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Monday, March 12, 2012

"Crash into Me"

Dave Matthews Band - "Crash into Me" (1996)

What do a white South African rock star, and a French composer from the early 20th century have in common?

So this song definitely has layers. Lots of repetitiveness, but so many layers get added onto it that it sounds fresh.  The drums do a lot of work on just the snare, not 100% of  the song as was pointed out to me on "Ay te dejo en San Antonio"; but the main drum line is all snare. As the song keeps going you get bass drum, toms and crash cymbals, but the driving drum line is a snare that sounds like a marching band drum. Not the opening percussion, that's cymbal and some wind chimes, the part I'm talking about comes in around twenty seconds in. Guitarist, singer and writer Dave Matthews plays acoustic guitar on this track, and that is a sound that also builds. Starting with a simple pattern, then adding more and more until the conclusion seems to have at least four guitar parts but they are all played by him. The other usual rock instrument on this track is the bass. Two unusual instruments make up the remainder of the Dave Matthews Band: violin,and saxophone. The saxophone hides throughout the track, sometimes down low adding bottom, other times much higher and adding to the wind chimes. The violin easy to pick out. Producer Steve Lillywhite produced all three of the band's first albums, and they are reportedly back in the studio with him now.

This building up of sound while leaving instruments playing what they were before is an interesting technique. I can't exactly find a name for it. If each time a new instrument came in it was a change to the melody, but obviously based on it, that would be variations on a theme. If each time a instrument came in it was playing the same riff as the instrument before it, but a beat, or measure behind, that would be a canon. When an instrument repeats a phrase insistently that is made up of the same equal sounds, each note having the same weight, it is called an ostinato.  The most obvious example of what I am thinking about is "Boléro" by Maurice Ravel.  It starts with an ostinato snare drum, then each instrument as it comes in adds a layer and continues to play it over and over again ass more layers are added. Obviously a completely different type of work, but take a listen, it's a classic.

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