MY TEN GREATEST EXPERIENCES, 9: LARKS’ TONGUES IN ASPIC Part 1

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“Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”! A delicacy, no doubt, and to this day I’m not sure if it ever was a real dish actually eaten by anyone… but the significance is in the concept of its rarity.

At the tender age of fifteen I traveled fifty miles from home with some friends of mine, to London, and a venue called “The Rainbow Theatre”. We were going to see a band, and I really don’t think that before the event I knew anything about who they were or what they sounded like-all I knew was that the name on my ticket was “King Crimson”.

The band members walked onto a dimly-lit stage without fanfare or introduction, and took their places. A soft, unfamiliar tinkling sound began. It kept tinkling…and kept tinkling…until it seemed like the tinkling wasn’t going to end.

“Is this it?” I thought… “Is this what we came all this way to hear?” I wondered where the “song” was, and where the strumming guitar and the rhythm had got to. I started to think I might want my money back.

A violin began to play a few notes, at first seemingly without design, and some cymbals started to make a continuous, growing percussive sound.

“What do they think they’re doing?” I thought, “Don’t they realize how boring this is?”

At this point in the disappointing, mystifying show the tinkling did stop, and the violinist began to play a sharp up-tempo rhythm, quietly at first. Then long, dark, intensely sustained guitar notes pushed themselves into the forefront of my attention. Suddenly I was interested.

Quickly now, a sequence of tones unfolded and descended, growing in expression and volume; the full and rich guitar growling in time, joined in unison by the bass and a swelling drum roll, as though some unspeakable giant were approaching outside, preparing to pound on the walls of the theatre. The band was masterfully leading us …leading us all into a million-ton crescendo of noise, percussion and melody, until all culminated in one almighty explosion of chords, drums and lights, the instruments in full voice, marching in incredible 7-4 time, with that deliciously mesmerizing and seductively sustained guitar whipping the entire atmosphere to a frenzy!

Suddenly the sound halted, the lights fell. I was hooked.

No, the onslaught hadn’t stopped after all: it was returning, it was building again, building inexorably towards another climax of sense-shattering noise and light…

King Crimson, manned by excellent, pioneering musicians…Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Bill Bruford, Jamie Muir and David Cross… all armed fully with the determination and the skill to break the cliché barrier.

The piece was called “Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 1”.

So began my journey away from the world of mundane, predictable bubble-gum pop and rock, and into a life-long love of experimental music-an art form which too many Christians are quick to blanket-condemn as being “of the devil”.

Thus the Christian world condemns itself all too often to mediocrity, and to remaining thirty years behind the musical times. Our God is the creator of imagination-just look up into the night sky. We should be the ones leading the world of music. We should be leading the world towards our God, yes, but we should also lead with the full power of imagination and passion that God has given to humanity, and so glorify the Lord of heaven and earth with all our musical might.

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