(Note: this post is part of a series.)
Day 7. King Crimson, “The Sheltering Sky”.
To this day, this for me remains *the* most viscerally insistent piece of music I have ever heard. (Yes, I’ve thought about this before. Given that the “inner circle” of contenders for that title includes things such as Miles’ heart-stopping pianissimo solo in the Aranjuez section of “Sketches of Spain” and Coltrane’s otherworldly interpretation of “Compassion” from his first (quartet) “Meditations”, you might say the accolade is not arbitrary.) Like “OM”, I simply could not consider such an effort as this “7/7/7” of mine to be valid without this in it.
In that regard, I’m a bit bummed I can’t seem to find a YouTube link to the studio version of this piece. There are a number of live recordings available, and (as with the one above from Frejus in ’82) they pretty much all capture great moments from a fantastic live band. But for me, what puts “The Sheltering Sky” over the top is the measured, constantly simmering, (dare I say) disciplined restraint that is so obvious in the studio recording. As a living, breathing thing, it constantly threatens to break from its chains as it swells, but it never quite gets there, and then when finally it subsides away, it’s with a tiger-like, smiling snarl that reminds you, “I’m still here.” Live Crim naturally stretches out a bit, ever experimenting, and while the restraint is still there, it’s just not quite the same as that first statement.
If you have never heard the original, do consider gifting yourself a copy of the “Discipline” album, and really listening to it–the whole thing, but especially “Sky”. “Discipline” is what simply exploded my musical world, bent my ears, and put me in the place I am today. I have since become a fan of all King Crimson and Robert Fripp in general, and of course that is how I found out about Guitar Craft in the first place. (When you consider all the coattails, it’s kinda hard to overstate the impact that’s all had on me.)
Incidentally, once I’d heard (and been flattened by) “The Sheltering Sky”, I of course had to read the Paul Bowles novel. Crimson’s piece is an eerily appropriate soundtrack, and I have since remained interested in this metaphysical distinction between a tourist and a traveler. (All the things that art is supposed to do!)
And so concludes my official “7/7/7”. But you know me, right? So it won’t entirely surprise you if that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m quite yet done. 🙂