In a conversation at The City Winery in New York City on September 23rd 2022, Robert Fripp & David Singleton answer some “burning questions” from the audience.
I came from a classical background and approached rock condescendingly. I read that Béla Bartók was an influence of yours. In Lark's Tongues, I hear what I think is The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky and I was wondering if you could comment on the classical influences that may feed into King Crimson and your own conception of music.
Certainly. May I invite David's answer to this first please?
Many of you know that Robert is uncomfortable with many of the things that come with being a conventional rock musician. The spotlights and the light show, for example, and Robert has been recommending for a while that we have it more like an orchestral show without autograph seeking and the celebrity side of it. And I have always thought that is why Robert is unique. His discomfort is why he is interesting. Robert really is a classical musician who plays rock music. So therefore, live the discomfort, because the discomfort is part of what you are.
This is my manager giving me advice. There is a learned musicological dissertation and analysis on Larks Tongue In Aspic Part Two, the name of which is the sound of Hendrix playing Bartok. And this is taken from a quote of myself where I am saying that what I was seeking is: what would it sound like if Hendrix were playing the Bartok’s String Quartets? And this goes back to Robert, age 20, in 1966 at Bournemouth College, doing A level’s. I was about to go on to London and take a degree in estate management and go into my father's real estate firm as a partner. And then Hendrix came on the scene. And then there was Sergeant Pepper. And then at the same time, I began listening to the Bartok String Quartets and Judy Collins and Stravinsky and Elgar and a wide range of music. Duke Ellington had done the first set of two at the Winter Gardens in Bournemouth when I was working at the Majestic Hotel up the road. All these musicians, all these different forms of music. My experience of it was of one musician speaking in a variety of dialects. And I could not go back.
So, I had to tell my parents, I can no longer be a dutiful son. And I headed off to London and unemployment and ignominy. But the aim remained. How could you take the sheer power of Hendrix? So simple, so powerful, so immediate. Now, the Bartok String Quartets did not have that immediacy, but they came from a place that I could not conceive. How could a young English rock guitarist have the power of Hendrix and, you know, Bluesbreakers, that early Clapton. The sheer power in that. How could a young player have that, but still a wider vocabulary, because the simple rock vocabulary was not quite telling me what I needed to know. So that began, and the first presentation that I felt was convincing was Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part Two. Part One began appearing in 1971 and I recognized this as my own voice speaking. But Larks Two arrived and I was sitting at the kitchen table in my cottage in Halt 1972. Guitar, manuscript, pencil.
How did I know? Because my body began to move. This was not a cerebral operation. Yeah, I read some of Vincent Persichetti, but I knew we were onto something.
Thank you, sir.