June 10, 2000
Written by Robert Fripp
The concern to fix a moment in time undermines the moment. A moment of process is that process. When fixed, the process ends. We move "downwards" through the worlds. This means the possibilities open to us close. We are left with a photograph, or a recording, but not the event. For some people, the representation has a greater reality than reality.
June 11, 2000
Written by Robert Fripp
Hotel Most Acceptable, Warsaw.
Little sleep last night mulling in quiet despair over yet another compromised, spoiled performance. Eventually, tiring of but not sufficiently tired by mentally running through an octotonic scale on D while laying in bed, I got up around 06.50. My morning sitting, and connection to the Guitar Craft community, was accompanied by disco music from the park nearby. Keenly anticipating a departure at 10.00 I gave up fighting the disco at 09.15 and went to the lobby. Laurie was already there, also driven from his room by the disco.
The main road between Poznan & Warsaw is a single carriageway. We spent nearly 5 hours, to include the traffic jam in a small town, getting here. And what a delight when we arrived!
The performance: we are here in a 1,000 seater theatre to redeem the awful Crimson show here in 1996 at the Congresshall. Of course, that was the right venue for Crimson. The acoustics were awful & the size quite wrong - but hey! - it's perfect all the same! The fans will love it! They'll pay through the nose to exercise their eye muscles & hear the sound bounce off the back wall! Pity the group isn't able to be King Crimson in that space but, well, life's like that. To play tonight in an appropriate venue, we paid for last night in Poznan (and I had been assured that the sports stadium was a good venue). I'm not sure I'll do that trade off again. Well, actually, I'm sure that I will not do that again.
Tonight security encouraged no cameras, and announcements were made. There were subtle violations, but at a level the group was able to contain & which didn't undermine the event. But Polish supporters of Crim are so keen to "radically fetishise the inherent & delineated meanings of Crimson music" and its members. Why? So much more is available.
Now, moving sideways, and of relevance to the organic nature of a performance, from my pal Jeff Fayman's Diary for Monday 5th. June, 2000:
"One person playing f^$ked-up in their own world completely disturbs the balance of the entire group. Then we all suffer. What is great about the drum circle is that in being like a tribe-- there are rules --and we indirectly and peacefully try to enforce those rules upon others who would do their best to offset the equilibrium."
Not only within the group, Fripp writes from hard experience, but also within the audience. "Rules" here is the same as "conventions". So, Jeff is referring to the ground floor "rules" & conventions of consensual behaviour. We may not necessarily agree with the house rules, but we are prepared to abide by them in good faith. If we are unable to accept them honourably, we withdraw from the undertaking. There is no blame in this for any party. Where we enter a relationship / undertaking aware of the house rules, and with the intention of wilfully violating them, we undermine the total event. This is basement conduct: discourteous, dishonest & in bad faith. It places us outside the circle of openness, decency & honourable people with whom (I for) one would wish to engage. Haven't I read that somewhere before?
Jeff also alludes to what happens when we fall outside the consensus & conventions ("equilibrium") of a society (macro and minor): compulsion enters the picture. This begins with gentle ("indirect") reminders, moves to direct encouragement ("peacefully try") and then to action: "enforcement".
My treat of the day on this tour: an early, extended buffet breakfast with a book of choice in a hotel of extreme acceptability. So, up on less than 4 hours' sleep and the first person in, I chose a table for one in the open courtyard area at the centre of the building.
Very interesting: in came a character who was so out of tune that even ordinary mortals (ie those not endowed with "preternatural sensitivity") would have undergone a recalibration of their early Sunday morning experiencing.
Everything he did radiated not-quite-rightness, yet in such a way that no-one would easily be able to call him on his behaviour (this is a characteristic of basement dwelling). In a "traditional" culture, this character would be known & challenged for his consistent, mildly disruptive behaviour. In our culture, he has "rights" at breakfast, but not much in the way of "obligations" for which he might be held accountable.
Firstly, he arrived at the entrance and asked how much the breakfast cost. Own up, dude! In a Most Acceptable hotel like this, you know: it's too much unless you can afford to stay here (or have a very good rate, as with some touring players); in which case, the question - it is not asked. It is, quietly, impolite. Although strictly "justifiable" in a commercial establishment, no-one staying here would ask. This is all part of the subtle matrix & weft of social codes which define appropriate behaviour in all manner of situations.
Secondly, he brought his mobile 'phone with him. Increasingly, this is recognised & accepted as a new mode of bad manners & an active discourtesy to others. The "no mobile `phones" logo is increasingly displayed, and not just in Japan. And where there is no display, you know without it being said. Like, in a breakfast area at 06.45 on a Sunday morning. Unless, that is, you live in the basement.
Thirdly, when his mobile `phone went off he began a long & voluble personal conversation in the courtyard area, his voice echoing around the enclosed space. After about 7 minutes of this loud one-way conversation, his voice suddenly moved to mezzo forte. I turned and looked at him. I'm not sure whether his lack of concern for my reasonable anticipation of moderated conversations (rather than loud monologues) in shared dining space became attenuated; or possibly he found he wanted to have a private conversation privately (he broadcasted that he met Roman Polanski in the fitness club downstairs yesterday, for example); or whether my look reminded him that the assumed notion of public invisibility is only assumption after all; or whatever. But following my glance he went inside the breakfast room & continued his conversation in less reverberant surroundings.
Fourthly, when I went in for some tastinesses, he was at the buffet loudly singing to himself (as it were).
Fifthly, when I went in for more tastinesses, he was at the buffet loudly whistling to himself (as it were).
In these small ways life instructs us.
Here was a character determined to attract attention to himself. Why, perhaps? Without pausing to speculate (the answer is, to attract attention to himself) then, how?
This is simpler: by violating conventional norms of behaviour in small & "legal" ways. In this manner he moves through his life, blind spot on prominent display to all and sundry. Not quite in tune with himself, he resonates his out-of-tuneness into his nearby environment. His out-of-tuneness strikes up discordant resonances which, in turn, set off unpleasant harmonics when his notes enter into the social symphony. Not only does the language of music apply metaphorically & analogically to this badly-tuned human chord, but also literally, practically & sonically; eg his "singing" & "whistling".
Now, since we're discussing life in the basement once more, and following associationally along: here from one post to ET, one to the Guestbook which I read on file last night, and one from the RF Diary for Saturday:
- Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 19:08:53 EDT
Subject: Bootlegging and Concert Enjoyment
AS: and maybe, just maybe, you want an aural souvenir that commemorates an event you attended
- Stephen J Byous (firstname.lastname@example.org) (c. June 6th.)
SJB: In regards to the whole taping/booting thread, one aspect of the situation rarely gets any sort of comment. My perception, based partly on 28 years of concert-going, is that many are simply unable to appreciate the performance of music unless it is mediated for them in some way. I have friends whose video records of their vacations are extraordinary. It occured to me at some point that the vacation only became "real" to them in their enjoying of the record of the trip rather than in the actual experience of the trip. Indeed for them it could be said that there was no "actual" trip at all. Yes "some" of the qualities of the live gig can be communicated through tape. But the ones that cannot are the reason to go in the first place. And if you are blind to this? Take the picture of your girlfriend out of your wallet. Beautiful isn't she? Compare that to the feeling when she runs her fingers down the side of your face.
- RF's Diary; Saturday 10th. June: "For some people, the representation has a greater reality than reality".
These three comments segue into a true story, a terrifying and frightening story of how life in the basement is actually lived. The story involves sacred space; a performance with devotional intent; Curt Golden; priapic fervour displayed in colour and motion; The League of Crafty Guitarists; a good man falling into crack addiction & losing most of everything as a result; and the well-known property of Fripp to deny the innocent rights of those who only wanted to act non-consensually in a disruptive manner - hey! what disruption? I'm only doing what I want to do in a public space without regard for others! who cares if I've been asked not to? if I don't act like a jerk someone else will! and even more now that technology is getting better! and some people wouldn't even object to this! and some other people couldn't get here so deserve the opportunity to listen to what they missed! and anyway it's ok to act however I want because I'm not getting paid for this! and anyway it's ok to act however I want because you are getting paid for this! and how could you know what I'm doing just from my smell? are you preternaturally sensitive? I'm hiding so you can't see me!
High drama, low living: sex, drugs, music, religion. How could you not read on?
The story illustrates (at least) these four basic propositions:
- How we behave in one small part of our life is how we behave in all of the small parts of our life. That is, in an organic system, we may discover the operation of the large (the whole) by observing the operation of the small (the part).
- We each have a centre of gravity which corresponds to a "world". Once we are able to discover the "world" in which our centre of gravity lies, we may reasonably & accurately make forecasts regarding likely behaviour proper to the conditions, limitations & possibilities of that world.
- Our primary connection to the act of music is through our feelings. This is our most direct access, and from this connection cerebration & rationality follows.
- Living life only begins on the garden floor. In the basement, life is not lived. There is no direct experiencing in this world. Everything is self-deception.
A prolegomena to the story:
On many Guitar Craft courses (which began in March 1984) I compared recording a musical event to filming the close and active embrace of a partner. Both acts, of recording & filming, have qualitative equivalence. Each seeks to "bend a joy", to reduce an act in experiential process to existence as a fixed thing, while claiming that this in no way compromises the unfolding of that process. (No need for Mr. Abbott et al to argue with Fripp here: simply dispute with William Blake. Go tell Willy that "the winged life" is not destroyed by joy bending, suggest his prophetic head is up his butt & that his insights of genius are clearly mistaken).
Several Crafties, at least, thought this a Frippian exaggeration & a strained metaphor rather than a statement of fact. Particularly, one Crafty: RG. Now, the story:
The League of Crafty Guitarists were playing in St. Anne's Church, Brooklyn. The defining intent of the space is sacred, regardless of how this is interpreted in terms of the activities which take place within it (eg AA meetings, musical performance, acts of Christian worship).
Guitar Craft performance serves several aims:
To provide performance experience for students (who learn to play their instrument within the act of music, while learning to act within a society of close others);
To present the work of Guitar Craft to the world;
As an act of worship (regardless of the performance space, or external conditions of performance).
(In the "world" where Guitar Craft "happens" this is a single, undifferentiated aim).
The LCG was set up in horseshoe formation before the altar and the performance was developing. This included the generous portion of missed notes, bad notes, variations in timing & timbre that are part of every LCG performance. These neither contribute to the performance nor, mysteriously & miraculously, do they seem to detract from it.
Then, something went wrong. But nothing changed. But everything changed. As Curt Golden (who was sitting on my immediate right) said to me afterwards: "It felt as if it (the performance) died". What we didn't know was this:
An "audient" (a term here used loosely) was surreptitiously filming the performance on a hand-held video recorder, which he was mostly concealing in a carrybag. Our man on the door, very irritable (a crack habit was gaining control of him), noticed this, encouraged him to leave & confiscated the video tape. I gave this tape to RG and suggested he check it. RG took it home (he lived in Brooklyn) and played it.
The tape began with the inside of the carrybag. Then, to the ceiling of the church. Then, to a pan around the LCG horseshoe. Then, the tape ended as the innocent audient was interrupted while exercising his right to non-consensual behaviour. Then, a moment later, the action continued with what was already recorded on the tape: the character stupping his girlfriend.
RG was particularly struck by the literal verification of this proposition: a person who seeks to externally & materially verify their experiencing will do so across all ranges of experiencing. In the basement this is a need. This need results from a property of the basement: experience is not real. Experience is indirect, filtered, impoverished, dull, without nourishment, without satisfaction.
Therefore, if we live in the basement, there is no experiencing.
Therefore, to simulate "living", our experience is "imported" by "translating" experience into materiality.
Basement "experience" is a contradiction in terms: experiencing only begins on the garden floor.
"Being reasonable" also begins on the garden floor. I note that not one poster who fiercely presents & defends the merits of non-consensual recording & photography, and their rights to do so, has yet presented a validation of the non-consensual act. To do so, they would necessarily have to begin on the garden floor. But on the garden floor, there is no need to materialise a quality (one may want to, but authentic experiencing is available as an alternative!). So, once on the garden floor, the sheer necessity of pinning down a quality - to provide a simulacrum of living for the basement - disappears in sunlight.
I accept that different people have different feelings, experiences, aims, aspirations & views. That I am prepared to engage in debate with dissentient voices is demonstrated in interactions with the Guestbook & ET. Healthy scepticism is encouraged & this often leads to disagreements. But on the garden floor disagreements are in good faith. We may "agree to disagree" but we seek to discover & honour the spirit of what is right.
However, I wonder where next to go on this as my daily working life becomes increasingly intolerable. This is a rough summary of the rationale of the non-consensual act so far:
Technology is getting better so it'll happen more & more;
Other bands allow taping;
It's not bootlegging because I don't accept money for it;
You get paid for your work so that means you have no rights over it;
You get paid for your work so that means I have rights over it;
Your Sister sold merchandise at Nashville;
Bootleg recordings from the audience will sound better than BootlegTV;
It'll happen anyway, so why not me?
It couldn't possibly disturb anyone or anything;
Fripp is not a nice person because he doesn't shake my hand.
This is extrapolated from an e-mail to me (June 6th.) from one of my Brothers In Life:
"I've seen this type" (aggressively determined bootlegger) "at your shows, they stand out to me and I've always considered them a threat, a danger. I think what brought the danger signal: they're missing a connection to reason. At the same time, they're big fans, respect your work and so on"
Music falls upon the deaf and those with hearing in equal measure; Without discrimination & with the wish to be heard by all.