A Scarcity of Miracles

album cover

I think Spotify has performed a miracle. On my Release Radar this week the track that caught my ear was called A Scarcity of Miracles. It was by Jakko M. Jakszyk, Robert Fripp and Mel Collins, and it had a release date of 2020. For this ardent follower of King Crimson new music by three members of their current line-up required further investigation. Strangely, though, I can find no evidence of a recent release by this trio – not even with the powerful ultra-modern tool of Google or the discogs, Burning Shed and DGM  Live websites. Divine intervention is the only possible explanation.

loaves & fishes

Crotchety Man had heard stories of miracles as a boy in school and church. There was the parting of the Red Sea, the turning of water into wine and (of particular relevance here) the feeding of the 5000. I vividly remember one day in church, perhaps after choir practice, when a young and recently ordained minister told us, informally, that he did not believe in miracles. He believed the biblical accounts, but he thought there were more prosaic explanations than supernatural events brought about by the hand of the Almighty.

He took the feeding of the 5000 as his example. In the story Jesus had gone to a remote spot, far from towns and villages. A large crowd had followed him there. As far as I remember no reasons were given for Jesus making the journey or for the motivation of the crowd. Perhaps the prophet was seeking some time for private contemplation; perhaps the onlookers had interpreted this as a prelude to some extraordinary event and wanted to be a part of it. Who could blame them? It predated Woodstock by nearly 2000 years but the excitement and anticipation must have been much the same.

As with all hastily arranged outdoor ventures there were a few logistical problems. The most pressing was a lack of food. The stewards had asked for donations but only one small boy had offered anything and all he had in his bag were five loaves and two fishes. Jesus decided to share that meagre meal with everyone there. It makes you wonder what the boy thought about his tucker being split 5000 ways. And there, said our young man in a dog collar, is where the miracle occurred.

It was inconceivable that the people assembled in that out of the way place had given no thought to what they would need to take with them. There were no mobile pizza ovens or burger vans in those days; if you were going away for a day or two you took your own provisions. No individual in the crowd would be willing to see their food rations plundered in a futile attempt to satisfy everyone there. And yet, between them, there was more than enough to go round. All that was needed was to break the logjam of selfishness with a gesture of kindness and cooperation.

That interpretation of a biblical miracle did more to crystallise the young Crotchety’s outlook on life than any number of pious sermons from the pulpit. For me, just the possibility of non-divine explanations for apparently miraculous events enabled me to make sense of the book at the heart of Christianity. The bible is a fairly ad hoc collection of writings from 2000 years and more ago, a time when Earthly truths were often wrapped in memorable stories. The words were never meant to be taken literally. Furthermore, those tales were written in ancient languages, passed through several generations and translated many times; the authors’ intentions must have been distorted in the process. The bible is a book of immense historical and cultural significance but, as our fresh-faced minister explained, it needs to be interpreted carefully.


According to the usual reliable sources, A Scarcity of Miracles is a King Crimson ProjeKct album released in 2011. It emerged from Jakszyk and Fripp guitar improvisations that Jakko turned into songs and Mel Collins augmented with saxophone parts. Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison provided bass and drums for the recording. All five musicians were included in the subsequent 2013 line-up of King Crimson and the album sits comfortably within the KC “way of doing things”. The Scarcity, though, is a very mellow and at times meandering excursion through the Crimson kingdom; it’s a long way from the Adrian Belew period.

So, how did Spotify come up with a 2020 release of the title track from A Scarcity of Miracles? Well, I suggest we interpret the writings carefully. It could be a miracle. Or there may be much more prosaic explanations.


Postscript

I’d like to propose two new collective nouns:

  1. A kaleidoscope of rainbows
  2. A scarcity of miracles

 

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