Robert Fripp: guitarist
John Sinks: FOH sound, sound technician
The earlier soundscape CDs have presented the music as live
performances, as a series of improvisations and responses to the
moment. On this album we have compiled and edited the soundscapes,
using them as musical materials fashioned in real time. So,
although the music is taken from live performances, it would not
have sounded like this in any one performance - although it might
A Ton Prob Production by Robert Fripp & David Singleton for
Discipline Global Mobile.
Digital editor and mastering engineer: David Singleton
Cover picture: Orange over Cadmium Yellow by John Miller who,
contrary to common practice in the art world, owns the copyright in
his work. Design ©1996 Bill Smith Studio
Creative lounge music, without the threat of a catchy tune to
invade the brain.... The Wire
The final track, A Time To Die, comes as a reward to the patient
listener. Seemingly more 'conventionally' structured, it's a
beautiful piece of dreamy, modern classical music.... Rock 'n'
No one could ever accuse Robert Fripp of pandering to the
masses.... Total Guitar
The solo Soundscapes were supported at all the performances by Los
Gauchos Allemanes. As in the Californian Soundscape tour of January
1995, where the California Guitar Trio were supporting, Los Gauchos
were encouraged to "blow me off". Those generous members of the
public who have read the liner notes to "A Blessing of Tears" might
recall that: "I would come onstage and play for some 20 - 30
minutes the kind of whirring, bleeping and droning sounds, a
selection of which are presented on this record. Then the
(generally polite and patient) audience would gratefully embrace
something more recognisably musical from ..." during this week, Los
The Buenos Aires Guitar Craft Circle, and Crafties from
elsewhere in Argentina, provided substantial help and assistance
throughout the week. This included busking the queue before the
shows, busking the foyer after the shows, and joining myself and
Los Gauchos in the middle part of the performance to surround a
sizeable proportion of the audience and test its patience,
generosity of spirit and listening capacities.
Musicians will find support in the community if they provide music
which is either needed or wanted.
The current dominant strategy of the music industry is to
persuade the public to want a particular piece of music. This is
the hard sell. Typically, the artist is engaged in a series of
promotional events, such as interviews and personal
My own view is that Soundscapes aren't much in the way of a
product line which accommodates itself to a hard sell. As a
musician, I am unable to perform where the performance is only a
piece of promotion: this degrades the performance in a subtle way,
insults the audience and humiliates the performer. As a
professional musician, I am prepared to pretend to powerful
creatures of the industry that a performance is promotional. But
when I believe it, music will have died inside me.
And it seems rather silly that I should undertake a series of
interviews when I have nothing to say; and when 26 years of
interviews, two King Crimson Box Set Scrapbooks, numerous lengthy
articles and several books provide readily available answers to
almost all the questions which are ever asked of me.
Another approach, and a soft sell, is to allow the music to
speak for itself. Then, the music reaches its audience gently over
whatever period of time it has value or significance. Not all
conversations are best carried out by shouting. This approach
assumes an informed, alert and enquiring audience; that is, an
audience a musician would wish to have. Simply, the music protects
itself, its performer and its audience.
Soundscapes continue to surprise, excite, educate and instruct me.
They are quite amazing. They have the characteristic of being true
to the moment in which they are performed. That is, they honour
this key principle: act in accordance with time, place and
Towards the end of the week at the Goethe Institute, Soundscapes
were developing in a way which was beginning to alarm me. The
audiences in Argentina have been as generous and supportive as any
I have known anywhere the world, and more than most. As the week
unfolded its surprises, I began to be concerned that the generosity
of the audience was being tested. This is an unfamiliar music,
improvised, presented without guarantees, sometimes unpleasant and
often very hard to listen at, to and through. It is not a music
which of itself would claim to be entertaining. Rather, it presents
challenges to both performer and audience.
I resisted the way in which the Soundscapes were developing,
while noticing and acknowledging that this was the way, but went
with them. Saturday night was the evening when Soundscapes had
moved on, to where you may hear on "Radiophonics": it was
When, as punters, we buy a ticket to see a musician we often know
some of their professional history; we assume a measure of
competence and experience, some training (whether formal or
informal) and a sufficient ability.
What may the musician assume of the audience's training,
facility and experience in listening?
Clearly, there are different qualities of performance. Equally
clearly, there are different qualities of listening. Simply, what
we hear is the quality of our listening.
Without attention, we fail to hear what is being played: we hear
what we believe is being played. This is automatic listening: we
listen AT the music. If our interest is aroused, or attracted, then
we may shake hands with the music: we listen TO the music. If we go
beyond this, by making the decision to listen THROUGH the music, we
invite it into ourselves. Conscious listening is where we stand
face to face with music; creative listening is when the music and
audience get married - music listens to itself through the ears of
the audience, from which it is not apart.
It is unnecessary, for deeper listening, that we like the music.
Actually, it is easier to listen when the music is challenging or
unfamiliar: our ears are free of seduction. The practical issue,
then, is our attention span. Attention does not develop by
accident. The greater our capacity to pay attention, the greater
our possibility to enter the world of music. Or, to put this
another way, the greater the possibility of the world of music
To be a listener, to become a member of an audience, requires as
much training as to become a musician. Listening is active, and our
instrument is the ears. How we use our ears is part of the craft of
Music MUST be heard to become real.
A musician of any experience is aware, often painfully so, that few
audiences cohere to the point of being a unified audience. In any
audience, different worlds of listening capacity and hearing
competence are present simultaneously.
The atmosphere which surrounds a performance is a subtle
envelope which protects the musical event unfolding within it. The
energy which is generated in the performance is contained, and
intensifies. Then, the performance may shift and lift, and become a
very different quality of event.
The audience may, or may not, be an audience. An audience is
single, a whole body of people using two ears. A dispersed,
fractured audience is a crowd.
Each member of the audience hears their own world of hearing.
Within the audience, these different worlds impinge upon each other
and interpenetrate. So, in my own solitary deafness, I hear very
little of your world of deeper listening. But as it opens to you,
it also becomes available to me, and I may find myself suddenly
within it. Once I enter this clearer place, I hear with different
ears: actually, I am listening through yours. Then, this world of
deeper listening grows stronger from my presence within it. In a
sense, my discovery of this world re-creates it, and it continues
to be in continuous creation for as long as I am able to remain
The subtle atmosphere which surrounds a performance is easily
damaged. It is maintained by the contributory presence of the
audience and performers and, I must say, the muse. (Hence the
aphorism: you can't take the muse out of music). Any act which
violates the integrity of the performance punctures the atmosphere
and prevents the performance from achieving its potential. In our
performance culture many violations, small and great - such as
unauthorised photography and recording - are widespread and
Where the artist has clearly asked the audience to refrain from
trying to capture the event and nail it to the earth, bootlegging
(however well-intentioned) is a violation. It is not innocent and
offers violence to the performance, artist and other members of the
audience. The bootlegger, or surreptitious photographer, place
themselves outside the performance and the world in which the
performance has value. Then, they are no longer present to the
performance. This disrupts the atmosphere and limits the
possibilities otherwise available.
Up to a point, the performance is handicapped. Beyond a point,
the performance dies. This is written from experience.
Expectation is inevitable. It is also a prison. It has the
characteristic that we neither hear what we expect to hear, nor
what is available to be heard. Unless we are able to hold our
expectations lightly, and then drop them, we fail to enter the
present moment in which the performance unfolds. If we are
fortunate enough to enter this moment, we discover it is the
eternal moment in which all performance is present.
Those of you kind enough to have read this far may, or not, have a
sufficient interest to read much of the large and growing library
relating to theories of and commentaries upon performance, the
philosophy of music, musical semiotics, the anthropology of music,
the psychology of music, the sociology of music, the politics of
music, the business of music, the physics of sound, the physiology
of hearing, the creation of environmental soundscapes, noise
pollution, the function of music, music of different cultures,
music sacred and profane, the history of music, music of the
conservatory and of the vernacular, even formal musical texts,
music criticism and analysis, and textbooks of ear training,
harmony and composition.
I have yet to find, in a wide reading over many years, much
which approaches the subtleties of performance which are the focus
and concern of my own life as a performer. Very little academic
literature, while sometimes sharing the same questions, addresses
the finer points of my experience. It is probably impossible to
prove a subtle action to (even) an enquiring and sceptical audient.
This is because subtle action doesn't "exist" in any easily
measurable way, or even "exist" at all. Fortunately it is possible,
and much easier, to experience the realities and qualities of
performance than to provide proof of them. The experiencing is
direct and immediate; it is always available, providing we are
available to the performance.
Guitar Craft, for example, is one approach which aims to make
available direct experience of the musical world to anyone, of
whatever level of experience, who is prepared to make an effort to
be available to music.
We assume that our artists see things directly and then, through
their art, convey to us their insight and their act of seeing. We
demand of our artists honesty, and hope for clarity. Their
rationalisations and explanations are not as compelling. If any
culture is to be healthy, and vital, the opportunity to see through
our artists' eyes and hear through their ears is a necessity. But
it is not a necessity that we give attention to how our artists
rationalise their seeing.
A poet presents their poem, not an essay on what the poem might
mean. The listening public who attends live performances may, by
consulting their own experience, judge whether any of these remarks
resonanate for them.
These comments are presented by a guitarist and aspiring
musician, and I apologise to any who are offended by them.
Any culture whose artists are directed or controlled by commercial
interests is in mortal danger.
The people of Argentina have been exceptionally kind to me, far
more so than I deserve, and the generality of the Argentinean press
have made exceptionally generous comments. There have also been two
negative reviews of Soundscape performances, coincidentally both
from reviewers who arrived at the theatres accompanied by
photographers who were not admitted.
Sr. Federico Monjeau, the reviewer and lecturer upon
contemporary music, reviewed the Monday performance at the Goethe
Institute for the Buenos Aires Clarin of Saturday 8th. April. Sr.
Monjeau considered that Fripp's "rigidity and control are not at
the service of musical impulses" and concluded that "so much
discipline and control seem to be an end in itself rather than a
way to achieve an innovative music... Even though they may seem
different, there is something in these Soundscapes which still
resembles the primitive synthesisers of so-called symphonic rock,
with those held chords which once seemed justified by a fascination
with technology but which today appear unbearably vulgar".
Sr. Monjeau kindly and generously overlooks my other many
weaknesses. Following the publication of Sr. Monjeau's review we
promised to present the public of Buenos Aires with an opportunity
to confirm his view, assuming their sufficient interest. The
Soundscapes on this record, although five days later in the series,
meets this commitment.
We perceive our perceptions. That is, what we hear is the
quality of our listening. We can only understand to the extent of
our understanding. Similarly, the reviewer reviews themself. Some
critics are able to see into the heart of a performance and present
their seeing: objective, impartial, unbiased and clean. These are
good friends to the performer.
These comments were written at the Claymont Mansion, Charles Town,
West Virginia, during the fourth Guitar Craft (Application &
Assimilation) course, during August 25 - 30th., 1995.
I have been involved in the Claymont project, in various ways,
for nearly 21 years. This property was home to the early Guitar
Craft courses, beginning in March 1985, for which I am deeply
grateful. Claymont was a great place to make mistakes, and an even
better place to learn from them. For this I am especially
At the final meeting of GC (A&A) IV, at 21.53 local time and
shortly before the completion of the course, I announced the formal
conclusion of my relationship with Claymont.
Evocative and challenging Soundscape
From Andrew Mather of LANCASHIRE, England on 8/22/2007.
Decent Collection of Sounds and Moods
From Joseph McFarland of Manassas, Virginia on 12/8/2005.
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