I am now at the third part of a blog on orchestration. And I want to talk about the idea of developing a beat.
I have put as an example a single song sung by Stephan Eicher called “Est it alles”. The drummer for the song is Manu Katche.
The whole tune is nothing else but a build up to arrive to the complete pattern played at 2 minutes 39 seconds. That pattern is very complex, last for at least 2 bars, and has some intricate fills. We hear some syncopated bass drum, some descending toms, some buzz roll on the snare and some splash cymbals peppered here and there. That is the finished product, that’s where Manu wants to take us.
Now, if we go back to the beginning, we can hear that the pattern was announced during the verse and chorus. A good example would be right around 1 minute 25 with the little tom-tom accents followed by the peculiar bass drum pattern. There are also those two snare drums popping at 1 minute 39 seconds that sets up the one we will hear later. The example after that comes fast and furious, always distinct from the flow of the song, marking it, branding it, if I may say, alerting us that something big, something unusual, something special is coming. The music swells, moving in bigger waves. The singer pushes his voice, the guitar and the bass gets louder, the keyboard grows. And the drums participate to this progression with its ever impending apocalyptic beat that finally surges at 2 minutes 39.
The band must have liked the pattern Manu played because all the instruments fade out but for the magnificent drums. We can then enjoy the complexity and power of its structure, of its orchestration. We can hear how big the room is they recorded it in.
The drums, during the final seconds, stops as the cow bells come in, with the man screaming. I know the sound of those bells very well. I grew up in a village close to Switzerland. We called them “clarine”. They are hung at the neck of the leading cow, the one that will guide the herd to the barn or back to the field. But that is a side note.