GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level One in Gandara, Argentina
Wednesday 29th. March, 2000; 18.00
Seminario San José, Gandara, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.
Already music is here. The concerns of professional touring, such as playing in unsuitable or inappropriate venues with high ticket prices in Europe, release dates, distribution of monies & publishing shares, have no place here. Rising after a siesta, and a call to The Horse in Telford, I sat with a cup of coffee (which once had probably been hot) on a chair outside the dining room looking through to the courtyard which is at the centre of this Catholic seminary. The Kitchen Team came in on Monday to prepare the facility for the influx of students on Friday to Guitar Craft (Argentina) V. They are performing this evening and have been preparing & practicing this afternoon. The sounds of acoustic Ovation guitars bounce around the walls, rooms & corridors of the building. Music is here. The music business is not. How to express the joy in this? Clean. Direct. Available. Present.
Probably members of the public have little, can have little, experience of the presence of music when the act of music has been mediated by commerce. How else is performance organized? Well, probably on a small scale for & by amateurs. The music industry presents entertainment & extravaganzas very well, but not events where music is the central focus. And if the industry were able to organize a musical event, then photography + autography + taping would kill off any possibility that was left. Perhaps I should accept, there is not a sufficient genuine commitment to the musical event in our (Western) culture for what I wish to achieve. If I did accept that, I would get on and organize my life according to different ground rules.
After the cup of coffee, looking at the grapes hanging from vines in the courtyard, guitar chords continuing to bounce off the walls, I went into the church attached to the seminary. It is also the parish church for the village of Gandara. For some musicians, music is God. This is not my position. Stand face to face with music, and see what is behind it. Then this becomes a practical matter. How to stand face to face with music?
We begin where we are. So where are we? Almost never in the moment. In Guitar Craft we begin our first morning by doing nothing. The injunction is: do nothing, as much as you can. Perhaps we are fortunate and, suddenly, might find ourselves where we are. In that moment we are present, even perhaps available. We look out the window and see the garden. The sun is shining. What a difference this is, to the artificial light in the basement! Then we’re back: we’ve fallen into the basement. Home again. But if we were touched by the sun, our life in the basement can never be acceptable or comfortable again. We have to find a way to build a ladder out of our this prison, formerly known as home.
So, once again, here we are with a Guitar Craft Level One. Always the same. Always different. Always the first time. We have had 4 courses in the Seminario San Jose. The last one was in November 1996.
Professional developments: on Monday, back from Tokyo, I spoke to Richard Chadwick regarding the venue for Crimson in Prague. The first time Crimson played there (1996) we got shafted by the venue: the Hall of Culture, capacity 2800. This is too big for Crimson to develop intensity, too big for the details which are a necessary part of KC repertoire, too big to connect with the audience, the audience too far from the musicians to sense their humanity. So the public got shafted too. Another dismal show from a tour of mostly dismal & inappropriate venues, and mostly dismal shows. Perhaps the performances from that tour were kinda OK, kinda professionally adequate, not bad. If so, then Crimson failed. When Crimson plays a kinda OK show, it means the show was feeble. OK is not good enough to merit all the difficulties and grief involved in Crimson going on the road.
Do the other guys hold the same views? Probably not, and for various reasons. A good professional knows that most (at least) European venues suck. So why get distressed? A good professional knows that ticket prices are high. So why bother? You get onstage and play the best you can. People cheer. You get paid. You go home. You can’t change the system, but you can play well. Anything more than that is unrealistic. Which is why my life as a touring musician is close to hell. I find it very hard to accept conditions which nominally support the performance of music but which act to undermine it. Regrettably, with the active support of many in the audience. I walk onstage to engage with the audience, not protect myself from those who claim their “rights” to act as they want, regardless. When audience & players are not even on the same side, life is hard.
Back to Prague. This time round I asked for a smaller venue. The audiences in Prague (and Warsaw) got a bad deal last time round, so for this tour I’ve done what I can to get better venues. In Prague we have a 1200 seat capacity. Ticket sales were strong: 65% went very quickly. So, the promoter offered another venue, with 2500 capacity. How could anyone say no? More money, more people, everyone happy? This is a typical example of how potentially good things go off course. I said not for me.
One of the main lessons I’ve learnt as a professional is this: you do shitty things for as long as you do shitty things. Then, one day you say no and you do one less shitty thing. No one – management, agency, record company, road managers, tour managers – will change the way the industry works for you. However much any of these people aim to protect your interests, for as long as oyu do shitty things, you will continue to do shitty things. So, when one day you’re offered something which is not right, you say no. That’s when it changes, and not before. Otherwise, you will continue to have a shitty professional life.
19.40 Hernan Nunez met me at the airport with his driver Claudio, aka The Terminator. Claudio was a marine on the Belgrano when it was sunk by a submarine of the Royal Navy. He was one of the few who survived & is an official Argentinian hero. Claudio is a small, gentle & tough man who is unstoppable when in committed & directed action. Hence his appellation.
Argentina is a wonderful place; mad, passionate, corrupt (by Western standards), humanistic, flexible, alive. I love it here. Buenos Aires is a music city par excellence. But if you have little money, life is cripplingly hard. There is a huge gulf between the wealthy & the others. The middle class has been squeezed during the past 4 years. The knock-on effect of Mexico’s currency crash on Argentina was considerable. Life is a negotiation with necessity. But here there are riches which don’t have one peso + one dollar tagged to them, like, children are a welcome part of the family, and each a gift from God. This is distinct from the English position, where children are a punishment for unprotected sex.
Networks of family & friends are essential, necessary. When a Crafty in Buenos Aires died of cancer recently at the age of 46, leaving his octogenarian parents behind without support, other Crafties went to see him before he died and told him that they would provide for his parents. So, he could fly away unburdened. This gives a flavour of the Guitar Craft community, and only hints at the power present within our network. My life as a professional musician to 1984 – characterized by antagonism, hostility, avarice, self-seeking, politicisms, self-regard, arrogance, dishonesty, exploitation, delusion & self-deception, drug & alcohol abuse, manipulation, and occasionally music of an extraordinary & sustaining power – was a necessary preparation for Guitar Craft. Exactly how & why I continue to learn today. But in Guitar Craft a sacred space & time opens, within which the proper concerns of the aspirant musician, and human being, may be addressed. How this may be is beyond me. That this is true, I can have no doubt.
Music is a field of benevolent, living intelligence that wishes for us more than we can bear to know. But there is no force in this, rather a radically neutral availability on permanent offer. Music is as available to us as we wish it to be, a gentle necessity. If we wish for this, we have to make ourselves available to music. To make ourselves available, we begin where we are. We begin in this moment, doing nothing. From there, we move to doing something.
20.34 A tasty dinner of calzone, prepared by the Kitchen Team under Mr. Ugo. Mr. Ugo is a film maker, and I know him better by his Guitar Craft name: Mr. He-Has-More-Hair-On-His-Face-Than-He-Has-On-His-Head.
One of the 92 e-mails awaiting me on Monday/Tuesday came from my essence brother Peter. Peter & I have been connected since group meetings at Randolph Road, the Bennett house in London, in 1974. We went to the fifth year at Sherborne together and were both Morris men in the Sherborne village troupe. Afterwards, we undertook a farming experiment in Cornwall, near Godolphin House, in 1978. Jack Willis, my godson, was christened in the village church. Peter & I went to visit the Stavravouny Monastery in Cyprus in 1979. Since then Peter & I have been involved in various adventures. Peter is the artist of “The Angel Of The Presence” which is the opening page on the DGM website, and the cover to “Three Of A Perfect Pair” is based on a larger painting of Peter’s.
Peter was ordained last Sunday in London as a Deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the culmination, & a beginning, of a journey which began for Peter in 1973. Sadly, I didn’t learn of this until Tuesday, but I had felt that something was in the air. This is a joy.
Also part of that expanded moment, connecting with JGB & Sherborne: on Tuesday I called Ben Bennett at Bennett & Luck in Islington. Ben was my first movements’ teacher in 1974, and introduced me to a series of exercises which were part of the Sherborne corpus. Ben & I discussed the present status of the JGB tapes, for which I have an ongoing responsibility dating back to Sherborne V (1975/76). There are 53 published audio talks which James Tomarelli of Bennett Books in Santa Fe is looking to make available once more. My present concern is to transfer all the archive tapes & cassettes into the digital domain, ready for the next generation. The existing JGB cassettes are now 15-25 years old, and it’s time to make this remarkable resource available again; primarily for study groups, but also for the public where appropriate.
JGB remains a Black Sheep for many in the Gurdjieff Society & orthodox Gurdjieffians. I have been told that some Society members secretly listen to the published JGB tapes. Wow. Wild things. There are only 6 people left alive who worked with Mr. Gurdjieff (I was informed 19 days ago by one of them).
21.30 The Kitchen Team have made a short performance in the auditorium. I helped prepare the space by rearranging furniture & adjusting the lights.
Thursday 30th. March, 2000; 16.53
The Seattle team flying here have got stuck in Chicago for a day. They now arrive tomorrow.
If we remember from the Alfeldt course the comment that A Good Loony Is Hard To Find – But Not For Us, our Good Loony has already arrived in Argentina. He follows a pesterance of e-mails to the Registrar expressing his interest but has not yet paid for the course.
Meanwhile, I have collected a pocketful of fresh walnuts from outside the seminary. Fernando Kabusacki & Martin Schwutke have been eating then over afternoon tea. I had one: very fresh & tasty.
The 30 foot radio mast on top of this building has enabled us to be communicado. On earlier courses it has been almost impossible for me to stay in touch with Toyah. Today, she called at 14.45 and we spoke. I believe this is a first. Hooray!
The Kitchen Team continue to prepare the space, practise & get in shape. We had a meeting this morning to address practical matters. In the kitchen on the first course in this facility, kerosene dripped regularly by the stove and was used to disinfect the floor. Tom Redmond remembers this course very well. Apart from a reasonable fear that he would disappear in a conflagration while on kitchen duty, in the Hellton dormitory (a large room shared only by Tom and Bill Forth) The Beast visited Bill in the night. The Beast was non-corporeal and gave Bill rather a shock. Tom had set up a field of protection around his bed before retiring and slept rather well.
So I have been told, when sites of devotion & prayer are left dormant denizens looking for a home tend to move in. But what do I know of this? Only that there have been wild & unsettling dreams on Guitar Craft courses over the years, and I have dreamt some of them. It is almost commonplace by now that some dreams are shared by a number of people. But that is another story.
Thursday 30th. March, 2000; 18.24
Well, that was an adventure: online at 9K. I managed to send out several e-letters & the Diary, noticed there were 72 e-mails waiting for me but was unable to retrieve them: transmission was so slow the Compuserve programme seized & I had to re-boot.
20.13 Silence came to visit during dinner. It arrived around 19.10 and stayed until 20.00. The visit of silence is a high spot in Guitar Craft courses. For some students, it is unbearable. Sometimes they leave the room. On one course in Japan, the course loony shouted “Stop it!”. Normally, we are able to bear silence for around 30 minutes. This is a Kitchen Team, Crafties with some experience and a developing practice. So, we were able to bear 50 minutes.
Quiet is the absence of sound. Silence is the presence of silence: rich, vibrant, potent, available.
I have read the view that silence is an approach of the Spirit. What am I to make of that? But I am of the view that applied, intentional work attracts the attention of benevolent intelligence; as if light is concentrated & functions as a beacon. The musical analogy might be that musical work of a certain quality and intensity attracts the attention of the Muse. It’s a great idea, but the experience is something else.
At the end of a tour by The League of Crafty Guitarists, the famous Bogo Tour & their first tour without me, they put on a performance in the Claymont Octagon (1989). About one third of the way into the show, a powerful presence arrived. Someone came by to visit what was going on, sat above the stage and filled the Octagon’s space. I asked one of the League how the show was for them.
A. Something happened.
A. About a third of the way into the show. I couldn’t look up.
That was also my experience.
Fifteen years ago today the first Guitar Craft Course was in its fifth full day. Several of the Level One team have been working with Curt Golden, who was on that first course.
It is probably not able to convey, certainly not to basement logicians, cynics & those knowing of my fallen nature, the power of the current which enables Guitar Craft to come to life. As with Crimson, this has nothing to do with Robert. It’s something like the Crimson “Good Fairy”. If anyone has ever felt music come to life in Crimson, been touched by the sheer otherness of it, the experience is something like that. Intimate but utterly impersonal. The “Good Fairy” is not a person, but an enabling current which allows Crimson to be Crimson. I have been in its presence, unmistakably. In that sense the Good Fairy it is tangible, recognizable, experiential. Guitar Craft’s benevolent presence is similar but the experience is richer, more available & direct.
I respect Fripp for having the good sense not to mistake himself as the force which makes Crimson Crimson. It’s also to his credit that he doesn’t mistake Guitar Craft as coming from him. There is, in Guitar Craft, something at work which goes far beyond the people involved. Guitar Craft could not happen if it were dependent upon the people involved.
The role Fripp plays, as instructor, requires a level of “being” (for want of a better word) which is not naturally available to me. I don’t have enough “money in the bank”. But if a course requires more currency than I have available, then for the course to function properly there has to be a “loan”, if not a gift. Loans have to be repaid, if not in life then on leaving it, and a gift cannot be held: it remains in motion. On occasion, I am aware that funds are being transferred to my account.
After 26 years of sitting on the floor, and the privilege of working with people skilled in subtle energetics, one recognizes certain visceral characteristics when “the flow of funds” is taking place. At the beginning of the first course in Japan, I was in bad shape. This was during the early period of the EG collapse, dispute & litigation: terror, suffering, horror, misery & living death. Clearly, Fripp was not in a good place to discharge his role. And then, sitting at a dining table, it began: a transfer of funds, beginning in the soles of my feet and moving upwards to the top of my head.
There was a different quality to this transfer than courses held in the West. My subjective interpretation of this: a call had been made to the local representative, who sent someone round to deliver the cash. The unknowable action of grace? The transmission of baraka? These are words, and what do they mean? Guitar Craft is a gift and a blessing.
23.09 A full team meeting to consider the questions: “What do you do when you are in despair?” and “What do you notice when you have noticed something?”. The answer to both is superbly practical. The question – “What is the primary function of a Guitar Craft Level One?” – has the same answer.
Friday 31st. March, 2000; 10.02
The Kitchen Team are preparing to feed 75 people this evening. There will also be visitors this weekend, including wives of Crafties in the Kitchen Team.
12.09 The Aims Of The Diaries
1. To engage the listening community at an earlier stage of the creative process than is commonly available.
2. To inform the listening community of the practicalities of that process.
3. To de-mystify the process which is, essentially, practical.
1. To encourage the Diarist to recapitulate their experience.
2. To provide the Diarist with a pointed stick.
3. To expose the Diarist to public ridicule.
1. We continue to have a Romantic notion of the artist: a special creature set apart from common humanity, one favoured by the Muse.
These Diaries indicate the mundane nature of the lives of artists: their simple, human and practical concerns. These Diaries remove the mystification which we project onto the artists, their lives and activities. The creative process is shown as being straightforward, ordinary and practical.
At this point, with the commonplace nature of the artists’ work revealed, the creative process may appear more remarkable than before: how can ordinary people like these give rise to work which moves and touches us?
Then, we find a new and deeper respect for the benevolence of the creative impulse: it succeeds despite these people, not because of them.
2. Much commentary on the lives and work of artists is projection: unfounded, uninformed, without data, without direct experience, based on what we believe the lives of artists to be. Most commentary by “fans” is based on ignorance, rooted in personal prejudice, like and dislike. This is commentary from the basement.
The enthusiast is better informed, able to engage with the process in the moment, and suspend the immediate rush to judgement. This is the view from the garden floor.
The connoisseur understands: they know, feel and sense the currents at work in the creative process. They have themselves undergone a training, but in listening and “appreciation” rather than in performance. This is the view from the floor above the garden room.
3. The recapitulation of experience, in the form of diarism, is a way to digest the impressions which life, and our living of it, naturally provides. The Diarist reviews their actions, feeling and thinking, and presents us with an overview of their life process.
Maintaining a diary is itself a process, of engagement with oneself. An ongoing diary presents a challenge which invites the Diarists to move beyond their natural lassitude, to go further than the merely comfortable.
Maintaining a pubic diary is also a process, and engagement with the listening community is the stage where diarism comes to life: the arrogance, foibles, pretensions, weaknesses and aspirations of Diarists are revealed to public gaze and scrutiny; even the attempt to hide is revealed. At this point, heat enters the process, and repercussions generated beyond the purely personal.
13.28 Los Gauchos Alemanes, in quintet formation, performed at lunch. Now, an
online adventure is about to begin.
16.02 Getting online was a significant undertaking. Marcello Monferrato leapt through hoops backwards, all at 9,600 bps, and eventually we got there. Proof of his success is that you are reading this. But what a pain.
Steve Ball called: BTV progresses.
18.56 Tomorrow is April 1st. & accordingly I’ve put a spoof schedule on the Board:
05.00 Physical exercises outside
06.00 Morning sitting
07.30 Opening meeting (with guitars)
09.15 Group Meetings with guitars
Group A – Martin
Group B – Fernando
Group C – Christian
10.30 Morning Tea
10.45 Physical exercises outside
12.00 Group Meeting
Who could fall for this good humoured April Fools’ Day jape? Well, actually anyone Argentinian. Their equivalent is the day of St. Innocent, the Holy Fool, on December 28th. This is when pranks occur down here. Hernan tells me there are concerned Crafties looking at the notice board.
20.27 The Big Time Trio & The Gauchos played at our first meal together. Over this meal I asked the question: “Why will Guitar Craft not become a cult?”. Several answers were suggested by the Team. I proposed four:
1. All meals are vegetarian.
2. Sometimes fruit is served as dessert.
3. Scepticism is encouraged: accept nothing that you don’t test in your own experience.
4. The Gauchos Alemanes play at mealtimes.
Then dessert was served: chocolate mousse with whipped cream and dolce de leche. Maybe Guitar Craft will become a cult after all; a cult of fat people, suggested Hernan.
22.51 The inaugural meeting will be continued tomorrow morning: not everyone had time to introduce themselves. I read out the spoof schedule: an Australian Crafty asked if the schedule had anything to do with the date. Latin American visitors had been seen writing down this schedule in notebooks. One suggested it was “discipline”. More like cruelty, I replied. So, rising at 07.00 tomorrow.
Saturday 1st. April, 2000; 20.16
Mealtimes provide a useful opportunity for comments on the day. Silence came to visit for 10 minutes or so, then provided a background for more commentary.
21.48 The Kitchen Team met to review their work together. We discussed various details of their exercises; e.g. visualisation, memorising music & developing a sense of physical presence during ongoing kitchen work. Like, when I’m chopping up an eggplant, what else is going on for me? I suggested chopping up the eggplant with two knives, one in 5 & the other in 7. Thrak that vegetable, dude!
The Level One met at 21.00. We circulated and vrooomed away at polyrhythms. The Team are tired: attention is mostly spent for today. But a good beginning day.
Sunday 2nd. April, 2000; 08.33
The morning sitting: constant motion, twitching, sneezing. At 09.00 & 09.15 the Level One are meeting with Martin & Fernando for guided practising of the First Primary, and I have the first six of this course’s personal meetings with the Kitchen Team.
10.04 None of the six meetings addressed guitar playing. Any dope can change the world, but it takes a hero to make the bed or clean a toilet.
11.36 The Group Meeting with Level One: we addressed passing notes to each around the circle in various combinations: singly, in duos & trios. Also, passing over one unit to the person/s on the other side. The instruction was this: “Play any note you wish, providing only that this is the right note”. One student asked: “what is the right note?”. So, the instruction changed to: “Play any note you like, providing only that this is the wrong note; that this note violates yourself & anything that you know to be true; is out of tune, out of time & with poor timbre; and is false to anything that you feel to be true of music”. But since this instruction was harder than the first, straightaway we went back to “the right note”.
The flow of circulating individual notes is smoother today than yesterday. More than this (like acting in pairs) remains problematic, even insuperable in our present condition. So faced with the impossibility of circulating in pairs, we addressed the impossible by making the situation more difficult, and moved to circulating in trios. This is a practical technique when facing an impossible task: don’t make the task simpler, make it harder. You may or may not achieve the impossible, but this technique makes success more likely. But after 50 minutes, I sensed a carelessness in the circulating. So I asked:
“If God were looking at our work, & wished to reward us for the quality & intensity of our application by granting us what we most deeply wished for in our lives, by placing this within a note, our only requirement that we must hear it and accept it, would anything change? And if we really really believed that grace were available within a note, would anything change?”
Then we moved on to addressing the operation of the right hand, an introduction to the Second Primary. Martin & Fernando are now continuing with this.
The day on any course that I meet with Level Ones, and their right hands, is my darkest day. This isn’t just about holding a pick and striking a string: how we hold the pick is how we organise our lives. How we organise one small part of our life is how we organise all the small parts of our life. So, in addressing the small detail of holding the pick, we run into the accumulated habits, attitudes, opinions & manner in which we present ourself to the world.
For example, young men with guitars often have aspirations which go further than the purely musical. Like, acquisition of territory, food & sexual partners. The pictures of guitar stars on the covers of magazines perhaps represent or idealise aspirations in these areas: fashionable clothes, groovy postures & the guitar slung low as a priapic enhancement. Whatever their other possible benefits, pictures of guitar heroes rarely present models of efficient playing habits. So, when I move to adjust the operation of the right hand for picking, I am adjusting (inter alia) the sex life, public presentation & courting procedures of young men. All of this is written into the musculature of the right hand, wrist & arm. If this is what it’s like for me, what must if be like for Alexander Teachers?
12.28 Hernan has just had a meeting with a Kitchen Crafty and his young wife in the room next to mine. She suggested, in direct terms, that Guitar Craft is a scheme for making money from gullible students. Robert & Hernan are intelligent enough to fool them all, and then carry the money off to Europe. She is going to send in the tax department. Hernan says that, regrettably, there is no money for Robert & Hernan to carry off to Europe (RF interjection: if there were, don’t worry, we’d be off). So, says irate wife, you think you are Good People, then? She is a teacher, and knows what a school is. Do we think Guitar Craft is a school? It is a cult (RF interjection: despite The Gauchos continuing to play at meals). What authority do we have? And she doesn’t need anyone telling her to put attention in her hand when chopping vegetables: she has her attention available all the time.
I have no difficulty with informed criticism or commentary, offered with goodwill. Even, on occasions, without it. All of this helps us to refine our work. Our internal learning is ongoing: if it were not, we would be moribund at best.
Several wives are visiting their husbands this weekend, and this is the only hard situation so far. In the past, partners of Crafties sometimes appear to feel threatened by, perhaps jealous of, their spouse’s commitment to GC & the time spent in practising. Perhaps, they are simply lonely. I sympathise with this: my own wife has been a Guitar Craft widow more often than I care to remember. For some people, GC is their way. For others, it’s on the way to their way. And for some, it’s not for them. Perhaps only of passing interest, but not more. For some, this is their family. But scepticism is a necessity. GC is not a belief system: it provides a practical approach to guitar, music & a personal discipline. This is not a place which welcomes the gullible.
The Level One meeting (16.30 – 17.30) approached the right hand, in a musical way. Now, 6 personal meetings with members of the Kitchen Team begin at 18.00. The house has a quiet hour before dinner, to respect the service in the church.
20.04 Several performances at dinnertime. No comments or questions. Several visiting wives are leaving, including the wife of the hard situation. She disappeared for the afternoon & returned to apologise to Hernan. She also made some tasty niblettes for dinner.
22.02 The 20.30 Kitchen Team meeting reviewed the work of the day. One of the team reported clear dreams in which he saw the faces of Crafties who are not on this course. We considered the notion of a community spread through time and place; cf. the GC exercise of Contact At A Distance, but in a more developed and mature form.
The Level One met immediately afterwards and bevooomerated for an hour in 11, 7 & 5. There is a tendency in odd meters to snatch at 1. This moves 11/8 to 10.5/8 in a hurry.
On an unrelated note: the toilets here in the rooms assigned to staff are significantly unpleasant. El stinkeroo to the max. Burning joss sticks help to cover the stink arising from the drains below, but now this room is full of smoke. A window is now open to clear the air of pong & incense, but open windows invite mosquitoes to approach and feed upon soft Crafty flesh. One of the chief pleasures of a Guitar Craft course is the sight of Hernan Nunez relentlessly & unforgivingly in pursuit of mosquitoes. Hernan is not a Buddhist, it seems, in his relations with these little suckers. Enter = die. Unapologetically, without hesitation, he squidges them flat with his hand. I’m not sure what Michael Peters would make of this. I wonder, are there any Buddhist pest control officers?
Monday 3rd. April, 2000; 08.40
The sitting was quieter this morning: less movement, less twitching, gurgling, sniffing, coughing.
10.03 Six meetings discharged, the last two with trios. Very few of the personal meetings so far have touched on guitar playing.
11.11 The Level One: Martin & Fernando began introducing the A natural minor / C major pentatonic. In our Group Meeting we continued circulating, this time in these keys, singly & in groups of two and three. Martin & Fernando are now about to introduce lateral fingerings. At the end of the meeting, questions were invited. There was only one.
Q. Are you teaching us something?
A. That is not properly a question. It’s a statement: Fripp is a teacher. I’m not a teacher.
Q. Well, are you teaching us something?
A. Are you learning anything?
Q. I’m processing.
Monday 3rd. April, 2000; 17.38
Fourteen more personal meetings with the Kitchen Team, plus a Group Meeting for Level One. We approached cross-picking for the first time, and began vamping. The Level Ones now have personal meetings with Martin & Fernando. My personal meetings with them begin tomorrow.
I have called Toyah in London to blow her a kiss goodnight, and am suddenly struck by a wave of tiredness.
20.22 Several comments and questions from the Level One at dinnertime. Dinner featured gnocci made by Maria Gabriella Epumer, a famous Argentinian guitarist who is visiting us for several days.
22.06 Meetings with the Kitchen Team & Level One, both without guitars addressing observations & questions arising.
Tuesday 4th. April, 2000; 08.46
For the first morning since I’ve been here, the sky is grey & overcast. Hernan has discovered effluvia rising outside our windows which he believes is the source of the horrible smell from the bathrooms. Someone local is on the way to deal with this.
The morning sitting was noticeably quieter & more settled.
11.52 Hooray! Hooray! Now at an end: 14 horrible sets of hands over nearly 3 hours, plus one trio with a good question (on the nature of improvisation).
This is the darkest day for me on any Level One: addressing the right hand. Guitar Craft is the only approach I know which aims to establish a centre of gravity for the right (picking) hand. Instruments of the academy & conservatory have well known playing methods; obviously, the violin & piano as examples. Even the classical guitar. But with the wire-strung plectrum guitar it’s as if each player invents their own approach. So, beginners have no orthodox, traditional or conventionally agreed way of learning the instrument.
13.56 Several performances at lunchtime. What a joy this is. Also, comments were invited from the Level One: “Did anyone notice anything this morning?”. In response: long stories of associational thinking, generalisations, rationalisations, conclusions, cosmologies of wonderment. But no observation from a point of noticing.
Hernan mentioned, over our lentil brew, that his wife Bettina is following this diary of the course. This is the first time that a course diary has been posted as the course unfolds. I know there will be repercussions from this, and I don’t know what they’ll be. My sense is that the GC community at large will be accessing the energy of the course, and most likely contributing to it. That is, this diary is facilitating a two-way contact at a distance within the GC community.
17.38 Five more personal meetings with The Level One, all without guitars, at 15.00. Then at 17.00 an introduction to The Practice Of Doing Nothing.
17.53 There has been a digging outside Fernando’s window. Fernie came to tell me of this attempt to remove the pongerama by clearing the drains. “He’s digging up something that looks like mud”, said Fernando. “Right – ‘mud’”, we agreed. We looked at the local gentleman digging away in this “mud” of particularity and said hello.
LG: “Ah! English”.
RF: “But the smell is an international language”.
We all agreed on this without difficulty.
18.53 Hooray! The Little Horse has just called from London to say goodnight. Apparently, there’s a cold snap fallen on the the UK. This is part of the strange changes in English weather conditions in the past 7 years or so. The winters have warmed up, and as the buds & blossoms emerge in February, 1-2 months early, they get killed off by a sudden cold. Toyah tells me that young lambs are dying in the cold.
20.03 Several performances at dinner time.
“Hard Times” by a sextet Gauchos. Twice as loud & three times as ugly. “Hard Times” was a staple of 1990 League of Crafty Guitarists’ tours.
Mr. He-Has-More-Hair-On-His-Face-Than-He-Has-On-His-Head directed an ensemble bearing the name “El Corno Del Fanyulo”. Courses at which he appears generally feature an appearance by an ensemble of this name & following his directions. For English readers, the name is translated “A Horn Up Your Ass”. If anyone recalls the discussion on naming, in my view this group is well named. Mr. HHMHOHFTHHOHH is currently composing & directing on aleatoric principles, he tells me. I believe him. The Horn’s performances are well humoured, entertaining & carry intention.
A group including Maria Gabriella Epumer played “Heptaparaparshinokh”, from the repertoire of The League of Gentlemen (1980). They performed this at lunchtime, but with a slight & unintentional rewrite which added immensely to its appeal for me. At dinnertime they returned to its original conception, which was also lots of fun.
The Big Time Trio have also been performing at lunch, tea & dinner times; plus various ensembles, some with history together, others ad hoc. At teatime they became The Teatime Trio and played “If I Fell”.
We came through The Great Divide yesterday evening: too far from the beginning to go back, too far from the end to go forward. Now, we are close enough to the end to move forward, but with a difference: something has changed in the energy of this course.
21.51 The Kitchen Team met at 20.30 to present comments & observations on the course, and were joined at 21.00 by the Level One for a full House Meeting. We are now taking a 5 minute fresh air break.
22.56 The House Meeting has just ended. The Level One have been asked presented with the challenge of making a performance for the house tomorrow at 21.00. Small groups arising naturally within the team, and from personal choice, are to be joined by groups formed by the operation of The Hat.
The GC Hat from Grossderschau is presently with Frank Sheldon in Seattle, so a visualised hat took its place. Names of the students written on pieces of paper were pulled from The Hat & placed in combinations. There is 1 soloist, 2 duos, 1 trio, 1 quartet, 1 quintet & 1 sextet. These various formations have until 06.00 in the morning, and all of tomorrow daytime, to compose & prepare for the performance.
Several comments during the large meeting commented on experiencing a change in the course’s energy today. Several centred on The Teatime Trio’s performance of “If I Fell” which somehow exemplified / marked / brought about a transition. My own sense was that the performance was “real”, but what do I understand by that? One observation: the musicians didn’t get in the way of the music. No “self-expression”.The music was simply there, being played: clean, available, direct.
Fernie reported an addendum to the story of the gentlemen digging in the “mud” of a certain pungency outside Fernie’s window. After the comment “the smell is an international language”, the specialist in “mud” removal continued talking with Fernando. Digging in the effluvium, he said: “I see you have been eating little cakes”. I suggested Fernie should have said: “Yes. Would you like one? Take it with you or leave it here”.
As the meeting dispersed, guitarists discovering the new groups chosen by The Hat, Martin & Fernando & I had a conversation regarding longer courses. This feels needed now. But perhaps more on this later.
Wednesday 5th. April, 2000; 08.40
The second Guitar Craft Level One ran consecutively with the first: a break of a couple of days, then straight in again. So, on this day 15 years ago, Tony Geballe was underway in Guitar Craft.
The morning sitting was quieter, with less twitching & gurgling.
My dreams this week have had an unusual clarity & intensity. I’m not sure that this imparts to them any particular significance. I woke at 02.45 to hear the sounds of guitar playing: some of the Level One were obviously going for it.
12.20 The Little Horse is on her way to Edinburgh. My morning has included 3 hours of meetings with the Kitchen Team, some with guitars but mostly without. The Level One performance project is underway, with sounds of thrumming & werning echoing throughout the seminary.
13.41 A lunchtime of performances.
18.08 Thirteen more personal meetings completed. A feature of teatime was “The League Of Gauchos” starring Maria Gabriella. They played one of her songs – “Caracoles” – plus “Heptaparaparshinokh” and a surfing tune featured in “Pulp Fiction”. Steaming.
The Great Divide was mentioned during the House Meeting last night. On a short course, the duration of the Divide is correspondingly shorter. On a 3 month course, this is correspondingly longer and harder. On November 1st. 1989 I wrote the following letter from England to the members of the Level Three at Claymont. It was read aloud on that course by Debra Gavalas Kahan, and I pinned it to the notice board here 10 minutes ago.
Here is a question: what do you do when you have no enthusiasm, no interest, and no energy? The answer is simple. You cook lunch. And then you wash it up, clean the bathrooms, run the office, practice guitar, practice silence, and cook dinner.
Here is another question: what do you do when you can’t do anything? The answer is simple. You do what has to be done. Like cook lunch, wash it up, clean the bathrooms, run the office, practice guitar, practice silence, and cook dinner.
The principle is this: suffer cheerfully. You are now being asked to deliver on your commitment to the course. Any fool can change the world, but it takes a real hero to cook lunch without demur, without complaint, and with a smile. This point of reliability is the basis of the spiritual life.
The one greatest single thing that I have learnt from Guitar Craft, this remarkable and unfolding action of which we are all privileged to be a part, is the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse. The Creation is creating itself all the time. This is not a finite event. It is ongoing. And we are part of this ongoing creation if we wish to be, and if we wish to place ourselves at the service of the creative impulse. Guitar Craft is only one example of the remarkable emergence of a major action of healing within our troubled world. The creative impulse, which invents Guitar Craft as it goes, is itself a vehicle for a far greater power, the power which maintains the Creation. In a word, love. The healing power, the power of making whole, of making holy that which is already holy but fragmented, acts through agents. Love does not exist, because it is not a power which can be constrained by existence. But, as we all know, love is quite real. To be present in the world it must be borne and carried by loving agents. The creative power is also a power which is beyond existence. To be present in the world it must be expressed through play, this creative action which is quite necessary. Play is spontaneous, in the moment and seeks no outcome, no result. The play of craftsmen and artists is in the moment, but moves from intention and seeks to generate repercussions.
I suggest that all of us have some sense of this, whatever words we may use to express it.
If we wish to participate within the loving, creative unfolding of our world, we place ourselves at the service of this unfolding. Because this is so much at variance with what we would call “a normal way of living”, most of us need instruction, techniques, exercises and help. If we are clear that this is really what we wish, we test this wish.
The particular challenge of a Level Three course is crossing The Great Divide. The Great Divide is with us in many small processes throughout our day, but generally we can escape from it, for several reasons. But over a period of three months it hits hard. The Great Divide is a necessary and inevitable part of any and every process. It is where we are too far from the beginning to go back, and too far from the end to go forward. It is the point where processes break down and go off course.
If we wish to be vehicles for the creative impulse, it is no good falling apart en route. The passenger gets thrown out. Our friend love gets dumped in the mud, and our pal healing action gets helped into the ditch. So, we must introduce a small point of certainty. This is commitment. Commitment carries us through The Great Divide. Commitment comes from who we are, and exerts a demand upon what we are. I have just read again the aims declared at the beginning of the course. Consider them again for yourselves. Is this real for me or just fine words?
Commitment is to be practised daily. And here is a small beginning to this practice. It is an exercise called The Job For The Day (exercise omitted). There are three areas in which jobs may be done:
1. For ourselves;
2. For the house;
3. For the community.
The principle which I find helpful when confronting The Great Divide is this:
Establish the possible, and then move gradually towards the impossible.
So, when nothing seems possible, look and see one small action which is possible. And then discharge it. It may be as heroic as getting out of bed. And then cleaning your teeth.
The Level Three gives you a taste of what is actually involved in basing one’s life on craft principles, whether we have any interest in playing guitar or not. Our rule of life is this: act on principle, move from intention. At Level Three we practice making a commitment for three months. Some of you have expressed interest in Level Four. At Level Four we say this:
In Guitar Craft we have three obligations:
1. The obligation to work;
2. The obligation to pay to work;
3. The obligation to accept the consequences of our work.
In Guitar Craft we have three rights:
1. The right to work;
2. The right to pay to work;
3. The right to inherit the consequences of our work.
But, we are not yet ready for this.
The situation is good.
My very best wishes to all you heroes.”
Wednesday 5th. April, 2000; 15.38
“Tomorrow is the first lie of the Devil”. This quoted by a Kitchen member, from their course a year ago, at a personal meeting.
22.38 The performance was a hoot. Actually, lots of hoots. More, an ongoing Hooting event. The performance, more accurately to report, was by the audience with Level One as spectators at their own show. But this time at least for a performance in the Gandara auditorium there were no plates of nuts, or bowls of soft & juicy fruit cut into pieces, distributed among the audience. Fruit pieces make a soft smacking noise at they hit Ovations, and almost no noise as they hit the players. The good news is, the fruit is fresh. The bad news is, to eat it firstly you must lift it off the floor & wash it.
An essay waits to be written on “The Art & Science of Heckling”. Each qualitative “world” has its own degree & quality of heckling. Heckling moves from the disruption & oafishness of the basement, where this is an expression of dislike & thwarted expectation, to (theoretically) the promptings of a Holy Fool who offers the performer a reminder, example & encouragement to enter & embrace a world which is true, and is real. Most audiences can only aspire to have a character like this among them. But on this course we do have a Fool, and a good one.
Intentional heckling, undertaken as a piece of work, requires (as a bottom line) goodwill and (if possible) compassion. Without this, little is achieved in the best interests of the performer. And, therefore, the audience.
Tonight’s tendered reality-checks were offered in good & high spirits. The pretensions of any performer is immediately recognisable. Here, each member of the audience has themself been in the same place, several times. Clevernesses, hot licks to amaze & dazzle, rip-offs & themes of questionable provenance, just don’t work here. And while falling flat the rug is also pulled from under the conceits of the performer, to assist their speedy downfall. Support is offered by the audience when their reminder is recognised & accepted without undue complaint. But any irritation shown by a performer is the end of their performance. Look out, dude. You do not get irritated with an audience from Latin America, particularly one which is better educated than you are, more proficient & practised, and with a sense of humour sufficient to sustain life during the hard years.
One player, using a small amplifier, discovered that the electricity supply to Gandara is not completely reliable; especially when an audient pulled out a plug to encourage rapid thinking on that player’s behalf. After all, it’s the recovery that matters.
The first show was hard to hear, above the audience, from just in front of the stage. A second show was recommended to take place immediately, on the grounds that it would be a very bad idea to upset an Argentinian audience that wanted more. Then, immediately after the endof the second show, as if turning on a coin, uproar disappeared and silence entered within seconds. Ten minutes later a speaker watch announced: “It is ten o’clock and no seconds” (in Spanish with a Madrid accent). This prompted hoots of laughter and a shout of “It’s a sign!” followed by more hoots of laughter. Then, once again within seconds, back into silence.
After 30 minutes, this intense embrace by silence gently released itself, and little tasty biscuit cakes given to the course by Charlina (the visiting mother of Christian de Santis) were distributed at the door.
“It’s a sign!” is a running shout of this week. Whenever the lights have dimmed, and electricity supplies to Gandara are not completely reliable even without assistance, the call has gone up. This is of course a joke. But somewhere within the joke is the recognition that something is in fact underway here. The sceptic might well say: “How do we know?”. The answer is experiential. Here it is. If you wish to taste this, stick out your tongue, Baby Blue. Otherwise, don’t concern yourself & have an easier life.
Some things protect themselves by being what they are.
Thursday 6th. April, 2000; 09.17
The morning sitting moved one more step towards being physically settled.
Blue has returned to the sky. The grey overhang now feels lighter, and shafts of sunlight striking the grass bring hope. After breakfast I sat just within the entrance of the courtyard which lies at the heart of the seminary. Simply moving across the threshold welcomes an entrance to another world: the sense of space & time suddenly shifts. If anyone doubts the capacity of architecture to shape our experience, they might try this for themselves. But they’d need to find their own seminary and their own interior courtyard.
Hernan has visited me with a schedule of today’s events. These are based around a public “Recital de Guitarra” by the Kitchen Team in the chapel this evening. Father Horacio & his group are coming from Buenos Aires & the village are invited. Donations are invited for Caritas Argentina. Not all the money contributed by Guitar Craft to this facility in the past 5 years appears to have reached its intended destination. Accordingly, the last time a Team performed in the chapel the (then) new bishop invited donations in food. This time, a new regime now in charge of the seminary, donations in food and/or cash are invited.
It is hard for an Anglo-Honkie from G7 to experience a sense of real poverty, although in some parts of the English countryside & inner cities this is frighteningly apparent. But here, it is different. The Kitchen Team do our shopping in the nearby town of Chascomus. On the last course, over lunchtime & just back from shopping, Hernan told me that a single mother in Chascomus had thrown herself under a train. The reason: she could not feed her child. But were her child to have no parent, the orphanage would care for them. So she threw herself under a train, this the only wasy she knew to provide care for her child. And then Hernan added: “This is the third single mother to have done this in Chascomus this month”.
There are Crafties here who work for less in a month than an unemployed person in the UK receives in benefits. The wife a Crafty who came here early, to work on the fabric of the building, was unable to visit him at the weekend. She was sick, but to keep her job rested at weekends to recover sufficiently in time for her next week’s work. Some Crafties can’t afford the ‘bus fare to the seminary from Buenos Aires ($30).
The Buenos Aires Guitar Circle support each other as they are able. On Tuesday Hernan is visiting the octogenarian parents of a Crafty who died of cancer recently (he was 47) with donations from other members of the Crafty Team. Life is financially hard here, and getting harder, but the networks of family & friends appear (to a visiting Anglo) to be of a very different quality to those I see at home.
13.33 One of the gringos who appears, to me, to have an interest in Guitar Craft has not yet quite asked his burning question. As I was about to sit at the lunch table I followed a hunch, walked to his place and asked: “What question do you really want to ask me?” Gringo was unable to hear this question until I asked it a third time. “You mean, right at this moment?” I shrugged and walked away. He came up to the top table and asked if he could sit there (facing me but away from the room). “Yes, but that’s the worst seat in the house. Better trying one of the flanks. But if you sit on the top table you must be prepared to accept questions or be presented with challenges”. I note, en passant, that the top table is not a safe place to be: this seating carries with it responsibilities.
So, Gringo sat on my left and the only question he asked throughout lunchtime was “Would you like a coffee?” “No, thank you”.
The Kitchen Team played 3 pieces and, judging by their faces, looked as if they were having a terrible time. A face holding an expression like this is known as “Guitar Craft Face”. Something like a hairy, bespectacled, earnest, male Crimson-fan face but to the power of three.
What is the worst you might imagine about-to-be-becoming-happening in your life? Answer this question with a facial expression:
= beginning Guitar Craft face.
Then, remove from this face all possibility that life without pain is possible; hold the notion that joy has been extracted from the universe over eons by a cosmic suction pump twice the size of the universe itself; then throw in the concept of infinite time in which to practice the First & Second Primaries:
= Guitar Craft face up-and-running.
Hey! And it gets better even than this. Like, if you’re German. Until Guitar Craft went to Germany, the Face was only in the early stages of development. And that’s another story.
Thursday 6th. April, 2000; 16.03
One of the Level One has begun to insult me in Spanish. Mr. Ugo of the Kitchen wondered if I knew of this. Actually, yes.
Insults carry a certain charge which permeate whichever language is being spoken. Words carry intention, in the same way that notes passed around the guitar circle convey the state of their player. If we are in a bad state, words are unnecessary: posture, personal aroma & facial expression are more than enough to warn off anyone nearby. More subtle forms of negativity have shapes in the personal energy field, and are easily apparent to experts in energetics. But ordinary people, like us, instinctively & intuitively sense it. Probably, this is part of our animal nature; part of our survival mechanism.
Visitors to this diary, Elephant Talk, and those who take an interest in matters Crimson, are aware that not everyone of my personal & professional acquaintance look upon either myself, or my work, with unalloyed approval. But to be nasty to another, and effectively so, is very hard: our conduct shows us to be at least as much a jerk as the individual (whoever it is) we describe. This lake of grace & courtesy undermines our credibility as critic. But, there’s nothing new about this observation. Some public commentaries & reviews, whether by a professional writer or former personal / professional acquaintance, radiates toxicity. I was handed a print-out of one such commentary several months ago: I sensed its dis-ease emanating from the paper. How is this possible, I wonder? The dis-ease which emanates from the words is something apart from the nominal grounds for disagreement. The formal points of disagreement may be formally addressed; what then remains is toxicity, but with no place to go. So, it festers within the disputant.
19.06 Two hours & 30 minutes of interviews with generous & interested national press & radio.
The disaffected member of the Level One was given the opportunity to leave honourably, but has decided to stay. Good: this is the better course of action.
Friday 7th. April, 2000; 11.46
A morning of personal meetings with Level One is now almost 3 hours underway. One stunning observation, based on genuine insight, from a Gringo regarding the harbouring & projection of negativity.
Last night’s performance in the chapel was almost derailed by a couple of out-of-tune Level Ones. One of them intended to heckle & perhaps pelt the performers (this the character who has been insulting me in Spanish); the other adopted make-up somewhat reminiscent of Alice Cooper. Hernan called the Level One out of the chapel for a meeting. I suggested to them that the latitude of conduct permissible within the course was inappropriate outside of it; and in this case, disrespectful in the place of public worship by a Christian community. If anyone was unable to accept these conditions, this was not the performance for them.
The chapel was almost full with villagers, Crafties & their guests. I rarely experience this sense of community in a “public” place: good people & good hearts. Everyone was invited into the seminary where the Kitchen Team had prepared tasty foods & desserts, also a little wine. The Secretary of Culture for Chascomus, who is a painter & carpenter, presented me with a painting as an expression of gratitude for his son attending GC (in the Kitchen Team). The painting is in a box, also made by him, so that it may travel safely on the ‘plane to England.
Some of the Staff congregated quietly in our sacerdotal area with a little of the several wines brought by the Chilean team, some tiramisu & chocolate mousse. Outside, the Level One were vibrating at moderate amplitude.
14.27 Of the two L1s having difficulties with the course, one is addressing this honourably after his fashion. The other has gone to his bed, is being visited and taken food. His problem is, I believe, drug related. If I needed any more information on the damage of drugs (having seen management & players sliced apart by this), then to look into the eyes of people in a GC circle who are unable to process & apply simple information, no more proof is needed for me.
I’ve had this discussion with pot heads in GC before. They know that none of the above comments apply to them. There’s nothing wrong with smoking dope, even on a daily basis over years. It doesn’t make them dull, careless of their personal habits, nor blunt the acuitive edge which differentiates the excellent from the merely sufficient.
I am not making a moral judgement on the behaviour & choices of another: life is hard, & how we deal with it in response is ours to make. But if I am asked to make a call on what is possible for a player’s efficient functioning; how to help prepare them for the place where music & musician meet; & then I see their head in one place, their hands / bodies in another, & an utter failure to put the two together; then I make my call. Drugs have no place in Guitar Craft. The young man unable to get out of bed or take off his makeup is only one of many examples of this. What people have done before they come here is not a concern. For some, GC is part of rebuilding lives shattered by drugs (e.g. on this course, heroin & cocaine). And some never quite manage to put the pieces together again. Isn’t this a tragedy?
18.58 At 09.00 this morning Martin & Fernando prepared the Level One in the first part of the Division of Attention Exercise. The second part was shown this afternoon at 15.00.
At 17.00 we met for the Level One to present their work in Qualitative Endeavour. The instruction was to choose one small part of their work from this week, & discharge it superbly. They began working on this yesterday. Then at 18.30 we met for the last Level One circle; with circulations & vrooomating chords. It was all terrible & a disappointing conclusion to their circle.
The following (with one small edit) was posted at the end of teatime:
Final Letter to the Second Guitar Craft (US) Level Three.
November 27th. 1989.
Guitar Craft Services,
Rt. 1, Box 278-M,
West Virginia 25414.
This is my final letter to the course. Our final day is December 5th., and on this evening The League of Crafty Guitarists and myself are playing at the Whiskey A Gogo in Los Angeles. Twenty years ago this week I was playing this same club as a member of King Crimson. Eric Burdon was in the audience, and he booed us. Actually, I didn’t hear him. I was told of this afterwards. Tomorrow, the 6th., our course in Los Angeles will complete. Please send to us your best wishes. On the 7th. I shall fly to London, en route for Italy where some of us will meet again.
After three months of living together, we will probably have dropped some illusions of community life and our personal capacities. We may be happy, even enthusiastic, about the prospect of changing the world. But are we able every morning to practise sitting for 30 minutes, doing nothing? It is necessary, although exceptionally painful, to see what we are. Our motivations are unpleasant, selfish, unkind, our minds a windfill of prattle, and our capacity for action uncertain at best. When we meet ourselves face to face, it is an unpleasant surprise. Probably the most difficult personal work I have ever undertaken is to bear what I am. If I am able to find forgivingness for others, I may find forgiveness of myself. If I am able to find forgiveness for myself, I may find forgivingness of others. The two are inseparable.
The first moment in which I was present to myself in this life was very early, probably about 6 to 9 months old. I remember the experience of being in my pram when a ‘plane went overhead and made a noise. The Fripp baby was disturbed, moving in the pram to try and cover itself. At this point, there was a clear separation between who I am, and the little creature I was living in. I had no fear, but the Fripp baby was disturbed and sucked me into its concerns. This clear experience of being apart from the human animal, with a sense of both who I am and what I am, and then the two merging, was my debut in the world. This experience has remained with me since. I know that I am not my body, but live inside this human animal. I also know how easy it is for my animal matters to involve me in its concerns. This is a limitation and restriction upon my freedom of action. Is it possible for us to maintain a clear sense of who we are, and what we are, and to separate the two?
Some 28 years later, pursuing similar concerns, I spent ten months at Mr. Bennett’s school in England, Sherborne House. A considerable cause of personal distress was the degree to which the whirring noise of my mind caught and held my attention. One day, while in the tape store which had become my responsibility, I realised that I was not my thinking. Neither was I my feeling, nor my doing. In a sense, this was a great relief. Nevertheless, I had a relationship with these instruments that operated and functioned, nominally upon my behalf.
A little time later, in the bitter cold of February 1976, while pushing a wheelbarrow of compost past the woodworking shop, in a flash, I saw that Robert Fripp did not exist. This insight probably lasted about half a second, if one measured it on a clock. It was a terrifying and frightening experience. Fripp was disturbed to see that he did not exist. So, I know that whoever I am it is not this creature I inhabit, neither is it the accretion of habitual behaviors called Robert Fripp. But, who I am has a relationship with what I am, and what I think, feel and do. That is, who I am should have a relationship with what I am, and what I think, feel and do. And this is where we find pain and suffering. The relationship is distant and unreliable. I see the distance between myself and Robert Fripp and his concerns.
If this distance is of real concern to us, we develop the relationship. The Guitar Craft principle is this: we begin where we are. But, we have to know where we are. So, we do nothing and while we’re doing nothing, we look. Perhaps we can do nothing and look, while having a left hand. If we can do nothing with a left hand, we are on the way to doing something with a left hand. After three months, perhaps we know where we are not. That is, we have dropped some illusions. We have a clearer sense of our reliabilities, impulses and capacity for action. Hope lies in this: music is possible, despite what we are.
In time, and with practice, our centre of gravity changes. Our everyday concerns and worries remain the same, but we no longer live in the same place as the concerns and worries. They live in the basement and the cellar, and I live on the first floor. Here, my perspective is quite different. I see things in a different way. One day I visit the second floor, and have another perspective from the vantagepoint of being above, and looking down on the first floor and basement. This is a place where I would really like to live, but there isn’t enough room for my baggage. So, I go back downstairs. While I lived in the basement and cellar I believed that I lived on ground level. This was an illusion. To move upstairs, I have to know where I am, without blame, excuse and apology. Then, I can visit upstairs.
Life in the cellar is dark, and because of this is lonely. In the dark we can’t see other people. When we visit upstairs there is more light, and we can see other people. Perhaps they can help me? This is true, but only to the degree that I am able to help myself. The degree to which I am able to help myself, is the degree to which I am able to help them. The degree to which I can help them, is the degree to which I can help myself. When I visit the second floor, I see that these other people are members of my own family. Members of a family are the family. That is, in a sense, they are the same person.
It is a common error to believe that we are on our own. This is an aspect of egotism, of failing to see beyond our nose. Help is always available, but we are not. The one greatest lesson of Guitar Craft, for me, is the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse. Despite who we are, help is always available. Despite what we are, redemption is always possible. But, this does not occur by accident. It involves our co-operation. It is necessary that the creative impulse enters the world. So, our co-operation is also necessary. When we make a commitment to enter this sphere of co-operation, all the rules change. We enter a privileged situation. In my view, this course has been operating under an umbrella of protection. This is also true of Guitar Craft as a whole.
In the creative world, processes are simultaneous. In our everyday world, they unfold in time. A creative event is eternal. That is, every moment which we experience as different and sequential actually occurs at once. That is, in one moment. The eternal event is simultaneous, but in potential. The actualisation of this potential event is governed and restricted by the necessary rules of operation of the everyday world. The world of the eternal moment and the world of sequential time can and do come together. When we experience this interface, we experience the presence of the eternal event. This implies that it is possible for us to experience and access the complete Guitar Craft event. In a way, the future reaches back to invent the present and repair the past. If we recall the performance by The LCG on the Level Two weekend, we may recall the visit by a substantial presence.
But, there is no security as we generally understand it. There are no guarantees that Guitar Craft will stay on course, or survive at all. If Guitar Craft is to become what, in potential, it already is, our co-operation is necessary. These three months have only been a small indication of what is involved. There are exercises which we can practise to develop our capacity for co-operation with the eternal moment. When necessary, and when we are ready for them, they will be made available to us. But, until we have some idea of what it means to be alive within our left hand, little else is possible.
At the present moment we are struggling. The office is underfunded, we don’t have a home, we are unable to meet the requests for help which are made of us. This will continue throughout next year, and change in the Spring of 1991. Then, a new current will appear and carry us with it, if we are ready. Of those among us, who is able to make a commitment to this next year of preparation?
My very best wishes to you all.
22.18 Dinner, as at lunch & teatime, featured performances from several combinations, including “A Horn Up Your Ass”. They included a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Claudio of The Big Time Trio. Extraordinary.
Over dinner conversation between RF & HN. Last night a mosquito got RF (at 01.45). Hernan said he was got at 03.00. But no mosquito sucks blood from Hernan Nunez and lives, I report. This foolhardy mosquito was squashed flat shortly afterwards, fat with Nunez blood.
Personal meetings with Martin & Fernando after dinner, and a meeting with the Buenos Aires Guitar Circle & performance team. Then the final meeting of the course began at 20.30, with comments on the week invited from all the house. The course was declared finished for some, and completed for others, at 22.15.
23.10 A practical meeting for those leaving at 22.30. A meeting is beginning in 5 minutes for anyone interested in the August Guitar Circle month in Kiel. This is effectively a Level Two course. Clueless proctomancers wander around for a month while Hernan, plus help, wait for the penny to drop.
Errata: An e-mail from Tony Geballe corrected me: he was on the third GC course, not the second as reported:
“I was on GC III, May 1985, along with Trey, Ralph, Adam, Novak, Miley, Mazza, and several other memorable characters…”
And an e-mail from Tom Redmond:
Q: “What do you do when you are in despair?”
Saturday 8th. April, 2000; 08.10
The first van is close to leaving. A millage of Crafties are preparing to get on & be driven away. Breakfast was set for them at 07.30. For those not leaving immediately there was a morning sitting for those who wished to attend. They are staying for the cleaning & tidying of the seminary, to leave it in good order: this is part of the completion of our courses & visit.
09.39 Attitudes. Attitudes.
The attitude that life owes us something, if not everything, encourages life to thwart our endeavours.
This life may not provide justice, but it is fairer than we might like it to be.
When we act as we like, we get what we want; but not what we need.
10.53 Acts of heroism in the packing department. Gifts of dulce de leche, fine Argentinian wine, a book, plus more besides, have overfilled the Happy Gigster’s Travelling Compendia. The Team remaining behind to clean the house are preparing lunch for us at noon. Then Hernan & I are off to visit a club in Buenos Aires which Hernan feels would be suitable for Crimson.
So, what of this course?
This is beginning Guitar Craft’s third 7 year life cycle. The first period was one of expansion, the second a kind of Level Two. My own participation was limited by nearly seven years of litigation. But, had that not happened, I would have found another way for Crafties to become less reliant upon me, and more able to work from their own initiative. Now, this course coinciding with the 15th. anniversary of the first, there is a sense that something is beginning again.
When we arrived here last week, I mentioned to Hernan a dream on my first night in Sherborne House. The dream has never left me. My Mother & Auntie Evie had driven me to to Sherborne, Gloucestershire, from Wimborne, Dorset, via the Polly Tea Rooms in Marlborough. My Mother was horrified to leave her son in the Spartan dormitory which housed myself & 5 other men for the next 10 months. On that first night, before the beginning of the course & the arrival of the other men, I had the dormitory to myself. Of the dream: I have never forgotten it, nor quite understood it, and continue to recall it.
One interpretive (beginning) lesson from the dream is that a third Guitar Circle is necessary, in Europe. Hernan has a feel for this, and has already been holding Summer projects in Germany. The Nunez family are in Kiel, so it makes sense that anyone who wishes to extend their personal work to involvement in an ongoing Guitar Circle community, this is a beginning point. In the next room Hernan is presently discussing the idea with several interested young men.
But now: to close down the computer & pack it into the computer knapsack given to me by my Sister, hoping not to crush Bill Forth’s chocolates & Hernan’s Mother’s dulce de leche cakes.
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level One in Alfeld, Germany
Guitar Craft Level One Alfeld, Germany
Monday, 3rd. August 1998; 09.28
Over breakfast this morning, before the Inaugural Meeting ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 Lebanon in New Jersey, USA
Guitar Craft Level One & Level Two Lebanon, New Jersey, USA 2nd. – 9th. September 2000
Sunday, 3rd. September 2000; ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 in Sassoferrato, Italy
Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy.
Franciscan monks live in the other half ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 in Sassoferrato, Italy
Wednesday 23rd. January, 2002; 17.01
Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy.
Rising at 05.30 at Chez Horse in ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 in Santa Barbara, California, US
15.36 Ralph Verde, co-registrar with Bill Forth, collected me from The Upham in Santa Barbara ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 in Los Molinos, Spain
Wednesday 22nd. January, 2003; 18.49
Villa Mercedes / Padres Claretianos, Calle San Pascual Nº 3, esquina travesía San Pascual, ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 in Los Molinos, Spain
Tuesday 20th. January, 2004; 15.34
Villa Mercedes / Padres Claretianos, Calle San Pascual Nº 3, esquina travesía San Pascual, 28 ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Levels 1, 2 and 2.5 in Lunlunta, Argentina
Tuesday 28th. September, 2004; 20.37
Casa de Retiro Nuestro Senora del Transito, Franklin Villanueva y Maza, 5517 Lunlunta-Maipu, Mendoza.
Today ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1, 2 and 2.5 in Lebanon, US
Tuesday 15th. March, 2005; 09.04
Hotel Acceptable, Lebanon, NJ.
The hotel provided a modest feeding trough. New reading: John Mason’s ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1, 2 and 2.5 in Los Molinos, Spain
Monday 23d. May, 2005; 09.36
Villa Mercedes / Padres Claretianos, Calle San Pascual Nº 3, esquina travesía San Pascual, 28 ... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Guitar Craft 21st. Anniversary Course / Levels 1, 2 and 2.5
Monday 10th. April, 2006; 20.05
Casa de Retiro Nuestro Senora del Transito, Franklin Villanueva y Maza, 5517 Lunlunta-Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina.... Read More
GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 3 in Sant Cugat, Spain
Tuesday 8th. August, 2006; 21.51
Monasterio Nuestra Señora De Los Angeles (Monjas Dominicas), Sant Cugat, Spain.
A wonderful morning on ... Read More