I Advance Masked – Day Twenty-Two…
On the street early today, aiming to avoid careless coughers and witless wanderings in our small high street supermarket. Likely, given my age of seventy-three, in the unfortunate scenario, I would not be prioritized. So, in good health, great spirits, I am taking reasonable precautions; knowing from daily experiencing, in the very few minutes that I am outside our home, actually yes, I would be at risk from a carrier.
Morning Sitting down the garden…
Morning reading, writing and accompaniment…
Lunch: a stunning improvised concoction by Toyah…
This afternoon’s house/home-work: extensive watering of the garden. For this to be our home is a blessing; one of which we are both well aware, with deep and daily gratitude. I have no “right” to be here, it was not anticipated. Rather, my experience of coming here was as a set-up. For what, I’m not yet sure. But, I continue grateful, accepting that a measure of responsibility to the property, town and community comes with this.
Tea on the river bank with Sweetlips Willcox, Wife, Lover, Best Friend and Soulmate…
Then to the Cellar for more arpeggiation.
18.38 Part of my current at-home work, that is, location-based working, is to review previous writing in preparation for future publication; this in addition to addressing new writing.
Reflections from the past…
Stillness is dynamic: it only appears to be static.
One definition of success is that there is no distinction between success and failure.
Music is one way, in the phenomenal world, of approximating to what is true.
Music explains itself. We use words.
So, onto words…
Elephant Talk, Number 342, Thursday, 6 February 1997
Date: 05 Feb 97 12:09:29 EST
Subject: from Robert Fripp
Monday, February 3rd. 1997.
Many thanks for the level of response to my request for consideration of the question/s of the relationship between audient and musician. I am very impressed by the time and attention which gas gone into the considered replies.
Several of the Team have begun to write to me directly here at DGM World Central. May I suggest that for topics related to the ET debate/s they contribute them to ET?
Toby (Howard) the Hero.
Last week I 'phoned Toby. This is a summary-ish of part of our discussion:
Toby began the newletter for "enthusiasts" without seeking mypermission, or asking for my blessing. I have no objection to this: music played in public by professional musicians is, impliedly, open to public discussion and debate. Even welcomed and encouraged. And I am impressed by Toby's choice of terms: "enthusiasts" are directed by inspiration, "fans" by fanaticism.
I approach this forum with some hesitation, and trepidation. This is your newsletter, not mine. On the other hand, it would seem to have some connection with me. But, once again, this is your place for Crim-related conversation. So here is a problem: this is The Internet.
It seems (I suggested to Toby) that there are six geographical conversation areas over which we have some influence and input: domestic, local, regional, national, international and global. (We haven't got to interplanetary, although current standard record company contracts include that one too!). Whereas once we could make a dopey comment at home, or in our neighbourhood bar, the same dopey localised comment now made over the internet has a global reach and global audience / viewage.
So, I have some sympathy with the commentators who have posted relatively unconsidered opinions (which have their own value and are insightful) but who might not have anticipated the repercussions of careless commentary. The performer grows up in public. Maybe now, also the commentator.
Also, may we consider the personal meetings and bumpings into, small asides, and conversations in bars, between contributors and various musicians / members of Crimson over a period of 20+ years. Like, Adrian's comments on Fripp in a hotel bar after a gig to a friendly fan. The replies, deliberate and otherwise, were probably never intended for publication in a global discussion forum. Until now. Currently, whenever I am asked a question, or approached for an autograph, or "suffer through a few moments of sincere compliment", or not "suffer through a few moments of sincere compliment", there are good odds that the incident will be reported verbatim in Elephant Talk, sooner or later.
What was formerly a personal exchange is now a global exchange in public. Simply, "personal" moments now have a potentially public and global effect. (I don't recall seeing this addressed in ET before).
Question: knowing this, do you think a performer might modify their behaviour in close encounters of the enthusiast kind? If so, how?
For many years I have been engaged in the varying forms of public warfare and mass communion we know as the performance of music. My life as a performer in public now covers 37 years and 10 months (I played "Le Bateau de Tahiti" in a village hall in the Bournemouth area, as part of the performance by Kathleen Gartell's Corfe Mullen School of Music). I've adopted different approaches, at different times, in different places, to different audiences, both collectively and individually; and continue to do so. Generally, these approaches go against the conventional and expected (there are good reasons for this). They rarely fall under the industry heading of "smart career move". Inevitably, those in the audience who expect the conventional might get their bag of bananas wrapped in a tourniquet. And those who expect the unconventional onstage but the conventional offstage might get their cucumbers grilled sideways.
This is my concern as a musician: how to be in the presence of music when the power turns on? Some of the ET correspondents have clearly also been in this place: their letters resonate with the moment time stops. Baby Blue, I have been there with you. Several times, on both sides of the demarcation line.
That moment, and its participants, is / are utterly impersonal. To put if differently, there is nothing personal about this. Or to put it differently this is impersonal, utterly.
It is tragic that we struggle so hard to shut down our possibilities to enter this timeless, impersonal moment. Like, by getting personal. Or to put it differently, to get utterly personal.
ET readers may have come to the general conclusion that personal popularity doesn't come very high on Fripp's list of priorities. If it did, clearly Fripp would have got personal with all the fans and enthusiasts who only wanted to say "Thank you", or have a photograph of / with him, or sign an autograph for them, or have an (only brief) conversation with him. After all, "why not suffer through a few moments of sincere compliment"? And why not? How seemingly plausible an argument! It doesn't take long, after all. If only Fripp exerted himself a little more, and made a few personal acknowledgements on demand from nice people, he'd be a popular guy. And that's only his offstage behaviour! Soon we'll have him playing in more light, and waving to audiences at the end of a show! Would Toby be able to handle all the glowing reports of contributors' own individual personal and group interractions with Fripp? What a nice guy! What a great man!
On the other hand, some ET readers have already posted their own positive "meeting with Fripp" story. How can this be? Is he a nice guy or not? Or both? Or neither? Are all of these possibly true, simultaneously? Does he care? Do you care? Is it trivial? Does it have value, or relevance, even both? Does Fripp want to be liked? Or hated? Does it matter, to me, to him? It must do, because so many correpondents rattle their keyboards with their recurring broohaha!
From where I sit, with my left foot on the outside of the inside and my right foot on the inside of the outside, impartially viewing the postings and trying to come to some idea of what Fripp might be like personally on the basis of all the posted and available information, I am unable to come to any easy conclusion. It is as if each reported offstage meeting with, or commentary of onstage Fripp, reflects the commentator rather than casting much light on Fripp himself. That is, as if he were a mirror, reflecting back to the person an aspect of themselves which they then attribute to him. He seems to have a sense of humour, he seems to have an active mind, he likes cake. He reads a lot. He entered a six-year dispute which his former managers and two of the largest music groups in the world on a point of principle: who in their right mind would prejudice their career and solvency to do that? Certainly not a practical man: after all, he threw up his career with Crimson twice! And then there's the problem of the music: where did that come from? It has touched me in places that rarely get touched - I know he's a creep, so how could that happen? I know he's not emotional, so how come I'm moved? I know he doesn't take any interest in the audience, because he is so still on stage. And I can't see his fingers moving. He's not even interested in the group, which is Adrian's now anyway. (And Adrian's too poppy by far).
Lighten up - this is way too serious!
My interest in addressing the forum began some three years ago when a number of postings of impressive (in my view arrogant) assumption proffered definitive statements regarding my actions and decisions, even my own opinions and feelings, on the basis of ... I wasn't quite sure what. Where information was cited, for example in a post from Michael Bloom (November 12th. 1993), it was impressively inaccurate. Michael claimed that he was "not clueless"; i.e. in Crimspeak, Michael was informed. Michael is one of life's good guys, and I believe that music touches him deeply. He was also very brave to comment on my relationship and dispute with EG Management on the basis of the information to which he had access.
On the evening of Wednesday 8th. January, 1997, I signed four Deeds of Settlement between myself, EG, Virgin Records and BMG Publishing, each dated December 24th. 1996. Mr. Fenwick's signature was witnessed by Chris Kettle, former King Crimson roadie from the Larks' Tongues period, now EG employee of some twenty years, and the person formerly responsible for my interests within EG, themselves formerly responsible for managing my interests. I had been managed by EG for 21 years and 3 months, and in dispute with them for six years. My former managers had access to detailed and virtually complete information on all my affairs while their affairs in turn were almost completely closed to me. And I really don't have an equal bargaining position with either Virgin or BMG. On the morning of Monday 13th. January, 1997, my company secretary John Raymond, who lives opposite the church in which I married and where my parents now reside, applied the company seal to the Settlement deeds and despatched them to London. The final court order is expected any day now.
Those six years began with a sense of walking with opened veins in quick-drying concrete, my life gradually leaving me. In 1992 I became aware that I was slowly dying. Then the experience changed to one of a long and painful death in the family, but one which also threatened to unseat mepersonally and professionally.
Simply, in that period my priorities did not include addressing unwarranted assumptions and dopey conclusions, whether from supportive enthusiasts or otherwise.
On January 13th. I wrote to Elephant Talk in the hope that we might raise the quality of discussion. I don't want to spoil your enjoyment or dampen your enthusiasm, and I don't want ET to sink in a morass of solemnity. But then, how can you tell someone who watches Steven Segal movies with his Sister to "lighten up"?
This is my position: I hold commentators responsible for their comments where they touch upon matters of my direct interest, involvement and experience. Where the comments are nasty, unkind and deliberately rude, nominally based on fact or reasoned conclusion, I may respond directly and ask the commentator to address their seeming logic. My hunch is we'll discover several recurrent / standard assumptions which are, in my view, dishonest, unreasonable and deliberately manipulative; and that many of the opinions which we attribute to our artists are actually our own. Where the comments are flattering, generous and overly considerate (read obsequious), or have the aroma of herbal restorative, I may respond directly as well. Like, what do you mean by "genius"?
Everything we do generates repercussions. Sooner or later, near or far, we are asked to address those repercussions.
Or so it seems to me.