Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Friday 25 January 2002

Convento di S. Maria della Guitar Craft Levels 1 & 2 - Convento di S. Maria della Pace, Sassoferrato, Italy, Sassoferrato, Italy


 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.

 09.05   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.

 10.09   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.

16.03   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 & Shinkuro – 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.