Chapter 21

Earthbound and Beyond




- chapter index -
page 1 - Earthbound
page 2 - Larks' Tongues in Aspic
page 3 - Starless and Bible Black
page 4 - Red

- page index -
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part One
Book of Saturday | Exiles
Easy Money | Talking Drum
Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part Two



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Larks' Tongues In Aspic

In his next studio album, Robert Fripp continued the union of opposites theme. The title, "Larks' Tongues In Aspic," (diamond inlays on an ebony fret board) represents the union of opposites. The cover illustration, a union of the sun and moon, conveys the same idea (which hearkens back to the first album). Robert Fripp may have returned to this basic symbol from the first album to say, among other things, that Larks' Tongues in Aspic was a new beginning.

For some, Larks' Tongues in Aspic signaled Robert Fripp's heroic return as an artist and his re-creation of King Crimson was seen as a Promethean feat. The supremely "disciplined" guitarist whose band and instrument were vehicles for musical ideas expressed with scientific precision, had morphed into a Promethean figure, the archetype of the technician.

"...but [Prometheus] outwitted the father of the gods. He climbed the heavens by the assistance of Minerva, and stole fire from the chariot of the sun, which he brought down upon the earth."

- from Lempriere's Classical Dictionary: "Prometheus"

Robert Fripp's "Promethean" nature was, perhaps, first implied by the hidden track at the end of Islands, wherein he was the conductor (i.e. the creator).

"The technician-hero emerges as a mad scientist in the figures of Frankenstein and Faust--mad, that is, in his hyper-rationality and superbia or hubris."

- Prometheus ex Machina

All through his tenure with Peter Sinfield, it seems Robert Fripp was taking notes and not only did King Crimson, circa 1973-74, continue to musically embody the concepts Peter Sinfield had brought to the band, Lark's Tongues in Aspic, the first post-Sinfield album, appears to be a reconfiguration of the previous studio album, Islands.
Exiles and Easy Money serve as something of a transition from the previous studio album. In Exiles, the narrator has just arrived from where? the Islands? He says he "had to go" because his "trail was laid too slow behind" and that, where he came from, he was in danger of making a "drunkard's name" for himself. This sounds like the same man from Formentera Lady who had no ambitions, who vowed not to "climb any high thing". That he is exiled and lives "by the sand cliffs", also reminds one of Islands. The passage "although I count the hours, to be alone's no injury" is reminiscent of the solitary and meditative demeanor of the Islands narrator who, after a misspent life, appears to be alone and in contemplation of his place in the world.

But the parallels and similarites do not end there. Even the album's title is directly related to the previous album. In Prelude: Song of the Gulls, the narrator once again was able to hear the "Language of the Birds". That is to say, he had achieved, through individuation, a degree of psychological wholeness sufficient to "hear" his own inner voice of intuition. Intuition is symbolized by the language of the birds and the song of the gulls. What do larks do with their tongues? They speak the language of the birds.

Aspic is a preservative.

"...a coating or glaze of aspic must be applied to the food in order to preserve and retard the drying out process and also to show off the food to its best advantage."

- Aspic Work for Competitions

The album's title, Larks' Tongues in Aspic, simply means "Intuition preserved", the intuition attained in the previous album.

"The title came from Jamie Muir. It may or may not be an actual dish available at your neighborhood delicatessen, but what it means to me is something precious which is stuck, but visible. Something precious which is encased in form."

- Robert Fripp


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Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One

The beginning of Larks' Tongues in Aspic is similar to that of Formentera Lady. In Formentera Lady, Harry Miller's solitary string bass is gradually joined by gentle flute, piano and bells culminating in Boz' vocals announcing the return to consciousness. In Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part One, Jamie Muir's solitary kalimba gradually intensifies into bells and staccato violin with Fripp's heavy metal riff announcing the return to consciousness. The introductions of both songs represent a slow rising out of unconsciousness.
The turmoil of this track is not unlike that of Sailor's Tale, and, as we shall see, Robert Fripp and his new band, with Larks' Tongues in Aspic, have re-arranged many of the elements found in the previous album, Islands.


Sailor's Tale

Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One

With it's alterations of soft and loud, smooth and rough, (sweet and sour?), Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part One, continues as a study in contrasts, a musical argument between male and female, conscious and unconscious, Yin and Yang, with Fripp's guitar representing the will to power (cruel King Logos) and Cross' gentle violin passages, the role of the feminine, love or Eros.



As if to confirm this idea, there is, at the end of the last movement, a verbal argument featuring the voices of a man and woman.
The struggle of Sailor's Tale is followed, in The Letters, by a loss (a suicide or a deflation of the ego). Similarly, Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part One, ends with a loss or a surrender, a giving up. In the last notes of the track the male aspect (the Logos), represented by Fripp's guitar, appears to be gearing up for another assault but instead just gives up. It feels like remorse or an apology.

"Robert Fripp, talking about the voices in Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One, recently wrote in his DGM diary:

"Now Scottish voices, with a judge pronouncing "and hang by the neck upon a gibbet until you are DEAD", the downbeat coinciding with the death sentence's final indictment."

What Does it All Mean?
The Elephant Talk FAQ


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Book of Saturday

Book of Saturday continues the theme of giving up, with Richard Palmer-James' lyric portraying a man who is clearly out gunned by his feminine counterpart.

"If I only could deceive you
Forgetting the game
Every time I try to leave you
You laugh just the same."




Central to this man's problems is that she has ceased to love him, if she ever did.

"She responds like a limousine
Brought alive on the silent screen
To the shuddering breath of yesterday... "




By the end of the song, he has had enough and, like the man in Ladies of the Road, must make a decision.

"You make my life and times
A book of bluesy Saturdays
And I have to chose..."



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Exiles

The next track, Exiles, starts off with some interesting sound effects, the horses of instinct (and intellect?) . . .

"But lord I had to go"

. . . leading our protagonist to make his choice, exile in a "faraway land".

The story told on Larks' Tongues in Aspic seems to be that of a man oscillating between sin and redemption, outer and inner, flesh and spirit and in Exiles, the protagonist, chastened by a failed relationship, finds himself in exile, alone, a stranger in a strange land. Yet, though he claims this "other life" has brought a "different understanding" and a "broader sympathy", the "normality" and regimentation of his situation (represented by the "military band") eventually drives him to the other extreme.

"When something has been accomplished, an opposition must be established before anything else can occur. You may hold a Christian ideal, but this is also impossible, for though a mind may be spirit, you cannot go endlessly into spirit, as you constellate the materialism of the unconscious. A living system is a self-regulating system and must be balanced. Neither spirit nor matter is good in themselves, for, in excess, both destroy life."

- Beyond the "Trigger Effect":
A Personal Note on the "Numinous Consciousness"
by Robert Couteau



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Easy Money

On side two track one of Islands, Ladies of the Road, our protagonist finds himself immersed in a life of promiscuity. On side two track one of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Easy Money, we have a turn of events possibly foreshadowed in Exiles' "glimpse of a child of the alleyway infantry" : a man takes up with an under-aged prostitute and even appears to be living off the proceeds of her profession. At this point in the story told on Islands, the protagonist makes another about-face (Enantiadromia) turning away from the carnal life he knew in Ladies of the Road.


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The Talking Drum

Again we have some interesting sound effects in the segue from Easy Money to The Talking Drum. Like Indoor Games, Easy Money ends with maniacal laughter. But while the laughter in Indoor Games sounds like a despairing laugh at the insanity of the world, the laughter in Easy Money sounds like that of a depraved old man. The Talking Drum begins with the sound of an ill-wind and buzzing flies, probably representing desolation, decay, the desert and our own Lord of the Flies, Beelzebub, Zeus Apomyios.

"One of the unique features of talking drums is their ability to closely imitate the rhythms and intonations of spoken language. In the hands of skilled performers, they can reproduce the sounds of proverbs or praise songs through a specialized "drum language" - their dialogue can be easily understood by a knowledgeable Yoruba audience. Whether accompanying dances or sending messages, the sound of these instruments can carry many miles. Specific talking drum patterns and rhythms are also closely linked with ogun, or spiritual beings associated with the traditional Yoruba belief system originally celebrated in Nigeria and parts of Ghana. This religion (and its instrumentation and rhythmic patterns) spread to South and Central America, regions of the Caribbean and the United States during the era of the slave trade. Because of the perceived potential of talking drums to "speak" in a tongue unknown to slave traders and thus to incite rebellion, these and other drums were once banned from use by African Americans in the United States."

- Talking Drum

The talking drum, like the language of the birds (or the song of the gulls), speaks in a (larks') tongue unknown to civilized (socialized) man. The sound of these instruments can carry many miles, traversing the vast gulf between the conscious and unconscious. When this speech, this inner voice of the instinct, is understood, what may ensue is a rebellion against customary ways of thinking, feeling and perceiving.
On side two track two of Islands, Prelude: The Song of the Gulls, the protagonist understands the language of the birds. On side two track two of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, The Talking Drum (which is a prelude to the final track), the protagonist understands the language of the drums.





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Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two

The Talking Drum ends with a strident violin passage that seems to represent panic or a crisis point. From there begins Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two which repeats a simple (primitive?) riff that serves to confirm the protagonist's re-acquaintance with his own instinctual base. The composition builds to two crescendos, the first culminating in David Cross' screeching violin solo.



Could this be the cry of the lark? This, and the general violin/guitar interplay, perhaps represents Eros as equal to Logos.




The second crescendo ends with that well known final descending chord sequence, ala The Beatles' A Day in The Life. As it is a bit of unison playing, this ending probably represents a union of all things that were once separate - essentially Yin and Yang, female and male, feeling and thinking, unconscious and conscious.



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