Hotel Most Acceptable, Tokyo.
Waking at 04.30 and rising at 05.00. Good to have the extra hour or so. Exercising, morning sitting.
07.41 Something of a report. Landing Thursday, strict in-room quarantining Friday, Saturday and Sunday, has given me space and time to reflect.
One of the subjects: questions and how to ask them.
Firstly, why are we asking a question? What, how and why? Where does our question come from – moving from association, curiosity, expressing an opinion, pushing an agenda; or something deeper, set in motion by the need for an answer? This is where the question warms up.
Is our question useful or necessary, seeking information to support:
1. the development of an efficient and reliable skill set, or personal practice, in a functional and technical way;
2. to live a good life based on directing principles, such as ethical behaviour in personal, business or public life - ie value based;
3. the human condition - what are we doing with our lives? What is required of me?
What precedes an authentic question is, what do we intend to do with the answer? Then, are we prepared to hear an answer? Historically, very few people who ask me “serious” questions seem to want to hear an answer.
Secondly, it takes energy to answer a question.
A question that is not really a question, perhaps a statement or opinion which purports to be a question and only assumes the form of a question, takes energy from the exchange. A question powered by curiosity holds little energy, so the person providing an answer has to do most of the work. A burning question carries with it half of the energy required to enable the answer. An answer of value necessarily comes from the floor above that of where the question originates. So to ask a question, of anyone who takes questions and answers seriously (NB not solemnly) is a big ask.
Very few people seem inclined, interested or able to ask a straightforward question, judging by the proliferation of questions that come my way. How we frame the question is key. The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer. Often, it seems that a statement / opinion / criticism is being made, rather than a question being asked. If the question confines the answer to either/or, it’s not properly a question. Similarly, “don’t you think that”… is not a question. “Why didn’t you…?” and “why haven’t you…?” are not questions. If they were, the answer might be “because I was doing what I was doing”. “Why don’t you…?” similarly is not a question, and if it were, the answer might be “because I’m doing what I’m doing”.
Some come with attitude, and a distinct aroma of resentment. A small number are creepy. Monkey Mind is rampant. Many postings are undermined by assumption, and a lack of sufficient information to form a reliable / reasonable judgement. For example, the practicalities and multiple contingencies in putting a band on the road for a major tour. “KC management should engage with the promoter to ensure… “. They do. “KC management should make sure there are good sight lines at venues…”. They do what they can, but we can’t reconstruct venues throughout the world. It is also impossible to overcome the dishonesty rampant in secondary ticket-selling.
“What equipment do you use?” carries little heat or necessity for me. Perhaps it may for a person asking the question, for example if they are interested in finding their own approach to Soundscaping. If so, they will already have found the answer in several places online, and there is no need to withdraw from me the small amount of useful energy available to respond to questions of value. In which case, I am being asked to do someone else’s work for them.
KC questions have mostly been addressed already, somewhere, and for anyone interested in pursuing these, there are many places to go, including…
Sid Smith: In The Court of King Crimson: An Observation over 50 Years .
Dr. Andrew Keeling’s Musical Guides To King Crimson.
Eric Tamm: Robert Fripp - From King Crimson to Guitar Craft.
Thirdly, a burning question is a question that invites an authentic answer: it is real, it conveys necessity - I must have this answer in order to continue living!
Q: How may we judge the temperature of a question?
A: By how much are we prepared to pay for the answer.
Q: How may we recognize a burning question?
A: The question is both personal and impersonal: ie is both subjective and objective.
The price that is willing to be paid for an answer; eg leaving a successful career to go searching.
The form is singular (ie not a series of contingent and qualifying sub-questions) and simply expressed in one sentence with words of one and two syllables.
The next steps for DGM, the Venal Leader and The Vicar.
Yesterday the KC Team were allowed to in-pod mingle on our hotel floor, so David Singleton and me had a DGM Business Meeting in my room. As is usual, we fire off each other and bright wheezes emerge as if from nowhere. We discuss whizzy schemes and approaches for DGM’s next period. Plans for An Evening With That Awful Man & His Manager during September / October 2022 are already well-developed, and interest is even growing.
Accompanying this is a growing sense that constant touring as a way of life is soon behind me. Will I play music again in public? Very probably. Quiet Moments spring easily to mind. But this is not leaving home for two or three months. My personal aim, following this year’s KC Completion Tours of the US and Japan, is to put my life in order.
The life of a travelling player is primarily a mind-set. If I’m not out on the road, it feels as if tomorrow, or next week, I will be. The physical stuff that comes with the mind-set has a high degree of redundancy, masses of backed-up hard drives in many locations, several workstations in different places all loaded with unsorted stuff. Suitcases never fully unpacked. A mess. A continuous-discontinuity.
As a guitarist, the amount of time required, to keep my playing at KC repertoire-level, is two-to-four hours practicing a day. Half the working day for many (my own working day, conventionally, has been much longer). There are many demands on both me and my attention, of which only a few are necessary, and some are useful. Here in Tokyo, nice people are sending me chatty e-mails, clearly expecting me to engage in social conversing, while also aware of the pressures of my professional life. Or not. And the e-inbox is currently at 517).
Simply, I need more time to order my affairs.
So, how best to approach the pressure of life on the road? Is there personal benefit that comes with the touring life? Alternatively, how to turn a seeming disadvantage to our advantage?
When we are far beyond the commonplace and re-enforcing structures of a comfortable home life - living on a razor’s edge; balancing being present, sane, available to music, and falling off through sex, drugs or whatever else takes the player’s fancy - there is a certain quality of experiencing which only becomes available when we are working way beyond our comfort zone. Providing we remain present to it. Different players find their own approach to remaining sane. Tony Levin has photography. For me, over the decades, it has been reading (and visiting bookstores), practicing and writing journals.
In order to remain present and engaged, another part of us has to walk-in and take charge of this frail animal we inhabit. This other part of us sees, feels and experiences differently. Something like, we find ourselves experiencing our experiencing. Or, in my case, knowing things directly that I had no idea I knew. An example: during the Royal Packages in the US this past September, I found myself saying things about Music that surprised me, that I was not aware I knew. And, in an ordinary state, I don’t. Hung out to dry, a long way from home, exhausted and battered with overnight drives (even in the relative comfort of the Elvis Suite) something had to kick in to keep going.
Discipline makes this possible, and answers the question: how? Part of my practice for many years has been to listen to Fripp speaking. Sometimes he says something useful. Discipline is not an end in itself, only a means to an end. This, Fripp found himself saying forty years ago. In the Green Room of the Miller High Life Theatre, Milwaukee at 20.45 on Tuesday 31st. August, 2021, encircling with the Crims five minutes before walking onstage, instantaneously a profound shift occurred where the various elements of who and what I Am came together.
One project, for my post-road life, is to write the Crimson Commentaries, a project I began to seriously consider at the beginning of lockdown. The history of KC is painful for me - bicker, banter, brouhaha; professional abuse of a high order; personal abuse that, while inevitably part of a life lived in full public gaze, continues to astonish me in its unkindness. Nevertheless, overall an excellent liberal education, one where recapitulation is a necessary element to deepen understanding of what went down over a period of fifty-two years of constant, hopefully not endless, grief.
Whenever I think of King Crimson, it is not of the various incarnations, the players within them, nor even the music: it is of an Individuality that walks in the room and makes itself available, and feels more like teacher than friend.
How to explain this? Does anyone else have this experience?
Toby Amies’ film, of which I saw the almost-final cut on Sunday, is a documentary for grown-ups, of the lives of several King Crimson members during 2018-2020. In this, it is successful. It does not tell me what King Crimson is. The aim was, firstly, to find a new form of music documentary, abandoning conventional approaches and stereotypes, in which it is mostly successful IMO. Secondly, to present the essence of KC – what King Crimson is. This, it doesn’t do. An overall history of KC, of what particular musicians did, the music they played together, an overview of their lives and tribulations, their interactions with public and industry, is a project worth doing IMO, and one for the future. This was not the aim of Toby’s film.
A valuable resource for the Crimson Commentaries is my journals and diaries over the period. I note my dreams, reflections, feelings, thinkings, readings, what I’m doing and where I am, what’s going on in my life generally. Often that’s KC. One example from today’s research - my scanned journal for April 16-18th. 1981. These notes reference the early rehearsals of the Discipline KC, how to develop a new approach to KC music and playing, and my problems working with Bill. This is clearly prior to my growing friendship with Adrian and later professional difficulties, especially after Martha assumed an increasing managerial role in Ade’s life.
18.4.81 HQ (Fripp World HQ, Wimborne).
My Sister’s birthday – hello Wonderful Sister!
20.00 V.g. rehearsals after a soggy beginning – AB decidedly blue but perked into life later. BB integrated the electric kit into his refular kit: two tunings: C#, E & B; A, G & C; on pre-sets for playing metallophone parts. Ran through the repertoire; currently Discipline 1 & 2, Jungle 1 & 2, Desert 1, Ballad, Larks T. & Red with Breathless to follow. BB’s drumming cooked. Discipline 3 well on the way. Changed gear today.
Story of Tony & Horton from last night.
A lot of the journals make for uncomfortable reading. The 1974 diary, of the final KC tour of the US before breaking up for ever and ever, is very hard going. But, for a grown-up history of King Crimson (which isn’t for me to write), this is necessary information from on the ground when it was happening. Not memory, not reconstruction.