17 May 2003

Bredonborough A grey damp day



A grey, damp day.

One week ago, on Saturday 10th. May, 2003 Emory posted to the Krimson News Guestbook a response to a comment in this diary, in respect of photography killing the moment.

subject: Something occurred to me...

It occurred to me that, perhaps, with Crimson fans (ie, even in the bad sense of 'fan'), there may be something behind this. As has been discussed here, and as Fripp has mentioned in the diaries, real musical 'performance' (for lack of a better word in this context) acts as a sort of doorway or bridge.

What occurred to me is that, on some occasions, Crimson "fans" may actually on some level see/sense this bridge, for some reason, they do not trust to enter in. Perhaps they are afraid of where this bridge will lead them, or perhaps they've been programmed by commercial culture to reject such a bridge, but on some level they 'see' it and sometimes may seek to actively push it away, either through flash photography or some other means.

I saw this happen on one occasion, at a Soundscapes performance at NYC's Bottom Line. After about 20 minutes of "searching", Fripp seemed to find a path forward/upward/outward, and just as things began to start moving there was a flash. (For a moment, Fripp looked down at the guitar which had grown silent and it was clear to me that in that short instant he didn't really understand what had happened. His subsequent leaving of the stage was secondary to the vanishing of the music.)

And while I previously thought that the flasher just had a bad sense of timing, it occurs to me now that he had an excellent sense of timing. But I do not think this is overtly malicious or hostile. What I now think is that on such an occasion, there was some part of that knucklehead that felt like things were getting "out of control", leaving the realm of "accepted" experience, and into a zone that could not be explained to (for example) peers or co-workers without some degree of ostracism, and into a zone where the normal "deals" we think we cut with life are all rendered null and void. And so part of him put on the brakes: "Hold on you folks, where do you think you're going? It's dangerous up there..."

I remember very well the occasion at The Bottom Line. Also the PRS Annual John Lennon Memorial Lecture where the talk was killed by a flash. Why might this be?

Any process has three main stages: the beginning, the middle & the end. The transitions between each stage is liminal: there is a change of state which accompanies each transition. For example, ice > water > steam. The basic component is the same (hydrogen & oxygen molecules) but the state changes when heat is applied. In a performance context, when the transition is underway, the moment (and performer) is maximally vulnerable to changes in "heat" - the consciousness of the audience.

In addition to acts of cluelessness, insensitivity & greed, Emory is suggesting that there are points of transition in the performance where members of the audience, for various reasons, are prompted to act in such as way that the transition is aborted. Emory is on to something here. If audients are not prepared to take a leap with the performer, if they insist on remaining grounded within the materiality of the event (consumer rights, the "fetishisation of inherent & delineated meanings") the performance might well go off the boil. To demand that the performer "provide the missing heat", as it were, is as useful as suggesting a kettle becomes its own stove if it wants to boil water.

On some occasions very great performers may overcome a cool audience, and transform the moment (assuming the benevolent presence of the Muse). My suggestion is that, increasingly, performance in a commercial culture obviates the responsibility that an audience feels to support the event. Technological change supports the materiality of performance: recording, photography, video cameras, mobile 'phones all undermine the transitions, the crossings of the bridge.

Do I believe that it is possible to sense a transition? Yes, without any doubt. Do I believe it is possible to sense vulnerability? Sure. If someone is out to get something for themselves, might they sense a vulnerable moment to act? Yep. Might this be instinctive, rather than rational? Yes. If in doubt, ask anyone with a background in martial arts.

And here we have it: when I walk onstage, instead of entering a marriage chamber with a willing partner I find myself, in actuality, upon a combat mat. Instead of a close embrace I find myself in battle. Instead of offering openness & a trusting vulnerability, increasingly I have to defend myself against violation. If I feel violation, this is because I am being violated. The possible claim by a person committing violation, acting without consensuality, that I should not, or could not, be violated by their action, is irrelevant. If I feel violation, this is because there is violation.

Another post, by Albemuth, on Tuesday 13th. May, is also on the money. Albemuth writes --

Someone asked about Sinfield's "Still.". It was the one of the first times that I realized that many KC members would have taken the band in radically different directions than what I was hearing on the studio disks. I wasn't much interested in Sinfield's "Mediterranean KC" (as it is described somewhere in Sid Smith's book), although "Still" is a pleasant enough album and worth having.

One of the most difficult and exhausting adventures available to me within Crimson has been to hold the individual intentions of all the characters within a context that is recognizably and authentically Crim. This doesn't imply that those intentions are "wrong" or "bad" but simply pulling in a direction that I would not consider Crim. Examples of this are clear and to hand, and extensive. But rather than spending a lot of time on this Saturday afternoon presenting a complete list of examples, and the dynamics between band members whose partial function within the band was to balance their partner's best efforts & hold them in check, anyone interested might draw up their own list --

Greg Lake > ELP
Gordon Haskell > Gordon Haskell
Peter Sinfield > Still
John Wetton > Asia
Bill Bruford > Earthworks --

is simplistic but readily available. And then, who am I to know what is authentically Crimson?