The presence and support of FQMs at a performance is tangible. - Robert Fripp
On RF's posts and diaries FQMs have often been mentioned, particularly while touring, as for example during That Awful Man & His Very Nice Manager tour when online commenters have asked "What does FQM stand for?" - Four Quarter Maintainers. "Well, but what is that?".
FQMs have been asked to present their understanding of this role. Below, their responses compiled through October this year...
. . .
My understanding on Four Quarter Maintaining.
Life is hazardous.
There is an experience possible in music above the hazard of life, which gives it meaning. In this possible experience, ways that we frame reality are given entry into something much more vast and real.
In this experience, three things come together, unite: Music, the musician, the audience.
The power of the music is not at issue. It is always there. ALWAYS. But it only enters life when and where it can find a certain kind of living "vessel" for it.
This "vessel" is a unity of the musician and audience, it is where they unite in a sameness of experience despite their very different seats on the moment.
The musician prepares for this. Countless hours of practice on many aspects of inner and outer coordination. At center of the musician's preparation is a relationship to hearing the transcendent power of music within, and bringing it into the world of sound.
This same endeavor, hearing into the power of music within the sound, is the entryway for the audience to join with the musician, bearing music and experiencing transcendence.
None of this is complex in action, in fact it is the most natural thing in the world - to show up, to hear, to experience transcendence. However we live in life, and life's hazards may, at any moment, pull any mind into distraction, or tie it to other agendas which have little direction for bearing meaning into life.
Sometimes these distractions and deviations can seemingly nearly engulf an entire culture.
For the on-stage musician to know that there will be at least one, if not several, who are present to their hearing for the sake of Music, and by their presence be holding a time and space to bear the creative force into the moment of performance, releases the musician from a significant hazard of life: there is the assurance that what the musician has has brought to the process will be met on the other side; that, in being substantially and evenly met, the creative current of Music can manifest and be sustained into the stream of life in its unity of-and-with the musician and audience.
Perhaps, also, a culture of active listening results from the modelling of this action within the room. Perhaps this becomes widespread.
As for the professional musician, who works with discipline to ensure that, at minimum, the notes will be played without noise, so for the audience there are basic practices which strengthen one's certainty in being present to Music.
For instance, a daily endeavor of 'doing nothing', leads one to understand many of the unique ways life pulls us from being present. Work with hearing, work with relaxation, work with compassion, work with honoring commitments, work with humility, all over time can change what we are into a being more able to sustain presence and bear the creative current.
Life is hazardous. Seemingly now more than ever. Four Quarter Maintaining is a practical way for Music and the Creative to impact the course of life. It is built upon simple moment-to-moment choices and practices over time. In and of itself these choices and practices are nothing grand. Music, however, changes everything.
. . .
Taking on the FQM job for an evening changes me. You cannot forget the role during the show, but this does not appear as a struggle, more like one is being carried along. In addition to listening, there is observation of me listening; this brings the uniqueness of the performance ever closer, "wow, i am really here and this is king crimson"
It feels like the role has always been there and taking it on is a forgotten necessity. Upon leaving the event I feel cleaner, more whole.
. . .
I’d say the role is to support the unfolding event by being present. To sense, witness, embrace the moment in its wholeness, totality and inexpressibility, including it all.
. . .
For me, the best way I can describe the job of an FQM is this:
Have you ever been to a concert/show/performance and felt that tingling in the air? The sense of something greater than yourself, greater than the audience, greater even than the notes or musicians/performers? The feeling that something magical or something special is in the air? The role of the FQM, in my view, is to help these moments happen.
What does it take for that to happen? Well, there needs to be an audience, there needs to be attention, listening, presence, and possibly other things. Without those things, that magic cannot happen, and the greater the number of people engaging with those, the greater the possibility of this magic taking place. And of course, the greater its potential could be. This magic can our lives and the course of history.
. . .
Serving as a FQM is a way of practicing being properly human.
We serve to hold a compassionate, mindful and grounded space for the musicians, the music and the audience.
A secure base and a safe haven create what is necessary for the act of music to flourish, and for any action to flourish, really.
We participate to help create this space, and it involves listening and practicing presence.
. . .
From my experience the FQM role is a way to support the communion between the musician and the audience holding the hope for music to enter.
Some key words of the role in action: attention, intention, listening, good will, sense of presence, call for help, doing nothing.
. . .
For Alain, a FQM is a committed person who, within a group of people, attend a concert with the aim of supporting the group and the performance with its ears and its presence. Addressing the needs of the performance event can be from just listening, while following a circuit of sensation within the body, to include vigilance to discourage the audience to taking not previously agreed pictures or video-audio recording. Or maybe even other disruptive behaviours that an unexpected person might show. FQM is an opportunity to serve the performance in a neutral position. For this, a grateful spirit and a loving attitude provide an actual position to nourish one’s own aim in life.
. . .
I cannot offer an experience from the inside.
But, I can offer my experience from the outside, realising that there was a FQM work going on.
Talking with people of different levels of experience, that have been FQMs...
I can only say that in my understanding the first aim of all this work is: “Being Present For The Music.”
In my poor experience of this, I can see that it is completely necessary to have FQM in all the musical events.
A: Because, it is the support that helps the music to enter into the other side of the room when it is need it.
The first time I saw the FQMs as an auddient, in a King Crimson concert in 2017. It was like looking to a security guard all the time, walking around and checking on everyone.
As an auddient, for me on that moment was completely confusing and my believe of being a FQM was completely different...
Later, it was more clear after it was explained to me by 2 different fellows with different perspectives.
I understood that an important part of the job is: “Have good will for the music, for the musicians and for the audience.”
In my opinion the first basic ability that a FQM needs to have, is to be a good listener; I have expireinced that watching someone listening to music, could encourage to be there.
The second ability is to be available to whatever happens; This could be in difficult moments between the relation of the audience and the musician.
Also, it could be in moments when the music needs to enter the room and it is not happening.
IMPO being a FQM is being the 4th section that helps to balance the 3 sections that are happening (or not) in a concert.
This could be even done by someone in the audience if she/he is available to act with presence and good will.
. . .
FQM ing is prayer in action.
It is a wish; it is love; it is trust.
It is an invitation to that which is highest, to silence, to the benevolence of the unseen world - - to invite music into the world.
It is connecting with the universal, beyond the personal, and holding space for the unity of the event to unfold.
FQM’s are the hosts in the house for the band on stage.
. . .
The FQManteiners are gentle guardians of the Performance Event.
They act as support between the musicians and the audience by listening, being present and available, inviting goodwill, sending best wishes to the participants of the performance.
On the outside, they don't appear to do anything, they aim to be as less invasive as possible, perhaps even invisible, but the quality of their work can be felt in the space of the performance.
By taking on the job of listening and being present, they might be an anchor or point of reference for someone, within the Band or the Audience, who at times can get lost in their contact with the Performance.
From where I am now, in my understanding of this job, what makes it special to me is that the FQM role is discharged at the liminal space of the exchange happening between musicians and audience in a performance. A privileged place where to be and witness.
At the threshold of two meeting worlds, the visible and the invisible, they guard points of this threshold, not forcefully or defensively, but with love and compassion, and this is a facilitation for Music to enter.
Working towards this role is a heart-filling, rewarding and never-ending process of learning.
. . .
My understanding of the FQM role, both as a person and as a team, is ever changing/evolving.
At the moment I see this peculiar group of people as an extension of the performer into the audience on one side, being an extension of the audience reaching the stage at the same time; facilitating in this way the interaction between the two entities while holding a call for Music.
Such a role is discharged on different levels, and some are more visible than others: the most visible being the “photo dissuading”, then up to the “witnessing while embracing” one, which is free from any external activity and therefore utterly invisible.
. . .
In my experience regarding FQM I did have some conceptual introduction for being FQM in several KC concerts in Southamerica 2019 (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago) and USA 2022 (Albany, Saratoga Park). There is not that much written about it and I got involved more from the side of the performance and the 7 principles involved. First one, "when people get together with music something remarkable happens", this is the presence of music. So if a performance is one active act that involves people in different roles: musician and audience coming together through the benevolence of music, there are also mediators for the transfer of subtle particles of sound and energy to make it possible: at a very subtle point, there is the mediation through the intentional sending of good will from people that are at the liminal zone in places between the audience and the performers and crews and staffs, and the space and time in which a particular performance takes place. The FQM are invisible pilars of the entrance of music in this world. With the attention directed into the body, music, audience and the the event as a whole one, the FQM are present as one conscious audience, listening with the hearth and with an open perception of the hole sacred moment, so that you can hear what is behind of music, so to say , what resides in silence, the 7th principle of the performance event.
. . .
The Four Quarter Maintainer is a space of its own, between the Performer and the Audience, in service to the Event.
If the Performer is the presenting (or, Active) agent, and the Audience is the receiving one (or, Receptive); then the FQM is the agent between, neither one nor the other but engaged with both, holding a clear Wish for Music to Manifest, in spite (or, perhaps, by way of) the shortcomings and limitations of Performers, Audients, venue, promoters, vendors, and all the rest.
On a practical level this means the FQMs must have an utterly reliable way to remain present, suspend personal opinion based on taste (so, likes and dislikes are irrelevant) and continue to send Good Will and act with Care and support towards the Event (this includes Performers and Audience).
In my experience, Four Quarter Maintaining is a way of Work.
FQMing is hard.
It’s also richly rewarding.
. . .
The FQM wishes to serve Music. In a single performance, there can be as many performances as there are participants, including each of the members of the audience. The FQM regards the band with care and awareness. Being within the audience, an FQM senses the multitude and the individual and all the variations in between. And the FQM does this for the duration of the performance with all the transformations that take place from one moment to the next, from one piece of music to the next.
Within this - and with an aim for good will for all - the FQM responds to necessity.
. . .
Readers of Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson by G. I. Gurdjieff will recognize a possible derivation of this term. One of the characters in the Tales, named Ashiata Shiemash, is eventually found worthy, as a result of conscious labor and intentional suffering, to become one of the “All-Quarter Maintainers” of the “enlarging world” created by “Our Common Father Endlessness.”
Luckily enough for those who undertake the task, Four Quarters Maintainers have more limited responsibilities. They attend a performance with the goal of facilitating, encouraging, enabling the audience to fulfill its role in the performance event. The performers are active – they perform. The audience is, more or less, receptive. If totally, ideally receptive, the performers have an opportunity to act as vehicles for the performance – the music, the drama, the dance, the spoken word.
If the performers are not prepared, not “on their game,” not fully available to the performance event for one reason or another (such as a belief that they, the performers, are the source of the performance rather than a medium for its enactment), the performance cannot realize its full potential. This is easy to see. It is harder, at least in contemporary Western culture, to see that same is true of the audience: if the audience is passive rather than receptive, if audients expect their attention to be drawn willy-nilly to the performance, if they allow or even seek out distractions during the performance, this limits what can happen in that time and place. The possible may be possible: the impossible, extremely unlikely.
Four Quarters Maintainers attempt to make themselves available to the performance in a receptive mode, complementing the attempt by the performers to make themselves available in an active mode. In the Guitar Circle, we recognize three aspects of availability: being present, maintaining radical neutrality, sending good will.
The most common way to verify that a Four Quarters Maintainer is indeed present at the event is the rotation of the limbs. I set an intention to maintain sensation in (proprioceptive contact with) one of my limbs. After a set time interval or when some aspect of the performance changes (the band starts a new tune, for instance), I move on to the next limb. The usual sequence is right arm / right leg / left leg / left arm. To challenge my attention further, I might skip a limb after each rotation, so that each sequence of four limbs begins on the next limb from the previous sequence.
Can I do all that, in the middle of a loud and noisy space full of loud and noisy people? Hardly at all. But if I hold this intention I might occasionally notice that I am not present, and attempt to become present again. The quality of my presence may not be perfectly consistent, but I will be more “here and now” than if I did nothing or if I just “tried to be present” without any set procedure to apply. Perhaps the quality of my presence will spread to those near me.
Radical neutrality is a quality of experience. Neutrality implies that I am not judging what is going on, either inside or outside the boundary of my skin. Radical means that my attention, my view, is from a different dimension. If “good” and “bad” are the ends of a line, a continuum, radical neutrality is not somewhere in the middle. It is nowhere at all on the good/bad line: on the same plane, but elsewhere.
If I am radically neutral, then my good will is not just hoping that things land on the “good” end of the continuum. It is, perhaps, something like wishing that this performance become fully itself. I might be able to recognize that without reference to my own personal ideas of good and bad.
. . .
From my experience, FQMs, in practice, serve as a bridge between the band and the audience and as messengers of a Quality.
In playing the role, a degree of presence of a different nature than the audience is required.
The audience has its focus mostly on the band and to a lesser degree on its surroundings. It is a primary degree of division of attention.
The band divides its attention (therefore its energy) on the Music, the Audience and the members of the band itself, which implies a higher degree of division of attention.
The FQMs in the music the band delivers, the audience and themselves, and to this they add the passing of Goodwill.
In an event with FQM fulfilling its aim, the degree of Presence in the room ensures a level of attention that, hopefully, helps the band to share a quality.
Put in a sentence: "FQMs distribute Goodwill, ultimately Love".
. . .
For me, the task of being a FQM is about intentionally bringing our attention into supporting the performance taking place.
I do this by intentionally listening to the music/performance taking place, while holding a sensation of my body: feet on the floor, my hands, what is below of me, what is above of me.
While doing this, I bring my intention to the middle of my chest, convening a sense of love and good will towards the people participating in the event: the performers, and the audience.
As much as I can, the best I can.
. . .
There are three functions of an FQM
• To Protect the musician
• To Protect the instruments
• To Protect the music that needs no protection
And there's more: During one of my travels with Robert soundscaping, in St. Louis, Missouri and elsewhere, I became an AQM - All Quarters Maintainer - where there are primarily two functions:
• To protect the musician prior to the performance by advising "in the event of an emergency - the exits are >>>"
• To listen
. . .
Sandra Bain Cushman
This morning—after reading Robert’s reports from the road culminating with Oct 1 —Covid, sewage leak, no windows—I began sending good wishes on the hour (as often as feeble I am able) in hopes that this final leg of what seems a grueling and demoralizing tour— at least in terms of health and travel—might be a tiny bit easier if another drop in the bucket of supporting energy were made available.
This morning, four days into the practice, I realize I am truly Four Quarter Maintaining when at 7:57, three minutes ahead of the beginning of the limb rotation, I feel my right hand twitch. Sure enough, I look at the clock and I’m on.
This to say the components of Maintaining, as I understand and experience it, are:
Intention: I am here and sending good wishes/positive energy to the event & performer.
Outside the space/time continuum: Here may be there, as it is this morning.
Presence: I cultivate the practices in my repertoire—in this case the limb rotation—to become “present to presence.” Wanting isn’t quite enough. Working is.
IN the Event Plus Some: When on the ground with Crimson, or at Glen Cove in the Circle (staff and buddies are often—always?— Four Quarter Maintainers) Yes, I am in my body. Yes I am listening to and enjoying the music. Yes I am listening/looking also toward Something Larger.
A wider field of awareness, in AT terms.
Something higher in Bennett terms.
Unity among all present and those present at a distance, living and dead? More like this.
Angels figure in, as they must since the Archangels are the original Maintainers.
Audience Craft: Is this in motion in a big new way in the Guitar Circle in order to foster Audience as Quarter Maintainers? Whatever will be possible when this is so!
. . .
Participating as FQM during the 2018 UK and 2019 European tours was as significant to me as many courses, and gave me a surge of energy and focus greater than most.
My initial understanding of the practice was formed in the Performance Craft sessions during Level 4. In addition, since being FQM on these Crimson tours, we've often employed the practice as a part of being in the audience for unrelated concerts, though obviously not as FQM but as audience member.
To some extent there seemed to be an understanding that the role of FQM was "camera police". I'm resistant to this, for reasons I'll go into below.
Firstly, there was a strong temptation to be a smart-arse and reply to the question "what does the FQM do?" with the reply "Nothing". Given that "nothing" has a special meaning within GC, and is quite different from "nothing at all". But nobody likes a smart-arse, and I can testify to that.
At a practical, exoteric, level, there's what I told people who asked: I said that I was there on behalf of the band to report on the concert from the audience without the distraction of being a member of the crew. I'm confident that every part of that statement is technically true. People seemed to think this was a good idea. I had the impression that the DGM team liked the idea of there being representatives in the audience, but this might have been a projection on my part. It was interesting to be a Customer Representative for the band - occasionally people would see the laminate, come up and ask questions, which I would attempt to answer as best I could. One gentleman at Basel asked if I could request for the bells to stop, and I told him I could put it in my report. Which I did. And lo, the bells did not stop.
At the next level, I quickly deduced that the first job of the FQM was to work out what the job of the FQM was. While the Camera Police role is attractive - it's a practical, interactive thing one can do, with a clear objective - it sat badly with me for a number of reasons, primarily that I don't have the personal skills to do it without offending anyone (there are supposed to be trained professionals available who do have those skills) and that we were specifically instructed not to do it. Rather, it was more to do with attention. Though very few instructions were given, those that were related to exercises that are intended to increase presence - from this, I concluded that the role of the FQM might be to be present within the audience. Perhaps I was told that very thing in those very words, but they went flying over my head as so much wisdom does.
At this, mesoteric, level, perhaps one might sum it up as "If there are people among the audience who are participating consciously in the performance event in a shared purpose with the performance team and the support team, perhaps that presence and intention might spread". It is difficult to assert that one is doing something because it might have a particular effect, but if one asserts that it will have that effect, then one is introducing expectation, which is contradictory to the spirit of the event. It is sufficient to wholeheartedly act in the hope that the intention will increase.
The following level is the one I'm finding difficulty writing about - towards the esoteric levels of the practice, as it were. Some shows were more satisfying as an FQM than others. The ones that were most satisfying were those with smaller teams, who were more focused on quietness and attention. With larger teams there was more of a tendency for the event to become a social occasion - I'm not suggesting that these two positions are inevitably contradictory, but my state of being is such that it's very easy for the quietness to be disrupted by the sociability. It was, of course, nice to see those people. But once one is in a position of being this person, I find it very difficult to not be the person, and thus I find it difficult to observe without judgement, and it did seem to me that that was a part of the role.
This need to be without judgement - that is to say, without like-and-dislike - is another reason I found the Camera Police role difficult, as I began to see what was going on - it was the manifestation of energy without a discipline of focus. I came to this conclusion after noting that explosions of phone-raising would happen during periods of intensity - Schizoid, most particularly, but also parts of Starless. Given that Crimson is a band that doesn't look much different to the cold eye of the camera during periods of intensity than during less intense parts of the show, it seemed reasonable to conclude that the phone-raising was a response to the available energy given that it was impractical to dance. Schizoid, in particular, would sometimes have forests of raised phones, and the more phones (that is to say, the less restrained the outpouring of energy), the wilder the performance tended to be - the outpouring of energy worked both ways. But that was a particularly Schizoid thing - not really appropriate for anything else.
By contrast, the role of the FQM seemed to be to receive the energy in a controlled way and focus it as attention on the performance (the performance being more than the band and the sounds they were making). Which also contains a reaction to camera-policing: If we are where our attention is, and if a performance is something that happens when an audience focuses their attention at a point; and if our role is to consciously marshall and organise our attention by being present, why would we put that energy into those elements of the event that are disruptive and deleterious to the event? Surely that would energise them and give them an identity they did not deserve.
Getting to here, though, I have a lot of flowery words that I'm not sure I can trust, cynical old lizard that I am: The FQM form a net of shared intention with the band to hold the space and contain attention-energy generated by people who are untrained in it, that they might benefit from the focus. This is a job that should be done by the performance space but often isn't. They are up there radiating (or emanating - I can get those confused) and rather than send it out into the darkness, we are there to catch it and hold it in place. Ideally.
. . .
The FQM role is that of a reliable presence wishing for music to be heard.
Being present, a quality listener, free of judgement. Holding a sense of good will, receptiveness and wholeness, welcoming Music to enter.
FQMs trust and/or know that music can change the world. And, that an event coming to life might be life-changing, redirecting.
Audients might also be holding this role, as described, from their seat. They might, might not. A FQM will.
(Historically, the FQM-ing has included a variety of tasks to protect the space, the performers, the audience, depending on the particularities of each event, as for example dissuading particular audients from disruptive behaviour such as taking photos, holding a door open for a performer to step on stage, and so on.)