A grey day…
…with omens of good fortune on the thatch opposite…
Slow Music at the Great Amercian Music Hall, San Francisco, on 9th. May, 2006, werning & twerning to my left.
10.17 A white van has arrived to carry off the Solar Voyager. about-to-be-becoming having-been-shipped to the Iberian peninsula. Alex indicates its point of entry to the vehicle…
Iberia is that way…
12.34 Hugh the Fierce, of the DGM Art Department, is in the office. Part of his work for today is to demand sleeve notes & photos for At The End Of Time.
At The End Of Time
Churchscapes Live In England & Estonia
1. Threshold Bells: St. Paul’s 1:11
2. At The End Of Time: St. Paul’s 9:44
3. Evensong: Tallin 7.20
4. Evensong Coda: Tallin 1.48
5. At The End Of Time: Broad Chalke 12:41
6. Evensong: Viljandi 10:19 7. Evensong coda: Viljandi 10.43 8. Future Shift: Haapsalu 0.59
9. Evensong: Haapsalu 11:13
10. Evensong Coda: Haapsalu 8:12
January 14 All Saints, Broad Chalke
June 1 St.Michael’s Church, Bishops Cleeve
June 2 Pershore Abbey, Pershore
June 3 St. Andrew’s Church, Sutton
June 5 Worcester Cathedral, Worcester
June 6 Chapter House, Exeter Cathedral, Exeter
June 13 St. Paul’s Cathedral, London
June 14 Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury
June 16 Norwich Cathedral, Norwich
August 22 Pühavaimu kirik, Tallinna
August 23 Eliisabeti kirik, Pärnu
August 24 Lossikirik, Haapsalu
August 25 Jaani kirik, Viljandi
August 26 Jaani kirik, Tartu
Thanks & Acknowledgement:
The clergy, ministers, worshipping communities & staff of all the cathedrals & churches who generously allowed us into their spaces.
Brian Eno, who first introduced me to looping technology, in his front room in 1972. Subsequently, two Revoxes & a pedal board accompanied me on various adventures between 1978-1983.
David Sylvian, who introduced me to the next generation of looping technology, in 1992. This became the Lunar Module.
John Sinks who fine-tuned, repaired, set-up & maintained various rigs since 1987, scrabbled on many floors with these & the Lunar Module until 2006, when he designed the rig. Then, for scrabbling on more floors & reading more manuals with the Solar Voyager.
David Singleton for editing, compiling, mastering & re-working Soundscapes’ recordings since 1992; and scrabbling on more floors than he should have done.
The G3 Team in 1997 & 2004: Joe Satriani & Steve Vai and their band members, especially Jeff Campitelli (Mr. Drummer), Stu Hamm (1997), Matt Bisonette (2004), Galen Henson (2004), Mike Keneally (1997), Billy Sheehan (2004); and manager Mick Brigden. Support, personal & professional, at this level & quality is rare indeed. Without the support of Joe, Steve & The Team, impossible situations would have been impossible.
Dr. Andrew Keeling & Gert-Jan Blom for support, encouragement & translating Soundscapes into orchestral expression.
Anthony Blake for support, encouragement & inviting Soundscapes to two Duversity events: Baltimore (1997) and Seattle (2004). These were a taste of what musical performance might be & become, when placed in appropriate settings.
Mark Graham for catalysing & arranging the Churchscapes tour of England.
Toyah Willcox for conspiring with Dr. Margus Laidre to take Churchscapes to Estonia.
Dr. Margus Laidre, Ambassador of the Estonian Republic to London, for conspiring with Toyah, and presenting the formal invitation.
Mrs. Anne Erm of Jazzkaar for promoting Churchscapes in Estonia, despite the anticipation that the tour would be a financial disaster.
On the road:
England & Estonia: John Sinks & Trevor Wilkins.
except Broad Chalke: Alex Mundy & David Singleton.
These performances are live, and recorded live. There are small technical flaws in the recording, and major functional flaws in the perfomer.
Live Recording Engineer: John Sinks
except Broad Chalke: David Singleton & Alex Mundy
Mastering & Editing at DGM HQ: David Singleton & Alex Mundy
Broad Chalke, St. Paul’s, Salisbury, Viljandi & Taru may be downloaded from DGM Live…
First Postscript From The Guitar Stool
Sunday 27th. August, 2006;
Initial reflection on the tour: a rare conjunction of music, musician, audience & performance places. I have known the conjunction of music, musician & audience, and when these come together in a right way. Mostly, these conjunctions were in public & took place between 1969-84, in venues that were not necessarily appropriate, often inappropriate, and simply the places that those kinds of performances took place. These were rock shows, events that took place within the broad outlines of a contemporary popular culture, the performers & audiences much of the same generation (16-30), organised & mediated by commercial interests. That is, the places were chosen by industry.
The Churchscapes performances took place outside the world of rock music & popular culture; and mostly, outside commercial culture. The promoter. Mrs. Anne Erm of Jazzkar is a professional promoter, but is a promoter whose default instincts are cultural. She anticipated losing money on the tour, so I am happy that the tour was (in terms of ticket sales) a success.
Mostly, Churchscapes take place outside the world of the professional musician. If the aim of the professional musician is to profess music, then the performances were within that world. If the professional musician intends to get paid for their work, then the Churchscapes took place outside that world.
Personally, these performances were a validation of the sense that this is right music for me to be playing, after several years of being rebuffed, and often volubly. But, in order to “work”, Soundcapes need a supportive performance context, protected from the demands of commercial culture.
The tour was also a pointed stick: live performance continues to be entirely contrary to my personal inclinations.
The question remains: how to earn a living as a professional musician? No idea on this, other than to follow the injunction: act rightly, and the right consequences follow.
Second Postscript from the Guitar Stool
I have been performing in public since April 1959, when I was 12. Since July 1961, playing in a field adjoining railway tracks in West Moors, Dorset, the focal point of my musical life has been live performance. Surely, our central & defining experience of music is performance in the moment, in community & in society? (The various aims & functions of musical performance is a larger matter, for discussion elsewhere).
Well, that’s the view that led me onto the stages & into performance spaces of four continents, right up to Estonia in August 2006, a period of over 45 years.
Live performance, in contexts mediated by commercial culture, increasingly became a depressing exercise in futility. Music + Musician + Audience + Industry = endless travelling, interviews, photographs, autographs, promoters, record companies, fans, exploitative & controlling management, venues to test resolve.
These are the four questions I asked, from my beginning-life as professional player (1967):
Can I learn from this?
Is this useful?
Can I earn a living?
Is it fun?
Almost 40 years later, my answers are:
For some, yes.
Yes (although management got more from me than me).
Three questions I ask, as an older man:
Is this real?
Is this true?
Is this necessary?
Long experience suggests these answers:
Why might the live performance of music be necessary, despite conditions that are mostly not supportive but destructive, of the act of music?
Firstly, because music is real; sometimes, more real than we are ourselves.
Secondly, because music is true; and presents us a model of how to be in tune, in tone & in time with ourselves, our community, the world.
Thirdly, because both of these are necessary.
In the distance, the disjunction, between the possible & the actuality, Despair has been an almost constant companion; a fellow road warrior, as it were. This is not a difficulty, it is a problem, and few problems allow of easy solutions. This is not in itself a problem: one solution is to find a better problem, to ask a better question.
So, a question: how may music help us know our common humanity? We are, already, the same person; so, what does it take to remind us of this? There was a period, for a few years, when rock music held open a door, and I was fortunate to see over the threshold; then, it closed. A few side doors remain accessible; but we have to know they are available, where to find them, and hold a key.
This is profoundly disturbing: the extent to which we willingly close the door, and do our best to keep it shut. There follows one practical example, forwarded to the DGM Guestbook, and with my own comments on it at the time…
Thursday 31st. August, 2006; 09.24
The constituent parts of the Solar Voyager have just arrived & been loaded in through the front door, returning from Estonia.
10.05 The only online review I have read of the Estonian Churchscapes (link posted by Mr. Picken to the Guestbook on August 30, 2006)…
Robin Gurney said,
ON AUGUST 23RD, 2006 AT 7:39 AM
Yeah, well, we went and frankly… it sucked. How can one man with so much talent produce such a boring show ? oi oi oi. Obviously my expectations were way too high. Last time I saw him he was great. Weird.
Not weird at all: this is in the nature of expectation. It was a joy for me to discover that the Estonian audiences (mostly) had no direct experience of RF. So, the audiences (of all ages) were relatively expectation-lite.
And the show: this was not a “show”. If I were asked to conceive the least interesting visual event that might be shown in public, Fripp & The Solar Voyager would leap immediately to mind & in first place. Several audients have suggested to me that their Soundscapes/Churchscapes listening was more satisfying with eyes closed.
Nor was this primarily even a Musical Event. This was not the aim. A better approach to Churchscapes is to understand them as a personal thanksgiving service, a reflection of faith & music of devotional intent, rather than Someone Doing Something to a passive audient who Expects Something. Churchscapes (both in England & Estonia) were carefully defined & placed outside commercial culture, conventional musical venues, and inside worshipping-spaces of local communities. And I accept that some churches open their doors to Artistic Events. One pastor remarked to me, after a performance, that his church provided space for various musical events, not all of them were quite suitable for the church but Churchscapes were.
If I were attending a performance, by any one man with so much talent and the last time I saw him he was great, and I didn’t get what he was doing, personally, I’d figure the responsibility was mine to get it and make the effort. And maybe the performance was boring and sucked. In its context, in service to the aim of the performance & what Churchscapes are, none of this has any relevance whatsoever. The problem is solved because it’s not the right problem.
I note also that Estonian culture is not as overwhelmingly Americanised as Western Europe. This is not at all a criticism of American music – jazz, blues, rock et al – the musical juice of the 20th. Century that has fuelled & driven my life as a player; but a reflection of commercial culture & attendant attitudes that follow where American popular culture leads.
In popular culture, the musician calls on the highest part in all of us;
in mass culture, the musician addresses the lower parts of what we are.
In popular culture, our musicians sing to us in our own voice;
in mass culture they shout what we want to hear.
Popular culture easily slides towards mass culture; this is because commerce puts out the grease & provides a kick. When we arrived & were driving into Tallinn from the airport, we were told that all the advertising billboards in Estonia have been bought up by Clear Channel. But, for now, Estonian ears are not quite those of Westerners. Music is not yet a commodity, a product to be consumed.
This was one of the very few unfavourable reviews of Estonia; many were positive & supportive. Until Estonia, RG’s posting pretty much typified audience reaction to professional work with which I have been associated, in the main: This is not what I expected! I have the right to what I expect! Fulfil my expectations! What changed in Estonia? These spring to mind:
The venues: sacred not secular.
The audiences: willing to listen; able to listen.
The culture: civilised, on human scale.
There is hope in this.
16.28 A day of stuff. Conversations & discussions covering publishing, downloads, banking, future shifts at DGM Live; that is, organising the past so it becomes a platform for the future.
Enough. Soon, to clear the desk…
… and set off to Bredonborough, via Mr. Romain’s Emporium Of Aged Delights in Wilton.