Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Friday 21 March 2003

Hotel Quite Acceptable, Vancouver.


We arrived at Denver International Airport, four hours ahead of flight departure. With only carry-on baggage, we were checked-in and through security in 45 minutes, except for MJK Tour Manager whose passport was on the Crewbus. MJK flew to Seattle to join the Crewbus driving up from Denver through to Vancouver.

Out of Hotel Quite Acceptable, onto the van taking us to DIA, the band were all well-bummed (to adopt American-speak) that we didn't get to play with SCI last night. Losing one show was not-quite-careless - it was the worst snowstorm in 100 years, after all. But to lose a shot to play with SCI was too hard.

A straightforward flight to Vancouver & then a van to Hotel Quite Acceptable. I note that United no longer serve bubbling solution to their 1K flyers on internal flights within the US. I view this as a cruel economy.

One point from Denver: I visited the Tattered Cover bookshop at the end of 16th. Street and noticed Rupert Sheldrake's new book - The Sense of Knowing When Someone Is Looking At You: and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (close rendering). I haven't read the book but the fundamental premise, as indicated in the title, I take as a given. This is part of what I register onstage & is a main reason why I should be doing other work, like Guitar Craft, where this sensibility is not only necessary, valuable & useful: this sensibility is widely acknowledged, recognized & experienced within the Guitar Craft community. A deeper form of this is referred to as points of seeing - direct insights that do not require justification nor explanation.

On the other hand, King Crimson is on a roll. For my part, I feel honoured that musicians of Pat, Trey & Adrian's calibre are prepared to work with me. The reviews of the live shows would also suggest that we are doing something useful. The production team & crew are supportive in a way I have never known (the historical position is a different & interesting subject, but this is not the time for as & why). The hotels & traveling are now much better than they have ever been.

When performance happens, it is wonderful. But so many of our shows are undermined. It is astonishing to read online comments from characters who seem to be proud that they have bootlegged the show, or got a photograph. Why be proud of contributing to a crippled performance? And much of life-on-the-road is a personal ordeal, notably the constant sense of loss, missing my Wife.

So, the larger Crim issue under consideration is sustainability. How to keep Crimson moving forward when audiences are small, yet larger audiences have very different performance practices - I have the right to make inappropriate demands because I have parted with my hard-earned pay and that makes them appropriate. I accept there are different approaches to performance practice and, where they are consensual, entirely valid. I also accept that I'm not easy to work with, even "miserable" to quote Trey, and probably in the wrong line of work.

En passant, several incoming e-mails suggest that it is better for me not to aim for a happy condition. "Do the right thing", they say. My correspondents need have no fear. A desire-to-be-happy is not likely to govern the direction of my life anytime soon, but satisfaction in my work is a need. It goes something like this --

happy > unhappy;

Being stuck in like and dislike, and needing to "be happy", isn't much of a life; although being happy from time to time, as a treat, helps to keep the animal behaving itself.

Satisfaction, as a quality, is the proper state of "mastery"; alternatively, a taste of what is available to those that persist. In acting rightly, one is "happy" whether one is happy or not.

Joy is the proper state of "genius", however we might understand that. Fortunately, joy sometimes comes to us, unbidden, perhaps to let us know what is natural to the proper condition of the human being; perhaps to sustain our aspiration.


Although I have no authority, I give myself permission to have authority in the affairs of my own life. If someone wishes to comment usefully on those affairs, better they have an equal, comparable or, preferably, greater authority.

When we recognise in someone a "greater authority" to our own, wise to seek them out & ask for their advice and guidance: we are recognising in them the potential to be/become an instructor, perhaps even a teacher. This recognition on our part may trigger, catalyse and/or facilitate the capacity in them. If we approach them and demand instruction/teaching, we may set in motion a course of events that enable the latent/potential to become actual; even when the prospective instructor has the intelligence to decline.

Where I lack a comparable or equal authority, may I have the wit to remain quiet & the restraint to keep my opinions to myself. If I have the temerity, audacity or arrogance to make uninformed comment, and I am unable to hold my opinions in check, better that I share them with those of equal or comparable cluelessness. Perhaps on Elephant Talk, for example.

At noon I had coffee with Bill Rieflin, who is in town to record the new REM album. Friends of Bill's quality are rare. In life, one friend of this quality is necessary for us all; more than one is getting lucky. I feel favoured. The best I could say of myself as a person is the quality of my friends. The very best that I could claim as a working player is the quality of musicians that allow me to work with them.

Bill's comments and insights are considered, and based on wide experience. We had a wide-ranging conversation that touched on many issues that are in front of the mature professional musician.

This tour is a turning point for Crimson.




There is a small discussion on the Krimson-News Guestbook. An English character disputes Fripp's "supernatural" abilities to detect recorders in performances. Other characters comment on how and why this might be possible.

One way of putting this: I sense intent & intentionality. Sometimes this is simply a knowing; sometimes, especially where the intentionality is directed towards/against me, a feeling. Very rarely, where the intention carries toxicity (as in jealousy or anger) it makes me ill.

Within Crimson & during some performances, I have had telepathic & psychic experiences. There is nothing exceptional about this. Guitar Craft is much hotter in the "supernatural" department. And, as with just about everyone else, I have had "experiences" of the unusual kind, including precognitive dreams. My mother attributed her own psychic and intuitive sense to her Welsh blood. And any bona fide practice will develop "psychic" abilities, with the accompanying information that they are a mostly a distraction from the practice.

If a person has no experience of this kind, the only proof is the experiencing of them. "Air doesn't exist because I have never seen it" to quote Bill Rieflin. My own approach, when presented with new and/or unusual ideas, is to accept them as if they were true, and apply them. If they don't hold up for me, then they may or may not be true, but they don't hold for me. So, I engage in the spirit of critical goodwill. Unless I enter a practice, or discipline, and apply myself on its own terms, then my opinion isn't worth much.

Ken Wilber's name occurs in the Guestbook discussion. K Baldy Wilber presents a very good general picture & overview of, well, just about everything. He looks for generalizing principles that are widely agreed between traditions & schools & argues that, in any practice whether scientific or "spiritual", the process of acquiring knowledge & understanding is the same and works by --

injunction (instruction)

application (doing the work)


The acknowledgement, or approval, of the apprentice's work, is by a community of "the adequate". "Adequate" is Wilber's word. I prefer "competent". Those who have done the work recognise its effects in others.

Any practice or discipline over a period of years will inevitably develop capacities that may well appear "supernatural" to those who haven't applied themselves in the same way. These "supernatural" abilities are better described as being natural, but only "naturally" available to those who have done the work - those who have practiced & developed & refined their entirely "natural" capacities. Martial arts' masters are uncannily able to sense when they are about to be "attacked". Exceptional group players are able to intuit the moves & intentions of other group members - as if by magic. Exceptional musicians & composers somehow have contact with the directing power of music, as if it were a living presence speaking directly to them, giving guidance & instruction.

None of this I consider supernatural: it merely appears so to someone, like myself, who lacks that developed talent. Paganini was in league with the Devil, right? Otherwise how could he have played violin as he did? Surely it had nothing to do with 17 hours of practising a day? Let us note: we may or may not have innate talent: what we lack is the development.

When I was 17 & 18, a member of The (first) League of Gentlemen with Tino, Gord, Stan & Reg, a bravura showcase guitar piece of the time (1965/6) was Orange Blossom Special, made famous by The Sputniks. (This story of "the young Fripp" was told to Guitar Player by Al Stewart, c. 1995). The record had been speeded up, which I didn't know at the time. It was playable, but very difficult. It was only playable, however, if the guitarist had a particular & specific technique, one that was a well-practiced part of their calisthenic. For a very short time (one gig at The Cellar Club in Poole) I was in a band formed at the behest of Bill N., another guitarist in the Bournemouth-Poole area. Bill sat down & explained to me, with a practical demonstration, how it was impossible for a guitarist to play Orange Blossom Special. Bill showed me his rolling right-hand picking, his stumbling left hand fingers. And Bill was right: it was impossible for a guitarist to play Orange Blossom Special - if the guitarist were Bill N. That is, if the guitarist didn't have (primarily) a right hand technique that was sufficient and/or adequate to meet the demands of the piece, the piece was impossible.

This is an example of physical functionality. Intuitive & instinctive "functionalities" are the same, but different. The verification is available, but only to those with experience ("adequate" even if not quite "competent") in that field. Developed instinctive & intuitive capacities may have features that seem to be (maybe even are) "psychic".

In any bona fide way, students are usually informed that psychic experiences are more often a distraction to, even an inevitable by-product of, their practising. Professional training does not, as far as I know, commonly address work with "energies"; whereas in any way of craft, this is fundamental. Experiencing the energies of thinking, feeling & the sensation of being alive inside a body, economising the expenditure of those energies, stilling & directing & blending them, is the foundation work of any craft. "Experiences" may have their value, particularly if we don't dwell on them and merely allow them their place. Some students do have psychic acuities & gifts, and for some this is to be practiced as a speciality; in the same way that a musical talent may be practised on guitar, in composition, in teaching, in record production, each a specialist area. This then becomes a question that is specific to the student, and dependent on them finding a suitable instructor.

Little of this is unusual, little of this is supernatural. In my own field, in which I have long & wide experience, the benefit of instruction by several people with greater expertise & experience than my own, and an ongoing practice for several decades, little in my life is arbitrary. So, I give myself permission to accept that my experience is valid; that is, in my own life & concerns, I accept my experience as authoritative. If Bill N would like to argue that my experience is not possible, then I accept that Bill's experience is authoritative in his own life & my experience is imaginary - for Bill N. Similarly, you can't tell someone who is clueless that they are clueless. If they knew they were clueless, they wouldn't be clueless. More accurately, the beginning of knowledge is to know our cluelessness. Then, we move to knowing through different degrees of cluelessness. But the double negative of clueless-clueless is not a positive, and Elephant Talk gives many & regular & ongoing examples of this.

Before Bill Rieflin arrived at Sen5es Café of Beastliness, I found myself imagining possible future KC music.