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 Chiswick, final closing of the suitcase at 05.55, kissing the Little Luvvie goodbye, and in the car and off by 06.10.
However one might choose to drive to Stansted Airport from Chiswick, the route sucks. The North Circular is an obvious option, but it sucks. The main alternative – M4 west, M25 clockwise to Junction 27, M11N to Junction 8 – is longer at around 72 miles. But it has the promise of continuous movement, rather than stop-starting and traffic lights. Drizzle & rain, darkness and then lighter greyness; two multi-vehicle accidents between Junctions 21-22 on the anti-clockwise M25 led to a long tailback which I saw but, gratefully, escaped.
Arriving at the long-term car park around 07.35, tasty salad for breakfast in the car, and then a bus to the passenger terminal which is quite a hike away. The Ryanair desk for the Ancona flight opened at 09.30, and I was the first in the queue. Then through passport control and a lukewarm latte followed by a quite-warm cappuccino, in the mistaken belief that the first error would be rectified by the second. While sipping gently although quickly, that all heat might not escape before the cup was emptied, I found myself beginning to consider the creative act & the possibility of writing a few notes on the subject. This was partly prompted by some questions at the Acton Guitar Institute. I am still unknowing of whether my visit to the Acton Guitar Institute might have been of any use to someone there.
Boarding, Gate 4 at 11.10, I arrived 20 minutes ahead of time. Cathy & Udo arrived around 11.00 accompanied by a Level One, one who had come here for the summer NST course. Cathy felt the Q&A at Acton GI had been of use. My own comment was, there hadn’t been enough necessity among the students for me to have been of very much help. Generally, the students’ questions didn’t burn, and when prompted as to why the question was being asked they expressed mere “interest”. Being interested isn’t enough to light a fire, let alone a burning question. Only a deep & driving necessity catches fire in our hearts.
A feature of Ryanair “no-frills” flying is a policy of no pre-arranged seating: whoever gets on board first chooses the seat they want. I was first on board, entering from the rear, and chose the left aisle on the last row. The flight was not very full so there was a wide choice of seating. I declined to buy any of the snacks or drinks that, befitting a no-frills outfit, were available for purchase (I was carrying my own snaffle) and read the FT.
Take-off on time at 11.40, with a superb view over the Alps, and we landed in Ancona ahead of schedule at 14.45 (one hour time difference). Alessandro Bruno plus helper were waiting with two vehicles to carry us and our stuff to the Convento di S. Maria della Pace. We arrived in time for tea at 16.00. There are familiar faces here, some of which have traveled from Argentina & Chile & Japan & America, as well as from within Europe
22.05 A good dinner of chickpeas and salad that will exact its revenge in the
house later. Hernan visited to bring me up to date on various arisings & presented the application letters on a floppy disk, plus a few analogue letters. Martin Schwutke & Alessandro visited with an external driver to download the floppy via UBN to this Apple G4 Powerbook: the G4 doesn’t read floppies internally – CD or DVD only dude!
Hernan brought alarming stories of life in Argentina during the present crisis, plus a report on the Nunez family in Kiel, developments in the lives of various Crafties, and the needs of courses as he sees it. We also discussed Chief Feature and how it even moves into our bodies and generates dysfunction. Martin presented a photograph of Balthasar Scwutke, a wonderful little dribbling Beast, very new to this world and currently in the Andes with his mother visiting Balthasar’s maternal Grandparents.
I have been collating new aphorisms that have been appearing during the past year but not yet edited and/or are a long way from being digested.
22.39 More collating of aphorisms, and now to wind down. But my attention is being drawn along the corridor by guitars playing tango…
Thursday 24th. January, 2002; 08.47
Rise at 06.45, sitting at 07.30, breakfast at 08.07.
Frank Sheldon has arrived, a significant addition to the course. Frank is the senior Alexander Teacher in Guitar Craft and all GC courses, although that description doesn’t accurately reflect what Frank does. More properly, it doesn’t describe what Frank is. Frank was at Sherborne House & Claymont, and has been part of Guitar Craft courses from the early days. He currently lives in Seattle with his wife Ingrid. They met on a GC course in Austin, Texas, in May 1992. For most of that course I wondered: what are we doing here? Perhaps Frank meeting Ingrid is part of the answer.
Squerd is a well-known term that has currency on GC courses. Now we have spreed – a version of squerd that is spread on bread. Cathy has brought with her some sugarless jam-type spread of indeterminate origin that was inadvertently named over the breakfast table by the mis-pronunciation of a young Argentinian.
Conversation with Hernan at breakfast regarding the possibilities for tango in Europe. We have a young Argentinian couple in the Kitchen Team who specialise in authentic tango and who are based near Hernan in Kiel. They have the feel & flair of tango, which is presently popular in Germany, but with the authenticity that somehow escapes Teutonic dancing feet.
Onto more mundane matters: the cistern in my bathroom flows constantly, unendingly, so a ladder and wet hand are called for. Now, off to a meeting of the Kitchen Team.
9.23 The degree of reality is a measure of necessity.
Creative action moves from necessity and is set in motion by intention. For this action to be effective, the instrument of the creative action requires competence at least; that is, efficiency in operation.
The Kitchen Team meeting addressed the practicalities of running the house, cleaning, preparation for meals; plus adopting an exercise to strengthen awareness of the presence of life within the body while engaging in mundane activities. In this way, mundane activities are a background, albeit a useful & necessary background, to the proper job – being more fully aware of our common humanity & holding a sense of personal presence while in motion.
11.30 My morning so far has been focused on collating and organizing GC aphorisms.
Hernan & Al came to my room with the news that a journalist in Rome has been in touch: he must interview Robert about the course and what is happening here. I suggested that Al ask him why? What is his necessity? Then the journalist discovered we are not in Rome, where he is, but in Sassoferrato. This is too far for him to drive. Robert’s time must be available for a meeting with the journalist, but the journalist’s time is too precious to invest in getting to that meeting. So much for necessity.
15.37 Lunch consisted of cabbage soup with a poke of feta cheese & croutons in it. Then dessert was placed out in two bowls – apples! The Guitar Craft diet has begun. Various characters arrive regularly. Those arriving late for lunch got better, tastier & more substantial plates than those of us already-arrived.
I am revisiting replies to Crafty letters between 1988-1990 and, in turn, revisiting Guitar Craft at that period. This covers Crafty life in the Red Lion House & the Claymont Barn & Mansion.
Antonio de H has leant me his guitar for the course. I preferred it to the alternative – a new Ovation with built-in tuner. So, I am refreshing my connection to this instrument.
An approach to beginning the Level Two flew by, so I’ll see if it feels appropriate when more of the Level Two Team have arrived.
16.25 Tea served chocolate almonds, chocolate truffles and – Beast! Beast! of
Maximum Delight! – chocolate covered ginger sprigs. That’s more like food, I say.
The first notice of meeting for the Level Two has gone on the board: with guitars in the ballroom for the about-to-be-becoming-having-been-arrived of them. Not all the Level Two Team will be here before dinner, and who knows how late before all are present, so we’ll begin where-we-are with what-we-are and see where we go from there.
18.12 Collating aphorisms new & old, I have compiled & edited a selection for actor pal Tim Faulkner, Oberon to Toyah’s Titania in last summer’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Stafford. This requires some concision.
18.45 The three groups of the presently-arrived Level Two have honourably discharged their task: they were given one-bar phrases and asked to complete short pieces from that opening phrase. Now, soon to dinner.
20.15 All the Level One students have arrived, and all the Level Two except for Mike G who arrives around 23.00. So, we have the Inaugural Meeting for the Level One at 21.30. The house rules have been called to offer the opportunity of leaving for those who feel the rules to be unacceptable. This includes the non-provision of feather duvets, duck-down pillows and linen sheets for those who feel they deserve more comfortable bedding; and the presence of people who will be irritating.
Prior to that, I am meeting with the willing & available & wishing Level Two in the ballroom with guitars at 20.30.
Dinner was salad & tasty pasties followed by an excellent home-made chocolate mousse. I declined seconds on both, incontrovertible proof of my heroic stature should any be needed. Which of course it isn’t.
20.40 Although the Level Two has not yet begun, 14 participants in the about-to-be-becoming course have been divided into 3 groups; each has been given a short musical figure, each very similar. Let’s see how these simple beginnings proliferate outwards. The small challenge is to prepare pieces from these seed bars and present them to the Level One later, after almost an hour’s preparation.
22.17 The Inaugural Meeting for the Level One was inaugurated by the tango:
the Argentinian couple from the Kitchen Team accompanied by a guitar trio of one Argentinian and two Japanese Crafties.
The course was declared underway at 21.45 and then the Level One students introduced themselves saying who they were, where they came from, and what was their aim/s for the week.
At the end of the meeting the 3 groups from the Level Two presented the pieces they had written from the beginning bar they had been given. One was acceptable, one dismal, and one deserving of sympathy.
Friday 25th. January, 2002; 07.09
Up at 06.28 after a succession of disturbed dreams that I do not own for mine. Now, showered, exercised, off to the Practice Of Doing nothing: do nothing – as much as you can.
9.5 Hernan has just left after delivering a list of participants in these courses; then bringing me up to date on various arriving students & the progress of various Crafties who have visited Europe from distant locations.
Our Inaugural Meeting for the Level Two is at 09.15, followed by opening guitar meetings for the Level Two immediately afterwards, and then for the Level One. The list of today’s activities posted on the notice board has spaces, to allow for flexibility as the day progresses. While writing the list at breakfast I found myself hesitating before writing Alexander Technique with Frank Sheldon & Cathy Stevens and instead wrote Frank Sheldon & Cathy Stevens: A Sense of the Body. This I checked with both Frank & Cathy before posting.
Now, off to the meeting.
10.9 The Level Two opening guitar meeting is brought forward to 10.15 & the Opening Level One to 11.15.
14.42 The Level Two meeting: before we began the guitar work:
Let us bring part of our attention to the soles of our feet.
Now, to the top of our head.
Now, to what is in between.
Now, to what is in front of us.
Now, to what is behind us.
Now, to what is above us.
Now, to what is below us.
Now, to what is on our right.
Now, to what is on our left.
Now, to what surrounds us.
Now, returning to the soles of our feet;
the top of our head;
and what is in between.
Then we addressed the scale of G major, ascending into 2 octaves. Several of the Team less familiar with the scale left the circle & went with Martin to refresh themselves of G major in the nut position. Those remaining played the scale one note at a time, each moving clockwise around the circle until the 2 octaves were played accurately, ascending & descending; then descending and ascending; then rising to the B, a major 3rd. above the top G. At then end of the meeting the Team separated into 2 groups, one ascending to the B, the other descending to the E on the 6th. string, a minor 3rd. below bottom G.
At the beginning of the Level One meeting, with chairs placed at random, sitting & standing as options for body use, the grouping of choice that emerged was sitting in a circle.
The recommendation is made to prospective students, who plan to attend courses, that the guitar is not played for a week prior to the course, other than tuning their instrument to the New Standard Tuning. Regardless of this, one player came into the room throwing out licks, guitar slung at a jaunty angle to the right of his body’s centre of gravity. Then the instruction was given:
Choose one note; do not play this note: choose this note. When ready, begin to play this one note of your choice. For those who have not played their instrument for a week, this will be the first intentional note you have played for one week.
There are several benefits available when this advice is followed but, if we walk in throwing out hot licks, these benefits are substantially curtailed.
Usually, on most Level One courses, the collection of single notes are played for about 10-11 minutes. I aim for this introductory Choir of the Single Notes to sustain itself for 10 minutes. There are several advantages to this, for both circle and instructor. Some beginning Choirs run out of steam after around 6 minutes and usually (although not always) if this occurs, I push the Choir along for the duration of the10 minutes. One of prime advantages of a beginning Choir is to present an exact aural representation of the state of the Team, the who & what the course is, at that particular moment.
Today, the meeting was posted for 11.15, most students arrived by 11.17, the notes began at 11.20 – and kept going! I left at 12.55 with not a break in the sounds. Several of the students were playing more than one note, I noticed flying fingers on a multi-note phrase, with the momentum of the Choir sustained and driven by two students in particular.
At lunch comments were invited on the work of the morning. A Level One student, the character who had walked in riffing his licks & played more than the single note, one of the two students sustaining & driving the Choir, remarked of his behaviour: “Nothing is compulsory”. This is a quote from the introductory remarks at the dinner preceding the Inaugural Meeting where the house rules are called. RF’s reply: “You can do whatever you wish – providing you can pay the bill”.
Another of the several-noters commented of his multiple notes that he had been “inspired”. RF’s reply: “To paraphrase Quentin Tarentino in Pulp Fiction when Harvey Keitel offers him money for an oak bedroom suite: ‘Inspiration is good’”.
One of the American members of the Level Two made a good comment on the degree of animated response whenever someone had made a mistake in the G major scale. Why? Very good question, this.
Silence came to visit around 13.33 and stayed until 14.00, despite several attempts by a Level One to send it packing: the same student who had walked into the first guitar meeting slinging his riffs, played several notes rather than the “one note of your choice” in accordance with the exercise, and then commented at this lunch that “nothing was compulsory”.
After lunch Martin came to the door of my room: a student on the Level Two should be in the Level One, Martin suggests: there is nothing there to build on.
Now, off to meet with the Level One at 15.00.
16.3 The Level One meeting with guitars: circulations in both directions, with
Smiles attached to some of the notes; clapping on & off the beat simultaneously in contrary motion around the circle (some of this was intentional & sometimes down & up beats were indistinguishable from each other). Then the Four Mentor Buddies – Martin, Luciano, Fumihito & Shinjuko – took the Level One in four smaller groups to address the right hand.
16.56 Frank & Cathy are working with A Sense of the Body. I am collating & editing aphorisms. Over tea the Level Two student who has moved to the Level One came up to me in the house and asked for a personal meeting – he needs 5 minutes, he says. A good man, he is twitching & simmering gently. His course is already well underway.
18.54 A call to David Singleton at DGM HQ to inform him that a batch of edited aphorisms will be e-mailed to him over the weekend for recording by Tim Faulkner, and perhaps Digitech Vocalised by David himself. David was in London yesterday visiting Eno to learn about the Vocaliser, in addition to discussing the state of the world and our part in it.
The Sense of the Body team emerged from the ballroom at 18.15 and so The Practice of silence began at 18.20:
If possible, be silent;
Otherwise, be quiet.
Failing that, shut up.
Now, to dinner.
19.55 Fruit for dessert. The fruit was covered in cream, which one of the Kitchen Team used as a spurious excuse to claim that this dish was not actually fruit, but rather dessert. They lied: this was fruit, with cream.
Several comments were made over dinner on the day’s work.
Now my first personal meeting of the course has just ended. The Level Two who has moved to join the Level One is mired in expectation. He knows that this is so, yet remains stuck, and stuck expectantly. His course last year was a high for him, he says.
He asks: why is not everything as high now, even though I have done no work in between? He says, I have no idea whatsoever as to which notes are in the scale of G major and where they may be found on the guitar, so why doesn’t fried chicken fly into my mouth if I stand here expectantly? My mouth is open, after all. Isn’t that enough?
I asked: “Do you know the saying that a Level Two will suck the life out of anything that moves”? No, he said, so I suggested he asks Hernan what this means. We discussed the parable of the talents, of which he was unaware. Level One courses give something for nothing – it is a gift. If we wish to take advantage of this gift, we have to make an investment of it.
No doubt, more of this later.
22.27 In England today Toyah was on The Richard & Judy show. Here in Sassoferrato the Level Two met at 20.45 to further examine the precariousness of G major. A trio of G major Beginners are appealing to their Mentoring Buddy Martin for help in meeting this challenge.
The Level One course, plus most of those on the Level Two, met with guitars at 21.15. Multiple simultaneous circulations met with a high fatality yield as notes died rapidly while moving around the circle. Then thrakking in 11&6, 11&7, 11&7&5, with Mentoring Buddies Martin, Luciano & Shinkuro leading each of the three groups. This meeting formally ended at 22.20 although thrakking sounds from the ballroom continue and are reaching this room through a concrete floor.
Saturday 26th. January, 2002; 07.08
Up at 06.30, now gently exercised & showered. There was the strange case of the dog barking in the night. But, unlike Watson’s comment to Holmes, there was a dog barking in the night. It must have come from the village nearby & been horrendously loud for its keeper. Here, it was loud enough to wake me up around 02.35 and keep me awake for a while. Now, off to the sitting.
8.51 A busy morning ahead for all: Kitchen Team, Level Two & One meetings for myself, Level One meeting for The Mentoring Buddies, personal meetings for Cathy & Frank & The Mentoring Buddies.
Conversation over breakfast with Greg M. & the need for “uncles” & mentor figures in community, how my sense was that in East Dorset during the 1950s there were more of these figures around. Greg wanted to know about JGB. Conversation moved over Work history & Work people, from the difficulties of grasping Beelzebub’s Tales to notions of active information; how music hovers behind musical exercises and that the student can sometimes find themselves being played by music. All this & more.
Now, a meeting with the Kitchen Team.
11.15 A morning of terror! The Kitchen Team meeting was straightforward, as might be anticipated from a team concerned with discharging practical functions that are easily & simply verified – does this meal suck? for example, as a fairly basic empirical testing procedure.
How to improve the quality of the kitchen work? Bring part of the attention to sensing the presence of life within the particular limb in circulation. Perhaps, consider the kitchen work as supporting the work of sensing the limb, rather than the kitchen work is primary and sensing a secondary concern.
Q. Should the kitchen supervisor consider providing a balanced diet?
A. Perhaps if one is a qualified and experienced nutritionist. Otherwise the difficulty here is ideology: macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan, meat-eating – what to do? I suggested my idea of a balanced diet: a cappuccino in the middle, foam dusted with cinnamon; a chocolate éclair to the left; a bowl of cream with spoon to the right.
At the end of this, I introduced a simple division of attention exercise, for the hands in 5 and counting in 7.
Then to the Level Two, aspiring to a play G major scale proceding step by step, ascending & descending, in the 2 octaves available in the Nut Position.
Stepping out of the Level Two at 10.00 to take a snapshot of the Level One, I saw two of the 3 Mentoring Buddies passing on their own errors in the use of the right hand. Quiet despair, moderated by hope in the benevolence of the future. What to do about limiting this transmission of errors? No quick answer to that one.
My own work with the Level One, beginning at 11.15: circulating, and using the circulations as an attention exercise rather than merely a guitar or musical exercise per se. It becomes very clear, standing where I do in the centre of the circle, how much drugs damage the connection between mind and body. The cognitive dissonance is astonishing: in some cases a count continues, the student clearly knowing what is required: on One they play a note. There are perhaps six bars of preparation time. Then I watch as they count One and hit their note on Two. Repeatedly for half an hour or so.
This is not the rocket science of music, nor complex and difficult guitar playing. This is the simple task of counting to 4 and discharging a simple connected action, such as playing one note.
Then the team went off to their personal meetings with The Mentoring Buddies & A Sense of the Body specialists, and I went to the dining room to claim a cup of café latte. A Kitchen Trio were practicing Bicycling To Afghanistan. Curt Golden composed this in the days of the Red Lion House: it was the logical culmination of one strand of GC composition available at that time, one that has probably not been developed further since. At that point, things moved on and elsewhere.
Leaving the dining room with my coffee I became aware that the energy on this course/s is building up and, much as I feel no personal requirement to be a Guitar Craft instructor, of the privilege that this confers.
14.09 Two guests are visiting and introduced themselves at lunchtime – Mr. Lito from Milan, an Argentinean who has now relocated, and Antonio de H, whose guitar I am borrowing this week. Antonio wrote Hope, a GC repertoire piece, from an idea of John Sinks, former cinema manager, former Crafty, now King Crimson & John Paul Jones guitar tech & much else besides.
Suddenly, my hearing changed. This is what is called a shift between worlds, or a sudden change of state. The noises of the dining room sprang into clear, defined tones separated in the space of the room. Stereo opened out. Then, my vision also sharpened in clear focus, despite weak eyes.
16.24 Back from tea, sitting by Hernan & Frank & Cathy. Hernan & I were discussing writing the history of Red Lion House. I have been collating the letters written to Crafties between 1988 & 1990. Much of the history is in Hernan’s diary, retrieved from a pair of shoes in a bag that I found at The Studio (Cecil Beaton’s former photographic studio) of Reddish House and sent them on to Hernan. Hernan has notes from Elizabeth Bennett’s visits to the RLH, including her advice on parenting. Hernan also has notes on the dynamics between the members of Guitar Craft Services and how these impacted on GC courses at Claymont & GCS itself.
At the end of talking with Frank & Cathy, listening to what I was saying, I realised what I had actually been saying: this had nothing at all to do with the nominal topic of conversation. This is a valuable practice: to listen to oneself while talking. But, we may not like what we learn about ourselves. And sometimes, we may also hear a voice that is not quite our own.
The Level One meeting: at all the opening of the guitar meetings the students stand, as if forever. I have no idea why they are not sitting down. We began by:
bringing attention to the palm of the left hand;
then the back of the hand;
then inside the hand;
then into each of the fingers in turn.
Then the whole of the hand.
If our eyes are closed, would we still have a left hand?
If so, how do we know this?
What is the distinct experience of being alive inside our left hand?
I issued a disclaimer for the Mentoring Buddies: they do the best they can to pass on what they know. But this also includes the transmission of errors. However, I can myself only address the experience in a student’s hand that a student has developed for themselves. So, I can only help when there is more experience. Then, experience speaks to experience.
Then, we moved onto the functioning of the left hand. At 15.30 I passed the Team on to the Mentoring Buddies for more work.
Alexander begins at 16.30, with Quiet Time at 18.30.
19.04 The sitting during Quiet Time was punctuated by loud snores towards the end of the half hour.
19.58 Two additional visitors, and a Crafty come to work in the kitchen, introduced themselves at dinner. Various comments on the day were made, including the perils of translation, particularly in Italy. Large bowl of lentils, to imperil the course later, & crème caramel – the perfect fruit to end a meal.
Paolo the Photographer came to bring me a gift of after shave, and stunning photos in both colour and black & white. He has found his way into this world, and it is speaking through his eye & his lens.
22.48 The meeting, for everyone who wished with guitar, included the Kitchen Team, Levels One & Two, visitors, a viola & a cello. Circulations, hi density, skipping chairs; some with simultaneous beginnings from several points in the large circle, a first in Guitar Craft. Followed by Perambulating Boogaloogachoogling.
Al has printed up Abbreviated Aphorisms and pinned them to the board…
January 26th. 2002
A beginning is invisible.
Accept nothing less than what is right.
A completion is a new beginning.
Act always in accordance with conscience.
Act in accordance with time, place and person.
Act from principle and move with intention.
Act in private as if your behaviour were known in public.
A decision changes the world.
A function of language is to disclose.
An end may be a finish, a conclusion or a completion.
A necessary property of good form is internal consistency.
Any action conveys the intent that gave rise to it.
Any fool can play something difficult.
Anything within a performance is significant, whether intentional or not.
Artistry moves from the assumption of innocence within a context of experience.
Artistry is a bridge between the possible, the impossible, and the actual.
Artistry repeats the unrepeatable.
Ask why seven times.
Assume the virtue.
Become a critic only if you have no fear for your soul.
Begin again, constantly.
Begin with the possible and move gradually towards the impossible.
Completion is a new beginning.
Conscience is impersonal.
Craft is a universal language.
Cynicism is death.
Discard the superfluous.
Discipline is a vehicle for joy.
Discipline is never an end in itself, only a means to an end.
Distrust those who profess altruism.
Duration is subjective.
Equilibrium is not static.
Expectation is a prison.
Fear is a preparation for failure.
Forever is a long time and eternity is in the moment.
Gradually extend the parameters of your competence.
Gradual transitions take place suddenly.
Helpful people are a nuisance.
Humour is not permitted.
If in doubt, consult tradition.
If you wish to change the world, better to know the world you wish to change.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably get there.
If you have nothing to say, better to say nothing.
Intelligence is social.
Interrogate the error.
It is difficult to exaggerate the power of habit.
It is in the nature of intelligence to make connections.
Just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches.
Let us embrace our mistakes.
Let us find clean and cheerful friends.
Life is often desperate, but never hopeless.
Life is too short to take on the unnecessary.
Like and dislike are cheap.
Local events have global repercussions.
Love cannot bear that any soul be denied its place in Paradise.
Make more mistakes.
May we have the clarity to see our work.
May our life honour the lives of our parents and mentors.
May we have the courage to fail.
May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.
Mistakes are at the centre of learning.
Money is not a problem, only a difficulty.
Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all.
Music is a quality, organised in sound and in time.
Music is the architecture of silence.
Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence.
Music without love is not music.
Necessity is a measure of aim.
Necessity is never far from what is real.
Nothing worthwhile is achieved suddenly.
Offer no violence.
Our enemy is our friend.
Performance is inherently unlikely.
Performance is intimate, yet utterly impersonal.
Philosophy without a discipline is madness.
Play is at the heart of creative endeavour.
Process is Intelligence getting to know itself.
Relaxation is never accidental.
Remain in hell without despair.
Rightness is its own necessity.
Signposts are useful when you know where you’re going.
Silence is a bridge between worlds.
Silence is an invisible glue.
Silence is not silent.
Small additional increments are transformative.
Sometimes God hides.
Some things protect themselves by being what they are.
Space has its own rules and determining conditions.
Spirit embraces matter.
Success carries with it opportunity, responsibility and obligation.
Suffering is necessary, unnecessary or voluntary.
Suffering of quality is invisible to others.
Talking is expensive.
The act of music is the music.
The end is a finish, conclusion or completion.
The foundation of learning is play.
The future is what the present can bear.
The greater the seeming imperfection, the greater the possible transformation.
The highest quality of attention we may give is love.
The mind leads the hands.
The musician has three disciplines: of the hands, the head and the heart.
The necessary is possible.
The performer can hide nothing, even the attempt to hide.
The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer.
The question is its answer.
There are no mistakes, save one: the failure to learn from a mistake.
There is essential danger when seeking fault in others.
There is no separation.
There’s more to hearing than meets the ear.
The right thing at the wrong time is wrong.
The trouble with knowing what we want is that we might get it.
The work of one supports the work of all.
Thought is tangible.
“Tomorrow” is the first lie of the Devil.
To try is to fail.
Trust the process.
Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage.
We begin by doing nothing.
We begin where we are.
We discover the unity of all things through the feelings.
We know others to the extent that we know ourselves.
Welcome the unexpected, but not the arbitrary.
We only have what we give away.
We perceive our perceptions.
We recognise in others what we know most deeply in ourselves.
What changes is how we see what hasn’t changed.
What is right accords with principle.
What we hear is the quality of our listening.
When stuck, increase the complexity.
When we have nothing to say, better to say nothing.
When we recognise a fault in others, we recognise a fault in ourselves.
Where we’re going is how we get there.
With commitment, all the rules change.
A little collating of Dear Crafty, now to bed.
Sunday 27th. January, 2002: 07.09
There was the strange case of the dog was barking in the night, again. The strange thing was, it is still barking in the night. The barking was going at 05.07 and also at 07.00. I wonder who lives near this dog.
Up at 06.30, showered & exercised, now to the Sitting.
08.41 Hernan & Frank chatting about Crafties from the early days, several of whom crop up in the Dear Crafty letters which I am collating. The history of the Red Lion House waits to be written & Hernan has a large piece of this.
Conversation with Greg: touched on those who know, and how they know. Greg has his own speciality & competence, so there is much we are able to say to each other. He visits Senghalese griots in Seattle, and they welcome him to sit in their presence and breath the air around them. I commented that people who know don’t usually, or often, know how they know. So, I am not very interested in their explanations, but very interested in seeing them work. And breathing the air around them. When a young player, I knew I wasn’t very good but I could recognize a player who was. So, I aimed to be good enough for them to let me play with them. Then, I would learn to listen through their ears.
If someone is in connection with a subject, they know the parameters & perimeters of what is right, what is authentic, what is acceptable. Then, they become a Representative of that particular subject, tradition, or way of doing things; a person that others may turn to when authenticating their own approach, behaviour or action. These Representatives then become Mentors. This need not be formal, although that is one approach. Formality and informality both have value, and both have drawbacks.
The list is posted: Kitchen Team meeting at 09.00, Level Two at 09.30, Level One at 10.15. A visiting young Crafty who is working in the kitchen is leaving at lunchtime & has asked for a personal meeting. He is about-to-be-arriving.
11.33 A student from the Level One has left: an “emergency at home”. He had stood at dinner yesterday evening and said how happy he was on his course. He hoped to return in 2 or 3 days but that won’t work for the course. So, next time.
The Kitchen Team meeting began with 10 minutes of silence, very solid, very embracing. It felt like home. The perils of translation: I told the team I didn’t wish them to work “too hard” – hard, but not too hard. The Kitchen Team have an enormous responsibility on courses; it is very easy to overload and get burned out. The Kitchen Manager, an Italian named Mr. He-Once-Was-Baldy, believed I had said “The Kitchen Team don’t work hard enough”. Fortunately he enquired about the accuracy of “too hard” before putting the Team to cruel & unnatural forms of labour.
The Level Two are struggling to hold ascending & descending forms of G major concurrently, seat by seat.
The Level One are struggling to pass a note from chair to chair, passing over every fourth chair. I look and see major drug damage in some of these eyes, and wonder whether the young man behind them will ever completely return to what he was. I look at others and see the dirt in the energy field surrounding them, and see enough of what is strong that they have a high likelihood of cleaning themselves out. But in our culture, where drug use is both commonplace and socially acceptable – I have the right, after all – such comments are unpopular.
Hernan has popped in to bring me up to date on various arisings & bright ideas. Hernan is being sucked dry by the number of people seeking his advice. And quite right, too. Hernan’s specialities are drug use, money and the Latin temperament. He is a superb Uncle and Mentor for young men particularly, and particularly young Latin men who have problems with drugs and money. And sex. How can Hernan deal with this? He is going to formalize the approaches by putting a notice on the board: “Who needs a personal meeting with Hernan?” and then Hernan is protected from casual approaches.
And Hernan has exchanged for me a 100,000 lira note for 50 euros. These are my first euros and I am very happy to have them. Money is what money does, and I have no sentimental attachment to £ sterling. If Germany can let go of the deutschmark and France the franc, then for the UK to let go of the £ is not much more.
14.06 Silence came to visit at lunchtime: actually, at 13.13. This was quite distinct, although the sounds and activity of the dining room didn’t change. The sounds of cutlery & banging & conversations became a symphony in my ears, the sounds taking on a distinct outline and definition within a broad ambient spectrum. At 13.26 the room became aware of the silence and went into it. A few of the Level Ones left quite quickly afterwards. The character who walked into the ballroom riffing, reminds us that “nothing is compulsory”, and a very badly drug damaged young man, were two of the first three to leave.
How to explain silence visiting? Silence is not an absence: silence is a very considerable presence. Sometimes it is too much to bear. In modern terminology perhaps we “coincide with a field of active information”. Perhaps in more conventional terminology we have “conversation with our Holy Guardian Angel”. Or in more recent New Age expression, are visited by a spirit guide. However we describe the experience, the experience itself is unmistakable.
The lunch was very tasty: a cheese salad presented beautifully and waiting at the table.
Visited by AH after lunch. He is a Crafty with health problems that have prevented him from taking part in the course as a student: the demands are greater than he can honourably bear. Nevertheless, he is a friend of GC and supports our work as he may; and perhaps our work supports him in the world as well.
Visiting the notice board after lunch I found myself looking at the space on the sheet that normally has a meeting for 15.00; and found myself not writing a meeting into it. Trusting this, I left the afternoon open before tea at 16.00. And I have taken down the Abbreviated Aphorisms from the notice board. This was the list printed up by Al and put up yesterday evening.
20.25 A gentle afternoon for me, reflecting in an unhurried fashion. A meeting at 18.15, for anyone who wished, to introduce an approach to the sitting used in Guitar Craft.
Comments over dinner from the Level Two addressing the relationship between the individual & the group & how they interact.
Q: How to follow the two distinct lines in the G major scale in an exercise Level Two have been undertaking?
A: There are three ways that support each other. Firstly, the hand that acts automatically once it has become accustomed to the physical motion. Secondly, the mind holds the pattern of the 2 lines, one ascending & one descending. Thirdly the ear, which distinguishes between the notes & recognizes whether the execution is accurate.
An emotional comment from the Level One character who has clearly suffered from drug use: has been having problems with sleeping; and would like work on the rhythms we have been playing. Another Level One would like to know the notes on the fingerboard.
22.19 Level One meeting: brief overview of lateral & vertical fingerings and the additional-incremental approach to building up fingerboard knowledge: the hand, the mind & the ear. Then to clapping in 5 & counting in 7, & vice versa. Brief explanation of the principles of form. Thrakking in 5 & 7. Mentoring Buddies Fumihito & Luciano took over.
Level Two are developing G major in 2 rooms. One L2 room had isolated a particular strategy & principle in their work. I suggested they articulate this so the strategy & principle become available to other situations.
Hernan popped in to say he has a huge list for personal meetings with “GC Consulting”. I have 22 names for 23 personal meetings from the Kitchen Team & Staff.
Monday 28th. January, 2002; 07.11
Waking at 00.25 after some 90 minutes sleep to guitar practising in the house and the dog barking. Went back to sleep around 01.05 and then woke with the convent bells at 06.00. Rising at 06.30, now showered & exercised.
09.02 Martin & The MBs are meeting the Level One at 09.15 for a morning of lateral fingering on C major / A natural minor, and personal meetings are erupting everywhere. My personal meetings begin at 09.30 and continue for most of the morning and afternoon. Hernan has 26 names on his list.
12.27 Personal meetings this morning were without guitar and mostly concerned practical issues, mainly earning a living; perhaps earning a living while being a guitarist; perhaps earning a living as a guitarist. This especially impacts upon those who are Argentinian and has mostly to do with relocation. So, this would seem to be the basis of my morning…music > earning a living > relocation.
A printed e-mail has also come in from Bill Rieflin regarding a dream he has just had (as of Friday) and wonders whether this has anything to do with our course here. Who knows? I have written a brief response.
18.09 My personal meetings are ended for today. I no longer allow myself to become ill with personal meetings. At one early course in Italy, during the first period of GC courses, I had 37 personal meetings a day plus all the group meetings. Now, there is support, mentoring buddies & sufficient accumulated experience at courses that hollow commentary & dopey behaviour is immediately perceived as being out of tune. Once upon a time, long long ago, I would have to defend and justify standard GC positions against hostile attack; for example, on drug use.
20.05 An eruption of performances at dinner. Plus comments from the Level Two suggest they are getting to grips with articulating the strategies they are adopting in their G major work. They would like me to attend their meeting this evening as A Pointed Stick.
The Level One are addressing circulating, and would like me there. The disruptive character, who throws off riffs, is probably undermined by arrogance. He is not so arrogant with me lately.
Half of Hernan’s clients were good, half clueless, he says. He believes that he helped some people. Also discussing a possible move to Spain. I suggested San Sebastian.
Dessert was tasty: a coconut gooey on a biscuity base.
22.06 On the way to the notice board a Level Two asked me about the aphorism “Ask why seven times”, a point he raised at dinner. We considered how & where this might lead.
An evening of discovering a different approach to circulating, one which is instantly more musical.
Level Two: reminded them of lateral & vertical approaches to G major; plus learning simple chords of the primary triads. Then division of attention with counts of 5&7 against varying feet & hands.
Level One quite unable to function. There are major perceptual, sensory input processing, problems of a staggering degree & impossible to exaggerate. Perhaps one member of the Level One is what I would call “normal”, in the sense of being functionally reliant in co-ordinating visual information with the operation of their hands. One of them was not playing guitar, but sitting on his seat in the circle. We applied the new circulatory approach, with multiple striking of the same note, from 1 up to 12 times, and various jumps from 5 to 10 times. These were wonderfully musical and gentle. These jumps had the effect of going from piano to forte, and the slow additions and subtractions of graduated amplitude and chord complexity. In the middle of the circles, a privilege to stand, it was.
I attempted to engage the arrogant character by encouraging him to be forward. And how Cathy & Frank deal with the bodies is beyond me.
22.41 Editing of Dear Crafty 1991 and now winding down.
Monday 28th. January, 2002; 11.13
At breakfast I asked how I might help the various teams. A Level One student suggested I helped them with their attention. What to say of attention?
Attention is a property of the will. What is will? Will doesn’t exist but acts on & through what does exist. Perhaps this is more easily understood as an urge, or impulse. So, we experience an urge to live & do through the body, an urge to be through the feelings, and an urge to know through the head. This is simplistic, but conveys a sense of what is involved: doing in rightness, conscience and truth.
So, will acts through these three instruments: the hands, the head & the heart. These are the instruments through which “will” acts in the world.
But the difficulty here is to speak of will as if our “will” were singular; or that we “have” a will. Clearly, we are a bundle of contrary & contradictory urges.
If we assume that we have, or might have, a singular and/or individual will, then we experience this “singular will” as impressively fractured. For example, we have different and contrary urges. Were this will singular, surely this would not be the case. Were this will singular, or in some way unified, then our urges / impulses would somehow be complementary, rather than constantly acting to undermine and compromise each other.
So, will & function. What brings these together? “Being”, or the degree & intensity to which we are who we are, a unified creature, whose functions accurately, reliably & efficiently discharge the “instructions” of the will, is sometimes the word applied to this. In this sense, being is a measure of our integrity, the degree to which we hang together as an individual creature. The musical language is helpful here: being is a measure of the degree to which our functions are harmonized: in tune, in tone & in time.
So, we have these three terms: function, being & will.
The connection of the will to the functional instruments is damaged by drug use, in some cases severely. This has the practical effect that the three instruments, the hands the head & the heart, are unable to work together. Alternatively expressed, the will is unable to act in a unified fashion through the instruments that nature has provided in the fully co-ordinated and harmonic fashion that is proper to our construction.
This is existentially & essentially terrifying.
Fortunately, there are exercises available to strengthen and unify our relationship to “will”. In Guitar Craft a taste of this is available through the category of exercises referred to as Division of Attention exercises. For more experienced students, the Job of the Day is exceptionally important.
Very, very simply & simplistically, it’s something like this:
Function is what we do;
Being is the integrity with which (how “well”) we do it, and:
Will is whether we are going to do it, or not.
Level One would like to see how the Level Two does circulations. This is a good idea – for each group to witness the circulating work of the other.
Group meetings with guitars all morning: Kitchen Team at 09.00, Level Two at 09.30, Level One at 10.00.
The Kitchen Team & Level Two continued with circulations, which went better with the Kitchen Team than Level Two. Passing notes played 3, 5, maybe 9 times. Sometimes, moving over or through chairs, sometimes chair by chair.
Level One: something changed. We moved to vamping & challenging lines with fast runs; there is not the technique to play them. Rather than wait until a basic technique is in place & then present the challenge, here the challenge is for the technique to match what is required.
12.24 A personal meeting with a Level Two: real questions – forgiveness, how to be a father, how to be a creative musician.
13.46 Silence visited lunch and rather than sit in & with it, we engaged. Good comments form the Level One on their work this morning, plus the one regular commentator who witters on at length. A challenge was presented: for each group to recognize their group names.
The dog did not bark last night, that I heard. Now it’s on full ahead barking mode. It’s in the house opposite, hidden behind a screen of large conifers, the kind that are used as screens to hide ugliness.
16.10 The Level One meeting: irritation was rife, as not everyone was able to engage the mental faculties required to hold the pattern of 5 bars in 5 on visual display in front of them, and to remember which of those beats were their responsibility. Cascades in C minor, then A minor. Very musical. A challenge: turn these exercises into music and present it to the Level Two at 21.00.
Level Two: have fun! And a challenge – turn their work into music & present it to the Level One at 21.00 – as if it were true that music is a powerful & benevolent presence.
Personal meetings continue at 16.30.
18.00 Hello right foot & the last batch of personal meetings are at an end.
This is the part I fear – the Parade of Hands. Left, right – what matter? They are both awful, in this Parade. Also, several mouths locked in holding back conversation as the playing continues. What is this mouth trying to say, and to whom? I wonder. The hands carry the weight of the eyes, lifting them around the fingerboard on top of the fingers. What a burden.
One interesting meeting: Fred who is now 26 and was on his first course at 17 (an exception – we ask for 18) is the son of a Crafty from the very first GC course in March 1985. Today, I adjusted Fred’s right hand in exactly the same fashion as I had adjusted his father’s hand on the same guitar, in a dormitory at the Claymont mansion, in 1987.
20.13 Several performances at dinner.
Today is the 25th. birthday of MG, one of the Level One. He asked the Kitchen Team to prepare a cake for him. The deal was if he bought the cake, they’d serve it. So MG paid for two cakes especially prepared in town & the Kitchen Team served it with performance – Happy Birthday Up Your Ass, With Love. This a performance imbued with the spirit of Mr. U, an Argentinian Crafty whose performance group on courses is Horn Up Your Ass. (Although Mr. U disputes this as an accurate translation, it is the name of the group). Lights went out, HBUYAWL was played in the dark, then the cakes came in with one candle burning which MG blew out to cheers & applause. Urged to make a speech, MG simply said: “Thank you for coming”. Lotsa good light cream.
Now the Level One are preparing to present their work to Level Two, who are possibly preparing to present their work to Level One.
22.12 A fun presentation by Level One. Two of their number entered as they were ending their piece. This is a first in almost 17 years of Guitar Craft – two of the performers arriving at the end of the performance. Some never turn up, but two not two appearing until it’s over is a first. Then the Level Two presented their work to the Level One & the house. Both honourable.
Then, whoever wished were invited to bring their instrument to the ballroom: over 50 guitars, a cello & viola arrived. Circulating in blocks of 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 & 20 notes; then vamping; then circulating in blocks again. This was spoiled by one character who played carelessly, out of tune. This mirrors what he is in all other facets of his appearance on this course: he is out of tune, both with and without his instrument. He imposes himself on the situation & this has the effect of drawing attention to himself. Does he know how this colours his life & interaction with the world? Here, there is an acceptance & tolerance which is rare indeed. But still, something sacred is spoilt and this is readily forgivable, although not easily.
Before the presentations, I called Vivien Elliot in England to check in on how she & Pierre are doing. Vivien tells me she is off to Egypt soon with her daughter, and hoping to visit Iran with her sons David & Jason, and grandchildren. Jason’s book on Afghanistan is already a classic of travel writing, and his next planned book will be Iran.
Wednesday 30th. January, 2002; 09.54
Personal meetings with the Level One are underway.
At breakfast Hernan reported that a Level One asked him how he could tell his wife that everything has changed. RF: clean the bathroom & do the washing up. The courses asked what they needed, at breakfast.
Level One is learning Eye of the Needle in response to their expressed needs: work in small groups & in the large group. Level One are working in either a committed group for containment, or another small group, or individually where the aims & specific exercises are clear & definite and can be simply & clearly verified at the end of the afternoon.
10.49 Life issues are emerging in Personal Meetings. And the question – “how can I tell the musicians / people I work with about Guitar Craft?” Well, you can’t. But you can make music more strong within yourself & people will recognize this. But if you tell other people how to “act with presence”, they’ll say – this man is mad. He belongs to that Guitar Craft cult.
12.47 Personal meetings at an end today. I am no longer able to sit with unknowing hands as once I was. Nor am I prepared to do so: not until the hands have acquired some experience of their own. Probably, by practicing 4 hours a day for 3 months; or 1 hour a day for 6 months.
Right hand principle: Establish the motion and apply the motion to the guitar.
13.43 Performances at lunch continue.
16.32 I have just asked Hernan Nunez to form a League of Crafty Guitarists in Europe, and to find them a geographical base for operations. Hernan feels a resonance with this idea. Ideas which were discussed at the Red Lion House, but which proved impractical at the time for several reasons – most notably the collapse of EG and the adverse effect of that upon the lives & finances of their artists – have returned as points of necessity.
Collating Dear Crafty letters from 1988-91 has stirred a lot. Also this course, the Level One & Level Two & Kitchen Team participants, and my work with them; a new generation of assistant instructors; and the difference place I now inhabit; what is possible & necessary for me?
Meeting with the Kitchen Team & guitars at 15.00: addressing the right hand. Overall, a tremendous improvement on what there has been.
18.01 I have discovered a whole pile of early Dear Crafty letters in document files which I have never opened in MS Word, ever. Some files are degraded with no information present, but several may be on very early floppy disks back from the days when…
While passing water in the bathroom, this flew by:
Q. How to get more energy?
A. Do something that you dislike. This releases the energy trapped in that particular automatic reaction.
20.27 Al the Worthy printed the following document at 18.20, we ran it by Hernan right afterwards, and at 18.30 Hernan agreed to accept the position. This was posted on the board at 19.00…
Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy.
Wednesday 30th. January, 2002;
This afternoon at tea-time, during this Level One & Two combined course, I asked Hernan Nunez to form an official Guitar Craft performance ensemble, to present and represent the work of Guitar Craft to the world. Initially, this would have the aim of performing in Europe and would be named
The League of Crafty Guitarists,
director Hernan Nunez.
I have also asked Hernan to find premises in Europe where Guitar Craft activities and projects may be based for the medium-term future. Hernan has agreed to accept responsibility for both these projects.
Currently, our sense is that Spain is likely to be the place, and the second half of 2003 the likely time to acquire that place. The League of Crafty Guitarists is operational immediately.
Very best wishes to you all,
c/o The American Society
For Continuous Education,
Rt. 1, Box 279,
West Virginia 25414.
December 17th. 1987.
To Whom It May Concern:
Hernan Nunez is a student undertaking a course of instruction in Guitar Craft under my personal supervision. The instruction is sponsored in America by The American Society For Continuous Education, a registered not-for-profit corporation of which I am a past-president, and in England by the Red Lion Trust, an educational trust for the promotion of music and the arts. The trustees are myself, Toyah Willcox, the actress and singer, and S.G. Alder, Treasurer of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’ Award Scheme.
The presence of Mr. Nunez in America is solely as a student, and in no professional or employment capacity whatsoever.
If I can be of further assistance, please contact me.
The second letter is partly fun, partly a history of the early years of GC, and partly a declaration of Hernan’s credentials. Allessandro is posting this to several Guitar Craft persons around the world to inform them of the decision and next step. Hernan called his wife Bettina, he told me at dinner. Bettina feels this is very much the right move and is fully supportive of Hernan.
Several performances at dinner, plus some very good comments on the day’s work, including some Japanese whispers: originating from Haruko & presented by her in English, then presented by her in Japanese, then translated back into English by Fumihito, then translated back into Japanese by Shinkuro. Haruko felt the final translation at the end of the chain was somewhat short of her original observation.
We are meeting at 21.00 for Level One to present their work to the house, then for Level Two to present their ongoing work to the house.
22.14 The two presentations covered a space close to the sacred, then to burlesque, all within seconds.
The first presentation, of Level Two, began in silence. It was if the quality of listening, and atmosphere within which the notes appeared, changed the timbre of those notes. Silver. A simple circulation hovered and passed around the room. Then Hope, which despite some poor execution, was Hope. The musicness transcended the weak playing. This was a musical performance that is exceptionally rare in our contemporary professional musical culture. Actually, impossible, for several reasons. Then the Level Two left & the Level One entered.
Eye of the Needle. Hilariously bad, so hilarious that laughter burst out among the audience. Excruciatingly, holleringly bad. So bad that a precious piece in the Guitar Craft repertoire being trashed so uncompromisingly, was not even offensive. Then the Level One left, to laughter. And came straight back. Minus one player who arrived late, after the door had been closed, this late addition to the team giving rise to more laughter.
Eye of the Needle again and this time, despite poor playing, it sufficiently got there that there was no applause afterwards. This is a good sign.
Then, a full house meeting with comments on the presentations and one of the Level One, who has been loosing it, lost it some more. But his heart is not bad so, whatever place he is, he doesn’t feel dangerous.
Announcement to the House: Guitar Craft has moved to the next stage of its history with The League of Crafty Guitarists, director Senor Nunez. They will be presenting a performance for the town’s Secretary of Culture tomorrow evening. And Level One, large or small group piece/s, and Level Two, may be presented to Hernan for auditioning tomorrow around 17.00. Performance presented to the outside world has to meet certain criteria: being in tune, in tone, and in time. Hernan will make the call on whether these criteria are met.
The League of Crafty Guitarists are meeting to rehearse now, and the Level Two has a commitment for the day to discharge.
23.00 Some early GC computer files have downgraded and lost their information. Now to wind down with the sound of thrakking from the lower levels; i.e. the floors beneath.
Thursday 31st. January, 2002; 08.44
Hernan has dropped in to report on the rehearsals & preparations of The LCG last night, and how he sees the performance tonight.
At breakfast the Level One character responsible for ringing the morning bell stood up and apologised for failing to do so this morning, offering to do the dish washing this evening as a gesture of apology; and promising to “try to do better” tomorrow. But this is not enough. A point of reliability cannot fail and then promise “to try to do better” – the reliance upon that reliability, the trust one places in a point of certainty, has been broken. This is a terrible thing, and very very hard to repair. It is possible to repair it, but not in one day. I find I have no reliance at all upon this man. So, tomorrow there will be another person to ring the wake-up bell. The first volunteer was Markus, and he has the job.
Now a Level One has knocked upon the door: he didn‘t sign the sign-up sheet, so is it possible that he adds his name to the sheet? That is, do I mind if he joins the other 2 characters that didn’t sign up either and have now already distorted my plans for the morning. Time to get sharper: the boat is soon leaving. We know the boat is leaving, we see the boat ready to go, we have been invited to be on board, and offered tickets. What use, as the boat sets off, to arrive at the dock and look pitiful?
12.27 The hands. The hands.
12.55 The mouths. The mouths.
13.29 A tasty lunch of beans and salad, both in generous proportions, as is fitting for a performance day. Hernan announced auditions for anyone from the Level One & Two teams that would like to take a shot at joining the performance. He is holding auditions at 17.00.
14.06 Glancing out the window while playing Eye of the Needle I noticed a funeral cortege wending its way down the hill, slowly, a column of cars following the hearse. Somehow, this felt appropriate.
15.57 More hands. More faces.
I have just called Mary P, a Work Wrinkley of many years acquaintance. Mary is now in her eighties and her eyesight has failed. I have called in to report, as I do regularly. Mary says that, in her present position, the Work is remarkable. She is looking at acceptance currently, she says. I will visit her at the end of March.
16.51 A significant development: a letter of authority for Hernan. This is the first of its kind.
18.01 The following is going onto the board, to accompany an excerpt from this course journal of Monday 28th. January above (on attention, from the breakfast comment by a Level One student). The Crafty Life is culled from the files I have been sifting and collating…
GC (UK) IV(A).
Red Lion House
The Crafty Life.
If music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all, how are we constantly and readily available to music?
We need to be present to music. This implies, we have to be present to ourselves. So, how? If we disagree with the possibility that music is a benevolent presence, we have to be present to disagree. So the question remains: how can be we be present? This leads to another question: who is present? And perhaps the best I can say is, that what is present is my attention. Where my attention is, is where I am. And, to all intents and purposes, it is who I am. So, if my quality of attention varies, I become a different quality of person; even, perhaps, a different person completely. If whoever my attention once was, once decided to practice attention, then my practice will involve noticing where my attention goes.
And I will notice:
i) Where my attention goes;
ii) My noticing of where my attention goes.
Have I become two people? The quick answer is, that as far as I can tell, obviously yes. The long answer is, at least two people, and sometimes no people at all. Sometimes I am a romantic person; sometimes I am a gregarious person; sometimes I am a solitary person. Sometimes I am a sensuous creature, living only for cheescake and exotic French confectionaries, washed into my eager, waiting body by cappucinos laced with cinnamon. Sometimes I am an intellectual, pursuing the secrets of the universe by the arrogant presumption of my cerebration. Sometimes I am a nesting person, defending my home against all intrusion. Sometimes I am a revolutionary, prepared to force what’s good for the unready world upon it, whether it knows what’s good for it or not. These, and many relatives in a large family of disparate but related characters, play upon the stage of my life. These characters are related by one main, common factor to them all: my noticing of them. And whereas the characters in the forefront of the action upon this stage change as the drama of living unfolds, my noticing remains the same: it is noticing.
Perhaps, I am two:
i) A noticer;
ii) A family of strange pedigree.
Am I able to divide my attention between my thinking, my feeling, and what I am doing? What are the different kinds and qualities of my experiencing? Is my experiencing a reflection of my attention?
My presence is where I am. Absence is where I am not. A present moment is the measure of my presence in time, in which my attention is engaged. It is the “when” and the “how long” of who I am.
In playing a musical instrument there is a directness of response. We have a reflection of who we are, also when and how we are. There is no argument, no clever justification or explanations for a bum note: we were not present. The music is a reflection of who we are, a true and unblemished reflection: a fine mirror.
18.30 Hernan & Martin have dropped in to report on the audition: each full group has an honourable contribution to be made this evening, with several good individual contributions which aren’t appropriate for the performance. I have placed this on Hernan’s guitar…
To Whom It May Concern:
This is to confirm that Hernan Nunez enjoys my confidence.
Founder, Guitar Craft.
Thursday 31st. January, 2002;
Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy.
18.37 Being is the degree we can hang together in the different worlds of the journeyman, craftsman, master & genius. The higher dimensionality is unbearable to someone whose station is in a less subtle world; something like, walking on the grass of a 3 dimensional world pierces the feet of someone from a two dimensional world. The degree to which we can hang together is the degree to which we can access higher worlds, or different states of being.
19.58 A tasty dinner with two visiting guests, women friends of Crafties.
Over lunch I asked Hernan for his sense of the silence that visited at the beginning of this course. He felt it was from this place, the Convento. I asked Hernan whether he considered it might be Elizabeth. No, he said, this silence was from the Convento. But, Hernan had seen Elizabeth here quite clearly, twice, during morning sittings on the summer project last year. Alessandro had seen an older woman at a sitting and mentioned this to Hernan, who asked Al to describe her. It was Elizabeth. Hernan also saw Elizabeth at a sitting in Berlin of a Circling Weekend in November 1992.
Hernan & Bettina made a strong connection to Elizabeth during her invaluable visits to the Red Lion House between 1987/89. She was, and clearly is, a strong supporter of Guitar Craft.
Meanwhile, Bettina was awake most of last night, connected to the buzzing of this course.
20.52 We are awaiting the arrival of the Secretary of Culture, and I’ve been drawing up the schedule for tomorrow & personal meetings.
22.36 Following honourable presentations by the Level One & Level Two teams, The League of Crafty Guitarists (director Hernan Nunez) made their debut performance.
This was the first performance by The LCG since April 1991, when it was knocked out of its orbit by Endless Grief, and the first LCG performance to feature tango (danced by our Argentinian tango couple). A clean & honest Eye of the Needle; plus strong Gaucho covers; a good introductory circulation with multiple stacking; and strong small group pieces. The LCG walked into the ballroom at 21.41 and left, after encores, at 22.21. A strong and promising beginning to this next stage in GC & LCG performance life.
Guests are now snaffling magnificent and large portions of tiramisu in the dining room. Coming up the stairs past the notice board, a Crafty from the Level One was photographing the board. Bummer. This felt so out of tune, and felt out of tune, because it was stunningly the wrong thing to do; and particularly at that moment. So, I had to take down notices from the board: they had been violated.
Anyone reading this without a sense, based in conscience, of how out-of-tune the action was, will not feel how & why this simple act carried with it an intent: to take, without payment, something at the heart of this Guitar Craft course. The act was wrong; the intent was fundamentally flawed. Sadly, this has caused damage which will be hard to repair.
Friday 1st. February, 2002; 07.06
A sense of the next step for GC in Europe has flown by.
It has become clearer than even before that, in order to accept my own responsibilities to the more experienced students within GC, that my attention cannot continue to be directed towards characters who have little alertness and a poor sense of personal presence.
This is not a problem: it doesn’t matter that a large proportion of the Level One students are clueless, it matters that they don’t know they are clueless. Then, they offer danger to the course and others on it. When they know they are clueless, I can help. But the swelling arrogance of a couple of the team is such that they are beyond where I might presently assist them.
08.26 Mass cluelessness is erupting among the Level One. Hernan reports that in the dining room post-performance last night, with a pumping-down of tiramisu underway, a flash went off – one of the Level One photographed the event without asking beforehand. And the photographer of the notice board has been taking photographs of it all week, it appears.
Then the man responsible for ringing this morning’s wake-up bell, who had volunteered for the post yesterday following the non-ringing by the person formerly responsible, did not: another of the Level One had taken this upon himself. They had usurped the post without prior reference to myself. So, a pivotal role in the life of the house was switched from an agent I felt to be responsible, to an agent acting without my permission and prior knowledge. The person who usurped this role is one of the Level One’s more interesting characters, one who is bouncing well.
08.32 I am about to ask Hernan to accept responsibility for directing Guitar Craft activities in Europe and South America.
08.55 I passed the following document to Hernan & asked him to read it before accepting it. Hernan read and accepted its contents…
To Whom It May Concern:
This is to confirm that Hernan Nunez is the director of Guitar Craft activities in Europe and South America.
Founder, Guitar Craft.
Friday 1st. February, 2002;
Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy.
One of Hernan’s responsibilities is to improve the quality of Guitar Craft students attending Level One courses. Perhaps one way to approach this would be for Hernan himself to direct an Introduction To Guitar Craft course, with the effect of helping us to better know our cluelessness.
First, we are clueless.
Secondly, we recognize that we are clueless.
Thirdly, we acknowledge that we are clueless.
Fourthly, we move to addressing our cluelessness.
I am available to help address cluelessness in those who feel that cluelessness is an unworthy condition for the aspiring guitarist. We are all clueless, but we need to know this to address the consequences. Hernan is personally responsible that students on future Level One courses are sufficiently prepared & ready for me to work with them.
09.14 Meeting in the ballroom, without guitars, for the Level One & Level Two. As is now a well-established convention, there were several late arrivals from the Level One. The day’s work:
Large & small group pieces for those who wish. This continues what has already been undertaken.
Then, an exercise for today:
Choose one small piece of work that may be simply, easily & clearly defined. Perhaps sitting on a chair in an effortless fashion; perhaps playing one bar of music; perhaps holding the pick; perhaps bringing the left hand to the strings; and discharge this small action superbly. This task must be available for verification – simply, easily & clearly.
Frank called a final Alexander group meeting at 11.30, for those who wish, to have a kind of closure with their meetings this week.
And now, the boat has left.
10.12 First batch of personal meetings with the Kitchen Team & Staff. Good people & questions. Now come the guitars.
10.51 Hands, relatively clueless, but knowing that they are clueless.
13.38 Prior to lunch I pinned a handwritten notice to the board:
No photography of this board without an official Guitar Craft Photo Pass signed by Senor Nunez.
There is no mistake save one: the failure to learn from a mistake.
Firstly, there is a mistake.
Secondly, we recognize there is a mistake.
Thirdly, we acknowledge there is a mistake.
Fourthly, we move to address the consequences of the mistake.
The boat has left.
Martin & The MBs arrived at 12.35 for a right hand session. These Mentoring Buddies present themselves to other students not as authorities, not as instructors, but as older brothers with a little more experience and a clear knowledge of the difficulties that other, less experienced, students are facing.
However, a downside to this is that errors are also transmitted. Often this is in the right hand. But, we do what we can with what we’ve got, and give it our best shot.
The need to address the needs of Mentoring Buddies is a considerable part of Guitar Craft moving to its next stage: I must be freed to address the needs & bona fide concerns of those who have invested a considerable part of their time & energies in Guitar Craft: in a word, Crafties.
An interesting lunch followed the Mentoring Buddies’ meeting. A tasty soup, and I allowed myself a second helping. As I was standing to leave, a question arose from a Level One student who had photographed the notice board (one of at least three students who had). Did people think this was a mistake? I asked him, what was your intent in taking this photograph? He wanted to remember (the course, etc.).
Then another Level One joined in. I also asked him his intent in taking a photograph of the notice board. This moved along a process of why? until we reached an answer with the word: take. And this was the intent: to take something from the course.
In my professional life this violation is constant. What I register from the photography is the intent. This intent undermines the performance, and violates what I see as a sacred act – bringing music into our fallen world. And anything which undermines that sacred act makes me angry; with a righteous anger. Guitar Craft presents a space where another way is possible. So, Uncle Robert was very, very pissed.
Then, how to address the consequences of a mistake?
14.19 Called Mary P to tell her Hernan’s sense of Elizabeth Bennett at the courses, here last summer & the Berlin Circling weekend in November 1992.
18.22 More personal meetings this afternoon, carrying into tea-time.
After tea, a presentation to the House by Level One & Two of their work today. This was mostly well-intentioned but generally badly prepared or mistakenly undertaken. The garrulous Level One student (who manages to constantly insert himself in situations and make them last as long as possible) was wittering endlessly about his supposedly simply, definitely & clearly stated piece of work, and found himself confronted by a ridiculous pair of spectacles (belonging to Martin Schwutke) on the nose of Senor Nunez, Director of Guitar Craft Activities in Europe & South America; and Robert hanging himself with a woolen scarf held in his right hand.
Then honourable performances by the full Level One followed by Level Two. Small group performances followed, including an exceptionally earnest quartet from the Level Two that warmed up the audience – hooters were pulled out of pockets and blown loudly in support.
Two characters from the Level One were missing from all of this, and a car is gone. One these is persistently late for meetings, and last night was in a car outside smoking & listening to music – music from outside the context of this course & therefore not part of it. The other is the man whose behaviour from the beginning has been interesting – the lick-slinger who notes that “nothing is compulsory”. He is right – you don’t have to be a jerk. He is often to be seen talking into his mobile ‘phone. He has never quite arrived on the course.
So, they have now both left the course; better then they also now leave the house. After the course has ended, the protection available to the course is reduced. The house, and those within it, then become vulnerable to out-of-tune characters who can do damage. The House Manager & Director of GC Activities in Europe are arranging the practicalities of this: room-mates are packing up their things which will be put by the front door.
Honourable conduct: two rolls of film have been given to me by photographers.
18.52 Shinkuro has just left left the room: he came to volunteer for the post of Japanese GC Registrar. This is a function that has been honourably filled by Hideyo Moriya of The CGT for several years.
20.04 Silence visited dinner very early this evening, and persisted although not being widely acknowledged. There were several small group performances, and tasty dinner. At 19.40 the silence was accepted and held very strongly. We could have sat with it for much longer but I felt it appropriate that we move to clear the dining room & kitchen in preparation for the final meeting. But with gratitude, and without driving the silence from the room. It is interesting to note that one does not have to be “silent” for silence to be present. But it helps to be present for silence to be present.
The silence available to this course has been remarkable and generous, from very early on. I have no doubt that silence, of the quality we have experienced this week, is indicative of the presence of a conscious intelligence (however we might understand that).
Hernan, Marty & The MBs, came at 15.15 for a Right Hand meeting. This is exactly what my energies & attention should be currently directed towards at GC courses: meeting the needs of the more experienced players who did the best they could in the early days, and spending all their time on calisthenics was not then an option. So, now with experience directly in their hands, it is time to address that experience and refine the template to more closely approximate an ideal.
22.25 The final meeting began at 21.00 and ended at 22.18.
The team is meeting back in the ballroom at 22.30 to discuss cleaning. Rather than allow all the accumulated energy to blow out with noise & late night partying with new pals, we are grounding it in necessary work. This will have the function of making tomorrow’s clean-up much easier for the remaining team who leave on Sunday.
Q: What is the difference between Level Two & Level One?
A: Level Two has lost its innocence but without acquiring competence.
Level One has historically had innocence, but been clueless. Frank & Cathy’s work has helped the penny to drop: if we have no connection to our body, perhaps we have no connection to our mind and feelings. Alexander work helps the penny to drop in 2-3 days instead of 5-6 days without it. But something has changed for me: I am no longer able to work with someone who is clueless & doesn’t know that they are clueless.
Historically, we have been very accepting of anyone who is interested in coming into GC & attending a course. We once had entry requirements – a 21 year-old age limit & fluency in the English language – but dropped both. Whoever wanted to come, even without any guitar experience, was welcome. But this has changed this week. I am no long able to work with students who are clueless & not aware of their cluelessness. We are all clueless, but we need to know this. So, Hernan’s role as Director in Europe contains the brief of preparing students so that I am able to work with them.
Various observations from the students, some of them direct and insightful & two rambling and clueless. Heartfelt thanks expressed to Frank & Cathy, Martin & The Mentoring Buddies – Shinkuro-san, Fumihito-san & Luciano, and to Hernan. This past nine days would not have been possible without them. The next stage in Guitar Craft’s long process is underway.
Curt Golden & Fernando Kabusacki came to mind.
And, at 22.18, an acknowledgement from the Founder of Guitar Craft that The League of Crafty Guitarists has begun again, the Kitchen Team is ongoing, the Level Two is completed and the Level One is finished.
23.00 Called Curt Golden to report the end of the course & say that I felt him present at the final meeting. Curt mentioned the suggestion of Jonathan Brainin for a GC introductory course – Level Zero. Curt has been buzzing with the energy from Europe and moving outwards from the Convento.
A core team of Staff are gathering for a small post-course congreting in this room.
Saturday 2nd. February, 2002; 07.52
The missing two Level One students appeared last night while the Staff were in congreting mode. The lick-slinger was very drunk, too drunk to stand. He was laid out on his bed. The second character told the House Manager that they had been “in an accident”. Whether or not this was before or after the “pizza and three bottles of wine” is not known. Their suitcases were put in the car. They were walking down the stairs this morning as I left the ballroom from the sitting.
Markus left at 05.00 and there is a series of departures for stations and airports throughout the day.
09.03 Various team members were leaving at 08.00 as those remaining went for breakfast. Hernan & I talked about Elisabeth, and Hernan mentioned another report from Al of seeing Elisabeth present at the first Circling Weekend in Rome. This was around the time that the Sylvian-Fripp-Gunn trio were playing there.
12.52 Hernan & I visited town for cake & cappuccino, vibing future plans & the present situation. It appears that Lick-Slinger visited the hospital that is part of the Convento complex – the two returning students were drunk and, in last night’s thick fog, drove off the long twisting road returning up the hill from the town.
The MBs came into our cakeshop so we agreed to me them at the next café-bar along & joined for more coffee. Returning to the Convento we visited the main chapel & the old part of the building where there are now only elderly monks in residence. Restoration work continues on the fabric but there are no young novitiates, no new generation to join and continue from the old.
Then a call to Toyah – she wants me home, for which I am grateful. So now, to final packing.
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