An analysis of 'In the Court of the Crimson King' cannot possibly be included whole as it is simply too complex. I have decided to present some of these things as a series over the next few days. First, I will deal with structure and tonality, and then go on to talk briefly about 'number', alchemical ideas which may be applied to the work, before concentrating on 'I Talk to the Wind'. Other things may also come to mind in the meantime.
ITCOTCK is like a giant symphonic work in five movements, unified by a rising tone which is included as a localised event in 'I Talk to the Wind' (E-F# in the chorus) and 'Schizoid Man' (opening riff, Bb-C/F-G). This is reflected in the larger-scale structure as an ascending step from the opening C minor mode of 'Schizoid Man', to the final D major of '...Court'. The final 'Court' may be regarded as the resolution to the tension set up in the work.
Baroque imagery, included in Peter Sinfield's lyrics, is reflected in the ground-basses (Epitaph, E-D-A-B, which is Passacaglia-like), and the many instrumental obbligatos. Ritornello-like blocks are also included. These Baroque structural types may also have something in common with jazz and rock structural types, which include refrains or choruses. (I plan to discuss the idea of Medieval/Baroque imagery later.)
Baroque 'affect' (where keys are associated with psychological states) seem to be employed. I am unsure as to whether this was originally intended. For example, 'Schizoid Man' is in C minor/mode (tragic) (Purcell's 'Dido...' begins in C minor); '...Wind' is in E major (pastoral-like); 'Epitaph' is in E minor/mode (lamenting); 'Moonchild' is in A minor/mode-A major pentatonic (pastoral); 'Court' is in D major (triumphant), but also utilises E minor/mode, which projects backwards to 'Epitaph'. The pitch 'E' seems to extend throughout the work as a Schenkerian background, of sorts.
Looking more closely, the keys of the songs/pieces are: C minor (bVII to the tonic D major of 'Court'); E major (II to D major); E minor (ii to D major or V/V to the
following...); A minor/major (V); D major (I). It seems to me that the idea of the number 5 (discussed next) may also be present in this harmonic framework, with the
seeming emphasis on cycles of fifths included in both large-scale structure as well as in the minutiae of the localised harmonic events (i.e. chords).
There seem to be references to the numerological significance of the number five in the work: five pieces, five members contributing to the writing, instances of cycles of fifths both at large and small scale positioning. Five is a magical number. It is the number of confusion and quarrel, and of intense vibration. It represents the fusion of the mortal body to the discipline of the spiritual. The pentacle has power as a talisman of protection. Occult symbols include that of the Hierophant whose right-hand fingers are held with the first two bent, the next two straight and the thumb not seen (see inside cover of ITCOTCK). Five is the number of fire, strife, competition andlight. It is regarded as the number of eveil, but also of light. The ancient chinese also included five elements in their cosmology.
Each of the pieces may be symbolic of each one of the members of King Crimson, although I would not like to hazard a guess as to which one equals which member.
Another small-scale example of 'five': the chorus of 'I Talk to the Wind' has five attacks in sub-phrases 1,2 and 5. The phrases of the chorus are also broken down into five
Crimson King = a Japanese tree. The tree, according to Jung in 'Alchemical Studies', is an image which frequently appears as a symbol of the unconscious. He states that when these fantasy products are drawn or painted (or composed/danced etc.?) they very often fall into symmetrical patterns, which may take on the form of a Mandala. This symmetrical form is seen in the structure of ITCOTCK, with 'Epitaph' is positioned in the centre of the structure, the two 'pastoral' pieces ('...Wind' and 'Moonchild') on either side and the outer two pieces ('Schizoid Man' [C minor/mode] '...Court' [Dmajor]) separated by the step of a tone as bookends.
The symbol of the tree is also found in alchemical literature representing the growth of the arcane substance. It is illustrated in the woodcuts of the 'Rosarium Philosophorum' cited in Jung's 'Psychology of the Transference', where the fruits of sun and moon are seen hanging from its branches: symbols of the opposites found in the Lapis, or the Philosopher's Stone. The tree is also found in the Judeo-Christian myth (the Garden of Eden), the Cabala (the Sephirothic Tree), the Bhagavadgita and as Yggsdrasil from the Nordic mythic sagas. The alchemical connection also continues into the second King Crimson album, 'In the Wake of Poseidon'.
Robert Fripp has also suggested that the name King Crimson is a synonym for Beelzebub. A connection may be made with Gurdjieff's 'Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson', which examines human life on Earth from the viewpoint of beings belonging to a distant world, led by Beelzebub. The sub-title of the work, 'An Observation by King Crimson', may be associated with Gurdjieff's observations, in terms of its (the Gurdjieff) sub-title: 'An objectively impartial criticism of the life of man'.
Jon Green, in 'Promenade the Puzzle - The Poetic Vision of Peter Sinfield' (http://www.songsouponsea.com/Promenade/Court.html) also mentions Frederick II (1194-1250) as the invisible presence of ITCOTCK. I also wonder if, particularly bearing in mind the many woodwind textures - particularly flute - included on the record, if another another 'invisible' presence may be felt: that of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (1740-1786)? This would also be in keeping with the Baroque musical forms included in the work, besides the Baroque having a 'romantic' connection to the Medieval world. Frederick the Great was also a flautist, tutored by the great Baroque flautist and teacher J.J. Quantz, whose treatise 'On Playing the Flute' is dedicated to Frederick.
Whatever the case, I wonder if one of the many reasons we are drawn to ITCOTCK is through its saturation of archetypal material? Archetypes are primordial, structural
elements of the human psyche, irrepresentable in themselves but their effects are discernible in archetypal images and motifs. They manifest themselves both on a personal
level as characteristics of whole cultures: as universal patterns or motifs which emerge from the collective unconscious. Jung was able to discern several: the shadow, the
child, the mother, the maiden (the anima) and the man (the animus). The chief of these he termed the Self. (Some of these may be seen on Tammo de Jongh's painting '12
Archetypes' on the cover of 'In the Wake of Poseidon'). Others may include images of nature such as the tree, the mountain, the river, the sea etc.
'Twenty First Century Schizoid Man' is framed by two sets of 'noise': prelude - at the beginning a distanza, dissonant mellotrons; coda - at the end a two section free-form blow. These obliterate any allusions to tonality. The piece is in C minor/Dorian Mode transposed into 'C', but is chromaticisized with the frequent addition of an F# (Pitch-Class 6).
The number three is important in this piece: three has often been regarded as a masculine number. This may be worth bearing in mind as we progress through the piece.
The opening aggressive ritornello-like riff inncludes this pitch: 0, 10, 0, 3, 5, 7, 5 , 6, 7. The harmonies which underpin it are: C minor, Bb major, C minor, F (5ths), C minor, F major, Gb=F# major, G major. These chords, because they are often presented as complete chords which include the third, sound full. The riff is presented three times in the opening ritornello, the last time with the alto sax and guitar an octave higher,' screaming in unison. All the phrases are directed towards G (7), V.
The first verse (the first of three), is underpinned by treated guitar playing a C minor seventh chord with the 5th as root. The vocal part, besides also being heavily distorted, oscillates around the pitch G (7), again emphasising the influence of the number 5 - V(5) is the dominant of C minor. (see ITCOTCK Part 3)
The ritornello follows, simile, segued by Verse 2. The third ritornello is expanded by the growling, low F (5), F# (6) and G (7) riff. This is played six times and serves as a bridge passage into:
further riff episodes. This is where the King Crimson treatment of be-bop jazz becomes their own. It is also the section which evokes the 'Mirrors' of the sub-title. The metre has now been transformed into 12/8 (previously it was 4/4), with crotchet = dotted crotchet. During section a) of this riff section: the guitar and sax are played unison with many syncopated rhythms. The first phrase includes the pitch classes: 0,0,0,0, 3,4,5 mirrored by 0,0,0,0,11,10,7. (I will not refer to which octave these are placed in as, traditionally, pitch-class analysis does not take in this dimension of thought). The second phrase 'mirrors' the first phrase - 0,0,0,0,3,4,5,6,7,10,7,10,11. Section a) is repeated four times with a gradual ascent each time, ending with rapid contracted versions of the final pitches of the riff. This leads into section b): this is a duet between the guitar and sax, underpinned by bass and drums. The guitar plays largely sustained pitches (7, 9, 11, 3)which, for the first time, make allow the pitch A natural (9) to be heard prominently. This also brings out the the Dorian tonality. At the end of each phrase there is a 'mirror': guitar playing ascending A, Bb, Eb (9,11,3), while the sax plays F, Eb, C (5,3,0). Minor thirds, in all these riffs, seems to be an important interval.
Two solo episodes follow: the first is for guitar for twenty one bars. The solo is angular with emphasis on F# (=Gb)(6) a tritone from C. A natural (9) is also brought out. There are small symmetries (F#-G-D-C-G-F#)and much octave displacement, which became a feature of Robert Fripp's subsequent style. A double saxophone treated solo follows, which refers both backwards and forwards to the areas of noise. The feature of 'noise', at this point in the structure, seems to be perhaps more important than the pitch content. This is played over eighteen bars with a climax during the thirty-fifth bar, when the bass plays quaver C naturals which seem to be the apex of the solo sections.
These solos seem to reach their zenith in the fast unison riffs which are punctuated by silences. The first of these utilise the pitches G, Bb, C, Db, D, F, Db, D, F, G, Bb, Db, C, Bb, G, Bb, C, D, F, D, Db, and G. The music, during this section is 'on' the Dominant G. The music is very fast and fierce and played in semi-quaver sextuplets. It is probably the moment the ear has been directed towards. There are dramatic changes in dynamic tension in this section, probably the first time a rock band had been known to use the full dynamic range and, more specifically, balancing crescendo and diminuendo which are also employed as 'mirrors'.
Section a) riffs re-appear as a way to re-establish C minor/mode leading to:
the ritornello,followed by verse three, followed by a closing ritornello. The F, F#, G riff at the end is repeated eight times as an anacrusis to the 'noise' of the coda.
The piece is tour-de-force in the building and slackening of tension, placed within a brilliantly conceived structure. The pacing is acute, leaving one gasping for breath at the
end. The only solution is to follow it with a musical and lyrical polar opposite, which is 'I Talk to the Wind'.
The only possible way in which to follow the ferocious music of 'Twenty First Century Schizoid Man' is to move to the polar opposite. 'I Talk to the Wind' is a major third up from the C minor/mode of 'Schizoid Man', and is set in E major/mode/pentatonic. One feels that a dramatic shift in character has taken place in the opening bars. This is clearly a soft, rounded song, as opposed to a 'work', and one gets the impression that it is Ian McDonald's character which shines forth from the many compositional fingerprints included in it. The pentatonic nature of the guitar part, in the chorus, is also in keeping with the many instances of 'fiveness' in the work. This pentatonicism was to remain a part of Robert Fripp's musical vocabulary for some years after.
'...Wind' includes an opening ritornello - two flutes played in thirds, accompanied by one electric piano chord at the beginning of the bars, and the characteristic Michael Giles fingerprint of gently struck bells of cymbals - of four bars which includes the majority of the harmony in the song: E major, C major7, G major7, f# minor7 and B7. The last two chords also include an 'unprepared suspension'. The dissonant pitch, within the suspension, is E natural. The note 'E' is important in the structure. I feel it refers to the 'in between' of this song and the 'in-between-ness' of the entire work, which could be regarded as an outworking of the act of straddling the opposites. This would imply that, possibly, a conscious (or unconscious?) reference to the Tao is being made. Taoism utilises the opposites in its search for truth. The lyrics include also references to many opposites: 'here and there', 'outside and inside' etc. . E major/minor/mode and here, in the form of an E 'within' a suspension, crops up in '...Wind', 'Epitaph' and 'Court'. The song itself also lies in between 'Schizoid Man' and 'Epitaph'. It is often a key which is set in between other keys of pieces in the work. Verse one sets two vocals, in thirds, accompanied by one attack from an electric piano at the outset of the bars. Occasional percussion makes its presence felt, too. The verse is eight bars long, and two clarinets, in thirds, play from bars five to eight. The vocal parts also take on the suspension in bars four and eight.
The first chorus, harmonised by the chords E major and B minor7 (I & v7) with an A minor7 in the seventh and ninth bars, is a fine example of King Crimson orchestration: one vocal which outlines a 'step' motive (E-F#) at the end of phrases (an important unifying element in the work); ascending flute playing one note per bar (E , F# , G# , A , B  C# ) up to the end of the sixth bar of the chorus); bass; drums; guitar (a descending pentatonic phrase from C# [harmonic] down one octave to lower C#); soft, sutained organ to glue the texture together. The vocal part is broken into three phrases, which are split into five.
The sequence of sections then follows: verse 2; chorus 2; verse 3 (vocals plus two 'active' clarinets); chorus 3 (double-tracked flute?) plus a more active guitar part; flute solo over the chords from the verse; guitar solo (in octaves) over the verse chords; chorus 4; verse 1 recap - initially the drums do not play, but then re-enter with the bass guitar during the second half of the verse; ritornello from the opening as a substitute for the chorus; flute solo over three complete verse sequences plus an additional three bars, before an overlap of timpani playing a long, rolled B natural crescendo (dominant prolongation to provide tension) obliterates the song; segue 'Epitaph'.
Wind = pneuma = spirit. Does the flute symbolise the wind and, therefore, the spirit in this song? If so the wind 'cannot hear' and 'does not hear'. More to the point the
speaker's words are all 'carried away'. This suggests the spirit cannot and does not hear: the voice of the counter-culture of the late '60's, or an ongoing concern in the life of
mankind? It is also interesting to note that the overlapping timpani roll obliterates the song. The confusion and disillusion mentioned in '...Wind' are taken up in the confusion
of 'Epitaph' which is, in turn, picked up from 'Schizoid Man'. Indeed, confusion and disillusion are all around the speaker in the surrounding form of these two pieces.
Something is desperately being sought in this work but, up to this point, never quite found. It as though '...Wind', and the later 'Moonchild', serve as small islands or oases
where some repose is found, even if only for a moment. It needs to be said that without the interaction of the opposites wholeness is never to be found, and this work, as a
whole, suggests completeness.
There is demo, or prototype, version of 'I Talk to the Wind' included on 'The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson' (Island, 1976). There are several major differences in this version as compared with the version that which is presented on ITCOTCK. I will refer to the YPGTKC version as a, and ITCOTCK version as b:
1) YPGTKC version (version a): recorded on a second-hand Revox tape-recorder in the front room of 93A, Brondesbury Road, London, NW6. Personnel: Judy Dyble, lead vocal; Ian McDonald, acoustic guitar, clarinet, flute, backing vocal; Robert Fripp, electric guitar; Peter Giles, bass guitar; Michael Giles, drums.
2) Key: version a is in A major (different from the E major tonality of version b on ITCOTCK). The accompanying verse chords are: A major, F major7, C major7, b minor7, E susp., E7. The chords of the chorus are: A major, e minor7, d minor7 and E7. The transposition has been done, possibly, for two reasons: Judy Dyble's vocal range is suited to A major; the key of version b (E major) is suited to the structure of ITCOTCK, and are more in keeping with Greg Lake's vocal range which would otherwise have been too high in the original A major. However, both versions use Tertian harmony (i.e. chords which employ a pivot note for modulation. This is a technique especially used by jazz musicians.)
3) Structure: Ritornello (version a uses flute and clarinet in thirds as opposed to the two flutes of version b plus guitar etc.); verse one, drums enter immediately and play
more or less all the way through, except during the closing ritornello); chorus, highlights Robert Fripp's fast, cross-picked arpeggio technique, and vocals in unison; verse
two; chorus two; verse three; instrumental section where the flute and clarinet play the melody of the chorus in octave unison over the chords of the chorus; verse one
recapitulation; ritornello as at introduction. This illustrates a roughly symmetrical framework, whereas version b has a lengthy coda for solo flute. The main structural and
harmonic properties of the song are the same. 4)Orchestration and timbre: version a sounds more 'folk-like' and, in terms of its timbre, brighter. It is more four-square and
less concerned with fitting into a structure or, even, the Gesamtkunstwerke which ITCOTCK was destined to become. In these terms it is an isolated song. The orchestration
is, for want of a better term, an arrangement: the instruments accompany the vocal line which is the main feature. However, it is performed with precision and clarity. The
vocal parts are particularly precise, with slight differences from version b: for example, version a rises a perfect fourth on the words 'where have you (been)' B natural to E
natural, whereas version b rises a minor third, F# - A. (The difference in pitch is due to the transposition). Version b is darker and slower, with an orchestration which has
been adopted to clearly heighten the words. For example, the flute, symbolising 'wind', is employed as an ascending line to rise to the words 'the wind does not hear' creating
both a structural-harmonic 'shock' and a point of focus for the listener at that point. Electric piano and organ are used as sustaining instruments, in the same way as French
Horns may be used in a symphonic piece. Two clarinets are employed, during the verses, to create a round, warm and feminine counterpoint enveloping the finely-wrought
lyrics. Flute and clarinets are separated in time from each other. The song is part of a structure (as a 'opposite' to the masculine, jagged and aggressive 'Schizoid Man' and as
an anacrusis to 'Epitaph': it stands Janus-faced [see yesterday's analysis]), and any reference to it being an isolated song has been removed. The guitar part has been
thinned-out, mainly playing a single-pitch pentatonic line in the chorus, as well as an evocative solo following the flute solo of the central section. The vocals make an
occasional reference to the blues, with a quarter-tone glissando in the chorus on the the word 'to'.
The symphonic grandeur and melancholic character of 'Epitaph', the third piece in ITCOTCK, set a precedent for many of the so-called 'progressive' groups of the period. Not only is the piece symphonic, but also refers back to the previous two pieces of the work. In this way the structure, as a whole, makes a reference to the nineteenth century song-cycle, especially a work such as Mahler's 'The Song of the Earth'.
There is unity forged between the melodic lines of 'Schizoid Man', 'I Talk to the Wind' and 'Epitaph'. The opening three pitches of the verse of 'Schizoid Man' are G, F and Eb (7, 5, 3) (on the words 'Cat's foot'); the opening three pitches of ITTTW are B, A and G (7, 5, 3) (on the words 'Said the straight man, to the late man'); the opening three pitches in the melodic line of 'Epitaph' are G, F# and E (3, 2, 0)(on the word 'wall'). In other words, the first two outline major thirds, while the last is transformed into a minor third.
There are connections between 'Epitaph' and its sister-piece 'In the Wake of Poseidon'. Both are cast in E minor/mode and both occupy similar central structural positions in their respective works. Both begin with descending thirds ('Epitaph' G, F#, E; '...Poseidon' F#, E, D) but, more importantly, both seem to deal with related ideas: they are concerned with religio-philosophical issues - 'Epitaph', the breakdown of established order and subsequent confusion; '...Poseidon', the possible breakdown of the natural order - as well as outlining the Postmodern cultural condition: 'knowledge is a deadly friend, if no-one sets the rules/The fate of all mankind, I see, is in the hands of fools'. In this way Peter Sinfield has written lyrics into hymnodic-like structures (I would like to thank Peter Sinfield for referring me to this last idea).
'Epitaph' is a strophic/symphonic structure set in E minor/mode. It is successful because it is not only the reverse to the more optimistic obverse 'I Talk to the Wind' which, in turn, has served as an anacrusis, but it remains unrhetorical: it understates rather than overstates musical and lyrical ideas. For example, the chorus is only heard twice. There are things in the piece which lead one to think that it may have been especially constructed to serve a function in the structure, to close the first part of the work, but also to complete the mirroring process: the microsmic-motivic connections pivot around descending thirds, whereas the macrosmic, large-scale harmony ascends a third from the C minor mode of 'Schizoid Man', through to the E major of ITTTW and E minor of 'Epitaph'. This harmonic ascent not only tightly unifies the first half of the piece, but the shift upwards from C - E is felt as a 'shock': it is though the listener is made aware of the lyrical concerns by well-founded, and compelling musical means.
Opening Ritornello: 'Epitaph' is introduced by a timpani roll, which crescendos over a long Dominant pedal (B natural). On the down beat we are launched into the first Ritornello, and hear the icey crash of the full tutti: mellotrons, acoustic guitar, cymbals (reinforced timbrally by an increase at the top-end of the harmonic spectrum) and bass guitar. Drums, as a rhythmic motor, are absent at this point. The electric guitar softly introduces a variant of the thematic material ([E, F#, G] F#~G~F#~G~F# [all bent/released notes] A, etc.). The 'roundness' of ITTTW has been superceded by a dark/light sound-world, but recalled by the smooth guitar. However, it is as though we are faced with the archetype of death. The subsequent lyrics clarify this. The opening ritornello last nine bars, with the acoustic guitar playing arpeggios in the final pause-bar. The bass guitar underpins the texture with a Passaglia-like bass, which again re-affirms the dark character of the music: E, D, A, B and the chordal features are E minor(9), D major, A minor7 and B (b6) (G natural-F# 6-5 suspension). The cadential suspension is also a feature of ITTTW. The entire structure is, more or less, based on these chords.
Verse 1: a) an open, empty and foreboding texture featuring voice, drums, bass guitar; b) word-painting on 'Upon the instruments of death' - distant mellotron (mellotron, therefore, associated with this dark, surreal landscape?); c) further word painting on 'When every man is torn apart' from acoustic guitar played sul-ponticello, for an FFMinor 9th chord which is attacked as if to evoke the cutting action of a sharp knife (guillotine?); d) vocal line rises to B natural (5th of E minor), during the last phrase.
Chorus: based on e minor and b minor (the reverse to the chorus of ITTTW). Here the orchestration suggests 'still-movement', and one imagines a gallows scene: drums play hi-hat (immediately closed), cymbal and pedal bass-drum, with the hi-hat once again struck, followed by the bell of the cymbal (Berio-like percussion); organ glues the texture with long sostenuto chords; piano in octaves in the left-hand (taken up in 'Forever and Ever' on 'Drivers Eyes' by Ian McDonald); bass guitar; fragile vocals; electric guitar single pitches B, F# and E (7, 2, 2, 0, 0) which, again, connects with the guitar part in ITTTW. This eventually leads to a flowing rhythmic texture at the end of the verse on the words, 'But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying'. At the end of the chorus there is an important harmonic feature: C major to b minor (i.e. Phrygian harmony 8, 7 or a semitone descent found at the beginning of the Phyrygian Mode [F natural - E natural]), which becomes the basis for the coda of the piece. Here the tension is heightened by this Phrygian oscillation, the acoustic guitar playing on every beat of the bar, piano bass, plus a soaring, single-pitch mellotron line which serves as a counterpoint for the intense vocal delivery which , in turn, outlines the pitches E, D and C (another example of the third).
Ritornello X 1. More rhythmically flowing.
Segue, Verse 2: here the verse is organically related to the Ritornello by growing out of it. The music is altogether more rhythmically flowing, possoibly heightening the words, 'And watered by the seeds...'. The climax of the verse is at the words, ' ..in the hands of fools', where the 6-5 suspension (G - F#) is stretched over two bars intensifying the V13 chord.
This leads into a huge anacrusis section which preapres the middle section. The anacrusis consists of aa accumulating, mellotron-drenched, crescendoed diminished chord over a C natural root (C, Eb, F#, A ) which sweeps upwards resolving to E minor, from which a solo acoustic guitar emerges. The acoustic guitar passage, which could be regarded as a bridge-passage, utilises variants of the harmonic structure: E minor, D major (first-inversion [D/F#]), a minor9, B 6-5 suspension, B major.
Middle section: funereal. Drums attack second beats of the bar; acoustic guitar, sul ponticello, is part and parcel of the rhythmic dimension, playing on the third beats; this underlay accompanies a 'gooey' texture of two clarinets and bass clarinet. Everyting is deathly grey, and close to total darkness. There are four complete statements of the harmonic framework presented in the previous acoustic guitar bridge, from which a solo clarinet emerges, gradually rising to the light at the end of the verse. One motivic feature of this is the trill from G - F# played previously in the guitar bridge passage. The drums also sometimes surprise, by playing on both beats two and four of the third complete statement of the harmony.
Verse 1 recap: even more flowing. Electric guitar has more ornate line, especially a slurred motive played in fourths (C - B [8, 7]) just following the words' when silence'.
Chorus 2, segue:
Coda: a) 'I fear tomorrow I'll be crying' 'pushed' and repeated to the fade; b) massive Phrygian, symphonic play-out; c) timpani recalled from the opening anacrusis, therefore
making a unifying feature; d) mellotron crotchet-triplet on B natural, sometimes rising to C natural and back to B, reinforcing the Phrygian harmony by motive; e) piano
left-hand, C - B, in octaves, with large fanfare-like triads at the top in the treble; f) virtuosic drumming, including a Nick Mason syncopated roll towards the end; g) the music
remains unresolved at the end. However, on turning the vinyl version over and continuing on to side 2, the music resolves onto A minor/mode of 'Moonchild' and successfully
disperses the tension set up in 'Epitaph'.
'Moonchild' is perhaps one of the more remarkable pieces ever conceived in the history of rock music. It is a visionary moment within the structure of ITCOTCK, and is placed fourth: four is the quaternary, a number of significance for the ancient philosophers who identified it with the feminine, and as a number of wholeness. Four was also associated with the moon and with silver by the Alchemists. The Assumption of Mary is also wrapped up in the idea that the feminine is finally taken into the Godhead as the fourth member of the prevailing Trinity.
The music of 'Moonchild' may best be described as feminine, or anima dominated. It has a certain 'lunar' nature: delicate, silvery and fleeting. This piece sees King Crimson in experimental mode. There is a link with the stripped chamber music and subject-matter of Schoenberg's 'Pierrot Lunaire' Op. 21, where the moon is seen as a symbol of madness. However, King Crimson deal with the lunar aspect of the Schoenberg in a very different way: the moon, in the case of the King Crimson, is not the nightmarish soundworld of 'Pierrot...' but more to do with 'play'. Both are outworking of their time and cultures: the Schoenberg, Berlin cabaret of the early twentieth century and Freudian psychology; King Crimson, the final vestiges of the counter-culture and the late 1960's and, in some ways, Jungian psychology. However, both pieces are set in a heightened expressive style, used to convey the language of the unconscious. Other pieces which may bear some relation to 'Moonchild' are Boulez's 'Le Marteau sans Maitre', Maxwell Davies's 'Almar Redemptoris Mater' and 'Antechrist' and Berio's 'Circles'. These pieces all employ chamber music ensembles.
'Moonchild' relies on the unconscious dimension for its success, and this aspect comes to the fore in the central section of improvisation. The piece is, essentially, in two sections: a)structured; b)improvised. There is an equilibrium between the composed and the composed/improvised - between the corporeal and the spiritual. The second half is wordless. It seems as though words are no longer the vehicle by which the anima can reveal herself.
Section 1: is introductory, and set in A minor/dorian. Instantly, we are tranported into a different musical realm from that of the preceding 'Epitaph'. A minor/Dorian is tonic (I) to the E major/mode (V) of 'I Talk to the Wind', which is also to do with 'spirit'. The Dorian mode, for the Greeks, was a mode associated with the passive, and the first thing we encounter as listeners, is a reduced texture of soft, sutained, mandolin-like electric guitar which outlines the motive of the vocal line (E, A, E. 7, 0, 7) underpinned by softly arpeggiated electric guitar chords (A minor, A minor7, A minor#6, A minor6), counterpointed by a single line on the mellotron (C, E-F [taking up the Phrygian semitone of Epitaph], C, E, F-E. 3, 7, 8, 3, 7, 8, 7). There is an absence of bass guitar throughout.
Verse 1: the music continues in a soft, distant and metallic dimension. The vocal timbre has also been treated to convey this, with the music designed to heighten the key words in Peter Sinfield's lyrics: dancing, dreaming, drifting, waving, playing, sailing, waiting, which all express tranquillity in one way or another. The vocal line begins E, A, E and then continues downwards in step-wise direction, finally coming to rest on the pitches F - E at the end of the first phrase, highlighting the Phrygian motive which is gradually emerging as one of importance for the work as a whole. It is here that the bells of the cymbals are played, reinforcing the gentle, metallic character of the piece. The opening E, A, E electric guitar motive also comes at the end of the verse, but is placed on different beats in the bar (i.e. beats 2, 3 and 4), framing the structure.
Chorus: consists of four balancing phrases. While the antecedent descends, the consequent ascends. Muted, tabla-like percussion is introduced, with mellotron flute. The accompanying chords are d minor, e minor7, a minor, G, a minor, F major7.
Introduction: extended guitar and mellotron counterpoint, plus more active percussion.
Verse 2: as verse 1, but now with more active percussion and mellotron strings.
Chorus: as chorus 1, and ending with the E, A, E motive from which emerges:
Section Two: improvisatory. This is, mostly, a jazz-like play on the motives presented in Section One, and may be divided into sub-sections.
Section 2 a: 'The Dream' (?). Chordal cluster of A minor Aeolian emerges from the preceding section on vibraphone with sustaining pedal. The texture has something in common with a distant Gamelan. The electric guitar enters, soft and with a jazz-like timbre, playing white-note harmony, which fits into the Aeolian mode of the vibes. There is emphasis on the motives B-C, and E-F. The electric guitar also plays soft chord-clusters, such as C mojor with an added ninth at one point. (This is an example of the way Robert Fripp is able to use tonality within predominantly modal areas, which comes to full fruition in pieces such as 'Pie Jesu'). The metre is free, with no strong accents. The music, like chant, is liberating and ecstasy-inducing or, even, hypnotic. It is contrapuntal in terms of its layering, based on a drone 'A'.
Section 2b: the vibes underlay recedes allowing the guitar to sound. The guitar is prominent, with oscillating E's to F's (Phrygian) becoming more important. The vibraphone also play octave E's and F's. The landmark in this section is the guitar ascent to a cluster including A, B and D, followed by a suspension-like descending phrase. This section has the atmosphere of a very soft organ voluntary, creating a magical space.
Section 2c: 'The Illusion' (?). The vibes re-enter plus muted percussion. The music becmes more dissonant. Particularly prominent are E/F, B/C dyads in the guitar, followed by A-B trills which lead to C naturals. The vibes play C#/A at one point. There are flashes of light on the cymbals. The dynamic range is soft.
Section 2d: dialogue between guitar, vibes and drums, with sudden changes in timbre: i) sul ponticello 'bends' in the guitar, with downward arpeggios, plus E-F oscillations; ii) sudden 'stabs' in the vibraphone; iii) drum rolls; iv) cymbals and sticks on drum-rims. The drums sound like padded cardboard boxes. Sudden shifts in dynamic range.
Section 2e: Landmark: guitar - B, C, B, C - G#; B, C, B, C - G natural; B, C, B, C, F#. Silences and flashes of timbral light.
Section 2f: Vibes trills + percussion, guitar more sparing, but when it does play wide dyads are heard.
Section 2g: Guitar - A pedal with high D and E important. This recalls the suspension-like descents of Section 2b. Becoming playful, alluding to the song 'Surrey with the Fringe on Top'. This idea is treated sequentially, eventually becoming scalic.
Section 2h: silence.
Section 2i: Coda - vibraphone plays very softly plus cymbal gong-like (like the coincidence of events in Gamelan?). Guitar gradually ascends to top A natural. The music is
transformed into A major, A pentatonic and dominant seventh on A, creating a lengthy Tierce de Picardie. Descending guitar chordal clusters based around 'A', sometimes
touching IV, but always over a tonic pedal. Guitar takes the weight of the music. Sleigh-bell accompaniment. Eventually bass drum and sleigh-bells add a regular pulse, with
the vibes 'breaking' across the beat, becoming unsynchronised. Resolves to A major at the very end, which is the dominant (V) of the subsequent 'In the Court of the Crimson
King'. If 'Epitaph' is regarded as the anacrusis to 'Moonchild', then 'Moonchild' is the anacrusis to 'Court' setting up an cycle of fifths through these pieces: e minor/mode
V/V; a minor/Dorian/Aeolian V; D major/mode I.
The title piece of ITCOTCK was, according to Peter Sinfield (E-mail to Andrew Keeling, April 9, 2000), already written: 'a complete Dylanesque song that I had written both words and music for.' However Sinfield goes on to say that Ian McDonald rewrote the music to the words.
The words of 'Court' give us a glimpse into an ancient past. Not only do these words seem to touch on the mythical dimension - i.e. they contain references to archetypes such as the King, the Black Queen, the Witch and the Jester relating, perhaps, to the cover-painting of 'In the Wake of Poseidon' which also includes a music quotation from 'Court' itself in 'The Devil's Triangle' - but also project backwards to 'Moonchild' (the moon is now a 'prison moon'), and to 'I Talk to the Wind', in terms of the opposites 'sweet and the sour' mentioned in verse three. More than that is the relation 'Court' has to 'Schizoid Man': the lyrics of 'Court' seem to give us a picture of the ancient court of a despot, and each of the verses focus on a particular facet of this:
Verse 1: ancient social structure anticipates that of 'Cirkus'. The dream (unconscious/feminine) of 'Moonchild' is shattered by the sun of 'Court'(conscious/masculine); Verse 2: dreams are now shuttered (relating back to the 'shattering' by the sun). Enter two negative archetypes: the Black Queen and the Fire Witch; Verse 3: religious symbolism (Garden of Eden (the tree), Tao, wheel (Buddhist Wheel of Life); Verse 4: political scenario, especially conveyed by the lines 'pulls the strings' and the Dance of the Puppets.
In other words, the album is cyclic not only in the musical techniques employed, but also in terms of the subject matter: 'Schizoid' is linked to 'Court' - 20th century to the 12th/18th centuries - which seems to pose the idea that social structures, such as these, have always been there. This idea would have been particularly appropriate to the ethos of the counter-culture of the the mid to late 1960's.
The music is presented in refrain (ritornello) and verse structure. It is, like 'Epitaph', also presented in a hymn-like form. Like the section 'Et Resurrexit' in J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor, the ritornello sections are set in D major, which corresponds to the sun-like character of some of the lyrics/words both in the Bach and King Crimson. The five attacks which prepare the tutti, as well as the tutti itself, come as a complete contrast to the preceding 'Moonchild'. The opening ritornello is played twice. The material of this consists of a complete melodic phrase set over the chords D major, C major and B major. Not only is the falling minor third motives of the previous pieces/songs recalled in this harmonic progression, but it is interesting in itself. The mellotron melody F#, F#, F#, F#, F#, G, E outlines a suspension with an echapee (escape note), but is also sequential in the melody over the second chord in bar 3 (E, F#, D#). To arrive back in D major there is a part chromatic ascent: B, C#, D#, E, E# (also a filled-in tritone) which is later picked up by the bass guitar at the end of the 'Fire Witch' section. It is also connected to the chromatic ascent in the ritornello of 'Schizoid Man'.
Verse 1: this consists of four phrases. It is in E minor/aeolian, although the guitar alludes to E minor/dorian. The vocal line, like 'Moonchild', consists of a leap from low B to higher B (7, 7) followed by a falling, conjunct line emphasing G-F#, connecting the motive to the previous pieces. The guitar also includes, besides harmonics, the pitches B and C (7, 8) which is Phrygian and connected to 'Epitaph' and, in the second phrase, a different approach to the C natural from a C# above. The texture is empty. The third phrase is transposed to A minor/mode, with the chords A minor, A minor6, A minor#6, A minor6 accompanying the voice. The flute obbligato, painting the words 'the purple piper', plays a series of trills especially E - F, which forges a connection with the many semitones in the work. The fourth phrase returns to E minor/mode.
Ritornello 2: as before but thickened.
Verse 2: As before but thicker texture. Here the drums are reminiscent of the 'gallows' texture of 'Epitaph': tom-toms, hi-hat, sare-drum roll, tom-toms.
Ritornello 3: As before, but from this segue:
'The Return of the Fire Witch': a 'fantasy' on the material of the Ritornello, using the chords from it and a mellotron line which is a melodic variant of the melody. There is a Farfisa-like organ accompaniment on every beat, and the bass guitar plays semi-quavers D - A , C - G, B - F# etc. This 'fantasy' anticiptes the flavour of some of the music from 'Birdman' on McDonald and Giles. The music eventually reaches B major and the chromatic anacrusis in the bass guitar (F#,G,G#,A,A#,B,C,C#) into:
Ritornello 4: as before but the guitar has more distortion and is played on every beat picking up from the Farfisa in the preceding fantasy.
Verse 3: as before but the guitar is reinforced by harpsichord and bass guitar.
Ritornello: as before, but drums more virtuosic.
Middle section: solo flute which employs falls of a fifth from A - D. Same harmonic structure of 'Fire Witch', but thinned-out orchestration: flute, bass (single pitches), bells of cymbals, guitar (especially semitone oscillations F#-G and wide leaps and dyads). Flute homes-in on D,C,B,C,B,A semi-quaver sextuplet motive, over B major, and crescendo into:
Verse 4: a magical moment (point of Golden Section?). E minor sustained chord: mellotron, flute trills, cymbal rolls with wooden sticks, acoustic guitar. Vocals over acoustic guitar and 'pillow' of ambient resonance (electric guitar/vibes? Picked up from Moonchild? 'Soft grey mornings'=dawn of Moonchild?). Word painting: 'gently pulls the strings'=electric guitar bends B-C.
Ritornello X3. Ends on huge E major Tierce de Picardie. Segue:
Cymbal bridge: attacks X3 roll on the final phrase.
'Dance of the Puppets': three-part mellotron flute fantasy played mechanically and scherzando. Serves as a break to the gravitas, as well as being an influence on the Genesis-strand of 'progressive' rock music. Repeated three times. On the final repeat a low sustained line outlines the 5ths of the bass guitar part of 'Fire Witch'.
Ritornello: played six times. Huge series of countermelodies, extreme electric guitar distortion, organ glissandi etc. The puppets have become sinister, and the mellotron is no
longer in the foreground but serves as a backdrop for the other sonorities. Ends with the obliteration of tonality on B major connecting it to, as well as being a semi-tone lower
than 'Schizoid Man' and remaining unresolved at the end. B major is also V to the e minor/mode of 'Epitaph'.
(All analyses of the music of King Crimson/Robert Fripp is copyrighted material: Andrew Keeling/Discipline Global Mobile, 1999/2000.)
: In the Court of the Crimson King
/ In the Wake of Poseidon / Lizard / Islands /
McDonald and Giles / Red / The ConstruKction of Light / Interview :