The Devil's Triangle
is Robert Fripp's version of Holst's
. On an album so concerned with the theme of balancing male and female
energies, it seems incongruous to allude so strongly to the planet most closely
associated with male energy, but there is a reason for this.
"Mars was originally a god of vegetation, fertility and new vitality (Nichols
143). He is especially associated with the efflorescence of spring, and is
responsible for the well-being and protection of domestic plants and animals.
...A common epithet of Mars was gradivus, which refers to his fostering of
growth (grandiri, to grow). In later times gradivus was taken to refer to
marching (gradi, to march), and so he is gradivus in two ways: an agricultural
deity and a martial deity. (Larousse 202) I've tried to translate this pun by
calling Mars "the God of Marches" and "the March God," simultaneously referring
to the month and the action.
Mars gave his name to March, which was the first month of the pre-Julian Roman
calendar. His birthday was celebrated on the first of March, and he had
important festivals throughout the month. March initiated the war season, and
the traditional iconography of March is filled with symbols of Mars. (de Mailly
Nesle 130-1; OCD s.v. Mars; Oswalt 180; Salzman 106-11)"
The Devil's Triangle
is an exercise in the Devil's Interval, or Devil's Triad, more commonly known
as the tritone, the title amounts to a musical pun. Furthermore,
"tritone" is perilously close to "Triton", the son of
"...Triton was Poseidon's "trumpeter". His "trumpet" was a
shell which he blew to announce Poseidon's advent or when Poseidon commanded
him to blow it in order to appease the rough seas. Thus, when Poseidon wanted
to stop the deluge he ordered Triton to blow his shell and so the water
withdrew back into the sea and the earth emerged again. A legend had grown
about him that he was a creature of the sea with the head and upper body of a
man, the tail of a dolphin and with two horse-legs."
"Seagoing men of old looked to Triton to calm raging seas. The Argonauts
beseeched him to aid them in navigating safe routes and calm the waters of the
great Deluge. Triton served as benefactor to the Trojans and mercifully called
back the storm unleashed on them by Juno.
So too is he transformed from calm to terrible. With his enormous strength, he
blows the conch which bellows during devastating storms. A mere breath churns
air currents toward tempestuous rage. As gigantic waves curl and crash against
the beach, Triton's mighty form roils beneath the seething waters, his curling
serpentine tail fueling his motion."
"The tritone is the interval of three whole tones. (an interval is the
distance between two notes) It can also be considered as and notated as an
augmented 4th or a diminished 5th. and further is an exact logarithmic division
of the octave in two.
The tritone was used in Gregorian chant, but from at least the tenth century it
was considered dissonant and labelled as the "diabolus in musica".
In early nineteenth century opera, the tritone was often used to portray
the ominous or evil - this use continues in theatre music today."
As the tritone is a common feature in King Crimson music, why is special
attention drawn to the concept with the title, "
The Devil's Triangle
For the purposes of this album, the seemingly incompatible notes of the tritone
represent the male and female energies. Heard separately, the notes of the
tritone are identifiable. Heard together, to form a tritone, their identities
(like that of Poseidon or the merman, Triton, who is neither man nor fish)
become ambiguous. This ambiguity extends into the realm of gender. Remember
that the Temperance card, and this album, represent "a tempering or
uniting of the male and female energies."
Description of the Temperance Card
"A rather androgynous-looking, golden-winged young woman holds in her left
hand a silver patera In the background is a twin-peaked mountain, and
the glow of a sunrise appears between the peaks, over which shines a
"The rainbow also symbolizes the androgynous blending of opposites
represented by Temperance. As Zolla (57) remarks, "The androgyne character
of the rainbow is so strong that there are many legends in the French, Serbian
and Westfalian countryside about people changing sex when passing under a
rainbow. But its peculiar symbolic character consists in a blend of androgyny
with a conjunction of the human and the divine." Thus it is especially
significant that Temperance stands under a rainbow."
"Using tones constructed from the same note (say, D); each tone effectively
consists of all the same notes spanning five octaves played simultaneously.
The result is ambiguity: people perceive the tone as a D but disagree as to
which octave it belongs."
"The TC (Tristan chord) first occurs in an ambiguous way, portraying an
atmosphere of mystery and foreboding at the beginning of the opera. As the
Prelude develops, however, the TC assumes its other identity, the
"half-diminished seventh" form..."  The dual interpretation
of the TC is itself symbolic, representing passionate love controlled by
destiny (the initial TC) and death, which ultimately resolves the
drama .In this way the tritone-related tonalities A minor and Eb minor
express one of the many dualities that pervade Tristan und Isolde.
8. An even more radical interpretation is to be found in Jean-Jacques Nattiez,
*Wagner Androgyne* (Christian Bourgois Editeur, 1990), p. 333, where the author
poses the question "Is the Tristan Chord an androgynous
chord?"("L'accord de Tristan est-il un accordandrogyne?") and
discusses the sometimes ambiguous relation between the personae of Tristan and
Isolde throughout the opera."
The gendered nature of harmony in another long dissonant minimalist piece,
, is discussed in the below cite.
is roughly contemporaneous with
The Devil's Triangle
"Despite my criticism of Morton previously, I do believe that McClary's
ideas about the gendered nature of harmony as a system of musical narrativity
can be productively applied to popular music, "Sister Ray" in
The most controversial chapter of McClary's book Feminine Endings is her
discussion of contemporary composer Janika Vandervelde (112-131). She
identifies Vandervelde's use of a rhythmically insistent but harmonically
ambiguous academic minimalism as a way of representing female embodiment and
pleasure. In Vandervelde's Genesis II, the piece McClary analyzes, the piano,
plays in this style, while the violin and cello forcefully enact the
teleological gestures of Romanticism. McClary sees the conflict in this piece
as a perfect example of the convergence of sexual politics and harmonic logic.
The music to "Sister Ray" reflects this same conflict between an
interest in repetition and ambiguity, culturally coded as feminine, and one in
violence and linear narrative, coded masculine. The important difference
between Genesis II and "Sister Ray" is that, unlike the clear
division of the ensemble in Vandervelde's composition, on the Velvet
Underground record, the instruments are all frantically simultaneously
signifying in both directions. The music mirrors the transvestites who populate
"There is an additional meaning to the wine being in the silver vessel and
the water in the golden vessel: the male spirit is in the female vessel and the
female spirit is in the male vessel. This symbolizes the ritual transvestitism
and other forms of androgyny that symbolize the unification of opposites in
spiritual initiations in many cultures (Eliade, M&A 111-114). So we may
interpret Temperance as the divine child undertaking her first
Evidence of this sexual sub-text is to be found in the liner notes. The cover
painting, Twelve Archetypes, is credited to Tammo de Jongh with the following
" with reference to his book 'The Magic Circle' and Richard
Gardener's 'The Purpose of Love' The Community, 10 Lady Somerset Rd. NW5"
The following cite discusses "The Community":
"Lady Somerset Road is home to a community of men who are living out a
successful alternative to the consumer culture. In the process, they are
challenging conventional assumptions about work, property, the state and
sexuality. They are the Graigian Society, founders of a new order of
"green monks" whose mission is to alter fundamentally our attitude to
the natural world. The monks rigorously eschew hierarchy, but the undoubted
driving force behind the project is the Venerable Anelog. Anelog, now seventy,
is a good-natured and approachable chap with a Whitmanesque white beard, the
quietly charismatic guardian of their rambling but cluttered house. He is
half-Dutch, speaks with an engaging lilt and used to be known as Tammo de
The problem of modern society, they believe, is that the thrusting, impulsive
forces of masculinity are insufficiently balanced by the nurturing, intuitive
Sebastien and Hereward wear their hair long and speak of "feminine"
and "masculine" as qualities that transcend mere biology. They, and
Anelog, wear genderless cotton habits of russet and green. Their sexuality is
inclusive and polymorphous, refreshing in a culture that preaches puritanism
but peddles pornography.
"In other words," Hereward explains, "we want to liberate the
female in all of us." It is a refrain echoed in their book, The Future
Will Be Green, published in 1996 "
The Community, founded by the man who illustrated the cover of
In the Wake of Poseidon
, embodies the dual temperance themes of the album, personal and environmental.
"The labial wound in the side of Christ is an expression that the male shaman,
to have magical power, must take on the power of woman. The wound that does not
kill Christ is the magical labial wound, it is the seal of the resurrection and
an expression of the myth of eternal recurrence. From Christ to the Fisher King
of the Grail legends, the man suffering from a magical wound is no ordinary
man, he is the man who has transcended the duality of sexuality, the man with a
vulva, the shamanistic androgyne.
And as to the Grail legends, Percival, whose name literally means Pierce the
Valley, is the innocent knight who searches for the Holy Grail (the uterine cup
which caught the blood from the labial wound). Daoist literature contains
numerous references to the Valley Spirit and, of course, the Mysterious Female.
These are usually references to the androgynous state, the Yin and Yang Union
of Opposites which must be realized in the course of the alchemical opus."
In summary, the union of two harmonically incompatible musical notes, the
tritone, providing the greatest degree of harmonic tension, represents
ambiguity, androgyny and the alchemical union of opposites. In this album, and
probably all King Crimson music, cadential progression is somewhat analogous to
alchemical transformation with the resolution of harmonic tension representing
the completion of the alchemical process.
"After Crommyon, and situated above Attica, are the Sceironian Rocks. They
leave no room for a road along the sea, but the road from the Isthmus to Megara
and Attica passes above them. However, the road approaches so close to the
rocks that in many places it passes along the edge of precipices, because the
mountain situated above them is both lofty and impracticable for roads. Here is
the setting of the myth about Sceiron and the Pityocamptes, the robbers who
infested the above-mentioned mountainous country and were killed by Theseus.
And the Athenians have given the name Sceiron to the Argestes, the violent wind
that blows down on the travellers left from the heights of this mountainous