Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Sunday 20 August 2000

Road signs are useful when

Road signs are useful when you know where you're going.

A morning of reading & reflection: this is a recurrent entry during my time in Edinburgh. Part of my personal work here is to prepare the PRS Annual John Lennon Lecture, given this year by Sir George Martin, and to be given next Thursday 1st. February, 2001 by the Venal Heartless Raging Leader in a pitiful attempt to line his Silken Pockets with even more lucre, this time by duping unwary students (rather than innocent audients & those who only wanted to say hello). The lecture is titled: "Discipline & The Act Of Music".

The experience of playing guitar for 43 years and 9 months, climbing in the back of wagons and setting off for gigs for 39 years and 2 months, being a professional player for 33 years and 3 months, and earning a living as a professional for about 31 years, is primary research material.

Another part of the "research work" is reading the DGM Guestbook & Emetic Trumpetings. The Guestbook and Emetic Trumpetings provide a great amount of data of exceptional value for those examining the mechanics of the basement. Much of the commentary on the recent KC tour of Europe is exemplary in this respect. It continues to astonish me that people stand up in public and declare, even shout:

"My head is placed where sunlight never reaches and, knowing nothing of conditions outside of myself, this is my opinion of the weather. I have the right to express this opinion on a subject of which I have no practical experience, no understanding and little knowledge. But I dislike / like the weather and I have the right to `let off steam' and dump my negativity / fanatical desires about the climate onto others - because I have the right. And even if I don't have the right I don't care - because I have the right not to care!"

If one aspires to the proper life of a musician, of which the professional life is only a distant echo hoping to be heard above the clamour of shouting voices, then understanding is one of the requirements. Understanding is difficult to, well, understand because we easily confuse knowledge (even wide & deep knowledge) with understanding. For example:

Grant Colburn ( 05-Jul-2000 18:40 GMT USA

<I have attempted to be a strong supporter of the many philosophies of Robert Fripp and have felt that I have an understanding of what it is he hopes to accomplish (more or less) I understand what Fripp is after with his rules, restrictions and ideals. So what does one in Fripp's position do? Well, I don't really know.>

Grant has experience, knows a fair amount about his topic, is an experienced player, and is more inclined to support than if given half a chance; and seeks to engage on a reasonable level (although most of his assumptions, to the extent that they reflect my own life, are imaginary). But this isn't understanding.

Another example of mis-"understanding", from ET:

Michael McGrath Wed, 05 Jul 2000 15:25:17 -0400 Subject: "un-FraKtured"

<I appreciate and understand Fripp's displeasure at photos being taken while performing. I do think, however, there is a more mature way of handling the situation than taking it out on fans by omitting certain numbers due to photography.>

Michael demonstrates:

He has no understanding of the "situation"; He doesn't know that he doesn't understand; He doesn't feel that he doesn't understand; He doesn't have sufficient & necessary information of the situation to make a judgement; He is unaware that he doesn't have sufficient & necessary information to make a judgement; Michael does, however, have an opinion. Michael has the right to express that opinion in public.

Similarly, we confuse alertness with consciousness, although these are qualitatively different experiences. We may pass our knowledge to another (and this is very hard in itself) but I don't believe it is possible to transfer understanding. We may pass our feeling to another; & we may pass our technical expertise to another (assuming certain conditions). But our understanding doesn't travel. Part of this is technical: we can only learn when we are alert, but we must be conscious to understand. And "conscious" is rare indeed.

This moves on to "what is consciousness?" Unless we have some practical experience of the difference between "alertness" & "consciousness", none of this is going to mean much more than a debate upon the meaning of words.

There are exercises to approach / focus both these "states" and to "taste" the difference. Then, once we know the flavour, a discussion is possible. Once we know the flavour, we begin to have a sense of the difference between states (and stations) and what it may mean to be an apprentice, a craftsperson, or a master / mistress of one's field. ("Genius" is far from what we commonly ascribe to genius).

This experiential "taste" helps us in developing discrimination & recognising distinction. This is a beginning to acquiring the knowledge, feel for and practical experience of the mechanics of being & becoming (assuming that we agree what "being" & "becoming" might be). In time, this may even give us a glimpse of what "understanding" might be.

When we know enough to know that we know nothing, our knowing has begun. When we feel the remorse of being unable to "love our enemies", we begin to recognise the poverty of our feeling life. When we come up against our inability to:

do our knowing;
feel our knowing;
know our knowing;
do our doing;
know our doing;
feel our doing;
do our feeling;
know our feeling;
feel our feeling;

the penny begins to drop: I understand nothing.

But there is good news in this: I know that I don't understand. Before, I was a king in the world of delusion. Now, I am a lowly subject of the real world. And in this world, seeing / knowing / feeling the poverty of my nature, something real may begin for me.

Now, returning to:

matthew smith ( 14-Aug-2000 20:15 GMT

<To Fripp I only make the observation that balanced implies equal parts A-negative and B-positive comments.>

The richest "balance" the basement can give us is polar: only yes & no are possible. So, the "best" reasoning that the basement can offer is the two-legged stool of either-or. The "best" feeling the basement can offer is like-dislike. The "best" activity the basement can offer is active-passive. But hey! at least this is two-dimensional.

The centre of gravity of the basement is one-dimensional.

In this "upper part of the basement" where, if our luck is in, the sun might shine down upon us for a moment, our (for example) feeling life comprises of either like or dislike. But we are unable to bear the contradiction of simultaneously holding both like-dislike together. In a bona fide training establishment, aspirants & apprentices practice exercises to develop this "bearing of opposites".

Now, data from ET:

Erc: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 03:13:32 -0400

<Nostalgia is a good thing, but no artist should stick to it.>

RF: This conveys the "centre of gravity" of Erc's post.

<A record exists for the sole purpose of nostalgia, to remember...>

RF: Which record?

<Like it or dislike it. That's all.>

RF: To quote Brian Eno (in rather different circumstances, Madrid, May 1975): "It is for you, but not for us".

< No fuzz, and no insult, please>

RF: I'm being as clear as I can, and no insult.

<The fact is, many commotion only serves to waste space in newsletter. Personally, I find it much more interesting to learn about women fans of KC, or be encouraged to listen to Bjork or Mr. Bungle's records than to "He wrote this" "I wrote that" kind of discussion. It takes only two line to state an opinion.>

RF: Erc has already exceeded his quota, then.

<I didn't like TcoL because That's it !>

RF: Sorry about that. It certainly is that!

<Come on, let's all love each other!>

RF: Loving is an intentional act. Love does not enter our world by accident. If like-dislike is "that's all!" then love is impossible for us. So, how may we practice loving? This is a practical matter, and may therefore be practically addressed. This is part of one of the musician's three disciplines - "the discipline of the heart" - which is itself part of a discipline of understanding.

<Let's gather in Southern Carolina and have a brunch! See ya!>

RF: May I take a raincheck?

Erc demonstrates (inter alia) the right to have an opinion, and the right to express that opinion in public. His opinion is one-dimensional, so it can't accurately reflect even a two-dimensional world. But Erc is being honest: he is describing the world he lives in at first hand.

No shame. He's right: that's what it is. Erc is not a "bad person" for doing this, but he deserves a lot better for himself.

Now, back to:

Grant Colburn ( 05-Jul-2000 18:40 GMT USA

<but in the end it seems that Robert Fripp will not change the rock and roll world of live performance so the only alternative is for Robert Fripp to change.>

RF: Note: Grant presents two options. There are only these two options. We recognise that this is the maximum degree of freedom open to the most-free part of the basement. Are these the only two possibilities?

Perhaps Grant will forgive me if I continue, without waiting for his response: there are four other possibilities, plus an invisible fifth. But these are not available in the basement, even the sunniest part of the basement, and the basement is itself a sunny place in the world of delusion.

The mechanics of the basement: how easy it is to open the hatch to the subterranean chamber underneath the "centre of gravity" of the basement, and assert our right to be there. It is disturbing to see examples, and references, to this in the Guestbook & on ET.

1. M ( 05-Jul-2000 21:04 GMT USA

<On this day I have deleted Elephant Talk (specifically the Newsletter section) from my browser because reading it has become much too painful.

How can fans be your number one enemy?>

2. Aerial Bear ( 16-Aug-2000 04:51 GMT

<I think many people protest or complain simply because its an activity they enjoy. Hey, sometimes you just need to let off some steam.>

RF: These are both functions of basement mechanics.

The basement is dull: its centre of gravity is one-dimensional. Our powers of initiative & discrimination are so compromised, (almost) nothing happens to us unless it comes from the outside. We are bored. In apprentice training, we learn that boredom is a characteristic of basement life. This enables apprentices to recognise that, whenever we are bored, we are in the basement.

Perhaps one sunny day, as if by an act of grace, sunshine flew into the upper part of our smelly & commonly-dark basement chamber. Yow! That life could be this good all the time! And then, a cloud covers the sun.

Back in the "centre" of the basement, with almost no aspiration or power to move towards the sunlight, we might seek to recreate this sense of "being alive" when, for a moment, we knew light. How to simulate this sense of being alive? This is when things begin to go wrong.

For some, the "excitement" of venting negativity provides a "kick", a simulation of living, which relieves the unremitting dullness of their lives. We may shout, spout, and "let off steam" by dumping our hostility, nastiness, rudeness onto others. When we are angry, we seem to feel more alive. The angrier I am, the more I shout; the more I shout, the more alive I feel. I have the right to be angry because I have just cause to be angry (with many examples of how I have been unfairly offended because I didn't get what I wanted and I have the right to have what I want whenever I want it). And I have the right to be offended because I didn't get what I wanted when I wanted it.

An alternative to shouting & spouting is to cause disruption. To interrupt or halt a process ("throwing a spanner in the works") may itself provide an alleviation of tedium. And if this interruption impinges upon my "rights", then I have the right to be angry as well! Double negative whammy!

If sexual energy becomes involved in this, look out: our negativity becomes "creative". Our nastinesses become inventive in the manner they manifest, and acquire a power which gives them the capacity to endure beyond the immediate moment. Our fantasies, injected with creative (sexual) energy, become quasi-real & feed on their fantasists.

The basement has now opened out onto the subterranean world of inverse reality: utter nullity. In the Christian tradition, this is the Outer Darkness. This place is real - really unreal. The gates to hell can be opened, and its creatures may enter our world: the last century provides examples enough of this.

If we are in a personal, microcosmic, hell it is possible for us to get out and to "close the gates" behind us, although we may need help. The literature has examples which provide hope. But - common problem - drug use impairs our capacity to pull up the trapdoor & climb out. In extreme cases, there is structural damage to the "stairs" and "gateways".

So, we kill the subject / object of our love:

We demand that it be what we want it to be (preferably fixed & unchanging). But it is not that: it is something else (on a higher floor, it can only be what it is).

We demand that it act the way we want it to act (preferably like last time).
But today is another time (on a higher floor, right action is specific to the conditions of time, place & person).

Our lover:
doesn't give us what we want;
doesn't behave how we want them to behave;
isn't the person we want them to be;
isn't going the same way we are;
doesn't have the same interests we have;
doesn't interact with us as they should.
Our former lover has spurned us!

polar reaction: like> dislike
this isn't what you promised me!
you shouldn't be acting like this!
you're not the person you used to be!
you're going the wrong way!
you've changed!
it's not as good as it used to be!

(And even though I don't respect you any more, and don't like you, give me your autograph while my friend takes a photo of us together").

So: i've been let down & this is your fault!
         love > hate
boy! this is just like being alive!

Then: this mode of "being alive" becomes fixed & automatic in our functioning;
Then: the greater the negativity, the greater the sense of being alive;
Then: sexual energy "empowers" the delusional world;
Then: the trapdoor opens downwards;
Then: hell has a doorway to our world.

The Horse & I went to see Susannah York in her Picasso's Woman (Jacqueline) this afternoon. Susannah was superb.

Last (Saturday) night Toyah was a guest on the Greg Proops Chat Show at the Assembly. This was, nominally, an interview. But once Toyah hit the stage, and was sat between two comedians, clearly this wasn't going to be an "interview" at all. So, she dealt & was superb: sharp, funny and very much "there". A quote I loved: "Shut up, you token man!"

An evening of walking around the old & new towns. Legs that snap like whipcords are now flapping feebly. Now, of relevance to my reflections today

From The Early July Guestbook:

1. Andrew Keeling July 5th. 2000

King Crimson at Shepherds Bush Theatre, Monday July 3rd:
As we become older our expections are, more often than not, affected by memory. Nostalgia seems to colour our every move and, depending on our typology, we categorise things by subjective means. When we encounter events that run counter to the subjective we often complain and strongly defend our personal stance

Did I like this group? Did I ever really 'like' this group? To say 'like' is likely to bring its opposite into play. It is impossible to answer without recourse to the subjective

2a. James ( 05-Jul-2000 14:41 GMT U.K.

I just got back to cardiff from the Shepards Bush gig, my first live KC experience, and hopefully not my last. Being one of the younger members of the listening community, I have nothing with which to compare with other than the live albums. Nevertheless, I thought it was an excellent performance by all.

2b. richard kevern (

a quick word of praise for the sheperds bush gig on monday night. this was the first time i have seen k.c live and it was superb. i found the whole experience intense and riveting. particularly excellent was trey's solo on deception of the thrush.pat mastelotto was a revelation.

2c. Alex McCourty ( England

Just wanted to say how great it was to see KC live for the FIRST time at Shepherds Bush on Monday and, when I managed to get close to the stage, to get a real sense of the band's energies.

The chemistry of the band is amazing. The calm intensity of Robert and Trey on the wings being counterpointed by the manic energy of Pat and Ade pushed out down centre...and yet the collusions and collisions of the double duo was quite obvious between Pat/Trey (the "youngbloods") and Robert/Ade (the "wisebloods").

2d. Simon Calkin (ET) wed, 5 Jul 2000 01:34:33 +0100

Subject: GIG REVIEW: London

Last night was a BLAST! Converts were made last night; two guys who came to the gig with me had never heard the King before, and were staggered.

3. Clive Hillam ( 04-Jul-2000 15:40 GMT UK

Very rarely do I put pen to paper on any subject but I felt compelled on this occasion.

People who know me often regard me as obsessive on certain subjects. Musically this includes The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and King Crimson. I have followed KC since the early days, bought all the albums on general release and seen KC live 11 times (at least 5 different incarnations!).

I have been totally spellbound by the greatest band in the world at all of those gigs except for one. In my opinion, last night's gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire was the most disappointing appearance I have seen of KC.

I make a point of familiarising myself with any new material prior to a gig. Normally , it makes me appreciate the concert more. But not so on this occasion.

The worst thing about last night was the fact that I took along my 8 year old and very impressionable son so that he could be witness to a musical world class act. He has been well 'indoctrinated' over the years by me playing KC records, and normally he has huge staying power at late night gigs. After 3 numbers he was ready to go to sleep in his mum's lap !

I hope this era is a short blip in the otherwise outstanding career of KC.>

RF: And I hope it's not. I am grateful to Clive for his support over the years, but I feel that his time is up for Crimson. Perhaps time for us both to move on, as friends, blowing a kiss and waving?

Responses To The Guestbook:

1. RYG ( 18-Aug-2000 21:21 GMT New Jersey, USA

<Will the number of pressings of the next batch of 24-bit gatefolded re-masters be based on a realistic number of potential sales this time? Or, will this grouping be based on the same assumptions as the last set of 24-bit gatefolded re-masters ? I ask, simply because I do not want this next set to "run out" in the same fashion as the last group. I also feel that this group of three albums (LTiA, SaBB and Red) has a wider audience than there was for the last set.>

RF: This is one of the most frequent & common mistaken assumptions: that DGM is responsible for the KC/EG catalogue. The catalogue was sold to Virgin by EG in April 1991, so RYG's comments (masquerading as questions!) are for Virgin.

2. RAD ( 18-Aug-2000 23:54 GMT USA

<According to GB postings from London "audients," Fripp elected not to play "Frakctured" (part of the standard set list, not an encore) apparently because of flash photography.>

RF: The key word is "apparently". There was more to Shepherd's Bush than this. But were I to type more, no doubt I would be criticised for my "preternatural" perceptions (subsequently supported by several posters) which are not empirically verifiable (other than by years of training of experience).

< Also, encores are not necessarily "gifts" to the audience. Encores are sometimes (perhaps often) part of a set number of titles the performer agrees to play. I learned this many years ago from a disillusioned Jimmy Buffett fan who found out her hero was contractually obligated to play encores.>

RF: King Crimson is not contractually obliged to play encores.

Conventionally, performers are required to perform for a specific period of time without particular reference to encores (this is Crimson's position). The "obligation" to play encores is therefore mostly a conventional, rather than contractual, requirement.

In 1971 King Crimson abandoned encores for a short period, at my behest; on the basis that they were automatic & obligatory, rather than volitional and genuine. It was impossible (for that group, at that time, in that country, to those audiences) to fly in the face of the enormous power of the encore convention. We returned to playing encores.

Generally, KC encores and / or encore strategies (such as the number of encores) are within the performer/s' field of choice, in response to particular audiences. If encores are compulsory for the performer, they aren't properly encores: there is no volition involved. That is, if we don't have the freedom to say "no", we don't have the freedom to say "yes". Similarly, if audiences feel unable to hoot & holler / demand / request / cheer for particular fave-raves of their choice, life is too hard.

Performance is significantly constrained by expectation (cf review comments on ET & the Guestbook for the recent tour). This weight of expectation lifts for encores (alternatively, a different set of expectations comes into force). Encores belong to a different part of the process of performance than the "performance" itself, and the performer/s' are granted a measure of latitude - until they play an encore which audients don't like! (for example, "Heroes" upset quite a few).

<I'm sure some performers do give their fans more than they're obligated to provide ... but, I'm hard-pressed to believe Fripp is one of them!>

RF: Worse than that. He spits on their feet. And even better than that, careless of the most basic rights of fans - who've spent their hard-earned pay to line his Silken Pockets.

3. Grant Colburn ( 05-Jul-2000 18:40 GMT USA

<you know, its a sad day when I write a post like this.>

RF: I do know. It's a sad day when I read it.

<I have attempted to be a strong supporter of the many philosophies of Robert Fripp Being a member of a band that plays somewhat progressive and non commercial music for over 14 years of my life with no record deal, no tour of Europe etc.>

RF: Grant is a regular contributor to the Guestbook, for which I am grateful, and I sympathise with his position as a struggling player.

< its obvious that Robert Fripp has no concept left of what life would be like without his legendary status, without world wide fans lining up to see his completely uncommercial band play>

RF: This is very silly. Grant deserves better of himself than this.

< without getting the attention that now makes him cringe.>

RF: The quality of attention which Grant is referring to has always made me "cringe" (not quite the right word, but the sense is there).

<I have read where Robert Fripp has said to not be