“Discipline” by King Crimson

26 Sep 2016

While migrating saved blog posts in 2020, I came across this one; it is not currently on my old Blogger blog and I’m not sure if it ever was.

I got a couple of CDs in the mail today: 40th Anniversary remixes of the King Crimson albums Discipline and THRAK, including 24-bit, 96kHz surround mixes on DVD-A. Some of these songs I haven’t heard in, perhaps, 16 years.

In 1995(?) I got to see King Crimson live in Minneapolis. My ears have finally stopped ringing so it is time to listen to THRAK again. But “Discipline” is the song that really still blows my mind.

I can play some of the individual guitar riffs, but the way they fit together is music from another plane of existence, alien music. In THRAK it’s the notes and harmonies that are from another plane of existence. I can play those individual notes but the whole tone scales they follow and the chord voicings still have me in awe years later.

Of the song “Discipline,” Wikipedia says:

The composition undergoes many time signature changes. There are two main guitars (one played by Robert Fripp the other by Adrian Belew) which are often in a different time signature, giving the song a chaotic and intense feel. Many times the guitars play similar patterns, but one drops a note making them go either out of sync or change time signatures. During the piece the two guitars of Belew and Fripp, respectively, move through the following sequence of pairs of time signatures: 5/8 and 5/8, 5/8 and 4/4, 5/8 and 9/8, 15/16 and 15/16, 15/16 and 14/16, 10/8 and 20/16, 15/16 and 15/16, 15/16 and 14/16, 12/16 and 12/16, 12/16 and 11/16, 15/16 and 15/16, 15/16 and 14/16. Throughout the drums play in 17/16 — the Bill Bruford drumming video Bruford and the Beat builds up to an explanation of the 17/16 patttern used (including the fact that the 4/4 bass drum pattern is maintained as a “dance groove”) and includes a live performance of the track interleaved with an interview with Robert Fripp about aspects of the track. In other interviews Fripp has explained that the track was composed as an exercise in discipline — no single instrument is allowed to take the lead role in the performance, nor to play as simply an accompaniment to the other instruments, but each player must maintain an equal role while allowing others to do the same.”

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