Story behind “Ants Marching/Ode to Joy”
Shout out to all the Dave Matthews Band fans out there! [rowdy clapping, screams and whistling] Shout out to all the Ludwig van Beethoven fans out there! [polite, respectful applause and coughs between movements] Now a shout out to all the DMB/Beethoven mash-up fans out there! [cricket … cricket …] Introducing … Ants Marching / Ode to Joy!
OK, so this tune started in sound check at one of our shows. We were playing around with that super catchy lick at the front end of DMB’s “Ants Marching.” Using a loop pedal we’d set up the chords then improv on top of them. It then evolved. We did things like mimic the snare hit on beats 2 and 4 using a padded piano bench. We created a unique fiddle-like sound by combining a 5 string electric cello and a bowed piano string (using a disassembled cello bow.) We used a myriad of muted piano and piano percussion sounds. Then we developed the loop effect farther so that 4 guys could play a lot more parts together.
Like most of our music, ALL OF THE SOUNDS YOU HEAR WERE CREATED BY PIANO & CELLO (with the help of a tambourine).
Ode to Joy crept its way in because, well, throwing classical licks into pop tune arrangements is one of the things we love to do, but we also loved that, though the two melodies melded well, the lyrics or “messages” of the two tunes starkly contrasted each other. Poetic irony, right? DMB’s tune talks of everyone doing the same thing (um…like ants marching) and implies a meaningless, despondent and monotonous isolation of human beings from one another, while Beethoven’s “tune” talks of friendship, brotherhood, interconnectedness, meaning, and, of course, joy.
We filmed this in ONE TAKE (meaning no cuts or alternative angles) using an octocopter with an attached gimbal (pivoted support). This allowed us to alternate between fly shots and glidecam-style shots. Jeremy Crawford and Frank Nelson (our “Piano Stunt Coordinators,” in addition to a long list of specialized roles within TPG) would catch, walk with, and then release the copter during the “take.” They wore motorcycle helmets as a safety precaution!
We performed this on one of the most incredible stages on Earth – Tuacahn Ampitheatre! …which happens to be in the TPG’s “hometown” of St. George Utah. We were positioned on a rotating island stage surrounded by running water, heavy fog, dramatic lights, pyrotechnics and majestic red rock mountains. Ya. It felt as epic as it sounds.
Hope you dig it! If you’ve read this far into the description then you are now inducted into the extremely elite and secretive group known, unofficially, as the DMB/Beethoven Mash-up Fan Club. We’ll send you your first secret message and decoder ring shortly.
“Ants Marching” as performed by DBM (Dave Matthews Band) written by Dave Matthews
“Ode to Joy” – melody from the 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125
Arrangement produced and written by Al van der Beek, Jon Schmidt, & Steven Sharp Nelson
Performed by the Piano Guys: Al van der Beek, Jon Schmidt, Paul Anderson, & Steven Sharp Nelson
Mixed and Mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG studios in Utah
Video Directed by Shaye Scott
Camera Stunt Operators: Jeremy Crawford & Frank Nelson
Production Assistance: Kyle Fisher, Addison Foote and Sean Pullan