Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Tuesday 29 January 2002

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


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.