June 15, 2001
Written by Robert Fripp
An overcast morning in Mount Juliet and then, suddenly, the sun is shining.
The debut performance yesterday evening was judged by the band to have been honourable. The audience were very generous and forgiving of the train wrecks that appeared regularly, even in places never before known to Crim as likely to endanger forward motion. The band were well humoured, even light hearted.
In the dressing room before going on, we decided, that when (rather than if) we broke down hopelessly, we gave ourselves permission to begin a piece or section again. This as an alternative to continuing, regardless of the mess.
One Law of Performance known to The Happy Gigster is this: whatever sound you knew from the sound check, your sound during the show will bear no relationship whatsoever to it. There are many reasons for this, but the law is invariable. My prime interests in a sound check are to:
make sure the equipment is functioning;
tune my instrument & person to the place;
prepare the place for performance;
connect to the other band / team members.
A characteristic of Nashville in June is heat. A characteristic of around 350 people in a club where 50 could move around comfortably is, heat. The combined effect of the two is lotsa heat. One of the effects of high temperature is to change the air through which sound moves. This is only one reason sound changes between the sound check and performance. Another characteristic of heat is to increase the sweatiness of audience and performers. And, last night at 12th. & Porter, sweatiness was king.
I don't move around very much onstage - did I mention that before? - and yet sweat poured. In "FraKctured" my right hand slid downwards off the bridge as we launched into the fast picking section, introducing an additional wrinkle to a piece already challenging enough for me. Then sweat dripped into my right eye on a fairy fingers descending line - salty and ouch! But this was nothing compared to Pat & Adrian's sweaty concerns.
Paul, our sound mixer, has returned to music mixing after a period of absence. Pat knows him from a while ago & recommended him for these shows. Sanity had erupted in Paul's life and he moved to pursue other interests. Paul is more an artist at the mixing desk than someone who balances sound: when I arrived at the club for the sound check, already the music (Pat & Trey) sounded better in the house than it did on stage. This is a first. Playing last night, I experienced Paul listening. I accept that "proving" this to a sceptic is impossible; that is, the proof is in the experiencing. I am old enough, and sufficiently experienced, to take this as a given: for a performer to have an audience requires that listening takes place. Then, the performance is more like a consummation of the performance act.
Arriving at the club, waiting for John Sinks to open the door, I sensed an approaching presence: I know this sense - a fan was moving towards me, and they wanted something. Nothing "bad" about this person, a grey and mature King Crimson fan, and in any other context a joyful encounter. In this context, I was an object. The exchange:
G&MF: May I ask a favour?
RF: I'd rather you didn't.
G&MF: Can I have a pick?
Why ask if you can ask a favour if you have no intention of not asking anyway? But, the question was also continually addressed to John Sinks at the show, and the answer is no. There is a good reason.
The picks I use are not manufactured anymore. I have a small supply, this supply is dwindling and, unless a firm manufactures picks to my specification (we have tried without success for 14 years) must last me for the rest of my performing life. These picks are a necessary tool for me in my playing & are specific to the way I play. Regardless of the "fetishisation of the inherent and delineated meanings of my picking style", I don't have picks to give away - not even to Guitar Craft students.
Response To The Guestbook:
I would agree with Tom Ace that the creative process is subtle, complex, mysterious. It is also a process readily & constant available for participation and - here's the good news! - it is a process. A process has several characteristics, features and stages that we may learn to distinguish and recognise. Then, as we move through the time stream of an unfolding process, we have a sense of where we are. Knowing where we are enables us to better respond to the demands of moment.
I'm not sure how much is to be gained by merely debating various notions of what might be represented by The Muse, or discussing bright ideas of how we engage with the creative impulse, which is essentially practical.
A creative insight is instantaneous; the repercussions in time of responding to that instant, how those consequences unfold, is part of the creative process.
Sometimes it is as if a creative insight comes to us, unbidden & uninvited. This is experienced as a surprise. For the aspiring artist, when we place ourself in harm's way & at the service of the creative impulse, it is also as if a creative insight comes to us - always with the sense of surprise - yet is invited and called upon. The primary distinction here is that we are ready, with a prepared & competent instrumentality of function that enables us to respond to the impulse; and provide a bridge, a way for the unconditioned to enter the world of the conditioned. (This is not an end, but a step and a stage on a larger way).
So, this is one of the characteristics of the creative process we learn to recognise: surprise. Something like:
Firstly, how could this have happened?
Secondly, how could this not have happened?
In the life of The Happy Gigster there are so many forces acting to disturb the process, it is difficult to see what is going on in the mess & confusion. In a situation set up to specifically address the creative process, in a situation defined & protected, then distinguishing the stages & characteristics is clearer. For me, Guitar Craft has been a wonderful opportunity & gift in this respect. And surprising. And mysterious. And profoundly practical.
Now, soon to the sound check.