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Entries in P.D. Ouspensky (1)

Friday
May182012

The Wine of Silence

The Gods Blow a Storm Over LiJiang (12 x 9 W/C on Yupo)

The sky was a matchless blue today (but painters demand more complex skies such as the above image or The Guardian’s 10 Best Skies in Art) though as I make this observation I am cloistered in an underground studio-lair listening to Pie Jesu from Robert Fripp's new recording - a rapturous experience that you also may enjoy.

The Wine of Silence – the Orchestrated Soundscapes of Robert Fripp – is a collaboration between Fripp, Andrew Keeling and David Singleton, with transcriptions by California Guitar Trio-ist Bert Lams. The recording was publicly released April 30 and was followed with a live performance by the Dutch Metropole Orkest and the Crouch End Festival Chorus in Amsterdam May 6.

The recording has been reviewed, inter alia, by John Kelman in All About Jazz.

Robert Fripp is acknowledged for his New Standard Tuning and crosspicking guitar technique and as a foundational member and continuous force in the progressive rock band King Crimson.

For 45 years Fripp has collaborated, performed and recorded with so many fine musicians we cannot begin to list them here.  He also enjoys an immensely creative solo career that just seems to be ever-expanding and all the more uniquely self-defining as time goes by.

Fripp encourages active listening and we have been deeply interested, engaged, and moved by his music for more than three decades. Some thanks are due. The mandate he's affixed to his record label, Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) is "to connect music, musician and audience in a way that supports the power of music, the integrity of the musician and the needs of the audience." In many ways, including by taking ownership control over his own body of work (no easy thing in the conglomerate music industry) Fripp has been on the leading edge of the curve.

Above the Wires (12 x 9 watercolours on Yupo)The title of this new recording, The Wine of Silence, is taken from an observation attributed to Fripp: “Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.”

And it finds root in the 1970s Frippertronics initiative where Fripp began to use a pair of reel-to-reel tape recorders standing side by side. The tape ran from the supply reel of one machine to the take-up reel of the other and the audio of the second machine was routed back causing the delayed signal to repeat while new audio was layered on top.

In the 1990s he tweaked the Frippertronics system by incorporating new digital electronic technologies, naming the result Soundscapes.

Pie Jesu, for example, was composed around 1994 and laid down on guitar in the Soundscapes releases of 1997.

Later, Bert Lams transcribed Fripp’s guitar on Pie Jesu – every frigging NST note. Those transcriptions were then meticulously scored for orchestra and chorus by Andrew Keeling, and performed by musicians of the Metropole Orkest, after which the whole thing was ingested into the DGM lab where an additional sonic patina was added by Fripp and producer David Singleton.

I am no music critic. But I believe human endeavour in the sonic sphere, like our work with words and pigments, either invokes our best attention and response or it doesn’t. Often, our job as audience is to simply get out of our own way so that the intrinsic nature of the work can be best realized. With effort, and sometimes a bit of luck or practice, the encounter that occurs between us and the artwork is at the level of our innermost self. And when that happens we may be transformed, made richer for the experience, as is the case with The Wine of Silence.

We met Robert Fripp on 28 March 1983. I know this because Robert keeps meticulous records. I’d interviewed him for a newspaper story where he outlined the technique and wider purpose of Frippertronics. Later, he gave a public demonstration of the project and the audience had a chance to ask questions. As we were leaving the theatre he poked his head from the stage door and beckoned us with his finger and a whisper: “David ...”

We were aware of The Work Robert had undertaken at the International Academy for Continuous Education at Sherborne in the UK after the early iteration of King Crimson split-up. This was, for lack of a better way of saying it, spiritual work with John G. Bennett, who was continuing the Fourth Way tradition of G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky.

Clouds over Beaver Creek (12 x 9 W/C on Yupo)

With the passage of time we've indeed come to see Robert Fripp as bit of a modern alchemist. And the thing about  alchemy, converting lead into gold, is that the process is passed down through the generations. The secret is available if you want it badly enough. And, to continue the alchemical analogy, the phases of the magistere: separation, calcification, iosis etc – these are actually a way of describing the inner transmutation and refining of the alchemist himself. The process of making and re-making solutions, crystallizings, menstruums, tinctures, smeltings, sublimations and burnings is not simply an outward transformation of the elements, it describes an inside job.

Recently I was going through a bookshelf and there was a 1st Edition UK copy of Ouspensky's book The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution which I’d picked up long ago. Rather than re-shelve it, it went in a parcel. I gather it now occupies just the perfect spot beside other Ouspenskys and Bennetts on an old set of mahogany shelves at DGM Central. And I imagine its' spine looks out onto a broad vista that is neither matchless blue, starless, nor Bible black, but evermore self-realizing, self-forgetting, and Golden.