Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Saturday 26 January 2002

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


Up at 06.30, now gently exercised & showered. There was the strange case of the dog barking in the night. But, unlike Watson’s comment to Holmes, there was a dog barking in the night. It must have come from the village nearby & been horrendously loud for its keeper. Here, it was loud enough to wake me up around 02.35 and keep me awake for a while. Now, off to the sitting.

 08.51   A busy morning ahead for all: Kitchen Team, Level Two & One meetings for myself, Level One  meeting for The Mentoring Buddies, personal meetings for Cathy & Frank & The Mentoring Buddies.

Conversation over breakfast with Greg M. & the need for “uncles” & mentor figures in community, how my sense was that in East Dorset during the 1950s there were more of these figures around. Greg wanted to know about JGB. Conversation moved over Work history & Work people, from the difficulties of grasping Beelzebub’s Tales to notions of active information; how music hovers behind musical exercises and that the student can sometimes find themselves being played by music. All this & more.

 Now, a meeting with the Kitchen Team.

 11.15   A morning of terror! The Kitchen Team meeting was straightforward, as might be anticipated from a team concerned with discharging practical functions that are easily & simply verified – does this meal suck? for example, as a fairly basic empirical testing procedure.

How to improve the quality of the kitchen work? Bring part of the attention to sensing the presence of life within the particular limb in circulation. Perhaps, consider the kitchen work as supporting the work of sensing the limb, rather than the kitchen work is primary and sensing a secondary concern.

Q: Should the kitchen supervisor consider providing a balanced diet?
A: Perhaps if one is a qualified and experienced nutritionist. Otherwise the difficulty here is ideology: macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan, meat-eating  – what to do? I suggested my idea of a balanced diet: a cappuccino in the middle, foam dusted with cinnamon; a chocolate éclair to the left; a bowl of cream with spoon to the right.

At the end of this, I introduced a simple division of attention exercise, for the hands in 5 and counting in 7.

Then to the Level Two, aspiring to a play G major scale proceding step by step, ascending & descending, in the 2 octaves available in the Nut Position.

Stepping out of the Level Two at 10.00 to take a snapshot of the Level One, I saw two of the 3 Mentoring Buddies passing on their own errors in the use of the right hand. Quiet despair, moderated by hope in the benevolence of the future. What to do about limiting this transmission of errors? No quick answer to that one.

My own work with the Level One, beginning at 11.15: circulating, and using the circulations as an attention exercise rather than merely a guitar or musical exercise per se. It becomes very clear, standing where I do in the centre of the circle, how much drugs damage the connection between mind and body. The cognitive dissonance is astonishing: in some cases a count continues, the student clearly knowing what is required: on One they play a note. There are perhaps six bars of preparation time. Then I watch as they count One and hit their note on Two. Repeatedly for half an hour or so.

This is not the rocket science of music, nor complex and difficult guitar playing. This is the simple task of counting to 4 and discharging a simple connected action, such as playing one note.

Then the team went off to their personal meetings with The Mentoring Buddies & A Sense of the Body specialists, and I went to the dining room to claim a cup of café latte. A Kitchen Trio were practicing Bicycling To Afghanistan. Curt Golden composed this in the days of the Red Lion House: it was the logical culmination of one strand of GC composition available at that time, one that has probably not been developed further since. At that point, things moved on and elsewhere.

Leaving the dining room with my coffee I became aware that the energy on this course/s is building up and, much as I feel no personal requirement to be a Guitar Craft instructor, of the privilege that this confers.

14.09  Two guests are visiting and introduced themselves at lunchtime – Mr. Lito from Milan, an Argentinean who has now relocated, and Antonio de H, whose guitar I am borrowing this week. Antonio wrote Hope, a GC repertoire piece, from an idea of John Sinks, former cinema manager, former Crafty, now King Crimson & John Paul Jones guitar tech & much else besides.

Suddenly, my hearing changed. This is what is called a shift between worlds, or a sudden change of state. The noises of the dining room sprang into clear, defined tones separated in the space of the room. Stereo opened out. Then, my vision also sharpened in clear focus, despite weak eyes.

16.24  Back from tea, sitting by Hernan & Frank & Cathy. Hernan & I were discussing writing the history of Red Lion House. I have been collating the letters written to Crafties between 1988 & 1990. Much of the history is in Hernan’s diary, retrieved from a pair of shoes in a bag that I found at The Studio (Cecil Beaton’s former photographic studio) of Reddish House and sent them on to Hernan. Hernan has notes from Elizabeth Bennett’s visits to the RLH, including her advice on parenting. Hernan also has notes on the dynamics between the members of Guitar Craft Services and how these impacted on GC courses at Claymont & GCS itself.

At the end of talking with Frank & Cathy, listening to what I was saying, I realised what I had actually been saying: this had nothing at all to do with the nominal topic of conversation. This is a valuable practice: to listen to oneself while talking. But, we may not like what we learn about ourselves. And sometimes, we may also hear a voice that is not quite our own.

The Level One meeting: at all the opening of the guitar meetings the students stand, as if forever. I have no idea why they are not sitting down. We began by:

bringing attention to the palm of the left hand;
then the back of the hand;
then inside the hand;
then into each of the fingers in turn.
Then the whole of the hand.
If our eyes are closed, would we still have a left hand?
If so, how do we know this?
What is the distinct experience of being alive inside our left hand?

I issued a disclaimer for the Mentoring Buddies: they do the best they can to pass on what they know. But this also includes the transmission of errors. However, I can myself only address the experience in a student’s hand that a student has developed for themselves. So, I can only help when there is more experience. Then, experience speaks to experience.

Then, we moved onto the functioning of the left hand. At 15.30 I passed the Team on to the Mentoring Buddies for more work.

Alexander begins at 16.30, with Quiet Time at 18.30.

19.04  The sitting during Quiet Time was punctuated by loud snores towards the end of the half hour.

19.58  Two additional visitors, and a Crafty come to work in the kitchen, introduced themselves at dinner. Various comments on the day were made, including the perils of translation, particularly in Italy. Large bowl of lentils, to imperil the course later, & crème caramel – the perfect fruit to end a meal.

Paolo the Photographer came to bring me a gift of after shave, and stunning photos in both colour and black & white. He has found his way into this world, and it is speaking through his eye & his lens.

22.48 The meeting, for everyone who wished with guitar, included the Kitchen Team, Levels One & Two, visitors, a viola & a cello. Circulations, hi density, skipping chairs; some with simultaneous beginnings from several points in the large circle, a first in Guitar Craft. Followed by Perambulating Boogaloogachoogling.

Al has printed up Abbreviated Aphorisms and pinned them to the board…


Abbreviated Aphorisms
January 26th. 2002 


            Honour necessity.


A beginning is invisible.

Accept nothing less than what is right.

A completion is a new beginning.

Act always in accordance with conscience.

Act in accordance with time, place and person.

Act from principle and move with intention. 

Act in private as if your behaviour were known in public.

A decision changes the world.

A function of language is to disclose.

An end may be a finish, a conclusion or a completion.

A necessary property of good form is internal consistency.

Any action conveys the intent that gave rise to it.

Any fool can play something difficult.

Anything within a performance is significant, whether intentional or not.

Artistry moves from the assumption of innocence within a context of experience.

Artistry is a bridge between the possible, the impossible, and the actual.

Artistry repeats the unrepeatable.

Ask why seven times.

Assume the virtue.

Become a critic only if you have no fear for your soul.

Begin again, constantly.

Begin with the possible and move gradually towards the impossible. 

Completion is a new beginning.

Conscience is impersonal.

Craft is a universal language.

Cynicism is death.

Discard the superfluous.

Discipline is a vehicle for joy.

Discipline is never an end in itself, only a means to an end.

Distrust enthusiasm.

Distrust those who profess altruism.

Duration is subjective. 

Equilibrium is not static.

Expectation is a prison.

Expect nothing.

Fear is a preparation for failure.

Forever is a long time and eternity is in the moment.

Gradually extend the parameters of your competence.

Gradual transitions take place suddenly. 

Helpful people are a nuisance.

Humour is not permitted.

If in doubt, consult tradition.

If you wish to change the world, better to know the world you wish to change. 

If you don't know where you’re going, you’ll probably get there.

If you have nothing to say, better to say nothing.

Intelligence is social.

Interrogate the error.

It is difficult to exaggerate the power of habit.

It is in the nature of intelligence to make connections.

Just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches.

Let us embrace our mistakes.

Let us find clean and cheerful friends.

Life is often desperate, but never hopeless.

Life is too short to take on the unnecessary.

Like and dislike are cheap.

Local events have global repercussions.

Love cannot bear that any soul be denied its place in Paradise.

Make more mistakes.

May we have the clarity to see our work.

May our life honour the lives of our parents and mentors.

May we have the courage to fail.

May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.

Mistakes are at the centre of learning.

Money is not a problem, only a difficulty.

Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all.

Music is a quality, organised in sound and in time.

Music is the architecture of silence.

Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence.

Music without love is not music.

Necessity is a measure of aim.    

Necessity is never far from what is real.

Nothing worthwhile is achieved suddenly.

Offer no violence.

Our enemy is our friend.

Performance is inherently unlikely.

Performance is intimate, yet utterly impersonal.

Philosophy without a discipline is madness.

Play is at the heart of creative endeavour.

Process is Intelligence getting to know itself.

Relaxation is never accidental.

Remain in hell without despair.

Rightness is its own necessity.

Signposts are useful when you know where you're going.

Silence is a bridge between worlds.

Silence is an invisible glue.

Silence is not silent.

Small additional increments are transformative.

Sometimes God hides.

Some things protect themselves by being what they are.

Space has its own rules and determining conditions.

Spirit embraces matter.

Success carries with it opportunity, responsibility and obligation.

Suffer cheerfully.

Suffering is necessary, unnecessary or voluntary.

Suffering of quality is invisible to others.

Talking is expensive.

The act of music is the music.

The end is a finish, conclusion or completion.

The foundation of learning is play.

The future is what the present can bear.

The greater the seeming imperfection, the greater the possible transformation.

The highest quality of attention we may give is love.

The mind leads the hands.

The musician has three disciplines: of the hands, the head and the heart.

The necessary is possible.

The performer can hide nothing, even the attempt to hide.

The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer.

The question is its answer.

There are no mistakes, save one: the failure to learn from a mistake.

There is essential danger when seeking fault in others.

There is no separation.

There's more to hearing than meets the ear.     

The right thing at the wrong time is wrong.

The trouble with knowing what  we want  is that we might get it.

The work of one supports the work of all.

Thought is tangible.

“Tomorrow” is the first lie of the Devil.     

To try is to fail.

Trust music.

Trust the process.

Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage.

We begin by doing nothing.

We begin where we are.

We discover the unity of all things through the feelings.

We know others to the extent that we know ourselves.

Welcome the unexpected, but not the arbitrary.

We only have what we give away.

We perceive our perceptions.

We recognise in others what we know most deeply in ourselves.

What changes is how we see what hasn’t changed.

What is right accords with principle.

What we hear is the quality of our listening.

When stuck, increase the complexity.

When we have nothing to say, better to say nothing.

When we recognise a fault in others, we recognise a fault in ourselves.

Where we're going is how we get there.

With commitment, all the rules change.


           Honour sufficiency.


A little collating of Dear Crafty, now to bed.