Larks' Tongues in Aspic (instrumental)

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"Larks' Tongues in Aspic"
Larks' Tongues in Aspic (single).png
Promotional artwork for "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two"
Song series by King Crimson
from the album
  • 23 March 1973 (parts I and II)
  • 27 March 1984 (part III)
  • 23 May 2000 (part IV)
  • 4 March 2003 (part V)

"Larks' Tongues in Aspic" is a suite of music by the English progressive rock band King Crimson. Spanning thirty years and four albums, the series comprises five parts, all of which carry unifying musical motifs. Parts I and II were released as the introductory and final tracks on King Crimson's 1973 album of the same name, part III was featured on their 1984 album Three of a Perfect Pair, part IV (itself divided into three identically titled parts) appeared on 2000's The Construkction of Light, and the final part, "Level Five", was included on the 2003 album The Power to Believe. Despite breaking the naming convention, Robert Fripp, King Crimson founder and only constant contributor to the suite, insists that "Level Five" is part of the pentalogy.

In 2011, PopMatters ranked the first part of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" as the eighth best progressive rock song ever.

Parts I and II[edit]

"Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One", the longest entry in the pentalogy, was first released as the introductory track to the album of the same name. The song is guided by the shifting guitar of Robert Fripp, but it is in the tense violin of David Cross and the chaotic percussion of Jamie Muir that part I is defined.[1] The track goes through numerous varied acts and passages, with somber moments and a calm violin solo falling alongside periods of heightened aggression where Fripp's guitar borders on heavy metal and Muir's clangs reach cacophony.[2][3] Bird calls, metallic clangs, horns, breaking crockery and tin ripping are all featured in Muir's repertoire,[4][5] and, along with his percussive contributions, he coined the title "Larks' Tongues in Aspic".[6] In a 1991 interview, Muir said it was a "very admirable creative decision" for Fripp to work with him.[5] Much of the track originated from full-band improvisations that began in 1971,[7] with Cross calling it "grown" instead of written.[2] Drummer Bill Bruford said the songs were "hell" to make given the deliberate lack of in-studio structure.[8] An early version of part I recorded by the 1971 lineup appeared as a bonus track on the 40th anniversary edition of Islands under the name "A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls".[9]

While the first part is a many-sectioned, dynamic[10] song that has been described as having a "kitchen-sink sensibility", "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" is much more straightforward and riff-focused,[1] with the sole writing credit going to Fripp.[11] PopMatters called the track a "roller-coaster of wrath and control".[12] The main riff of part II, which emerged in 1972 during a live performance at Richmond, Kentucky,[7][13] is heavy and driving, drawing its host album to a dramatic climax.[14] While the guitar in part II may be the most immediately obvious aspect, John Goldsby of Bass Player called the bass in the song something that "bass players will still be talking about four decades later".[15] Fripp considered the first two parts of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" as the refinement of his role as composer in King Crimson.[7]

According to Fripp, part I was conceived as the beginning of a King Crimson performance, and part II as the end.[7] "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" was performed from 1972 to 1974, predominantly in a shortened seven-minute version that left out most of the violin solo and protracted ending passage.[16] Part I was not performed again until 2014, when it was reintroduced as a setlist staple; it remained there through 2018. The new arrangement featured all of the violin segments played on guitar, save for the solo, which was performed by Mel Collins on flute. Part II, alternatively, persisted in King Crimson's sets throughout most of their career.[13]

Both the first and second parts of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" have been met with critical acclaim. In 2011, Sean Murphy of PopMatters ranked the "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One" as the eighth best progressive rock song ever.[1] He revised his placement in 2017, putting part I as number fifteen[4] and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two" as eighty-five.[12] Marc Malitz of Louder Sound judged the first part as the forty-second best progressive song ever.[2]

1."Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One"13:34
2."Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two"7:14


All credits adapted from Larks' Tongues in Aspic liner notes.[11]

Part III[edit]

"Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III" was released as the closing track on 1984's Three of a Perfect Pair.[17] This part marks a drastic shift in style from the previous two entries, thanks to being created a decade later with two new people, Adrian Belew and Tony Levin, involved. Part III opens with the same melodic motif seen in parts I and II, but the rhythms and tones are significantly different,[10] with Bruford playing a mix of acoustic and electronic drums.[17] Greg Prato of AllMusic counted "Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III" as one of his favourite songs from Three of a Perfect Pair.[18]

1."Larks' Tongues in Aspic Part III"6:07


All credits adapted from Three of a Perfect Pair liner notes.[17]

Part IV and "Coda: I Have a Dream"[edit]

King Crimson was working on part IV of the suite as early as 1995 after the release of Thrak.[19] It was not until 2000 that "Larks' Tongues in Aspic – Part IV" was released, appearing on the 2000 album The Construkction of Light as a set of three divided but identically titled tracks.[20] Like part II, part IV is heavily guitar-driven, but it introduces aggressive electronic drumming from Pat Mastelotto. The final track segues into the song "Coda: I Have a Dream", which also features some of the "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" motifs and is included appended to the end of part IV on the iTunes edition of The Construkction of Light.[21]

1."Larks' Tongues in Aspic – Part IV"3:41
2."Larks' Tongues in Aspic – Part IV"2:50
3."Larks' Tongues in Aspic – Part IV"2:36
Total length:9:07
iTunes version[21]
1."Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 4" (contains "Coda: I Have a Dream" appendage)13:03


All credits adapted from The Construkction of Light liner notes.[20]

"Level Five"[edit]

Originally, the fifth part of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" was the song "FraKctured" off of The Construkction of Light, but, seeing how it bore closer resemblance to "Fracture" from 1974's Starless and Bible Black, Fripp changed the name late in the song's development.[22] The fifth part was ultimately released on 2003's The Power to Believe with the title "Level Five". Though nothing in the album's packaging confirmed that the song was part of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic", it shared the series' rhythmic structure and form.[10] While the relationship to the suite was hinted with an early 2001 tour jam combining a riff from part 1 of the suite with part of this piece,[23] official confirmation only first appeared in the Elements 2017 box set, where it was included in sequence with the rest of the suite[24] and called "truly LTIA Pt V in all but name."[25] Later, Fripp confirmed that "Level Five" was indeed the fifth entry in the suite and had been renamed as such on 2018 setlists.[26]

"Level Five" is a heavy guitar-driven track with glitchy and electronic drums that provide a rare, almost industrial groove.[27] Several critics noted the sonic aggression of the song,[28][29][30] and some compared the guitar interplay between Fripp and Belew as similar to the music on 1981's Discipline.[31] AllMusic's Lindsay Planer called "Level Five" so intense "that it could easily be mistaken for the likes of Tool, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, or KMFDM".[28]

1."Level Five"7:17


All credits adapted from The Power to Believe liner notes.[32]


  1. ^ a b c Murphy, Sean. "The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time". PopMatters. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Malitz, Marc. "The 100 Greatest Prog Songs of All Time". Louder Sound. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  3. ^ Banks, Joe. "King Crimson – 10 of the Best". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b Murphy, Sean. "The 100 Best Classic Progressive Rock Songs: Part 5, 20-1". PopMatters. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b Teledu, David (1991). "The Talking Drum: An Interview with Jamie Muir". Ptolemaic Terrascope (Autumn). Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  6. ^ Singleton, David. "Larks' Tongues in Aspic – The Long View". Discipline Global Mobile. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
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  8. ^ Bruford, Bill (6 November 1980). "An Interview with Bill Bruford" (Interview). Interviewed by Matthew Mandell; Kenneth Fall. Pooh's Pub in Boston. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  9. ^ Kelman, John. "King Crimson: Islands (40th Anniversary Series)". All About Jazz. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Riccio, Gabriel. "Rock Meets Classical, Part 4: Classical Concepts in King Crimson's 'Larks Tongues in Aspic'". Art Rock Tendencies. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
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  12. ^ a b Murphy, Sean. "The 100 Best Classic Progressive Rock Songs: Part 1, 100-81". PopMatters. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  13. ^ a b Keeling, Andrew (18 October 2010). Musical Guide to Larks' Tongues in Aspic by King Crimson. Spaceward. ISBN 0956297722.
  14. ^ Wojtowicz-Jach, Agnieszka (2005). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Judith More. p. 289. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  15. ^ Goldsby, John (March 2014). "Larks' Tongues & Other Minor 7th Delicacies". Bass Player. 25 (3): 66–68.
  16. ^ James, Brendan (13 January 2011). King Crimson: A Discography. pp. 28–29. ISBN 1456527479.
  17. ^ a b c Three of a Perfect Pair (Vinyl liner notes). King Crimson. E.G. Records. 1984. EGLP 55. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  18. ^ Prato, Greg. "King Crimson – Three of a Perfect Pair". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  19. ^ Fripp, Robert (23 March 1995). "Interview with Robert Fripp online in the CompuServe Convention Center" (Interview). Interviewed by Glenn. CompuServe. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  20. ^ a b The Construkction of Light (CD liner notes). King Crimson. Virgin Records. 2000. 7243 8 49261 2 0. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  21. ^ a b "The Construkction of Light (Expanded Edition)". iTunes. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  22. ^ Fripp, Robert. "Robert Fripp's Diary, 16 December 1999". Discipline Global Mobile. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  23. ^ "16 Nov 2001 Web Theater Phoenix". DGM Live. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  24. ^ "The Elements of King Crimson 2017". DGM Live. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  25. ^ Smith, Sid (2017), Elements 2017 Tour Box Booklet, DGM Live, p. 16
  26. ^ Fripp, Robert. "Robert Fripp's Diary, 12 June 2018". Discipline Global Mobile. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  27. ^ Leone, Dominique. "King Crimson: The Power to Believe". Pitchfork. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  28. ^ a b Planer, Lindsay. "King Crimson – Level Five". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  29. ^ Fricke, David (July 2003). "King Crimson: The Power To Believe : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  30. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "King Crimson – The Power to Believe". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  31. ^ Jones, Chris. "King Crimson – The Power to Believe Review". BBC. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  32. ^ The Power to Believe (CD liner notes). King Crimson. Sanctuary Records. 2003. SANCD155. Retrieved 19 June 2018.