GC Course Diaries by Robert Fripp: Level 1 & 2 in Sassoferrato, Italy

Date or timeframe: 17-01-2001 / 27-01-2001
Venue: Convento di S. Maria della Pace
City: Sassoferrato
Category(-ies): /

Wednesday 17th. January, 2001; 21.52

Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy.

Franciscan monks live in the other half of this 1940s building. This side seems to be used as a hostel. When Hernan & the preparatory team arrived, they found a dirty, trashed & very cold house with dirt covering all surfaces. Some rooms remain uninhabitable even now, and some habitable rooms have no heating. But the kitchen is much better than many we have used on courses. Originally, this was a facility to train priests; perhaps the supply of aspirants has dwindled.

An interesting point: Guitar Craft needs a facility for courses, but often the building needs Guitar Craft. There is an energy that appears when GC is present which is available to contribute to the spirit of a house. Our main meeting room here was, yesterday, the chapel. The monks helped to move & clear the space, so now we are able to benefit in turn from the spirit of that space.

There have been more cancellations than usual, for a variety of reasons. A new one is the need for visas in Italy (& Spain) for visitors from South America. This leaves 77 people if everyone arrives. Hernan feels that we may lose a couple more.

Cathy Stevens, here to present the Alexander Technique, and I met at the gate in Heathrow Terminal Two. Happily, the Alitalia journey was fine, albeit with a layover of 3 hours in Rome. Allessandro Bruno, also of the Europa String Choir, collected us at Ancona and drove us the 75 kilometres to Sassoferrato.

Thursday 18th. January, 2001; 09.02

The Preparatory Team have a house meeting to address what is needed for the house to be ready for the Level Two beginning this evening. The fabric is beginning to gently warm up, heat being too strong a term: Hernan says there has been no heating in the building for at least a year. I hear a drill: this may be the telephone company uttering obscure rites of necromancy over the pay `phone at the end of the corridor below. The chapel is now quite warm, as is the Level Two & Staff corridor.

Hernan continues to call the Level One corridor “Hell”. Some doors are locked, to prevent an innocent seeing the terror lurking behind them. The three most striking elements of Sherborne House were firstly, the cold; secondly, the cold; thirdly, the ongoing physical discomfort. Our Hell is nothing compared to Sherborne’s Hell. Presently, Sherborne House (in Gloucestershire) is a country house conversion (c. 1980) into expensive apartments. Acknowledging the weakness of my flesh, I’d prefer living there now to in 1975-76. Acknowledging my aspiration, I’m now ready to benefit from going there whatever the temperature.

Silence walked into the dining room at breakfast, and offered to hang around. But no-one said welcome.

18.25 Boy, it’s cold. Not terribly cold: warm enough to know that you’re cold. Hernan’s office is warmer than Room 8. He says it’s because the room is smaller. I’m inclined to believe that the draughts from the window here are a significant negative contribution to the temperature. The glass doesn’t fit in the frames, although efforts have been made to cover this with transparent grout. The wind blows through the gap between the top of the glass and the frame. It’s still warmer than Claymont Mansion & Claymont Barn, prior to Guitar Craft, though.

20.21 Silence visited at dinner time, hovering gently awaiting an invitation to enter. We sat with silence for 30 minutes. There is:

Sitting with silence.
Sitting in silence.
Sitting with silence in us.
Being silent (alternatively, being silence).

Also at dinner: a performance team – “Il Commendatore Zucchini” – played “Funiculi Funicula”quite acceptably & Ralph Verde told a joke which connected itself to Guitar Craft within the acceptable six degrees…

1. Chapstick
2. Suzy Chapstick
3. SC photo session advertising chapstick in Apple Health Spa Jacuzzi c.1978 with RF in jacuzzi at the same time
4. Apple Health Spa the site of NST visitation (September 1983)
5. NST the Guitar Craft tuning.

Spooky or what?

22.03 At the Inaugural Meeting of the Level Two & Kitchen Team everyone was invited to introduce themselves & say:

who they are;
where they come from;
what is their aim for the week;
what brought them here.

The Level Two was acknowledged as officially underway at 21.08.

Friday 19th. January, 2001; 07.16

The heating was turned off in the night to economise: if we drive the heating full time the diesel bill will be greater than the total charge for all the students visiting the convento for the week. But at 06.45 the heat was sufficient and the water hot enough for a toasty shower.

Thermal underwear is out of the suitcase and kitted. Prior to Sherborne thermal underwear was a source of great amusement to me: how could anyone wear such stupid looking things? The answer to this was, & is, very simple: because they were extremely cold. New Yorkers are also very forgiving of each others’ aberrant fashion sense when it comes to icy blasts from the North Atlantic, and for this purpose I choose to adopt my adopted New Yorkishness.

12.49 At 11.00ish the first Level Two / Kitchen Team meeting with guitars. We addressed the division of attention, but for some the effort of breathing while sitting on a chair was challenge enough. Martin then became available to work with the Primaries, and Guillermo with repertoire.

13.53 Comments over lunch on this morning’s work have set the direction for this afternoon: The “Well” Project, or Quantifying The Qualitative.

How good is “well”? Guitar Craft requires greater definition than this. So, how much is “well”? The suggestion is 10 bars of 7 in each direction around the Circle (ie 20 bars), 3 times, of a circulation exercise. I am meeting with the Level Two at 17.00 to be presented with the results.

16.35 One of the Kitchen Team called to cancel: sadly, his wife has lost one of their twins & the responsibilities to his family have a greater necessity. Other characters are arriving for the Level One.

18.25 Three of the Level Two who found their Well Project “very difficult” are joining the Level One. Their challenge is now how to lose their virginity twice. A quiet time is about to fall on the house.

Meanwhile the radiators in my room & bathroom stopped working quite a long time ago and a local plumber has been bleeding them of air and dirt. He has been smoking while doing this and Room 8 is now polluted. He has asserted his right to smoke and in return I have asserted my right not to quibble in a situation where discussion & debate is not a viable option. But the radiators now work, and the window is open to allow the smoke to leave and fresh air to enter.

19.00 The creative impulse animates whatever instrument is made available to it.

20.11 Nearly all of the Level One arrived in time for dinner. Silence visited for 10 minutes and then the house rules were declared. Anyone who felt they were unable to accept them were invited to leave. No one left.

Customarily, the introduction to Level One house rules includes the statement that nothing is compulsory on GC courses, save for drugs. To this item, for this mixed course, I added a rider addressing sexual relationships. On longer mixed courses this is an issue which is necessarily discussed and covered by GC house rules on honourable sexual conduct. This week, coupling is not appropriate.

20.42 There has been an information download going on since this late afternoon: I have been granted insights into the process of practising, and how that relates to craft techniques. Wonderment. Joy. Bliss arising. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

22.55 A long introductory meeting divided into two parts.

Saturday 20th. January, 2001; 07.17

Room 8 is almost what might be described as warm.

08.38 Fernando & his wife arrived late last night, and Greg from Seattle even later. A solo performance.

11.13 I met with the Level Two at 09.30. We set 3 areas to address:

the calisthenic; physical concerns with left & right hands on the guitar fingerboard knowledge; one personal item of practising the person.

Everyone is asked to choose one small issue in each area to focus upon, with a clear aim for what is being undertaken. Define the aim simply, clearly, briefly, positively. Then, how well we do in addressing that aim can be clearly verified.

There is a bus leaving with “C Major” on it. It will be leaving & if you are not on board you will be left behind. Guitar Craft is moving on.

Then, at 10.00, the first Level One group meeting with guitars. We began where we were, then moved to circulating, then to beginning the First Primary. Martin, Luciano & Guillermo took over at that point.

14.01 A solo performance at lunchtime of two pieces by the breakfast player. One of his pieces was the same as at breakfast but this time without a reliance on visual cues: he wore a blindfold. Plus a performance by The Hell Boys. Several comments were made on the morning’s work.

Saturday 20th. January, 2001; 20.13

Level Two have begun addressing chords in C major, and the scale of G major.

Level One have moved to counting while circulating, but counting four bars of seven all at one go – while sitting on chairs and breathing – is presently a step too far. They have also been shown two magic chords.

Several good comments over dinner, plus a new arrival for the Kitchen Team and 2 guests for the weekend.

22.11 The large guitar circle included nearly all the guitar players in the house. Circulating, counting and thrakking.

Sunday 21st. January, 2001; 07.20

Dreams & dreaming on GC courses would be an interesting chapter in The Book Of Guitar Craft.

11.21 Meetings with Levels Two & One. Level Two are currently working on how folk guitarists might strum along with simpering classics, and the Level One are beginning to address the right hand with Martin, Fernando, Guillermo & Luciano. Cathy & Saskia are Alexanderising their bodies.

12.08 Dan the Good recently sent this e-mail:

DanKirkd 1/8/01 6:18:07 PM GMT Standard Time
Subj: Fwd: Permission to use info on DGM website

What should I do with such requests in the future?

Forwarded Message: 1/8/01 2:27:25 PM GMT Standard Time

I represent a small upstart publishing company. Myself and my partner in this enterprise are both writers, and we have been very inspired by the mission of DGM. We would like to use DGM’s statement about its business aims on our website (which is in the construction process), fully crediting you all, of course, and providing a link to your site. Certainly, we would have to change some wording because we publish books, not music, but other than that it would be virtually unchanged.

RF: The quick answer is, yes, with acknowledgement where appropriate. The work of DGM hopefully supports the work of others. So, if the Aims can be usefully adopted by others, this validates our own efforts.

We also receive requests to use / quote from the aphorisms displayed on the DGM website. These are mostly drawn from Guitar Craft. An early form of the aphorisms was printed as a poster under the heading of “Guitar Craft Monograph No. 3” in 1987 and has been out of print since.

DGM works in the marketplace, which Guitar Craft does not, and so acts under a series of constraints which don’t apply to Guitar Craft. The public (and many private) aspects of DGM / KC / RF are subject to an ongoing series of public commentaries which are an almost total waste of energy: destructive at worst, and somewhere between a distraction and a disturbance at best. A small proportion of well-considered posts appear among the commentaries, with connections to people who otherwise I would never know. I am grateful for both of these.

The most valuable data is provided unintentionally by ET. On constant display: the sheer terror of witlessness, breathtaking arrogance, projection, selfishness, carelessness, self-deception and dishonesty with which basically decent, honest, literate and reasonably well-educated people assert & trumpet in public their right to live sub-human lives. After all, why live in sunlight with clean & happy friends when there’s a lonely, dark, damp & squalid basement available for occupation?

Guitar Craft activities are usually held in private. There’s nothing secret about Guitar Craft: most courses are available to the interested public, and an increasing amount of GC information & reportage is becoming available online. Diaries of aspirant Crafties are becoming available to bewilder anyone who feels the need to access their psyches. But most of the action in Guitar Craft is personal.

Most of the public action of a public performer is impersonal, yet intimate. This is the confusion: I feel touched in my core by what a performer has played, and I know there is truly an intimacy that I share with them. But they don’t know me, probably don’t want to know me, and I don’t know them. What to do? Where this question impinges upon my own professional life, there follow an astonishing number of reactions, encounters, attacks, enquiries and outbursts of the outraged; frequently where I have declined to be sucked into that confusion. I don’t confuse what is personal with what is impersonal, and decline to be manipulated into accepting that it is.

I have attempted replying & responding to expressions of interest, in various ways, for over three decades. Some of these replies & responses are public and many are private, although some have been publicly reported (even where this is a clear violation of the courtesy reasonably implied in private exchanges). Also, I remember many of the specific encounters which gave rise to the “my terrible experience with that awful Fripp and all I did was demand his full time and attention just before he went on / off stage and I wasn’t even very drunk / high, well not much, anyway and why doesn’t he reply to my heartfelt letter – I only wanted him to listen to my demo tape and sign me to DGM, which is fair because I bought LTIA in 1973” postings. I note that these postings usually manage to omit reporting one significant factor in the exchange; and where the reportage is fairly accurate, what is there & available to be seen is usually impressively missed. But this is a value of ET: it provides raw data on how to passionately live a life not quite worth living, while attributing blame for life’s disappointments to someone else.

I would be surprised if the responsive strategies that I adopt & have adopted would necessarily be appropriate for others, such as BB King and Junior Wells (to name only two artists, both deserving of respect). If we apply the converse, it is reasonable to assume that strategies adopted by BB King and Junior Wells might not be appropriate for Fripp, that rude ungrateful nasty man. Hurt Brat in ET351, however, implies the contrary…

Hurt Brat Tue, 18 Feb 1997 18:41:59 -0500
Subject: Closure

“I’m fortunate because I think if it hadn’t been for the older musicians taking-up so much time with me, I don’t think I’d probably be here today.”

– Junior Wells

“I got to meet B.B. King when I was 15 years old. He was just so nice. He actually sat and talked with me. He was so genuine, so very encouraging to me at such a young age. He didn’t know me. And he gave me a pick! I’ve still got that pick…I keep it to remind me of respect and being good to your fans.” – Anton Funderburgh

RF: I share Mr. Brat’s concern for young players. My own approach in addressing my perceived responsibilities towards young players is Guitar Craft. For this I gave up my career between 1985-90, and large amounts of it since (none of which I regret).

I do not give away my picks, although at the Red Lion House we did buy up the entire supply of German manufacturer Gunther Dick’s triangular picks. It has since been dispersed within the GC Team, and we continue to attempt to obtain a comparable supply.

Key principles, instructions and insights that emerged during the early GC courses became codified & collected together in a series of aphorisms. A selection of these was published as a poster in 1987 as “Guitar Monograph No. 3” and has been out of print since. Some of the aphorisms were specific to the conditions of time, place & person. Others have been found useful in the longer period, and continue to be used today. The global aphorism of Guitar Craft, which contains all the others, is this:

Honour necessity.
Honour sufficiency.

Where any aphorism addresses or points towards what is “true” in some way, this “truth” has almost inevitably already been said somewhere, at some time, by someone else. So, any “truth” may be found in one form or another in the writings, literature, practices and oral transmission of all bona fide crafts, ways & traditions. This is irrelevant: what is true, and what is real, is necessarily to be “made” true & realised through the ongoing & creative process of living our lives, whatever our chosen field. Rediscovery and recreation is discovery and creation, where we engage and make this our own.

I hope Guitar Craft is able to benefit from the work of others: this validates their efforts & honours their lives, even if they were without recognition in their own time. I hope others are able to benefit from the work of Guitar Craft, and King Crimson, and DGM: if our work has value for others, then it acquires greater value for us as well.

In any situation where I need guidance, there is a GC aphorism to indicate the direction. In the darkest days of Endless Grief, with despair a frequent visitor & hopelessness a lodger, I would turn to the aphorisms for help.

Begin with the possible, and move gradually towards the impossible.

So, what is possible? Life is too hard to do anything today? Fine. Don’t do anything today. Just get out of bed. Out of bed? Fine. Do nothing. And while you’re doing nothing, write a letter to your solicitor…

Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage.

The greater the seeming disadvantage, the greater the possible advantage.

Without the collapse of EG, there would have been no DGM, no archive releases, no Collectors’ Club, no partnership with David Singleton. There was nothing automatic about any of this: the disadvantage had to be turned around. But, without the possible total collapse of my professional life & its impact on my personal solvency, I would not have begun the second half of my professional life with the drive, commitment & energy with which I began the first half, at the age of twenty one.

Life is often desperate, but never hopeless.

One of the two worst events of the Endless Grief period was that my personal voice fell silent. This is the voice that has spoken many of the aphorisms, and that part of myself to which I address questions.

We bring to the aphorisms the extent of our understanding: what we see in them is ourselves. If they are to speak to us, the contact is direct. Perhaps this follows a period, even a long period, of reflection; or actively testing them in some practical activity. But to see them, the seeing is direct, unmediated, without explanation. Then, they become ours; and, we become available to them. They defy analysis by the whirring mechanism of our everyday cerebral processing, the rattling association of verbal-intellectual mind. If we might ascribe intent to the “author” of the aphorisms, then part of that intent is surely to shake off the hold of habitual thinking.

Guitar Craft is a work in process. If anyone wishes to use, or adopt, the Guitar Craft aphorisms they do so with my good wishes (subject to the warning which follows below). The aphorisms are not presented as authoritative, although I recognise in some of them an authority which is not my own. An aphorism, or several aphorisms, may also be publicly quoted and/or used on notepaper and websites with due acknowledgement. They may not be used in toto, or in bulk, without express permission. They may not be used commercially. They may, for example, be printed up on a t-shirt for private use, but not for sale. If anyone is in doubt about any of this, or has a question, they can find the answer somewhere in the aphorisms. That’s what they are for, after all.

Now, a warning to the gullible from Hurt Brat, a possessor of the Social Gland & friend of Matt the Tri-Cranial. HB precedes this with an encouragement to practice detachment, and testifies to its efficacy…

HB: Tue, 18 Feb 1997 18:41:59 -0500
Subject: Closure

Unfortunately, we live in a world where more often than not, and owing to a seemingly global inability/unwillingness to praise/compliment one another, we feel as though we are ‘between criticisms’. People experience this degrading reality everywhere: from their employers, from the clergy, from family, from people they try very hard to respect. As such, many of us are left to our own devices, adrift in a whirlpool of hope, possibility, and disappointment. It is no surprise that a great many more Americans are actively participating in alternative spiritualities and Zen today than ever before (What religion does not include sound and rhythm?). Detachedness works.

RF: Bret then moves, from this worthy call to stillness in the midst of life, to penetrating the nothingness which lies at the heart of Guitar Craft aphorisms with his incisive, rapier wit honed by detachedness; & mocks the implied assumption (acknowledged and undefended) of the Guitar Craft instructor who pinned these aphorisms to the notice board at a Guitar Craft course in Gandara, Buenos Aires province, on November 1st. 1996…

HB: Wed, 19 Feb 1997 02:53:46 –0500
Subject: Hook, Line, and Sinker

Dear ET’ers and Mr. Fripp-

Good heavens! This is splendid. Full-Gainer w/ a Twist!….

*…and we quote…then denote,


Expectation closes our ears to what is happening in the moment.

[THIS FAN IS GOING TO MAKE ME SUFFER. (2 months later…”Y’mean that loser who looked like, mebbe, he had ‘head lice’ was BRIAN WILSON??!?”]

Listening is how we eat music.


Hearing is how we digest it.


Hearing transforms sound into music.


Listening is a craft.


Hearing is an art.


Listening changes the performance to which we are listening.


Music changes when people hear it.

[How? If the “MUSICK’ERS” can’t hear The Hearers?]

What we hear is the quality of our listening.


Our understanding changes what is is that we understand.

“is is” [?]

Silence is the field of creative musical intelligence which dwells in the space between the notes, and holds them in place.

[(essentially) paraphrasing J. Cage, or C. Nancorrow, or Fred Frith, or Harry Partch, or…]

Silence is a bridge between worlds.

[ibid.; include Buddha and Lao Tzu, and Carlos Casteneda, and Sen. Joe McCarthy, and Terrance McKenna, and…]

The science is in knowing, the art is in perceiving.


The future is what the present can bear.


The way we describe our world shows how we think of our world.


How we think of our world governs how we interpret our world.


How we interpret our world directs how we participate in it.


How we participate in the world shapes the world.


The presence of absence is an entry into loss.


Things are not as bad as they seem.


They are worse than that.


They are also better than that.”



-style response/aim parody is 100% m’thang. Writ it on purpuss..no sheeit. (I mean, if Mr. Fripp can dish it out, certainly, he’s got his “catcher’s mitt” on.) Only the proper quantity of ‘twang’–as defined by Mr. Fripp’s (“When I Fart, Only Dogs Can Hear It”) spirited, though very insultingly out-of-contextualized (people who aren’t dopey notice these things…….some “ET” members, judging from things I’ve received, are not dopey), A-didactification of my, and A. Swansorb.’s (today’s “ET”) postings–has been channelled into this ‘un.) Buh’bye. (Sheesh! Now I’ve got me back into this.)

RF: What is the sound of one mind flapping?

A professional journalist, in a book of his published during the 1990s, compared some of the aphorisms to the advice found in fortune cookies. Regrettably, I note (and this is clearly a comment on myself, and not the writer) that I have found more insight in fortune cookies than in his book. Perhaps I’ve been eating the wrong kind of fortune cookies.

Here is a list of the current aphorisms, edited and compiled for this particular day, for those who wish to engage in the spirit of critical goodwill…

Guitar Craft Aphorisms

Honour necessity.


A beginning is invisible.

Accept nothing less than what is right.
A completion is a new beginning.

Act always in accordance with conscience.

Act from principle.
Move from intention.

Act with courtesy.
Otherwise, be polite.

A decision changes the world.

A function of language is to disclose.
An effect is to reveal.

A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable and never acceptable.

An artist acts with the assumption of innocence within a field of experience.

An end may be a finish, a conclusion or a completion.

Answers will come through the guitar.

Any fool can play something difficult.

Anything within a performance is significant, whether intentional or not.

A principle is an instruction in qualitative endeavour.

A principle is universal.
A rule is specific.
A law is invariable.

Artistry repeats the unrepeatable.

Assume the virtue.

Before we do something, we do nothing.

Before we move from A to B, better to know we’re at A.
Begin with the possible and move gradually towards the impossible.

Being a slob is hard labour.

Being is a measure of our coherence.

Better to be present with a bad note than absent from a good note.

Be very careful about the beginning.
Then, be very careful about the end.
Then, be very careful about the middle.

Change one small part and the whole is changed.

Commitments are to be honoured.

Conscience is utterly impersonal.

Craft is a universal language.

Craft maintains skill.
Discipline maintains craft.
Craft follows the tradition.
Discipline maintains the tradition.
Music creates the tradition.

Creative work is serious play.

Define the aim simply, clearly, briefly, positively

Discard the superfluous.

Discharge one small task superbly.

Discipline is a vehicle for joy.

Discipline is not an end in itself, only a means to an end.

Distrust those who profess altruism.

Distrust anyone who wants to teach you something.

Don’t be helpful: be available.


Each part does the work of that part, and no other.

Establish the principle.
Even genius requires a competent technique.

Everything we are is revealed in our playing.

Expectation is a prison.

Expect nothing.

Good habit is necessary, bad habit is inevitable.

Health is a measure of our wholeness.

Hearing transforms sound into music.

Helpful people are a nuisance.

How we hold our pick is how we organise our life.

If a quality is present, it is clearly recognisable and may be named.

If in doubt, consult tradition.
If still in doubt, consult your experience.
If still in doubt, consult your body.
If we can ask our body to do nothing for half an hour, perhaps we can ask our body to do something for half an hour.

If we can define our aim, we are halfway to achieving it.

If we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll probably get there.

In popular culture, the musician calls on the highest part in all of us.

In mass culture, the musician addresses the lower parts of what we are.

In popular culture, our musicians sing to us in our own voice.
In mass culture they shout what we want to hear.

Intentional action generates intentional results and unforeseeable repercussions.

Unintentional action generates unintended consequences and inevitable repercussions.

Intentional poverty is fine.

Unintentional poverty is wretched.

In the creative act, the Creation continues.

In the creative leap, history waits outside.

In tuning a note we are tuning ourselves.

It is difficult to exaggerate the power of habit.

It is not necessary to be cheerful.
It is not necessary to feel cheerful.
But look cheerful.

Just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches.

Let us find clean and cheerful friends.

Life is often desperate, but never hopeless.

Life is too short to take on the unnecessary.

Listening changes what we are listening to.

Listening is a craft.
Hearing is an art.

Listening is how we eat music.
Hearing is how we digest it.

Mastery acts on what is below.
Artistry submits to what is above.

May we have the clarity to see our work, the courage to embrace it, and the capacity to discharge it.

May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.

Money is not a problem, only a difficulty.

Music changes when people hear it.

Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all.

Music is a quality, organised in sound and in time.

Music is silence, singing.

Music is the architecture of silence.

Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence.
Sound is that cup, but empty.
Noise is that cup, but broken.

Music so wishes to be heard that it calls on some to give it voice and some to give it ears.
Necessary repercussions are possible.
Inevitable repercussions are expensive.
Unnecessary repercussions are dangerous.

Necessity is a measure of aim.

Necessity is never far from what is real.

Nothing is compulsory, but some things are necessary.

Nothing worthwhile is achieved suddenly.

Offer no violence.

Perfection is impossible.

But I may choose to serve perfection.

Performance is impersonal yet intimate.

Performance is inherently unlikely.

Playing fast is easier than playing slow.

Quiet is the absence of sound, silence the presence of silence.

Relaxation is necessary tension.
Tension is unnecessary tension.

Relaxation is never accidental.

Rely on what someone does, not what they claim to do.

Remain in hell without despair.

Right action moves from principle.

Rightness is its own necessity.

Signposts are useful when you know where you’re going.

Silence is a bridge between worlds.

Silence is a distant echo of the approach of the Muse.

Silence is an invisible glue.

Silence is not silent.

Silence is the field of creative musical intelligence that dwells in the space between the notes, and holds them in place.

Small additional increments are transformative.

Sometimes God hides.

Suffer cheerfully.

Suffering is necessary, unnecessary or voluntary.

Suffering is our experience of the distance between what we are and who we wish to become.

Suffering of quality is invisible to others.

The act of music is the music.

The audience is mother to the music.

The concern of the musician is music.
The concern of the professional musician is business.

The creative impulse animates whatever instrument is placed at its disposal.

The end is a finish, a conclusion or a completion.

The future is what the present can bear.

The highest quality of attention we may give is love.

The mind leads the hands.

The musician and audience are parents to the music.

The musician has three disciplines: the disciplines of the hands, the head and the heart.

The necessary is possible.
The optional is expensive.
The unnecessary is unlikely.

The only contribution we make is the quality of our work.

The performer can hide nothing, even the attempt to hide.

The presence of absence is an entry into loss.

The problem with knowing what we want is we just might get it.

The quality of a person is revealed in their conduct in front of sex, money and the use of time.

The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer.
The question is its answer.

There are few things as convincing as death to remind us of the quality with which we live our life.

There are no mistakes, save one: the failure to learn from a mistake.

There are three kinds of repercussions: the necessary, the unnecessary and the inevitable.

There is only one musician, in many bodies.

There’s more to hearing than meets the ear.

The science is in knowing, the art in perceiving.

The simplest is the most difficult to discharge superbly.

The way we describe our world shows how we think of our world.
How we think of our world governs how we interpret our world.
How we interpret our world directs how we participate in the world.
How we participate in the world shapes the world.

The work of one supports the work of all.

Things are not as bad as they seem.
They are worse than that.
They are also better than that.

Trust music.

Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage.
The greater the seeming disadvantage, the greater the possible advantage.

Understanding changes what we understand.

Understanding is simple. Knowing is complicated.

We are held responsible for our actions, whether intentional or not.

We begin again, constantly.

We begin by doing nothing.
Then, we move to doing something.

We begin where we are.

We can do whatever we like, providing we can pay the bill.

We can’t go far on enthusiasm, but we don’t go far without it.

We have the right to choose our form of suffering.

We have three rights:
the right to work, the right to pay to work, and the right to suffer the consequences of our work.

We have three obligations:
the obligation to work, the obligation to pay to work, and the obligation to suffer the consequences of our work.

We know others to the extent that we know ourselves.

Welcome the unexpected, but not the arbitrary.

We’ll never get rich by hard work.
But, we’ll never get rich without it.

We may understand our knowing, but we can’t know our understanding.

We may not have an equality of talent.
We may not have an equality of experience.
But we may be equal in aspiration.
We can be equal in commit­ment.

We must be able to play in our sleep.
Because usually we do.

We only have what we give away.

We pay our own tab.

We perceive our perceptions.

We recognise in others what we know most deeply in ourselves.

What is right accords with principle.

What we hear is the quality of our listening.

What we hear is the way that we hear.

When we have nothing to say, it is very hard to say nothing.
When we have nothing to do, it is very hard to do nothing.

Where we’re going is how we get there.
If where we’re going is how we get there, we are already where we’re going.

With commitment, all the rules change.

With craft the musician can copy something old.
With discipline the musician may copy something new.


Honour sufficiency.

January 21st. 2001

20.49 Comments on the day’s work over dinner. Questions for Fernando on the top table, also for myself.

22.27 Full house of guitars with inner & outer circles. Circulating patterns & an eruptile thrakking in 5, 7 & 11 which continues.

Monday 22nd. January, 2000; 07.18

A symphony of plumbing: beginning around 06.00 and moving to mezzo forte an hour later.

11.19 It took 15 minutes for 15 reasonably intelligent, well-educated adults from the liberal democracies to a play a G major scale into 3 octaves.

Then it took 25 minutes for about 33 people from the Level One to not quite be able to play single notes consecutively in C major for 4 bars of 4. The Level One has divided into 2 groups to work on this with Martin & Luciano, for as long as Martin & Luciano can bear. Personal meetings with Martin, Luciano, Guillermo & Fernando are becoming available. Fernando is responsible for helping students practice contorting their faces while playing.

Monday 22nd. January, 2001; 12.29

The creative impulse will create. It has to: this is its necessity. The creative impulse is unconditioned: it can only be expressed through a vehicle, through forms, through constructs. Rain falls downwards: this is inevitable; this is beyond our control. But we can provide channels to direct the water. The concern of the musician is the construction of appropriate and necessary forms for music to flow into the world.

18.46 The Level Two are attempting the impossible: a G major scale moving up an octave, then beginning on the scale step below. The Level Two are attempting the impossible: counting as far as 10 bars of 7 and 14 bars of 5.

That life could be this good all the time.

20.48 Fernando took questions at the top table over dinner, and so did Hernan. The question for Hernan was “How do you approach the Hell Boy aphorism – honour convenience?”

Answer: “Look busy. Do nothing”.

Then, suddenly, silence visited and enveloped the dining room. After 30 minutes it lifted, and all course’s noise returned, equal suddenly. A stunning dessert – apple crepe with whipped cream – was served amidst the din.

Tuesday 23rd. January, 2002; 07.10

After dinner yesterday evening: for those who have not yet developed their own practice, an introduction to the relaxation and sitting technique which is recommended in Guitar Craft

08.48 A discussion over breakfast with someone relatively new to GC, following their comment earlier in the week on phenomenology – their idea in GC that music is already there before it is composed. Their question over breakfast – if it isn’t played where does it go? Answer: nowhere. It stays where it is, in potential; in “eternity” rather than entering our time sequential stream. This implies there is a kind of time which bridges the two – a creative time or intentional which brings what is potential into actuality.

Now, a pile of personal meetings for me today with the Kitchen Team & Level Two.

10.58 The meeting with the Level One found it difficult to count beyond one bar of four, so we moved onto cross picking.

18.42 For lunch today we were served orange squerd.

Those who lived at the Red Lion House, or have been on any longer GC course, know what squerd is. Squerd is an indefinable mass of varying viscosity and fluidity that you know is most likely good for you. It is impossible to determine what its ingredients are, or were, prior to them becoming squerd. Very mobile squerd is served in a bowl, as if it were soup. Squerd of greater tensile strength is served on a plate. There is a considerable degree of ambiguity between the two. Squerd in a bowl may often be eaten with a fork, for example, and squerd on a plate may often be eaten with a spoon. A knife is unnecessary when squerd is served.

Some squerd is green. One member of the Kitchen Team asked if there are other colours of squerd. Some squerd is not quite orange, and tends towards brown. Some squerd is not quite green and tends towards grey. So, there is a third colour of squerd which is somewhere between green and orange.

Squerd is also sometimes a dessert. Then, we are not as confident that it is good for us, but it tastes better. Some dessert squerd of the third colour inclines more towards the red, but rarely becomes recognisably so.

21.23 Several good questions over dinner, directed towards Fernando, Hernan & myself. Anyone on the top table is available to be asked questions. Otherwise, they must be prepared to tell a joke. Anyone at the table, other than a visiting guest, is on call.

A discussion of the day between Hernan & myself is the possibility of buying a GC house in Germany. No one person has enough cash, so we are considering the possibility of forming a consortium. Probably, this venture would need input from America.

Hernan has booked this building for a six-week Guitar Circling project during the Summer, beginning on August 10th.

Four more personal meetings after dinner & now we have a group meeting for all the guitarists in the house that would like to attend.

22.43 Interesting circulations so feebly undertaken that I abandoned them. We moved on to Boogaloogachoogling and then to a sonic pleroma.

Wednesday 24th. January, 2001; 07.18

Today is The Parade of Hands.

08.49 “Discipline & The Act Of Music”: what better place to reflect upon this than a Guitar Craft course?

The insight I was granted last Friday continues to percolate and resonate, and I’m beginning to have a sense of some of its implications. Briefly, and essentially, the insight is the basis for the talk. Rather than sift through a mass of the available information which is already in draft, I have been given something that I may present with my own voice. This has the connection which accompanies parents & their children. The children don’t belong to us, but we have a responsibility to them. And then, having done the best we can to bring them into the world, and prepare them, we send them into the outside world with our love; and let them find their own way. Our responsibility is to bring them into the world, and to let them go. We can’t, and shouldn’t, control the direction they take.

This is the work of any person working in a creative way: to construct a vehicle that becomes a bridge between the available qualitative, and the possible quantitative. The repercussions of that are beyond us. But if we act rightly, we will be able to manage those repercussions.

13.37 At lunch The Hernan Nunez String Quintet, formed and directed by Marcello, played a Marcello piece. Maude sung, a cappella, Steve Ball’s “Green Thumb”.

Tom Redmond introduced a new performance ensemble: Project H. This might be described as an orchestral version of the Hell Boys’ Greatest Hit: “The Chord From Hell”. Gaucho aphorisms were invited to describe this performance. Suggestions included:

They may be ugly.
But they sound like shit.

Project H will soothe your itching.

Life is often desperate and always hopeless.

The adoption of incompetence in a field of ignorance.

Wednesday 24th. January, 2001; 23.30

Dessert at dinnertime defeated me: this is a rare accomplishment. Hernan offered me a second “spare” dessert that I declined, full of the first glutinous pudding. Hernan suggested a new Gaucho aphorism:

When you’re stuffed, eat some more.

A long Q&A with Level One with L2 & KT in attendance. Then, a performance challenge for Level One, with performance groups selected by The Hat. The Hat makes wonderful choices. All the students write their name on a piece of paper which is then put into The Hat. Often in Europe this is the hat worn by David Bowie on his European “Serious Moonlight” tour, which was given to Hernan Nunez, security person on the tour. This evening the hat was Hernan’s but lacked the provenance. It also came with earflaps.

Thursday 25th. January, 2001; 09.03

Some of the Level One were working until 05.00 this morning. A solo performer went to bed at 02.00 and woke at 04.00, wide awake.

16.39 The Level One groups are practising for their performance this evening. My own day has had many personal meetings with the Level Two & Kitchen Team, and in spare moments the lecture hovers.

20.33 Another stunning dessert. And another Gaucho aphorism from Hernan, following the Berlin Guitar Ensemble’s performance at dinner:

We have a lot of tunes.
And they all sound the same.

22.32 The Level One groups performed honourably in front of an audience determined to outperform the performers. Beans flew, also a toilet roll or two.

Now, I am awaiting a meeting of The Consortium, to discuss the possibilities & circumstances of buying a house for Guitar Craft in Germany, and also in New Jersey.

Friday 26th. January, 2001; 07.15

The sky is grey & overcast, but last night’s gale has subsided.

The Consortium meeting considered that the best option was to focus on finding a GC house in Germany before acquiring a property in NJ.

12.16 Meetings this morning:

A short meeting with the Kitchen Team at 09.15.

The Level Two to address their tasks for the day.

The Level One for comments on their performance yesterday evening, and their task for the day.

In between, Hernan took several of the staff into the 16th. century cloisters and church, which are the heart of this complex. This 1940s addition we use is built on to that glory, with a 1960s extension to this, as if it were an encrusted wart.

The church has a picture of angels miraculously transporting the house (convent) of St. Loretto. This refers to an historical event: 800 years ago when the convent was threatened by a Muslim army. According to legend, miraculously the house was transported to some 40 miles from here. A recent architectural investigation by the Catholic church has established that the house could not have been constructed from this region.

14.26 Many performances over lunch. The following was posted on the board at lunchtime. It is a précis of a draft of a working document, but appropriate at this time for these people in this place.

Discipline & The Act Of Music.

i May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.

ii A key injunction of discipline is to act always in accordance with time, place and person.

The benevolence of the creative impulse

i Just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches. But our everyday perceptions miss what is available. The inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse is simply and readily available to all. Music so wishes to be heard that it sometimes calls on unlikely characters to give it voice, and ears.

ii Sometimes, music leans over and takes us into its confidence. When we have known this for ourselves, our lives are never quite the same again. When angels descend from the heavens on chariots of fire and blow trumpets of gold in our ears, our lives can never be the same again.

iii The question for the aspirant musician becomes: how may this happen again? This is a beginning. Discipline is how we continue to call on music, through many long & quiet years when it appears to have deserted us.

iv Discipline is also how we keep ourselves alert for when music might visit once more. We never know when our Friend might call. This visit is outside our control or volition: this is in the gift of our Friend. What is possible, is to prepare a welcome.

v Discipline is also how we do nothing.

vi Discipline is a way of life; that is, a way of living. Music is a way of living: are we in time and in harmony with ourselves, and others?

The act of music is the music.

vii Music is a quality organised in sound and in time. The quality is eternal. The forms of organisation are governed by time, place and person.

We consider three kinds of time: time’s arrow, or sequential time; time’s cycle, of periodicity and recurrence; and a particular kind of time where intention is involved: we may think of this last kind of time as “creative time”.

In the world of creative time, when a decision is taken, the action has already taken place. In the world of sequential time, we experience this as the future leaning back and pulling a succession of events towards the outcome. The distance between the two – the taking of the decision, and the unfolding sequence of events which lead towards the realisation of that decision – involves all three kinds of time. Our engagement in this process is maintained by discipline.

So, another way of looking at discipline is to say that it confers effectuality through time. This is experienced subjectively as an expansion of our present moment. A present moment is a moment of presence.

So, we can say that discipline addresses:

the duration in linear time of our awareness;
our sense of personal presence;
how to expand our present moment in order to address specific and practical tasks which require extended periods of linear to unfold;
and that this action takes place within society and community.

My Life In The Act Of Music

i This suggests there are alternative futures available to us:

One is the future which is provided by the conditions of our lives – the conditions determined by where we are born, when we are born, and to whom we are born. These conditions are genetic, cultural, historical and, some would say, astrological.

Another future is the future which is possible for us. This is the future which is uniquely available to who we are. This possible future is one we are born to discover and then create for ourselves.

The degree to which we are able to achieve this is significantly determined by the degree to which we acquire discipline.

ii It is not possible for the musician to play music.

But, it is possible that the musician is played by music.

We may not be able to govern the weather, but it is possible that we push the boat onto the lake & raise the sail. The wind may not blow, but if it does, we are ready and available.

The aim of the musician is to create a construct through which music may enter our world.

The Three Disciplines

i The musician has three instruments: the hands, the head and the heart.

A prime aim of discipline is to co-ordinate and harmonise the functioning of these three instruments.

Three words describe the functioning of the hands, the head and the heart: doing, thinking, feeling.

In musical vernacular, these three areas are often simply referred to as technique, ideas, feel.

ii The three instruments are necessary in making judgements. Where the senses fail to render a decision – it looks ok, smells ok, but is it ok? Or an argument is persuasive, or not; the feelings can judge: this feels right, or not.


i Discipline is also a process.

Discipline is “acquired” in a series of stages. With experience, we begin to recognise the discrete quality of each of these stages. There are three stages: the beginning, the middle & the end. Each stage has itself three steps: the beginning, the middle and the end. This provides nine points in any complete process where qualitative shifts occur.

That is, if the process is to continue on course. If these qualitative shifts do not take place, at best, the undertaking continues on a flat plateau until the nominal aim is achieved. This is an end, rather than a completion. Less successful processes unwind, or continue but in the opposite direction to the original course.

There are three endings to a process:

A finish, where something is lost;
A conclusion, where nothing is lost;
A completion is a new beginning.

ii The process of acquiring discipline is a movement from mechanical activity to intentional action. The process of discipline aims to:

1. Co-ordinate the functions – the three kinds of doing – the hands, the head & the heart: this is sometimes called “the harmonisation of functioning”;

2. Achieve coherence in the degree & intensity to which we are what we are: that is, our inner togetherness or “being”;

3. Unify our intention: that all of what we do serves the same aim; that we accept direction from central command at our ”World HQ”.

We achieve this separation by practising the discipline of each of the

functions, their co-ordination, and then their harmonisation.

Through applying ourselves to this practising, we generate energy.

Through the energy made available, we may be able to put some of it in the bank. This “saved currency” is then available for future investment.

iii stages & steps

The three stages of any discipline are these: injunction, application, and verification.

We begin where are, and unfix our moment by doing nothing, and watching while we do nothing.

We move on from where we are, through introducing flexibility to our functioning by letting go of “bad habits” and acquiring “good habits”.

We become where we are by doing something with efficiency and becoming someone who is efficient.

Then, we begin again.

0 We begin where we are
1 Doing nothing
2 Watching while doing nothing

3 We move on from where we are
4 Letting go of “bad habits”
5 Acquiring “good habits”

6 Becoming where we are
7 Doing something efficient
8 Being someone who is efficient

9/0 Being where we are

When we arrive at where we are, as if for the first time, we begin to “hang together”, or to cohere. We are beginning to be our own person.

But who we are can get in the way. So, beginning again, we recognise that by holding on to who we are, to being something, this gets in the way of music on download. So, we let go of who we are and begin again. At a particular point in a mature life process, this confers:


The degree to which this may be so is governed by our ability to bear suffering.

15.18 These two following comments are from postings to the Guestbook following the GC course last year in Gandara, Argentina…

John Morton (LonCayeway@Hotmail.com) 07-Apr-2000 20:18 GMT Canada

One quickly gains a sense of how demanding this type of course must be on the participants, and how rewarding the outcome can be. Work upon oneself of this sort is often the most difficult task one can ever accomplish: it can seem to be exhaustingly energy-intensive. Since it takes about six months for central nervous system cells to physically conform to the new pathways such training creates, this sort of self-development is initially stabilized solely by new assemblages of electrical potentiation that are cultivated within the nervous system…and that can appear to take a lot of internal energy to produce, support, and maintain!

Thus, such work can seem to be exhausting, even though this sensation of exhaustion is primarily just a feeling associated with, and not directly caused by, the production of new neural pathways. One is not so much dealing with an actual lack of available energy here but rather, with the transient unavailability of the customary sensations of ease associated with the efficiencies of established neural pathways. And it is often difficult to separate this sensation of exhaustion from our normal mechanical responses toward actual physical exhaustion. This is because actual physical exhaustion interferes with the normal function of nerve cells; and the body’s responses to the sensation of this situation can be mechanically triggered when habitual neural pathways are not being used due to a lot of new associational pathways are being formed.

(It can be helpful to realize this; and also to further differentiate between the difficulties of this process and the achievements attained through such processes. That way in the future, when these new achievements are employed to overcome very different obstacles, those new obstacles won’t be re-inforced through a conceptual association to the sensation of exhaustion encountered in obtaining these achievements).

When dealing with such a sensation of exhaustion, it is often helpful to gather one’s awareness around the core of conscious association related to the processing of sensory input. This can help one to let go of, and not hold on to, this illusory sensation of exhaustion (as difficult as that is!). An important presentation of such a technique can be found in the ancient Chinese treatise, “The Secret of the Golden Flower” (always use the Thomas Cleary translation into English: the Richard Wilhelm translation is hideously inaccurate).

This ancient classic was considered so important that it was openly circulated and accepted by both Buddhist and Taoist schools. But then, the primary purpose of the esoteric secrecy surrounding active schools of self-development has less to do with hiding knowledge than it has to do with creating an environment in which the work of those inside can occur without interruptions, or disruptive influences. Thus, such schools were often organized within surrounding circles of graduated contact to the outside world, with the outer circles making allowances for the needs of those not working within, but attracted to, the schools.

Douglas Baldwin (dbaldwin@suffolk.lib.ny.us) 07-Apr-2000 19:26 GMT USA

Two brief stories:

When on the second level one course ever, fifteen years ago, I had a vivid dream-like experience. After being introduced to the circulation, I sensed in my sleep that night a massive energy which whipped through the rooms of the fellow Crafties and returned to my sleeping form, waking me instantly.Having also been introduced to the principles of the left hand, I woke the next morning to find a tiny pimple on my left forearm. The next night, having been introduced to the principles of the right hand, I experienced the same whip-like energy, but circulating in the opposite direction. I awoke with an identical pimple on my right arm.

As I was reading the diary entry regarding the “It’s a sign!” story, my internet connection suddenly shut off. It was a sign, I’m sure.

18.25 The Level One presented their day’s work of applying one small piece of quality.

23.01 Dinner featured specialty Neapolitan pizza, chef Massimo the Triumphant, with tiramisu for dessert – another dinner time success story featuring Allesandro the Good.

The Level One came together for their final meeting, with other house members present, at 21.00. Several of the team presented comments on their course. The Level One was formally declared completed at 22.13.

Level Two met shortly afterwards to take a decision on how to approach an exercise which is hovering, inviting them to take it to a finer, better, more complete completion than managed to achieve by dinner time. This may take them well into the night.

And I am now 75% packed.

Saturday 27th. January, 2001; 07.17

The House was alive already at 06.00. Some of the Level One were leaving for `bus & train stations, and airports.

I’m continuing to reflect upon the lecture: now, discipline sufficiently considered, I’m onto that part of the talk that falls under the heading of “The Act of Music”.

08.40 The energy of the house has moved from focused to disrupted. People are moving about without definition, with shouting, while leaving.

This is where those left behind become vulnerable: the energy envelope of the course is no longer a protecting shield from the normal abnormalities of everyday life: the lack of a sense of personal presence, our careless movement through space, our negative thinking, the throwing of ill-will at people we dislike. All of this has impact. Within a defined and bordered construct such as a GC course, this negativity is (mostly) neutralised.

One of the difficulties from the chair I sit on is to see the power of fantasy in the lives of some of those who come on these courses. The most common illusion is one of “becoming a professional musician”. In time, this usually evaporates: several years in smoky bars to hostile audiences undermine dreams of the professional life, and places illusion against hard actuality. But for some, this youthful illusion becomes deeply held fantasy – perhaps they deserve public recognition of their unique personal genius – and this fantasy becomes fixed in their centre. I look at them, and see that all they have in their lives depends on this fantasy, and that without it there is little else to keep them going. I know how hard life can be; when despair is our only companion. I hesitate before shattering their fantasy. In the past, on one particular occasion, I was very direct. Today, I shall say nothing. There is little more I can do without deconstructing a life.

10.58 Several very good comments made by the team during the Level Two final meeting. The Level Two was declared formally completed at 10.53.

13.39 Hernan & I drove into the small town of Sassoferrato, saw the small open-air amphitheatre where the visiting students in the Summer have been invited to make a performance. Then we went for cappucini & cakes, caught up with each other, and discussed a possible overview of Guitar Craft’s mid-term future.

Hernan mentioned that a German guitarist who has been on several courses advertises his performances as “student of Robert Fripp – of King Crimson – and Guitar Craft”. This is easy: anyone whose professional life refers to myself or Guitar Craft in these terms is not someone I regard as a student, nor do I regard them as a Crafty. A Crafty is someone whose life is based on the principles and injunctions of Guitar Craft, not one who trumpets the connection to further their career.

There is a guitarist in Argentina who had several lessons from me at Randolph House in London during early 1975, when these lessons were presented as “Guitar Mechanics”. (This is where I met my pal Matt Seattle, when Matt was a guitar player). The Argentinean returned to Buenos Aires and taught the “Fripp Method” with “The Four Hundred Exercises” complete with stories of hanging with his pal Boppin’ Bobby. Fernando Kabusacki & Hernan had lessons with him on this basis. This player based his career on a lie. When Hernan invited me to Argentina with The RF String Quintet, Guitar Craft & King Crimson, the lie was exposed. Now, after many years of seeing the repercussions which unfold from decisions, better that our decisions are true. Whatever we understand by that.

Now, to complete packing & close down lecture drafts in preparation for leaving this house at 15.00 to Ancona airport. Cathy & I are flying to Milan connecting to London Heathrow. I am hoping to see The Little Horse tonight!

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