'Lizard' is a concept album with a difference from those of the period, where the idea of social chaos is wrapped-up in suitably fitting metaphors such as the circus, the family, The Beatles and the Lizard. I do not plan to analyse the complete work, but will concentrate on 'Cirkus' and 'Big Top', which are both related as they frame and balance the musical structure. This brief analysis (to be expanded at a later date) will be divided into parts.
'Cirkus' includes the letter C and K which, perhaps, stands for Crimson King in a similar way to the first album, which included the group's name in its title. 'Cirkus' has four verses which are prefaced by instrumental introductions. There is an absence of refrains, or chorus-like material. Instead, each of the verses, in turn, ascend to climaxes which create tension. This is also reflected in the structure of the entire piece, which begins softly (a harp-like, distant electric piano), gradually building in intensity throughout until ending with loud mellotrons, cornet and rolled cymbals.
The whole piece falls into fifteen distinct sections which I will deal with separately:
Intro: E minor/mode (chord i)...Coda: f note-cluster (chord bii)
There is also a connection between this allusion to progressive tonality with the tone/semi-tone neighbour-note oscillations included in the melodic material of the verses.
The piece could be regarded as a musical metaphor: the idea of the circus, included in Peter Sinfield's words, is further conveyed by the bi-partite/symmetrical structural see-saw, which balances on the fulcrum of the still centre. More than that many of the musical motives seem to have symmetry as their basis, as well as rising and falling motion, which closely unifies the music with the words even further.
'Big Top', the final piece of 'Lizard' and originally the working title of the album (letter from Robert Fripp to Andrew Keeling, Winter 1970), balances with 'Cirkus' by being placed as coda to the entire work, as well as to the title-piece, 'Lizard'. A listener is brought to ground with a conscious reminder that the idea of the circus has run like thread-like through the work in a similar fashion to The Beatles' 'Sgt Pepper...'. However, Peter Sinfield has said (e-mail to Andrew Keeling, 23-vi-00) that a visit to a 'Bertram Mills' circus may have served as a catalyst for the work: 'I was introduced to various animal trainers, acrobats, the stern black-top-hatted ring master and...Coco The Clown...I came by affection/infection honorary circus folk at a very imperishable age (between 4 and 8). Add that to my later fascination with fun fairs.' The front cover-painting, as well as the music, gives very careful attention to detail in term of this circus/fun fair atmosphere.
'Big Top' is an instrumental in 6/8. It is 33 bars long, and includes a motley collection of instruments, used to evoke a typically circus-like instrumental accompaniment, perhaps as accompaniment for the trapeze, where the spectators' attention is not fully on the music but, instead, on the circus act itself. We hear, in the foreground, the mellotron strings, the bass guitar playing fifths and octaves, the drums battering snare, cymbals and open hi-hat on the strong beats, piano, fast oboe chromatic arabesques, marimba and hidden sounds whirling around in the background. The piece is, essentially, a loop.
'Big Top' resolves the tension of the gravitas of 'Lizard', and employs two chords: G7 and C. The piece is in C major, and in this way serves as a long-term harmonic resolution. It begins with a short anacrusis-like dominant prolongation before we hear two melodic phrases, a) and b), which are heard in the strings. These include the interval of the 3rd central to 'Cirkus'. However in the case of 'Big Top' the 3rd has been filled-in and transposed: a) C - (B) - A - (B); and transformed into the major as well as by retrograde form: b) (C) - B - (A) - G - (B). The latter version also reveals two interlocking 3rds: C - b - A - g.
The piece is interesting in other ways. Being loop-like the material is repeated round and round, like a giant wheel or roundabout, and begins in the far right of the audio-space. It gradually becomes central before, at the very end, moving upwards and over into the far left with an accelerando. It's as though what began as a rational experience, symbolised by 'right', has now ingrained itself into the unconscious, symbolised by 'left'. Perhaps it anticipates its gentler successor, 'Islands', which, through its use of femine symbolism such as water, ocean, the feminine per se, is preparing to connect us with an experience of the deep unconscious? Interestingly 'Formentera Lady', the first song-piece of 'Islands', is also in the same key/mode as 'Cirkus', E, but in the case of 'FL' music of a more passive type evolves. It is as though the conflicts of 'Lizard' are subsequently laid to rest in favour of the more Eros-laden music of 'Islands', and what was begun as far back as 'In the Court of the Crimson King' is, by now, treated in a very different way through 'feeling'.
(All analyses of the music of King Crimson/Robert Fripp is copyrighted material: Andrew Keeling/Discipline Global Mobile, 2000.)
: In the Court of the Crimson King
/ In the Wake of Poseidon / Lizard / Islands /
McDonald and Giles / Red / The ConstruKction of Light / Interview :