ANALYSIS – “KASHMIR”(Page/Plant/Bonham)
from: Led Zeppelin (1975). Physical Graffiti. Swan Song.
Topics and terms: polymeter, backbeat, ghost note, drum-set notation, riff, motif, pedal point, chromatic passing tone, reverberation, collision,
First Minute (A section) Kashmir opens with a polymetric accent pattern between the drums, set in 4/4-meter or ‘common time’, and the rest of the band, minus voice, set in 3/4-meter. Polymeter is the superimposition of two different time signatures (3/4 and 4/4), which creates a phasing effect between the two parts. Polymeter is a type of polyrhythm, though a polymeter functions on a longer time scale than normally do polyrhythm.
4/4: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
| | |
3/4: 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
Jon Bonham, the drummer, plays a steady, repeating, straight-up backbeat accent pattern in 4/4-meter. The term ‘backbeat’ refers to accents given to beats 2 and 4 of each bar, usually with snare drum.
Fig x.1 is a transcription of the basic drum pattern.
DRUM SET NOTATION
The x-noteheads on the G, first space above the clef, represent the hi-hats. A small circle above indicates open high-hats, but here the circle has a cross through it (could also be a single line through the circle) to indicate partially open hi-hats. Bonham’s high-hat is closed a little tighter than this notation might suggest.
The F on the lowest space shows the kick drum. The C, second space from the top shows snare drum.
The second sixteenth-note of the kick drum line is bracketed, indicating a ghost note. A ‘ghost note’ is a soft attack or bounce immediately preceding or following another note. The dynamic of the ghost notes in the recording vary in intensity from barely audible to maybe half the power of the first kick drum hit.
Fig x.1 Backbeat Pattern
‘1 e & a’ Counting System
Hihats: 1 . & . 2 . & . 3 . & . 4 . & .
Snare: (1). . . 2 . . .(3). . . 4 . . .
Kick: 1 e . .(2). . . 3 e . .(4). . .
Time Unit Box System (TUBS)
1 2 3 4
HiHats: x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x .
Snare: . . . . x . . . . . . . x . . .
Kick: x x . . . . . . x x . . . . . .
RIFF / MOTIF
Strings, electric guitar and electric bass begin with a 3/4-meter rhythmic riff. Or is it a motif?
A ‘riff’ is a melodic or rhythmic cell used to form an ostinato.
An ‘ostinato’ is a persistent, repetitive pattern set in contrast or support to other musical parts.
Below is a notation for the string and electric guitar parts, in the treble clef, and the bass part in the bass clef.
Both parts are rhythmically identical, though not melodically (more on this later).
Fig 3.1.2 Rhythmic Riff in 3/4-meter
It takes three repetitions of the 4/4 pattern and 4 repetitions of the 3/4 pattern before the two parts realign at the downbeat (first beat) of both patterns.
Figure 3.1.3 shows the relationship of the two accent patterns and how the two meters align.
The bottom staff shows the aggregate rhythm, the first half notated in 6/4 time and the second in 12/8.
The significant difference in the two signatures is the way the rhythmic units are grouped.
In 6/4, there are 6 beats each subdivided into 2’s (eighth notes) and 4’s (sixteenth notes).
In 12/8, 4 beats are subdivided into groups of three.
Fig 3.1.3 Aggregate of Polymetric Rhythms
IN-CLASS EXERCISE: Clapping/Singing Parts and Aggregate Accent Pattern
1. Vocalise each of the two patterns independently
2. Split into two groups and clap both parts simultaneously
3. Clap the composite accent pattern (bottom staff)
Question: The aggregate accent pattern is formed from the superimposition of two relatively simple rhythmic patterns. How hard would it be to start with the aggregate and deduce the two parts from it?
The electric bass guitar provides a pedal point on ‘D’ (an ostinato consisting of a single note)
The guitar and strings build tension (consonance/dissonance) through the use of an ascending chromatic line beginning on A and climbing semitone by semitone to the root D.
Sequence of intervals: P5 – A5 – MA6 – mi7 – P8
Relative dissonance levels: 2 4 3 5 1
This pitch set can be thought of as an upper minor tetrachord with an Augmented 5th chromatic passing tone between the Perfect 5th and Major 6th.
While the section begins with a bar of P5, in subsequent repetitions the first half of the first bar is replaced with a Perfect Octave. This creates a dovetail effect, called collision, as the phrase both resolves and begins on the same beat.
Fig 3.1.4 Harmonic (Intervallic) Analysis
The vocal enters after two complete cycles of the aggregate time pattern, beginning on the ‘and of one’ (& of 1)
The first two phrases of the melody are based in D Major pentatonic
[1 . 2 . 3 . . 5 . 6 . . 1]
spanning from the MA6 below the root to a P5 above the root
[6 . . 1 . 2 . 3 . . 5]
The melody is embellished with bends and portamento.
This fills in most of the missing lower tetrachord of the string and guitar parts.
Although there is no 4th degree, the collection of notes suggest a major tetrachord, and combined with the upper tetrachord, the section is in the D Mixolydian mode
[1 . 2 . 3(4). 5 . 6 7 . ]
Fig 3.1.5 Rough Melodic Transcription of First Two Phrases
Western theory is biased towards the analysis of pitch structures (chords, scales, motifs). But pitch organisation is only a partial picture of the character of this (and most any other) section of music.
The class provided an analysis of some of the other elements at play in ‘Kashmir’
Vocals: gritty, falsetto timbre, use of vocables and portamento (bends and slides), ‘dreamy’ lyrics, variable dynamics
Guitar: [mild overdrive, high-mid timbre], used of ‘middle eastern’ mode.
Orchestra Strings: ‘dissonant’
Bass: ‘mimics guitar’, repetitive pattern [ostinato]
Drums: Hi-hats open slightly [may have mounted tambourine], backbeat, 4/4 time, few fills
Acoustic Space (reverb)
Drums: The drums are bathed in reverb, suggesting they are within a large, walled space (perhaps 40’ x 40’) positioned at a moderate distance from the listener (perhaps 10’).
Vocals: The vocal reverb has a brighter quality unlike the drum reverb. Probably added during mixing. The singer sounds as if he’s closer to the listener than the drums.
Guitars and Strings: Guitars and strings are almost ‘dry’ (without reverb) and ‘close-miked’ (microphones placed as close as possible to the source) suggesting an entirely difference space from the other parts.