01 April 2000

The first mornings Practice of

The first morning's Practice of Doing Nothing was a mangle of doing somethings: coughings, sneezings, contorted bodies & physical postures which would have had my body in agony after 10 minutes, let alone half an hour.

What a subtle and sophisticated practice this is! Just, do nothing. Before we ask our bodies to do something, like the relatively demanding activity of playing a guitar, are we able to ask our bodies to do nothing? Over a period of time we discover the nests of tensions and un-eases, even dis-eases, which are reflected in a twitching body. A thought flies by & our attention follows it to the next thought, in an ongoing stream of associated words & images; we find that parts of our musculature react to this stream of thoughts; a pleasant thought & perhaps we find the sides of our mouth moving to the richter of a beginning smile; an unpleasant thought & perhaps the muscles in the back of our neck tighten. A thought carries with it an affective current; an affective current generates a corresponding series of reactions within the body. We release the tensions we discover in the body by bringing the attention into that part of the body, carrying the impulse of letting go. Correspondingly, the hold which a momentary thought & the stream of associations which follow it, plus the accompanying affective current, are invited to release their grip. Relaxation is not an accident. In our culture, it has to be invited in. Relaxation is necessary tension, and no more.

The key to all this is attention: is our attention volitional? May we direct our attention into different parts of the body? Is our attention ours to direct?

At this point, things begin to get interesting. The quick answer to these questions is, of course not! So much for bright conceptual notions of free will. But, if we are unable to direct our attention, who & what are we? And how do we feel about that? My answer to the last one, when it became a matter of major concern to me, is terrified. For us, the crowning achievement of 4 million years of evolutionary development, utter terror & despair are entirely reasonable responses to discovering that we are not properly human.

It took me 10 years of sitting on the floor before the penny began to drop. Hey! Fripp may not be very quick but he persists; he perseveres; he continues to carry me through this life.

Introductory Meeting, Part Two, for everyone on the course, to complete last night's meeting. Then to the first Level One meeting with guitars.

We began by bringing part of our attention to the right hand. Then, choosing a note - any note - and playing it. Just this one note. It is permissible to think of any note that you like, but just play this one note of your choice.

Students are asked not to play guitar for a week prior to the course, unless prior commitments require this (like, a performance). So, for most of the Team this is the first intentional note they have played for 7 days. This is the beginning of work in the Guitar Craft Circle. On most courses this gentle symphony lasts for 10 minutes before suddenly petering out. Today, it lasted for 28 minutes and 45 seconds.

Then we moved to clapping exercises and moving notes around the circle. This is the beginning of Circulations, one of the most instructive & powerful exercises in the Guitar Craft canon. The quality of circulation indicates the degree of presence of the circle; that is, its coherence or "inner togetherness". The circulation, seemingly of itself, moves to bind a collection of bodies into a whole. To begin with, this is often resisted by several members of the circle who appear to prefer maintaining their independence. The physical postures and gestures we adopt in passing a note reveals us completely. As a note is passed, it carries the intention of one guitarist to the next; even whether this intention is deliberate or otherwise; whether this is known, or not. In time, and with practice, this becomes a way to pass goodwill. In its developed form, this exercise is known as The Transmission Of Qualities.

Guitar Craft exercises and repertoire have aspects to them which have never yet been shown, even after 15 years. "Eye Of The Needle", for example, is a piece of music which may be learnt and played on most courses. To play it well is very hard, although the piece is not particularly challenging to the hands. This is one of the reasons that it's hard. Any fool can play something difficult: a few mistakes are forgivable, excusable. But play something easy, at a tempo neither fast nor slow, and you have no excuses. Even with the simple calisthenic of "Needle" there are several trips available: like, does the player use a Paganini finger wobble, or two fingers? (The finger wobble is a stinker, even on electric guitar, let alone the telegraph wires of an acoustic). But most of this remains on the outside. While we're standing, or sitting, playing this piece, what else is going on?

Then, we began to prepare for the First Primary. This addresses the functioning of the left hand. The Level One are now practising, to establish a foundation to build on later today.

The Level One are being introduced to the Alexander Technique by our two new teachers from Buenos Aires, Jessica & Pablo. They have brought Sophia the Baby Toad, a wonderful little person. The Kitchen Team are preparing for teatime (tasty cake laced with dulce de leche has already been placed in the dining room). Housework is also underway to gently improve the condition of the seminary.

At this moment Toyah should be getting into a car in London taking her to a tv show with Noddy Holder.

The Level One meeting at 16.30 circulated singly & in groups, and then moved to polyrhythms while striking magic chords. The Team are now in 4 groups, 2 of each working with Martin & Fernando on the First Primary. Punctuality is still an undiscovered notion.

On this desk: a list of applications from Curt Golden for the Level One in New Jersey this September.

Mealtimes provide a useful opportunity for comments on the day. Silence came to visit for 10 minutes or so, then provided a background for more commentary.

The Kitchen Team met to review their work together. We discussed various details of their exercises; e.g. visualisation, memorising music & developing a sense of physical presence during ongoing kitchen work. Like, when I'm chopping up an eggplant, what else is going on for me? I suggested chopping up the eggplant with two knives, one in 5 & the other in 7. Thrak that vegetable, dude!

The Level One met at 21.00. We circulated and vrooomed away at polyrhythms. The Team are tired: attention is mostly spent for today. But a good beginning day.