Claude Debussy observed, “Music is the space between the notes.” Debussy’s formulation is a key to understanding the deep (and inadequately appreciated) musicality of Ringo Starr.
Note here how Ringo is painting the space by way of his minimalism. The only percussion element heard in the first 45 seconds of the song is a shaker.
His fills (at 0:48, 0:54, 1:01, and so on) seem to paint the dimensions of the sonic space for us. Our consideration of the song requires space in which our thoughts can resonate, and Ringo knows this. His fills are exercised judiciously, as if he is typesetting John Lennon’s vocals with ellipses and carriage returns, creating white space and organizing it on the page so that we know how to group things together. His drumming not only brings the song gently to life, it teaches us how to listen.
Leaving space is a sign of attention to the listener and a wise and generous musicality. More than playing the drums, Ringo always played the song.
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