Musical Guide to "The ConstruKction Of Light" by King Crimson
An Analysis by Andrew Keeling
The problem surrounding any new musical work is that, as listeners, we may be too close to it for it to reveal its secrets, coming from the cultural present as opposed to the past. A further problem is that in the case of a work without a written text, or a score, it is more complex to pin down analytical concepts of a traditional type. In the case of a work without this we are forced to rely on 'ear' rather than 'eye' as our main source of information. Peter Hammill pointed out many years ago, however, that a recorded musical work is an aural codification of an art-work, and as valid as a written document. The creators of new works are, often, reluctant to speak about their new creation, hoping the new work will speak for itself. This poses further problems for those of us who wish to delve into its secrets.
In the case of The ConstruKction of Light, King Crimson's twelth studio album (May, 2000), we do, at least, have 'source' material from which to draw. This is included on a series of recordings made by the King Crimson 'fractals' (the double-trio formation from the Thrak period broken into trios and quartets) known as the ProjeKcts. The ProjeKct ensembles were begun in 1997 as 'sub-groups...the aim...(of which)...is to function as Research and development units, on behalf of, and for, the greater Crim and to create music for the next generation of Crimson repertoire'. (Sleeve-notes - ProjeKct Two, 'Live Groove'). The repertoire of the ProjeKcts is improvisational, following in the line of King Crimson's THRaKaTTaK (1996). Trey Gunn makes the point in his road Diaries of March 24th, 1998, which are included as sleeve-notes for ProjeKct 2's Live Groove, that each of the musicians featured (Gunn, Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp) took a new approach by making 'a type of leap that I have not witnessed...going further...and partly by necessity'. Although the ProjeKct 2 Space Groove had been recorded previously, the 'live' fractal decided to 'just go out and play'. The sleeve-notes reveal that the 'live' concerts were fuly improvised.
For a music analyst to pin-down the secrets of improvisation is hard but, ultimately, to reveal the role of the unconscious, which is the essence of the creative particularly in the field of improvisation, is harder. However, it is not my aim to do this but, rather, to gather the original impulse, shown 'through' the source material of the ProjeKcts (in particular, ProjeKct 2) to discover how it has affected and contributed to The ConstruKction of Light (known hereafter as TCOL), and as a way into the work. Improvisation has always been traditionally associated with King Crimson. Robert Fripp has said (Diary entry, 12-v-2000): 'There are six different strategies...composition and improvisation are two of these. Composition is the strategy where we ordr musical materials, to establish what is possible. Improvisation is the strategy where we make room for the impossible'. TCOL is revealing, then, in these terms: although Fripp has said that this was the first time a King Crimson has recorded an album prior to taking the music into concert situations, the music, in a sense, existed prior to the making of TCOL in the form of the ProjeKct improvisations, although in fragmentary form. In other words, the material presented to the ProjeKcts is material which can be used for further research (i.e. composition, in much the same way Messiaen may have culled sections of his improvisations for subsequent works). Either that or, if deemed inappropriate, jettisoned or even, perhaps, used at a more appropriate time and in a new and different context. So, sections of these improvisations have been re-assigned to new contexts. For example, the contrary-motion sections in the ritornelli of ProjeKct 2's Contrary ConstruKction have become the contrary-motion ritornelli of Into the Frying Pan on TCOL, being ripped-from their original context and placed in a new one in an exquistely Postmodern way, to create a new meaning. In other words, structural components from one source are juxtaposed alongside new material to create a new structure: unconscious meets conscious, or improvisation meets composition, and a new 'wholeness' is created - a construction of light?
The title of the work includes two key words: a) 'Construction', transformed into 'ConstruKction'; b) 'Light'. The arrangement of letters, in the first case, reveals the initials of the group, King Crimson - Kc - perhaps showing that the presence of King Crimson exists within the structure (the construction), a presence that Fripp has said 'lives in different bodies at different times, and the particular form which the group takes changes. When music appears which only King Crimson can play then, sooner or later, King Crimson appears to play the music'. (Notes from King Crimson Tour programme, 1995). The word 'construction' could also be taken to mean 'interpretation': in these terms the interpreted material being the primary musical impulse created by the ProjeKcts which is, in turn, projected both forwards and backwards through time. This is an idea I will return to in due course.
In purely instrumental terms TCOL is a work of 'light' (bright, metallic guitars) against a darker backdrop (bass touch guitar/baritone guitar and drumming) which is reflected both in Adrian Belew's words as well as in the black/blue and silver cover, also including images from an eclipse. On the back cover an eclipse joins sun (masculine, conscious, extrovert, gold) with moon (feminine, unconscious, introvert, silver) which is important for TCOL as a whole: it seems, as in previous King Crimson works, TCOL is reconciling opposing tendencies. This is subtly reinforced, in the case of TCOL, with the inclusion of small and large initials (Kc) in the title. It could also refer back to 'In the Court of the Crimson King', where 'King' (masculine) meets 'tree' (feminine). The idea may also be reflected in the structure of the work (I am not including ProjeKct X's piece) which includes seven pieces: two purely instrumental pieces and five song-pieces:
1) ProzaKc Blues, 2-3) The ConstruKction of Light, 4) Into the Frying Pan, 5) FraKctured, 6) The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum, 7-9) Larks' Tongues in Aspic - Part IV, 10) Coda-I Have a Dream.
Because of the way in which the title piece has two sections, and Larks' IV has three sections, the total number of 'pieces' comes to ten. Ten is a number of completion. To return to my previous point, the opposites are also reflected in the structure where they are felt as symmetries:
Prozakc Blues reflects I Have a Dream (Dark), while TCOL reflects Larks' IV (Light). Into the Frying Pan reflects Oyster Soup (Light and dark fused) and FraKctured seems to point both forwards and backwards to the musical past (in more ways than one) by standing as the kernel of the work and taking a neutral stance, as well as reflecting the 'presence' of King Crimson at a deeper structural level.
'Light' is a symbol frequently encountered in the recent work of Robert Fripp: Bringing Down the Light, Black Light, The Fear of Light, First Light, Second Light. It is a symbol commonly associated with 'consciousness'.
Analysis seeks to distinguish simple elements which can be treated as originary and explanatory, and in using Jungian reductive techniques, which could be regarded as postmodern by resorting to such things as binary oppositions, my intention is to try and highlight structural details, and otherwise, in The ConstruKction of Light. However, there is always likely to be a certain amount of dissemination within the categories of the text's structure, something which will remain elusive. In other words, our understanding of it, in the end, has a tendency to remain on a subjective level. However, by analysing this work I hope to show that a definite objectivity prevails.
It seems that Robert Fripp has further opened-up the possibilities of the text by destabilising previous works such as 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic' (1972/1984) and 'Fracture' (1973), and in doing so makes them perform differently in their new context. This points to an 'intertextual' method of taking material from its original context and placing it in a new one, so as to create new and different meanings. (See Part 1 of this analysis). Equally, the technique of 'self-quotation' is found in the works of Shostakovich, especially in his Eighth String Quartet, for the purpose of revealing the the horrors which surrounded the composer in the Second World War. In other words, in the case of the latter, a listener is allowed access into the imaginal world of the composer's memory. Fortunately, we do have Fripp's own views on The ConstruKction of Light: 'I'd like to play 'Fracture' again, but it's not a piece for this Crimson. It's Crimson historical repertoire...but it's part of the lives of other people, in another country and another period...addressing the same musical intent today and speaking with my own voice, working with these people in this incarnation, what might happen? One answer to that is 'FraKctured'..similarly, 'Larks' IV'. This band is not going to play 'Larks' II'...So, we are looking at a third creative strategy here in renewal. The musical identity, tradition...is given - King Crimson - and this is one way, within that tradition, of keeping the creative process moving. The externals may seem familiar...and even appear to be the same, but the inside is fresh'. (Robert Fripp: Diary entry, 12-v-00). In some way this relates back to Trey Gunn's point about the 'presence' of creativity: by escaping the past, the presence of the creative 'now' is allowed access which, in a sense, involves non-linear aspects: how 'unknown' futures influence known pasts and vice-versa, which is seen in the connections between 'FraKctured'/'Fracture', 'Larks' IV/III & II'. This process becomes gradually delineated as the present work moves though time, with its references to 'known' past. It is as though TCOL stirs up underlying levels of meaning for composers, performers and listeners.
A question that is sure to be asked is, then, 'is this a concept album?' It certainly bears little relation to the concept genre included within the so-called 'progressive' rock movement of the late 1960's/early '70's, or even to the neo-progressive 'concept' albums of the 1980's. TCOL seems more to do with a sort of musical 'deconstruction': it peels away the constructed meanings which surround the previous King Crimson works, especially the ones which include 'Fracture' and 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic', which raises the question, was this always part of the King Crimson agenda? Once one King Crimson has functioned for a period of time it abruptly stops. It as though this tendency has reduced musical 'logocentrism' by peeling away the certainty of reason which people (fans in particular), from certain periods of the band's history, see lying in the music. By deploying this approach the 'presence' of 'King Crimson' chooses when and where to incarnate: after a time of non-activity the 'presence', which has always been there - like an underlying rhizome - begins afresh. In other words, there is a creative 'incarnation'.
TCOL follows as the outworking of the most recent incarnation, and as I write this King Crimson is performing 'live' in Scandanavia. The poetic side of King Crimson has, in the main, been severely dismantled in TCOL, as the music has derived, in part, from the improvisatory world of the ProjeKcts. This has led to certain misunderstanding within certain quarters, particularly in recent reviews. However, it would be wrong to suppose that that the work is a 'fiction', unlike its sister-work: ProjeKct X's Heaven and Earth, which relies more on contemporary assemblage techniques. TCOL does include narrative as a vital part of its structure, and this is partly conveyed by the lyrics. The lyrical side of more recent King Crimson works such as 'Inner Garden' and 'Walking on Air', included on Thrak (1995), has been greatly reduced. However, a listener will hear, as on Thrak, a link to the the King Crimosn tradition on TCOL: 'Fracktured' and 'Larks' IV' link to the 1972-74 period, the metallic, interlocking guitars connect with the urban landscapes of King Crimson Mk IV, and there are also residues from the Sylvian/Fripp collaboration The First Day. I believe TCOL exemplifies what Gurdjieff has termed objective art, which shines though the cracks created by the purely instrumental pieces on the album. These pieces have the function of transcending the ambiguity of the lyrics, by providing an invisible solution, possibly, in the form of 'grace', lying outside human dimension.
PB - pessimism/optimism by chemical means - subjective
TCOL - anticipating optimism/objectivity
ITFP - pessimism
FraKc - objective
Oys. Soup - ambiguous
LTIA IV - objective
IHAD - ambiguous (lies more towards optimism but lists the 'darkness' of recent historical events, which would connect it to '21st Century Schizoid Man' at one level)
The instrumental pieces stand as landmarks leading us from one psychological state into another, until they are reached where, then, an objectivity prevails. In this sense, the instrumental pieces objectify something which lies beyond purely human psychological states leading us as listeners, in Gurdjeffian terminology, to a different or 'awakened' mode of being. In Jungian terms, this might be termed as 'the call to individuation', or the realisation that the 'collective unconscious' underpins the world of the everyday. The original instrumental pieces 'Fracture' and 'Larks' II' were placed at the end of their respective works and served as climactic points in the structure. In TCOL the pieces 'FraKctured' and 'Larks IV' are positioned differently functioning, as we have seen, as important structural landmarks both musically, and for the purpose of 'objectifying' the pieces which come before and after them. As listeners we feel a sense of 'grace' shining through the spaces created by the instrumental pieces, which is difficult to to codify or verbalise.
Overview of TCOL
Although I do not wish to push this point too far, it seems to me that the 'presence' of King Crimson has generated, in The ConstruKction of Light, music which lends credence to such an idea of 'presence'.
Gurdjieff makes the point in Ouspensky's 'In Search of the Miraculous' (Arkana, 1987), that Fourth Way schools differ from other schools in terms of being an impermanent way, and that they appear and disappear as if governed by laws which are not their own. Gurdjieff also says that the 'fourth way' has a work of a definite significance and when the work is complete the 'fourth way' disappears from the given place, in its given form, to reappear in another place and in another form. I suggest that King Crimson are such an undertaking, and part of the work of the Fourth Way. This might suggest that the music created is, somehow, conceived yet not conceived just by King Crimson and, in particular, Robert Fripp. The music shows itself to be multi-dimensional, highly unified and organised in many different ways and, as already stated, an example of 'objective art'.
TCOL is a mammoth study in many varieties of musical techniques. There is particular emphasis placed on minor thirds which are employed in a structural way, to forge a high degree of unity between certain of the song-pieces and purely instrumental pieces. It is also unified by key or, rather, by pitch centres which takes the motivic unity onto a higher, macrocosmic level.
Minor thirds are also found in the diminished seventh triads which derive from Octatonic collections. These are found particularly in the title piece of the work, 'The ConstruKction of Light' which is a magnificent essay of interlocking Octatonic scale processes, reinforced by the antiphonal, interlocking guitar parts. I believe, in part, that these 'circulations' are to be found as part of the Guitar Craft canon of repertoire. (To imply that the piece is generated simply by 'processes' would be unfair both to the music and to King Crimson. I do not want to suggest that the term 'process' is in any way associated with processes found in works which employ Serialism as a generating factor). The Octatonic collections also generate tritones, which are included in the structure both at a localised level and to propel longer, structural prolongations. There is an example of a 'motivic parallelism' in 'Larks' Tongues IV'.
Augmented/whole-tone aggregates are also employed in 'FraKctured', which balance the Diminished aggregates of the title piece. Although it may be too early in the analysis to make this point, it does bear-out the point made in Part 2 which implied the instrumental pieces illustrate places where we feel, as listeners, music of an 'objective' nature. I believe the music of 'The ConstruKction of Light', 'FraKctured' and 'Larks' IV', particularly, underlines the theory put forward to some extent.
Rhythmically speaking the work is a labyrinth of shifting metres and interlocking metrical collages. There are symmetries to found in the metrical dimension which support and strengthen the harmonic and motivic unity. I suggest further that the music conveys a wholeness which I have seldom experienced before in the field of rock music, or other musics. Poeticism is not the point of this work. It would be out of place and, in a sense, out of time. Instead, we are removed, almost, from purely 'felt' subjective human experience - magnificently underlined by the lyrical content of the song-pieces of the album - into the area of thinking-intuition where feeling-sensation play only a minor role. I do not want to suggest that feeling and sensation, which are the polar opposites of thinking and intuition, are not present: they are, particularly with reference to the self-quotations which include not only the references to 'Larks II' and 'Fracture' but also to 'Elephant Talk', on 'ProzaKc Blues', referring back to Discipline (1981), and to the open-string displaced minor thirds in Sunday All Over The World's 'Sunday all over the World' (1991) in the title piece.
I would like to convey the unity generated by pitch in the following diagram, although I will be forced to resort to prose-writing as well. I will not, at this stage, focus on discussions of each separate piece, but plan to concentrate on an overview of the whole:
1) ProzaKc Blues: on 'E'; E, G, Bb important in the riff. Semitone descent, in the introduction, and choruses (C7[VI7] - B7[V7]) also introduces the concept of 'descent' felt in all areas of the work. (These descents may also have an 'extra-musical' association with the 'failure' to achieve 'goals' by human methods [medical means/drugs/drink/icons/ideologies], as some of the lyrics seem to suggest);
2-3) TCOL: tonality constantly shifting due to use of Octatonic collections and the diminished chordal aggregates which derive from them. However, begins on 'C#', and ends on 'B'. This is an example of 'progressive-tonality' and reinfoces the idea of descent felt in the work. B natural is the leading note of the subsequent key-centre of 'Frying Pan';
4)...Frying Pan: on 'C', but also brings into play E & G minor thirds, outlining a C major triad. Ends on 'F', but Soundscapes closure includes a version of the Eb-E nat.-D nat. chromatic line included in it though, here, presented in augmentation;
5) FraKctured: extensive study in whole-tone and augmented chordal collections. Begins on 'C' (which connects with 'Frying Pan'). Piece is sectionalised into distinct parts which repeat although transformed and extended each time. The sections approximately follow this order: a) Introduction: presentation of Whole-tone/augmented material; b) Episode: fast guitar arpeggios which break the Augmented collections into single pitches. Harmonic movement achieved by 'tertian' (pivot-pitch) methods; c) Climax: bright, shining guitars supported by bass, of jazz-like chords [although this is a very long way from anything to do with jazz] which, again, underlines the principle of descent in the work. Ends E minor, which connects with:
6)...Oyster Soup: all on 'E'. Pivots on E, G & Bb which connects it to 'ProzaKc Blues';
7-9) Larks' Tongues...IV': on 'E'. Begins with power-chords, C, (Bb), B which connect with the introduction of 'ProzaKc Blues'. Intervals of minor thirds, G-Bb, E-G etc. are crucial to the success of this piece. Many examples of microcosmic, or localised, tritonic movement in guitar II. Ends F#, tritonic opposite to the beginning, creating a 'motivic parallelism';
10) Coda: I Have a Dream: essay in descending, harmonic cycles. First four bars are A minor, Aminor/G, C/G, F# augmented, followed by G minor, G minor/F#, Bb/F, C/E. etc. The first chords, in each four bar cycle, are: A minor, G minor, F minor, Eb minor, C# minor and B minor. In other words the harmony is not only generated sequentially, but outlines a descending whole-tone scale (i.e. A, G, F, Eb, C#, B). It is as though the song rams-home and intensifies the descending scalic idea of the whole work. There are three and a half complete cycles (note that it is cut before the full duration of the fourth cycle) before ending on a C major first-inversion chord (C/E), with Soundscapes bringing the work to rest on a single middle-C natural. This brings the work back to the outset, and to the C7 (VI7) chord of 'ProzaKc Blues'.
It seems that there is an extant narrative included, and it is heightened by equally appropriate musical/structural means. Is it possible that King Crimson are suggesting that, humanly-speaking, it is impossible for us to escape the Wheel of Life, except that we turn and work on ourselves? 'I Have a Dream' seems to spiral as if out-of-control by turning us back to the horrors of paranoia, mentioned at the beginning in 'ProzaKc Blues'.
I plan to look at one song-piece (ProzaKc Blues) and one instrumenetal piece (The ConstruKction of Light). The latter, which includes a final section of words, I consider to be more of an instrumental piece, the words coming at the end, as they do, as the climax to the structure or coda-like.
'ProzaKc Blues' strikes a listener, for the first time, as an unusual inclusion on a King Crimson album, and an unusual part of King Crimson musical vocabulary. Bearing in mind my suggestion - one that does remain very much as a 'suggestion' (TCOL could be perceived in many different ways) - that the album may be regarded as a gradual unfolding of 'light' as a means of conveying musical, or otherwise, 'truth' then 'ProzaKc Blues' stands at the 'human' end of experience. It is also the King Crimson approach for the interpretation of a blues structure and is, in this way, related to 'Catfood' on 'In the Wake of Poseidon' (1970). This could be regarded as another reference to historical King Crimson repertoire. The words 'Elephant Talk' and 'Chit-Chat' included in the lyrics of 'ProzaKc Blues' also looks back to 'Discipline' (1981).
Prozac is medication given, under medical supervision, for depression. It also has other uses, and has been called 'the happy pill'. The song has been placed at the outset of TCOL as way to provide the listener with a glimpse of human experience, and possibly to provide an insight into experience achieved by chemical-medicinal means. The blues-like voice (Adrian Belew's altered by electronic means?) is perfectly suited to this as the blues is, traditionally, associated with the cry of the repressed. Both Prozac and Blues suggest the same thing: melancholia. The song also functions as structural anacrusis for the entire work, and links with the the C natural at the end of 'I Have A Dream', creating a circular-like structure.
The song may be broken into sections: a) Structural anacrusis/Introduction (C7 - B7); b) Riff as anacrusis to sung verse; b1) verse over riff; a1) chorus over introduction chords; b) riff; b1) verse over riff; a1) chorus over intro chords; b2) guitar solo over riff; a2) guitar solo over intro. chords; b) very brief riff; b1) verse over riff; a1) chorus over intro. chords; b) very brief riff; b1) verse over riff; a1) chorus over intro chords; b3) guitar solo over riff section prepared by modal guitar patterns minus riff (the riff has been removed being replaced, instead, by the double-tracked interlocking 'clean' modal patterns); a2) guitar solo over into. chords; b1) riff with improvised 'blues' vocal; a) introduction (C7 Soundscape); c)gap followed by downwards glissando with percussion attack as a way to end. This presents a structure which is framed, by exluding the final glissando, by riff and descending introduction material. This arch-like shape, or cyclic (cicular) idea, which seems to be at the back of the entire work, is reflected microcosmically in 'ProzaKc Blues'. I also feel that we are given a glimpse of 'otherness' with the gradual foregrounding of 'Soundscape' texture as the song unfolds in time.
The structure of 'ProzaKc Blues' is, essentially, a twelve-bar blues, on 'E', 'A', 'E', C7 and B7. The piece ends un-resolved on C7. The glissando suggests cliche and decline. However, any pre-conceptions we may have of the traditional twelve-bar structures are quashed by the rhythmic dimensions which will be discussed later.
The piece, itself, is made from very simple musical materials, much in the same way as any 'blues' and is, therefore, an exercise in economy. It includes two elements being an extended study of two musical intervals: a) semitones found in descending form; b) minor thirds which balance the descent of the semitones by ascending. I will discuss each briefly:
a) The introduction includes the descending semitones as part of the chords C7 (VI7 in E) and B7 (V7 in E);
b) The minor thirds are found mainly in the riff, although the vocal part is saturated by them. The riff is made of two piled-up minor thirds treated in linear fashion: E,E,G,E,Bb,E,E,G,E,Bb//E,B,E,G,A,Bb,E,E,G,A,Bb (Pitch-classes [E=0]: 0 0 3 0 6 0 0 3 0 6//0 7 0 3 5 6 0 0 3 5 6). When the riff moves to 'A' the pitches are: A,A,C,A,D,A,A,C,A,D,A,Eb,A,C,D,E,A,A,E,C,D although this section is transformed on 'even' numbered verse by subtractive rhythm.
The inclusion of displaced patterns heard in Robert Fripp's guitar part, create the perfect foil for Adrian Belew's hard-edged riff, and the two dismembered guitar solos. Fripp's part is made from angular, calmly placed circular modal patterns, which sometimes include the Bb from the riff. It is as though Belew's part suggests the human dimension, and Fripp's the 'otherness' I have mentioned.
From this it is clear that the music is operating in the Aeolian mode with the inclusion of the 'blue-note' Bb (in E) and Eb (in A). These pitches are not only important for a 'blues' to work aurally, but in TCOL connect from piece to piece, and to convey 'otherness'. Tritones have always been found in Robert Fripp's musical language. We could also say that the 'presence' of King Crimson, or the 'presence' which is passing-through King Crimson as a vessel for expression, is penetrating the human level of melancholia. That the letters 'Kc' are found within the title of the piece, 'ProzaKc', may help to reinforce the idea.
The rhythmic dimension
Verse sections: the M.M. marking is crotchet = 112, and the bars are mainly in 6/4. If we 'feel' a slow blues in 12/8 and fit the dotted crotchet rhythm from that into the dotted minim rhythm of 'ProzaKc Blues', then it is possible to regard the subject material (i.e. Prozac) as a metaphor: the 'reality' of the rhythm has been 'bent'. However, this becomes even more pronounced when we feel that Fripp is playing in a different metre: during the 'A' modal section of two bars of 6/4 the circular-patterns seem to have three bars of 4/4.
Chorus sections: the rhythm of chorus 1 is in 13/8, divided as 4+3+3+3 quavers (C7), the 11/8, divided as 4+3+4 quavers (B7), with a 9/4 bar to close (C7). Subsequent choruses transform the original in to even bars of 12/8.
Final solo: the first four tutti bars of final solo section is an example of recent Crimson rhythmic procedures. It is a though all the instruments 'stagger' the bar-line: a) the 'calm' circular guitar play even quavers within the 6/4 bars; b) the bass divides into dotted crotchet, quaver, crotchet, crotchet, quaver, quaver and dotted crotchet; c) the snare attacks follow the following sequence over a period of four 6/4 bars: the first attack happens on the first of the first 4 quavers, then the 9th quaver/ then on the 2nd quaver, then the 7th, 9th, 11th/ 2nd, 4th, 8th, 11th/ 1st, 4th, 8th; d) the solo part is in the forground also tripping-up listener expectations. The impression given is one of confusion, achieved by a collage of meter.
The middle guitar solo is also interesting from the point of view of the rhythm section: a) Section on 'E'=8 bars of 6 quavers with beat 2 accented; b) Section on 'A' 4 bars of 6 with last two syncopated and heightening the chromatic anacrusis back into: c) 4 bars of 6/4, prefacing the C7 and B7 chords.
The ConstruKction of Light (title-piece):
The material for the title piece is derived , in part, from ProjeKct 2's 'Heavy ConstruKction' and 'Light ConstruKction'. This applies specifically to the 'interlocking' or guitar dialogues which make up much of the material of the first part of the piece.
The piece is divided into two parts, the first part being longer than the second. However, part one is divided into seven sub-sections which I will deal with separately in terms of the material included in them. The piece is an extended essay in Octatonic pitch collections, and counterpointed rhythmic metres:
Part 1 - Section 1 (Introduction): this is prepared by a sustained Soundscape-like dyad, which includes the pitches C#/Bb which are pitches 1 & 7 of an Octatonic collection, C#, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, B. This collection is further explored in Section 2. The dyad becomes a background event, eventually shifting to a single C#. The bass plays a moving, chromatic line accompanied by drums. The bass line includes an oscillating semitone at the end of phrases, which prepares the fuller music of the subsequent section. The metre eventually doubles-up, illustrating significant rhythmic material which is further developed in Section 2;
Section 2: each section is delineated by three further sub-sections: i) this involves two guitars in dialogue over a moving bass line. The drums are omitted in the first instance. The pitches explored, in dialogue, are the pitches of the above Octatonic collection: C#, D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, B. One guitar plays C#, E, G, Bb from this particular Octatonic scale, while the other plays the pitches, D, F, Ab, B. This clarifies that the so-called 'interlocking' guitars are exploring odd and even numbered pitches of the Octatonic (i.e. each playing a dimished seventh chord on C# and D repectively) but this technique, by using different timbres of each guitar, is further clarifying the compositional procedure for the listener. The exploration of Octatonic pitch collections is a characteristic of the earlier piece, 'Red' (1974); ii) the entry of the percussion cuts-across the pulse. The drums play the following metres: 6/8, 6/8, 9/8, 9/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8. This rhythm was introduced in the introductory section; iii) descending Octatonic scale which further utilises the previous metre - 6/8 E, D, 6/8 C#, B, 9/8 A#, G#, G, 6/8 F, E, 12/8 D, C#, B, A#, 9/8, G#, G, F, Pause bar E. The scale extends from E - E. E is also used as a 'pivot' pitch linking the different Octatonic and modal collections explored in the piece.
Section 3: further interlocking C# guitar dialogue, with more complex final descending scale;
Section 4: more menacing. The bass crawls upwards, while the guitars play in 5/4 counterpointed against the 5/8 drum metre. There is something of Gamelan techniques about this. A new Octatonic collection is employed: C, C#, Eb, E, F#, G, A, Bb. Although the section comes to rest on a pause on G natural (the tritonic-opposite to C#) the guitars continue through the pause, before reaching a section of 3/4 with repeated pitches C# - E natural. E natural (included in the Octatonic collections) is again included. The E natural also connects with the subsequent section:
Section 5: this bright, sparkling music in C# minor minor pentatonic, repeats the C# - E repetitions within the texture. Although shifting metres are explored, 6/4 (from 'ProzaKc Blues') seems to be at the centre. One gets the impression that a gradual construction of light, from the dark pessimism of 'ProzaKc Blues', is in progress. The section refers back to some of the timbres of King Crimson Mk IV, and some of the metric preoccupations of that particular ensemble. The section ends with the repeated pitches E and G, although it is extended. G natural is central to the subsequent section:
Section 6: the music moves to its modal pentatonic tritonic opposite, G, Bb, C, D, F, which eventually shifts, by an abrupt-modulation, to B minor pentatonic. The section ends with the descending scale, G, F, E, D, C#, B, A#, G#, G, F, E, D, C#, B, A#, coming to rest on G natural, which is the first Octatonic scale used in the piece. Fripp is utilising pitches common to all collections, by dividing his material tritonically;
Section 7: Octatonic on G (G, Ab, Bb, B, C#, D, E, F). This displays a Guitar Craft-like circulation texture. Rhythmically, the guitars play minims, while the bass play quavers, with the guitars moving to crotchets but with syncopation locked-together by the bass quavers. This also forges a consistency in metre when the music moves into Compound time. The scalic decent comes to rest on a chord: C (bass); F#, G, B, E & B (treble). C & F# also include the tritone interval central to the whole of TCOL. C & F# is also a long-term 'prolongation' in 'Larks' IV' ('motivic parallelism'), although I don't think that is the main issue in this piece. This chord closes the first part, and descends a semitone into and for the subsequent part of the piece:
Part 2: this part of the piece is sub-divided into five sections, as well as being the part involving the words. These highlight 'opposites', which may be word 'cut-ups' (I plan to look at the lyrics in more detail at a later stage). It is 'on' B minor pentatonic, with Fripp's guitar part initially playing the pitches B, D, B, D spread over two octaves, being the quotation from 'Sunday All Over the World'. The verses illustrate symmetrical bars: 'on' C# (10/4), 'on' G (2 X 10/4), 'on' B (10/4), 'on' C# (10/4), 'on' G (2 X 10/4), 'on' B (10/4). It can be seen that a 'circle' of three modes is operative. The interlocking-dialogues of the guitars have now been taken into the vocal parts, which illustrates a hocket-like technique. The piece ends on B, which is the leading-note of the 'C' centre of 'Into the Frying Pan'.
Into the Frying Pan
I plan to give an overview of the remaining song-pieces, and other pieces of TCOL beginning with 'Into the Frying Pan'. Afte the brightness of the title piece we are plunged back into the frying pan of every day existence which the text of this song deals with:
Drum opening 'sizzles', and is sample-like immediately painting a the subject.
Contrary motion ritornello drawn from ProjeKct 2's 'Contrary ConstruKction': one guitar plays descending chromatic scale (C,B,Bb,A,Ab,G,F#,F,E,D#,D,Db,C) while the other plays the same ascending (C,Db,D,Eb,E,F,F#,G,Ab,A,Bb,B,C). Bass:a C pedal which sometimes shifts to a displaced Eb. They both meet on F#, which again outlines a C/F# tritone which seems to be at the centre of the work. The chromatic scales also convey the symmetrical shape of the bowl of the frying-pan itself.
Verse over chords, C, E, F# and F (C-F# is taken into the harmonic context). Verse 2: ditto. Ends with Fripp's ascending guitar. The double-tracked voices includelots of chromatic inflections, as well as the ryhtm guitar, which sound Indian-like but are more likely to suggest the slippery surface of the frying pan as we are 'cooked' in the processes of everday life.
Contrary motion ritornello: on E. This time the guitars meet on Bb and the ritornello is shortened, closing on an augmented chord (E - bass; G# - guitar 1; C - guitar 2). This, in some way, anticipates 'FraKctured'. Noise acceleration into:
Verse 3 on C.
Middle solo - Fripp widely displaced guitar solo creating allusion to counterpointed solo instrument through the displaced pitches.
Hard unison riff. This is another perspective on the contrary- motion idea, but here using C natural as an axis of symmetry which the instruments descend to: c, Eb, c, E, c, F#, c, G, D#-E-F-F#-G-Bb-C-Eb (repeat [note the C-F# again]); at end of repeat G becomes the new axis of symmetry: G, g, Bb, g, B, g, C, g, C#, D#-E-F-F#-G-Bb-C-Eb (note the G-C# tritone here, looking back to the Octatonic scales of 'TCOL') then repeats the C axis riff. It can be seen that chromatic scales are outlined by every other note, with the end of phrases as pure chromatics.
'Unwinding' middle painting the words, 'And how life unwinds', over chordal pitches F#, F, E, G, G#, F#. This underlines the tritonic counterpole of C with F#, and is another variant of the chromatic idea which makes up the entire song.
Verse 1 recap.
Dyadic contrary-motion ritornello: bass - G#, A, G#, G, while guitar 2 plays G#, G, F#, F and guitar 1 plays C, B, A#, A. The music then returns to the contrary motion idea to end on E/C.
The contrary motion ritornello now has the guitars two octaves apart ending on a unison E, with drums in 5/8 playing against the pulse.
Hard-edged unison riff (see g) ends on F.
soundscape coda stretching the chromatic Eb-E etc. of the hard-edged riff. This is symphonic taking the music onto a different, symphonic level. Ends on D natural. This would mean the piece has a 'progressive tonality' about it, by beginning on C and ending on D.
By including the piece in the analysis it illustrates that timbral changes from piece to piece are not only similar in character to 'Discipline' (1981), but also underlines the process of change from human to spirit to human to spirit etc. in the song-piece as they progress to purely instrumental piece. In this way it does bring to mind words of Gurdjieff's about 'turning in a circle of insignificant matters' which some of the lyrics seem to suggest
It seems to me that the process of the gradual construction of light continues with 'FraKctured'. This is an instrumental piece derived, in part, from 'Fracture' the piece which concludes the 1974 King Crimson album, 'Starless and Bible Black'.
The piece is largely centred on augmented pitch collections. This is, in some ways, the opposite to the Octatonic centre-of-gravity of 'TCOL'. In other words, King Crimson seem to be going to great lengths to balance the 'tonality' of pitch/mode/key centres from piece to piece.
Begins with whole-tone pitch collection C, D, E, F#, G#, A#. Bass on C. The process of guitar dialogue/interlocking continues here.
Interlocking augmented collections (augmented collections are derived from the whole-tone), and bass shifts to dissonant G natural, C, G# and eventually to E natural, before the music reaches E major with an added 6th (pentatonic) and augmented triad on G. Tension at this point.
'Fracture' fast arpeggios in the guitar part which outline parallel triads: i) (from bottom upwards)G,A,Eb,F,G; ii) Ab,C,Eb,Gb; iii) C,Db,E,F,G; iv) Eb,F,G,A,B - C# passing-note (E nat. in bass); v) Ab,Bb,C,D,E (E nat. in bass). The chord shifts are achieved by 'Tertian' harmonic pivoting. Rising scale, presented as chords, ASCENDS to balance descending scales of 'TCOL': A7, B7, C#7, C# leads to:
Bright, shining guitars (no drums) in harmonic sequential pattern. This descends to balance the ascending music: 5/4 C maj.7/Cmaj.7/C min. nat.7/C min. nat.7/Bb maj.7/ditto/Bb min. nat7/ditto/ Ab maj.7/ditto/Ab min.nat.7/ditto/ Eb/G(pause chord). Outlines whole tone but achieved tonally.
Fast parallel arpeggios descend. Rise eventually to the bright, shining guitar passage. This time the passage descends to D major.
Fast parallel arpeggios through cycles of keys. False recapitulation with lots of shifting metres. Rises to bright, shining guitars through the same harmonic sequence as before but now centred on: E maj.7/ditto/E min. nat.7 then the same structure but through D, C, Bb, Ab, G. In other words, this descent is being lengthened with each subsequent airing. It also a musical landmark, denoting the end of each section of fast arpeggios.
Distorted and very fast guitar passage on E in two parts: first coming to rest on G, then continuing with a moving key-centre to C#, B and G.
'Clean' fast arpeggios with second guitar playing B, A and F.
Recapitulation: whole-tone reasserted before shifting to E pentatonic. Ends on E minor, with a G natural pivot-note preparing the ambiguous pitch-centre of 'Oyster Soup' which follows.
The World's My Oyster Soup...
The following pieces will be dealt with in greater detail at some point in the future. It is my intention to briefly overview some of the elements included in them.
Oyster Soup' is, essentially, based on three pitches: E, G and Bb. In this way it refers back to the diminished riff of 'ProzaKc Blues'. The entire piece sounds raga-like in terms of its drone-like quality. The song-piece pivots on both pitches E natural and G natural, but the single dimension of pitch and mode is offset by the metric interplay of the piece, where the basic crotchet pulse is used as a basis in which to hang many different metres. The lyrics also refer back to 'Discipline' (1981) with the inclusion of the line 'frame by frame'. This also connects with the line 'chit chat' found in 'ProzaKc Blues'.
Larks' Tongues in Aspic - Part IV
This piece refers back to 'Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part II' (1973). This, a new frame of reference for the former, stretches the original in many different ways. Here, instead of the original 5/4 rhythm we hear, now, rhythmic-interlocking of two guitars which, in turn, places the interlocking of pitch, found in 'TCOL', firmly in the rhythmic dimension. It sounds as if the whole piece is a study in syncopation, rhythmic-interlocking and collaging of counterpointed meters which, in a very real way, refers back to the title piece of 'Thrak' (1995) where two ensembles (double trios) are pitted one against the other.
'Larks' Tongues IV' is introduced by three power chords C, Bb and B. If the Bb is omitted the C - B descent of 'ProzaKc Blues' is brought into the foreground. The ritornelli are on E, with abruptly modulates to G. The two inside, flanking sections are in 6/4 made from falling and rising tones set in the context of tritone dyads played in semiquavers. One such example is: Eb-Dd-Eb over an A natural which fall on and off the beat. The fast central section is played over power chords E - G - E- D. This, again, outlines the minor thirds explored in the song-pieces. There are other examples of the minor third, such as G - Bb. The piece ends in F#, at a tritone distance from the C of the opening. It as though the localised tritones have now been reinterpreted as a huge structural prolongation. This, in some ways, refers to Schenkers concept of the 'motivic parallelism' where a motivic feature is hidden, as a prolongation, marking an important structural landmark. In the case of 'Larks' IV' it refers to the entire structural duration. The piece leads directly into 'Coda: I Have A Dream' which I have over-viewed in Part 3 of this brief analysis.
A few words...on words.
Although I am unqualified to speak about the lyrics of King Crimson, I have made one or two observations during this analysis.
It is clear that there has been something of a gradual transformation in the lyrics of the group since the late 1960's/early '70's. However, I think there are many similarities between Peter Sinfield's words and Adrian Belew's, which will be looked at more completely at a later date. Adrian Belew's words have some of the influences from the Amerian Beat Generation poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. This influence is particularly apparent in 'Dig Me' from 'Three of a Perfect Pair' (1984) where the influence of Kerouac is felt. Also, 'Indiscipline' from 'Discipline' (1981) with the letter-writing style of Cassady, but nowhere more apparent than on 'Neal, Jack and Me' from 'Beat' (1982), which narrates an imaginal journey/city-scape. This style meshes with the musical influences heard in the group at that time, in particular the Minimalist school of composition: Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It as though the group neutralise the subjective style found in some British rock music, with a more objective outlook. This, of course, also fuses with Fripp's interest in Gurdjieff.
The words of TCOL contain many allusions to American literary styles. 'Prozack Blues' speaks for itself, by nodding in the direction of urban blues styles. The refrains of the title piece appear to include word 'cut-ups', where words are cut out of their original context and re-arranged in different orders. This is a technique used by the composer John Cage, a style later utilised by David Bowie. However, the verses of 'TCOL' seem to refer to a five-line Haiku style. Haiku was a favourite form of Jack Kerouac's and the words do seem to point specifically to American culture by mentioning Andy Warhol, sci-fi and, in an academic way, archaeology. By employing these not only is Belew pointing to the implausible to make something even more implausible (how is it actually possible to construct light?) but using an Eastern (Buddhist) form of writing to convey something which always remains elusive.
'Into the Frying Pan' seems to utilise a three-line Haiku style, which Kerouac renamed 'pop'. 'Frying Pan' deals more with the reality of life following the 'otherness' of 'TCOL'. 'Oyster Soup', however, seems to point towards the style of writing found in a poem such as 'Howl' by Allen Ginsberg, crossing the Whitman-like influence found in some of Ginsberg's work with that of Biblical prose. 'I Have A Dream' comes from the famous saying by Martin Luther-King, and in this way connects with the earlier 'ProzaKc Blues'.
'The ConstruKction of Light' includes many stylistic references: influences from the Eastern European musical tradition of Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (Octatonic pitch collections/Augmented pitch collections),placed alongside Blues styles, fused with techniques found in American Minimalist music, together with interests in Gurdjieff and the poets of the American Beat Generation. This seems to set TCOL in the context of paradox, by presenting a sort of super-objectivity. As listeners we are made aware of an 'otherness' which always remains somehow elusive. The interest, in the work, on tritones is something to be mentioned. I heard someone recently say, 'tritones..are most immobilising material to use...no wonder some ancient theorists called them "diabolus in musica" because the devil rooted you to the spot'. In King Crimson we find a directional stasis which shouldn't work but does. 'TCOL' seems to me to be a work full of paradox, invention and compositional/literary skills par excellence. 'TCOL' works on every level as an important objective art-work.
Whereas subjective art reflects the personal development of the artist, objective art is more concerned with bringing about states of non-identification and wholeness in both artist and listener, and perhaps more to do with what Jung has termed the 'visionary' mode of creativity.
(All analyses of the music of King Crimson/Robert Fripp is copyrighted material: Andrew Keeling/Discipline Global Mobile, 2000.)