“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.


Family Portrait by Me
Family Portrait by Me

This is a continuation of a pseudo- series of mine which I could almost title “The Top Ten Things Christian Ministers Say Which I Disagree With”. The list may have to be expanded to twenty, or fifty, or five hundred. Not that I’m anti-minister, or anti Church: I’m not at all. Many ministers are doing a fantastic job, and I do believe that the true Church is the eternal bride of Christ. But there are just some things that ministers, authors and radio and TV celebrities say which should go unanswered no longer.

I’ve heard this one too many times, and it always gets my back up:

“People just throw paint onto a canvas and call it art.”

This criticism is always in reference to “modern art” which in the eyes of the Christian critic is anything deemed by his own range of tastes to be un-artistic and un-godly. That is, it’s not a virtual photographic reproduction of a mountain scene, a bunch of flowers, or Christ on the cross.

Once again, in such a sweeping, crass generalization, all Christians are painted (excuse the pun) with the same brush-that is, we’re all  lumped in and made to look like we have no imagination or semblance of individuality. Christianity is once again included with the likes of the Nazis in Germany, who destroyed a huge number of important works of art across Europe because they were considered to be “un-artistic”, or unpatriotic, or in opposition to true Aryan manhood. We’re all expected to have an appetite for the mundane, the expected, the predictable, the clichéd…the boring.

Contemporary art is now sometimes referred to as being “post-modern”. So what? We’re talking about pictures, not issues which affect salvation. Throwing paint onto a canvas is not going to make me deny my faith in Jesus, neither is it going to allow demons to inhabit me.

Where in the Bible are we told that a picture has to look like anything at all? Who says that a picture has to look like anything familiar to us? Isn’t the important thing, Biblically speaking, our attitude and our motives? Where in the Bible is our imagination-a God-given power and blessing- controlled or tempered apart from motive and the need for godliness?

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

So, if I want to “throw paint onto a canvas and call it art”, and do it for the glory of God, what’s it to you, Mr. Boring?

The phrase in question here (throwing paint etc.) is itself a cliché. So, to fight fire with fire (and to mix my metaphors), I will use a cliché of my own liking, and say that some of us actually want to think “outside of the box”, because we get tired of all those squares. Oh Lord…deliver us from the thought police!

I will agree that all that is called art is certainly not worthy of time or consideration or respect. But art pioneers are the ones who sometimes create things which are considered at the time to be a mockery of art, or even destructive. Such was the attitude of many towards the early Impressionists, who, rather than trying to create a photographic reproduction of a bunch of flowers, wanted to capture something else in their work: light, time, movement…reality. Now you can see the influence of their imagination even in many churches, because the style has so permeated the “normal” view of art in our present world. They enriched our lives, because they refused to bow to the small, narrow-minded criticism and mockery of those around them who had no imagination and no desire to have it.


The same principle applies to music. If there is any experimentation at all in Christian music, it’s never allowed to reach the ears of those of us who would like to hear it. It’s strangled at the source because it doesn’t fit the mold. The Christian world is today allowing into its consciousness some of the sounds and rhythms and styles that the secular world created thirty years ago, and actually has the nerve to consider itself to be “contemporary”, while the secular world has already moved on ahead.  Modernity is not synonymous with evil: its God who gave man the power to be creative-not Satan. Although I will agree that the devil and his kingdom makes use of it, that’s no reason or excuse to abandon it.

So if you can’t understand it or appreciate it, why shouldn’t I? Why should I be limited by your imagination? I’ll tell you now-I refuse to be!

Please please give me something fresh, something creative, something new, something thought-provoking, something which compliments, feeds and fully employs my God-given appetite for all that is possible, and not just what satisfies the accepted norms and what Mr. Boring has for me.