, or the sounds used when the verse ends and the chorus is about to begin, or the interlude ends and a new verse is about to begin. Thus in effect, they usher in what follows. The distinct chord sound used in ‘Empire State of Mind’ serves as a riff each time Alicia Keys is singing. In the Bollywood song ‘Dil Deewana’, mentioned above, each lyrical line is dotted by a flute riff, and then finally by a violin chorus. The tingling sound that I used in my song ‘Bankrupt in Love’ is another example. But that is not the least of the fun part with riffs. Riffs can sometimes take up the role of hooks, and even drive an entire composition. Examples would include Led Zeppline’s song ‘Whole lotta love’, or from India, a very recent Punjabi song ‘Hathyar Varga’. Such songs have riffs that act as hooks, as well as drive the entire song. They are riffs, and not hooks or vamps, because they are very short musical phrases, which in their normal usage would have served as transitional phrases, as described above.
c.    Vamps: Vamps are continuously repeating phrases that occur at the beginning of a musical composition. Vamps were designed to allow time to the lead vocalist to get ready and join in. In electronic music, the contemporary of Vamps is ‘Loops’. When you play an unedited House music track, the looping music that plays at its beginning, the one whose purpose is to assist live performing DJs in beat mixing and matching, is serving the function of a Vamp. Bon Jovi’s epic song, ‘It’s my life’; the guitar and bass riff that opens the song, could very well be used as a Vamp in live performance of that song. I personally use a modified version of Vamps, to introduce most of my songs; the long preludes. These are Vamps because they are readying the ground for the real song to kick in, but modified because they generally play a melody or a hook, but only once.
d.    Ostinati: In classical music, ostinato (plural: ostinati) is a phrase that persistently repeats itself in the song, generally without changing in pitch, and without variation. Thus both riffs and vamps are modern contemporaries of classical ostinati, but have assumed specific roles. Ostinati meanwhile occur throughout the length of the song, and can be present as a prime melody, or prominent accompaniment component. Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’ is an Ostinato driven track. The flute hook of the song ‘Dil Deewana’, mentioned above, actually covers three roles in that song; it is the hook of that song, it has been used as a riff too, and it could also be considered the Ostinato of that song.

A good composer, like a good soldier, knows the strength and weaknesses of the weapons at his disposal, but a brilliant one knows how to improvise. What sets people like Indian Maestro A.R. Rahman apart from the crowd is their ability to create magic out of nothing; for example, Rahman’s use of the sound train makes while running on a track as part of the melody, as part of the hook, of his song ‘Chaiya chaiya’ is a great example of modern compositional improvisation. Rhythms can themselves generate interesting melodies. What limits a musician is their imagination, and an artist with limited imagination is no artist at all.

Happy composing!

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss