A Concert in Three Voices

What if one were to write about a memorable event, but in 3 different literary styles? And what if the styles were Dickens, Hemingway and Dostoyevsky!


Although this came about as a writing exercise, the setting is somewhat accurate.

   There were concerts in October, 1981, at a few venues in the Netherlands, by a new band named Discipline, which included two former members of the band King Crimson. Subsequently the band name was changed to King Crimson, their next album release being titled “Discipline”.


Chapter One

THE MUSICIAN (as by Charles Dickens)

   Mr. Fripp was the most fastidious of guitarists. The most careful, the most precise, the least ‘rock looking’ of all rock guitarists. Seated, always, on a stool of exactly the correct height, one foot on the floor, the other on the left lower rung of afore-mentioned stool, he held his guitar in exactly the proper position, right hand poised with it’s pick, ready to play at considerable velocity.

   And he glared. He peered out at the rest of the band, (and the world, in fact) through glasses cleaned to a shiny perfection, his face ruddy from the closest of shaves and perhaps from over-scrubbing, his lips pursed to a straight line, as if to say, ‘What torture are you going to inflict on me now? What musical errors, what lack of focus, what dreadful volume, what pain and suffering will I have to endure because of you?”

   The audience was not excluded from these harsh expectations; he expected, no, demanded complete attention, silence, presence, and above all, he insisted that audience members not be so crude as to bring a recording device or camera to the concert, and, god forbid, to use it during the performance.

   His look expressed those sentiments quite precisely, but if you were somehow to miss the point, he would be glad to stop playing and tell you. Or to have security guards remove you from the venue. Or to suddenly put down his guitar, exit the stage and leave the venue himself. Perhaps even to cancel the remainder of the tour.

   For the crime of surreptitiously recording the concert, that punishment was not out of the question - punishment for the guilty audient, and for the rest of the audience, and the fans of the band, and the band itself.

   For the world, it might be said, which was, his glare spoke eloquently, more than deserving of the punishment.


Chapter Two

The Show (as by Ernest Hemingway)

Dateline: Netherlands    Band name: Discipline

   The show was short and it was sweet. When not singing, Belew man-handled his guitar, squeezing sounds from it like nothing we had heard before. Bruford’s white sport jacket belied the truth, that he’s a kid in a sandbox, wearing a devilish grin as he smacks his drum toys around. The bass player, bald as a badger’s backside, had some many-stringed thing hooked in his belt. It looked phallic. And Fripp, he was Fripp.

   They made a lot of noise. Their songs were complex, some catchy, one was about Elephants. Not one of the pieces was normal sounding. Some of the audience liked that, some didn’t. All were waiting for some King Crimson music to appear in the set. It didn’t.

   Fifty minutes later it was over. No speech, no encore, over. As if to say, ‘Wasn’t enough? Too bad.” The Dutch folks didn’t like that, and about half the crowd moved toward the stage to make their feelings known. It wasn’t pretty. But it was a night we’ll damn well all remember.


Chapter Three

At the Concert (as by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

   He stood, jostled by the crowd, grinding his teeth in anger and bitterness. They had searched him before letting him into the venue, this stinking old building that somehow served as a concert place, no seats, just bodies crowded together. Searching, they said, for camera and recording devices. Ridiculous - he just wanted to hear some music, to get himself out of his tiny cramped, disgusting apartment - he had been avoiding people for weeks. Then this indignity.

   Now he strained to see over the shoulders of the large, sweaty men in front of him. Why was he always the smallest, always the quietest, the most timid.

   The music was strange, it was jarring. It stabbed at his ears and at his mind equally. Gradually it gnawed it’s way inside him, incessantly mingling with his bruised feelings, his wounded soul. Surprised, he found himself liking it - as if this music might almost be his friend.

   But still, as the show went on, he felt worse. About the search, about the disgusting people rubbing against him, but most of all about his life.

   Then, surprisingly, the music stopped. He couldn’t see what was happening, but it seemed the band had finished and walked offstage. Minutes went by with no hint of an encore, and the people around him became furious, ranting about the show being too short. Suddenly a surge in the tightly packed crowd pushed him toward the stage. He suffered a moment of panic, but then a crazy glee took him over as he was swept forward. He raised his fists, shaking them at the ceiling. He heard himself scream, “Elephants, elephants”… something that had stuck in his head from the concert.

   A small opening in the angry crowd let him move to the very front, dozens now pressed tightly against the stage, where crew members were hurridly dismantling drums and taking instruments away, the outstretched arms of the mob straining to reach a guitar, a foot pedal. Snarling, he grabbed a piece of paper off the stage floor, brutally crushing and tearing it in his outrage. An elbow hit the side of his head, and, stunned, he started to fall, then re-gained his footing, and bent low beneath the flailing arms, moving himself slowly to the side, away from the crush. When he could look up, there was an exit in front of him. He stumbled through the door, down a dark stairway, and with a gasp, found himself alone out on the street, a side alley, lit by a single yellow street lamp. The air was moist and tasted of cigarette smoke.

   One hand against his aching head, he bemoaned his situation, having once again proved himself cowardly and useless. He became aware of the paper crushed in his hand and opened it. In the dim light he saw it to be a torn setlist of the band’s songs. Then suddenly it was aglow, lit brightly, in macabre fashion, from the side. Mouth ajar, he dropped the paper and turned to the source of the new light. Blinding headlights were rushing toward him up the dark alley. He sprang back against the brick wall of the venue, hands held up above him. It was a large van, and it charged by him without a pause. Briefly, he saw people inside, were they the band? They seemed to be arguing. Still pasted to the wall, he let his eyes follow the van’s red tail lights as it disappeared into the dark night. Then, exhaustion took him over, and despair consumed him - his failure at everything, his bleak life having led him to this moment. His hands lowered, his shoulders slumped. He bent down, picked up the paper, now filthy and almost illegible. His eyes lit on one word, the song title, “Indiscipline”.

   Yes, he thought, grimacing, indiscipline.