Sunday, November 21, 2010

A tribute to Starless

We are often cursed with liking a piece of music which leaves our friends and lovers cold and underwhelmed. I've often thought that the song "Starless" off of King Crimson's Red album was a pinnacle of rock music. It is one of the few songs that I can listen to over and over and over.... "Starless" has often put me into that "eye of the hurricane" state that you access when listening to really intense music and usually leaves me breathless and wanting for more.

But we have the web which can be used to hunt down people who also like what we like. There's comfort in collective solipsism :-).  I found the following three reviews by Stephanie Sollow, Eric Tamm and George Starostin to be more than adequate validation for my beliefs regarding "Starless."

Here's an excerpt from Stephanie Sollow: "You are being wound tighter and tighter and the scale is being slowly climbed, higher and higher you go…and then off into another direction, though tighter still till we explode into a flurry of saxophone notes. We are now scattershot, pieces of the self here, there and everywhere - chaos ensues. Oh, this goes through so many different tempos and moods, I'm not really going to try visualize them all. But, my god, this is some damn terrific stuff. What was I thinking in not playing this often?"

And this one from Eric Tamm: ""Starless" is more than all that, though: in my opinion it is simply the best composition King Crimson ever committed to record. It is also the only King Crimson piece that has ever made me weep - those tears that tend to issue out of a direct confrontation with what we feebly call "artistic greatness" but is really a portentous and rarely glimpsed secret locked away at the heart of human experience." Later on in the same review, he writes "It is the curse of the scholar/writer/musician to be driven to rip apart that which he loves, dissecting and disemboweling, in a vain and perhaps pointless attempt to reduce the primal musical experience to words, formulas, theories, charts, diagrams, numbers, and so on - an exercise pleasing enough to the intellect and yet somehow painful for the heart. What follows, therefore, is not for the faint of heart, and if the reader does not give a hoot about formal musical analysis, she or he would probably do just as well to skip it. On the other hand, lest I paint myself into a corner of total futility, let me affirm my belief that at its best, analysis can be a valid form of translation - from the language of the heart into the language of the head. And inasmuch as head and heart are generally not so much in the habit of conversing amicably with each other as they could be, the translator's enterprise is perhaps not entirely meaningless. From listening to the music itself you can tell something about what the musicians are feeling, and open a door into that world of feeling within yourself; through analyzing the music seriously you can get some inkling of how the musicians think (and believe me, think they do, and think they must, in order to produce as coherent a piece as "Starless"), and in that process allow your intellect to go into sympathetic resonance with the intellects of those who are making the music.

And finally from George Starostin: "A dark, bitter tune, it's probably the closest they ever got to replicating the bliss of 'Epitaph' (Fripp even uses the same guitar pedal he used on the intro to 'Epitaph'). There are tons of beautiful, emotional guitar lines, Wetton's singing has never been better, and the lengthy solo passage is breathtaking. It seems that Fripp keeps repeating the same note on his guitar over and over, but he manages to build up the tension so well that I'm left almost stunned - just because of the very nature of this paradox: this is maybe the simplest musical idea that Bob has ever put to life and it works so much better than tons of far more complicated ones".

1 comment:

  1. Those young men are already stimulated to read through all of them and already have pretty much been making the most of those things. WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS