Spotlight: Daniel’s technique

“Something I’d noted after finding out that Daniel composes his motifs on a classical acoustic was that he lets single notes ‘breathe’ on their own in a way that I’ve never noticed in other modern/pop songs. It’s obvious to me that he hears potential in the audio dynamic of plucking the acoustic and seeks to replicate that with such a clean electric sound – but what can you tell me about his penchant for this technique? Single sustained notes seem to be used for such specific effect and form in classical compositions – are there any similarities in Daniel’s approach? Might he also be picking up on methods he hears in scores and compositions?”

– I’ve often wondered why Kessler writes such tricky guitar lines, ones that he often has to repeat perfectly and exactly over and over! The delicacy of such a performance situation is certainly reminiscent of classical guitar performance. Unlike at most rock concerts where the guitars are either soloing (in which situation there aren’t necessarily any “wrong” notes) or playing rhythm (which presents its own challenges but is nonetheless a little more forgiving), at a classical guitar concert you hear absolutely every slight stroke and motion the guitarist makes, and there are most certainly wrong notes. It is a very delicate performance situation, and any mistake or accidental knocking against the instrument is extremely evident. This type of performance situation is the one that comes to mind when I see Kessler perform his repeating motifs; he is under the aural spotlight during moments like the beginning of “NARC,” “Pioneer to the Falls,” plus a myriad of other examples.

– Another aspect of Kessler’s compositional technique that I find reminiscent of classical (using the term generally) technique is the polyphonic, or linear, quality that is the result of this type of guitar performance. Instead of the guitars presenting chords + occasional soloing (a very common configuration in rock music), Kessler is moving the focus from homophony to polyphony in many of Interpol’s songs by starting and/or ending with, and/or interpolating (no pun intended) these single line solos (the motifs comprised of single notes mentioned above by the reader), and then often layering them with other lines; the beginning of “Obstacle 1” is a good example of this type of layering. Fairly common in electronic music, the focus on polyphony has recently been experiencing a vogue in indie-rock for a while now; indeed it is often what separates indie-rock from mainstream rock, aurally speaking. Most likely, Kessler’s influence originates from his love of dub reggae, an influence he has mentioned in multiple interviews.

– The reader’s link between classical compositions and Kessler’s approach is an astute one. It is quite possible that his exposure to both classical and film music (the latter of which often draws heavily on classical traditions) has inspired Kessler in some ways to access his own capacity for the construction and deployment of motifs. Supporting this theory is Carlos D’s own self-professed classical influence, as strongly evidenced in Interpol’s music through his keyboard contributions. (Carlos may actually be referring to the classical usage when he frequently refers to Kessler’s song concepts as motifs.)

– Thanks for the insightful query, kind reader! Next up: ant from Spain asks for an analysis of “The New,” specifically the Peel Session version.

Until then,
Much love from,


~ by megwilhoite on May 22, 2008.

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