At Your Funeral: In the Court of the Crimson King

Upon notice that I’d be working on this feature, two melodies instantly flooded my mind’s ear: King Crimson’s “Moonchild” and “I Talk to the Wind”, from their debut In the Court of the Crimson King. I guess there is a little truth to that myth about women being indecisive creatures, given that I couldn’t be more of an embodiment of it. (Always reluctant to admit this, of course.) Naturally, I was unable to decide between one track and the other. How could one possibly document a lifetime of loves, battles, emotions, and memories in one simple song? Utterly impossible. I’d need a full-on soundtrack.

Next, I was hounded by the notion of originality. Almost everyone wants to be—or appear—unique to the world, and choosing more or less slow, ballad-esque melodies for a funeral theme is far from extraordinary. However, how original is it to be “one of those” who want their funeral to be a dance party because they’ve decided they don’t want to be “one of those” who want a sad, mournful goodbye? Soon enough I said, “Fuck all that,” and decided to go with my gut. If a song as beautiful and innocent as “Moonchild” was my first instinct, why fight it? Besides, it’s barely sappy or sad.

King Crimson, in my opinion one of the most overlooked groups of the late ’60s, made sweet, surreal progressive rock that peeked with curiosity, fear, and fascination at a world filled equally with charmed playgrounds and haunted houses. In short, then, after days of listening over and over to playlist upon playlist, I found that King Crimson’s entire debut album was nothing but exactly what I would imagine a recapitulation of my life to sound like. Strange? Oh, well. (I don’t think so.) Not to mention the song “Epitaph” is included in this one and, well, if that’s not a funeral song, then this world is simply inconceivable and unacceptable.

Either way, there are several deciding factors that sold me on In the Court of the Crimson King. I suppose I should begin with a brief explanation of my feelings on… the longest vacation we shall all ever take. In our wonderful, exquisite Western culture, we are conditioned to fear death. I, however, personally feel that we have nothing to fear, and therefore work on embracing my mortality rather than trying to avoid it.

A similar concept has been popularized in movies like The Fountain, where Mayan folklore along with Hugh Jackman’s mournful journey were coupled to portray death as the ultimate eternal life. (Spoiler alert!) If you’ve seen the movie, you may have stopped to think about what it means to become a tree in the afterlife. I’d hate to narrate the entire story, but I can quickly paraphrase. My understanding of it is that once we pass on, we come to inhabit every atom of the cosmos, hence the “eternal life”: If you become everything, you are everywhere; if you are everywhere, time will never pass you by.

And so, the song “Moonchild” immediately strikes a match in me because of its description of the ubiquitous girl “dancing in the shallows of a river”, “dreaming in the shadow/of a willow”, “sleeping on the steps of a fountain,” and so on and so forth. She’s everywhere. She inhabits every crevice of the earth, somewhat like a beautiful ghostly being, supernaturally engraved into the world. Call me a romantic, a dreamer, or what have you—I really dig this little girl. There’s something very nostalgic and full of poetry in the soft drone of the song and its light cymbals, and the lyrics are allusive to a lost spirit. At my funeral, I will be that spirit that was lost, and I can only hope that my survivors wish for me to find the “sunchild”.

The big closer on my decision to play this Crimson gem at my funeral definitely has to be “I Talk to the Wind”. It might be the most depressing song I’ve chosen so far, but like I said, my outlook is positive. The hook here can sound like a frustrating situation: “I talk to the wind/My words are all carried away/I talk to the wind/The wind does not hear”. However, I’d have to interpret it as a sort of weight lifted off my shoulders. In my mind, this sounds like the optimal farewell song, because it encompasses both a long, full journey and a freedom from all responsibility and upset.

The verse, “What do I see?/Much confusion/Disillusion/All around me”, when paired with, “You don’t possess me/…Can’t instruct me/Or conduct me” means a period of relief to me. It’s like finally, there has been a long time of disappointment, sadness, and thirst for rebellion, but now all there is is the freedom of immunity. Immunity from what, you ask? Listen to “Epitaph”, then, and experience the social dissatisfaction that drives even the best to disappointment and loss of motivation. (i.e. “The fate of all mankind I see/Is in the hands of fools”.)

On a more rocking note, “21st Century Schizoid Man” relays the excitement, fear, and basically all other adrenaline-powered emotions I have felt up to this day in life. So why not incorporate it into my funeral program?—apparently it will be a lasting event. “…Schizoid Man” is much like me: messy, kinda long, loud at times, progressive, elegantly arranged, and pretty damn quirky. Thus it seems to be blatantly fitting for a memorial service dedicated to yours truly.

In the Court of the Crimson King: An emotionally sincere record with all the most human notes of affective episodes, including wonder, grief, liberation, and excitement. While one is never sure of what the future holds, the only day that is certain in our lives is the day in which they will end. As a being run intrinsically by music, I wish and hope those I love celebrate their goodbyes in the only way that seems pure and sufficient to me: by giving me some 44 minutes of crystal-clear Crimson.

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