Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp's Diary

Tuesday 12 February 2002

Guitar Craft Levels 1 & 2+ - St. Vincent de Paul Circle V Ranch, Santa Barbara, California


Rising at 06.00 to a chilly morn. The water was hot, here in Director Lodge and up the slope from the meeting cabins, but only after a very cold spirtle that brought the animal closer to life.

08.15  A full sitting withy roaring fire: this is a first. Also a first: the posting of the Guitar Craft House Rules on the notice board. These are called at the first meal, prior to the formal & official beginning of a course at the Inaugural Meeting. But, never before printed and posted.  

Guitar Craft House Rules
St. Vincent de Paul Circle V Ranch
Santa Barbara, California
Monday 11th. February, 2002

Nothing is compulsory, but some things are necessary.

No judgements are made: we accept you as you arrive.

There is no mistake save one, the failure to learn from a mistake.

Conditions are often uncomfortable, but usually acceptable.

Some people here will irritate you.
Don’t worry: you will also be irritating them.

You are not asked to accept any direction that violates conscience.

You are not asked to passively accept any idea that is presented to you.

Rather, you are invited to test ideas you find surprising, to establish the veracity of those ideas, or not, for yourself.

You are encouraged to adopt a position of healthy skepticism, while participating in a spirit of goodwill.

Please stay within the boundary of the facility for the duration of the course.

If you require something, please ask the House Manager.

Be on the course, to the degree that you are able to honorably bear.
For example, listen to the music generated within the course; telephone when necessary, or when useful.

Drug use is incompatible with participation in Guitar Craft.
Although nothing is compulsory, this is necessary.

If Robert considers that any person’s continuing participation is detrimental to either that person, or the course as a whole, Robert may ask that person to leave.

If any of this is unacceptable, you are free to leave with a full refund prior to the beginning of the course.

If you decide to stay, you are asked to stay for the duration of the course.

In part, this is a response to the conduct of Riff Slinger in Italy, he of the many notes when one is probably already too many. But, nothing is compulsory – after all, you don’t have to get drunk and drive off the road when returning to a Guitar Craft house from playing hooky, after drinking 3 bottles of wine over pizza.

Riff Slinger’s loss of the course was a great disappointment. There was a day or two in Sassoferrato when I was hoping we were bringing Riff S into the course. Even, I changed the shape of the Level One to draw him in. But, we accept people as they are: no blame. But to see a basically good character refuse to engage with what is on offer in Guitar Craft is a hard one to witness.

Now, meetings with the Kitchen Team at 08.45, Level Two at 09.15 & Level One at 10.00.

11.31  The Kitchen Team is not of a sufficient size to match the size of the course. So, I have expressed my concern that the KT works hard, but not too hard. One of the Team asked for a definition of “too hard”. I offered three in response to the comments of the meeting: 

1.         Two steps beyond hard, rather than one;
2.         When determination becomes “grim determination”.
3.         When we lose a sense of ourselves.

Patrick Smith, who is God in the kitchen, showed the Kitchen Craft left hand position, the position that protects the left hand when sharp knives are involved.

Debra K. referred to Elizabeth Bennett’s subtle form of giving advice. Elizabeth would audibly take a breath when a Guitar Craft circle began its work, suggesting perhaps that the players might like to breathe as well. The Guitar Craft aphorism relevant here is: Breathing is optional. Debra was not sure how many people present knew who Elizabeth was. RF suggested that wherever Guitar Craft goes, Elizabeth is never far away.

The Team are circulating limbs on the hour between 09.00 and 19.00. There is no end to the depth this can go within our lifetime.

Level Two: we began by bringing part of our attention to the soles of the feet; then to the top of the head; then to what is in between. Circulations, with some sequences moving in 4 and over each 5th. seat. In the number of players in the circle, this meant that there were 17 bars of 4 before the sequence began again. No-one had seemed to notice this, so notes appeared as if by surprise rather than having the capacity to be accurately forecast ahead of time. So, this counting was available to visual display in the mind’s eye. Listening to our note was also recommended. Also, passing notes with Smiles attached. The faces were particularly grim. At the end of the circulating, we began playing a note three times, passing it on the first. Work for the morning: moving sequentially around the circle in G major through two octaves, beginning on the low G.

Debra, who sat in on all three meetings, is concerned with the question: where is music? By extension, how does music enter our world, and specifically the Guitar Craft world?

Level One: the arrangement of the space settled on an ellipse, along topographical lines. An interesting topology, and not precisely spherical, but functional nevertheless. Forty students sitting in a room not quite large enough for 40 players in a circle, so the Alexander teachers didn’t have enough room to pass behind the chairs. We began by bringing part of the attention to the palm of the hand; then to the back of the hand: then inside the hand; then into the thumb and each of the fingers in turn. Then, to the whole of the right hand.

Next, the exercise was given: choose one note, any note. Do not play this note, choose this note. This one note of your choice may be the first intentional note you have played for a week. When ready, begin. And the Choir of the Single Notes struggled into existence. This Choir was relatively musical, and would have expired after about 4 minutes without prompting and encouragement. Then, we moved to to circulating. The first pass was rough of timbre, so the suggestion was made: pass this gift to your friend on the left. Nothing is compulsory, but listening to your note is encouraged. There were difficulties playing sequences of 4 circulating notes moving over the 5th. seat. So, we practiced clapping instead of playing a note, the clapping passing over the 5th. seat. Then, we practiced counting to 4 without passing over a seat. Finally we began to address the functioning of the left hand: fingertips touching & depressing the third string in the 7th. position, noticing how little effort & energy is required to stop the string. The Mentoring Buddies were introduced – Curt, Bert, Paul & Tony – to assist the Level One as they saw necessary & useful.

Leaving, RF asked: if you believed that the future of music entering our world depended upon you alone, would anything change?

14.02  The Level Two at  12.15 successfully completed an ascending & descending G major into two octaves but failed to get through the sequence a second time. Then we moved to contrary motion: G low, F# high, A low, E high, and so on. This was difficult and not yet quite successfully achieved.

If music wished to enter our world, it would require a vehicle. One necessary condition of that vehicle is competence, at least.

Very good comments at lunchtime. Tom Redmond & Tony Geballe joined me on the top table. A feature of sitting at the top table, for those who have not previously been on courses, might appear to be the availability of more food. Actually, one of the features of life on the top table is to be available to questions. So, who had a question for Tom and/or Tony? Following several spurious & good natured questions, the first proper question:

What is the nature of refusal?

And following from this, is a refusal always a stingy act? Can a refusal be generous? This was asked by a newcomer to Guitar Craft, on her first course, and carried with it a sense of both reality & necessity. This was not a question which came from curiosity, nor mere interest, nor the whirring of cognitive wheels. This was, and is, a real question and continues to return to me.

Several comments on the morning’s work were also made, generally very well; that is, based in observation. Several were to do with the choice of an inappropriate note during the opening Choir. What to do with this stinker of a note? How to honour the individual choice while responding also honourably to the overall group? One Level One had chosen a G#. His comments on why were intriguing. I began to present  - why? - seven times. This was beginning to lead into deep waters, so I left it there and suggested he might like to take this further in the privacy of his room.

A question was asked by a Level One student: how to distinguish between music that wants to come into this world, and ourselves imposition ourselves on music?

RF:      The quick answer is, necessity. If we are unable to make the distinction between musical necessity and our own personal necessity in playing music, then more likely that we will impose ourselves on the music.

At the end of lunch Tom mentioned to me that Joanne, his wife, had suggested he give a year to Guitar Craft. This resonated with my declared aim last night of preparing for a one year project beginning in the second half of 2006.

Lunch was purple squerd, probably a soup although, as with any genuine squerd, its origins are indeterminable Plus a pasty & salad.

Overall, I have a very different sense of this Level One to that in Italy, and several preceding courses. It is as if this team has prepared ahead of time and is now available, ready to go. Drug damage is noticeably much less than has become commonplace on Introductory courses. And what a difference this makes.

Also, the sense that there is a greater reservoir of experience available in the US than Europe, although this available experience is being used less here than the take-up on what is on offer in Europe.

Walked back here, reflections on the first real question of the course.

14.37  Continuing to reflect on the nature of refusal.

14.54  Walking down the hill to claim a cup of tea, overheard from a member of the Kitchen Team: “I am embarrassed to have this guitar in front of me”. They were laughing as they said this.

My guitar in hands, ideas are flowing. Now, off to meet the Level One.

16.12  What is the nature of refusal?

17.35  Level One at 15.00 attempted to count to 4 while moving a single note over the fifth chair. Several suggestions were presented by students as to how this might be achieved and several were implemented. None achieved the aim. Then, we moved to address the operation of the right hand. RF is unable to help with this until there is direct experience in the hand: one hour a day for 6 months or four hours a day for 3 months. Until then Mentoring Buddies Tony, Paul, Bert & Curt are available.

At tea-time I sat by Bert & caught up on the CGT, Diane & Tilly, Les the Gardener.

20.14  Level Two meeting at 18.15: circulating in G major, notes chosen by the players. Struck singly, then 3 times, 5 times, 7 times, 11 times ,15 times. Then circulating sequentially in G major through 3 octaves, ascending & descending. Then, in the highest octave. Then adding B above. Then descending through 3 octaves. Then circulating with notes in G major of the players’ choice, with multiple strikes. This collapsed, in time for dinner.

The first performances at a mealtime, the first a dismal duo who earnestly sang & strummed. The second – The Hellboys! – with Curt Golden joining Tom Redmond for a startling new piece, based on a real-life incident of September Eleventh, which segued into a Bob Dylan song. 

Paul Richards sat at the head table and accepted a series of questions, some not bad at all and mainly practical. Then observations on the afternoon’s work, also very good.

The consensus for the evening’s work, following suggestions from members of the Level One and Level Two, is that Level One is meeting in the dining room with the Mentoring Buddies, to concentrate on the right hand, and Robert is meeting with the Level Two in the ballroom at 21.15.

Patrick Smith, God in the kitchen, is planning an experiment with the Kitchen Team.

21.51  The Level Two began well, circulating in descending forms of G major & G minor with notes assigned, before launching into notes chosen by the players in G major. Yet this was undermined by carelessness. So, unable to bring to bear the care that was required, better to stop.

The course has not yet managed to acquire a functioning printer. The present printing situation functions for half the time, Ralph Verde informs me. So, he has to run down the hill to get sheets printed up. These are two notices for the board which will be pinned up later tonight…

Guitar Craft
St. Vincent de Paul Circle V Ranch
Santa Barbara, California

Tuesday 12
th. February, 2002; 16.12

What is the nature of refusal? 

Three Approaches To Refusal.



Four qualities of refusal:



The refusal to be who-we-are by what-we-are: negation.
The refusal to accept that what-we-are is a sufficient condition: aspiration.
The refusal to be less than who we are: attainment.
The refusal to accept less than what we are born to achieve: service.


It is in the nature of refusal to confer definition.

Refusal sets a boundary.
A boundary defines what is within, and what is without.

It is in the nature of definition to convey identity.
Identity is who-we-are.

The recognition of who-we-are precedes the acknowledgement of who-we-are.
The acknowledgement of who-we-are precedes our moving to address the necessity of being who-we-are.

Being who-we-are is a process of becoming who-we-are.
We begin where we are.

Who may refuse us this?


An act of refusing is governed by the conditions of time, place and person, and is subject to necessity.

 . . .

Guitar Craft Definition.



A category of food found on many, if not all, Guitar Craft courses.

Commonly takes the form of a glutinous mass with uniform color and consistency, of indeterminate and indeterminable origins.

The assumption is that, whatever the origins may be, this food is good for you.

There are currently two categories of squerd: savoury and dessert.

The colors of savoury squerd tend toward brown and green, indicating the healthy origins of the fundamental ingredient/s: these must be vegetable. Sometimes, however, the colors are brighter; for example, orange (swede) and scarlet-purple (beetroot). These more demonstrative colors may sometimes be compromised by the inclusion of less exciting vegetables, colorwise, in the composite squerd-conglutination. In which case, the default colour tends towards brown.

Dessert squerd frequently features bright colors, often semi-luminescent and even approximating to psychedelic.

One is not sure that this food is any good for us at all. But by the time dessert squerd has been served, usually few care.