In a conversation at The City Winery in Boston on September 22nd 2022, Robert Fripp & David Singleton answer some “burning questions” from the audience.
The audience is as important to a performance as the musicians. This is easily overlooked. Like the musician is father to the music, the audience is mother. The two come together so that music may be born into our world. However, in our culture, very rarely are audience members trained in listening, for example, Indian audiences, will be generally very able to demarcate the elaborate rhythms flying by as musicians on stage are playing them. In other words, the audience holds the musicians to account to honor their role in bringing music into the world. So may I say, just as a sideline to that, if any of you feel that David and Robert are simply going through the paces and failing to honor our being present here, please boo.
At the Beacon Theatre, I believe in 1979 in New York City, I went along to see a super group jazz trio. The guitarist was so full of themself, the drummer was so full of themself, and I sensed that the bass player was aware of what was going on. But as a member of the audience, I was deeply offended. I was not there to see star players jerk off, so I booed. And in the row in front seated two along, a man with an earring turned around and said, Shut up. So, I did. But nevertheless, I had honored my role of calling the musician to account.
So now, is there anyone here who would like to move to the microphone?
You have looked at many tunings throughout your career. I was wondering if you had ever looked at just intonation, and the work of Harry Parch for inspiration. And what do you think of that?
The answer is yes. There was a period when we had a guitar craft house in Cranborne, Dorset. And I was open to engaging with different aspects of playing the guitar, particularly in an ensemble context. And at the Barbican in London, I became aware of a guitarist who had a Just Intonation guitar. He made it. And I thought, this is fascinating. If this is real and available, we have a house with twelve to 16 guitarists who would be prepared to commit to investigating it for at least a while. So, I went to the Barbican and the guitarist came on, set up, and then began tuning. Now, the difficulty with this is; we need a norm because just Intonation will not hit the ear in the same way clearly as tempered tuning. And the guitar is never in tune anyway, so one develops an accommodation. So, he tuned up and I had no norm from which to begin because it was already shifting.
Nevertheless, I remained interested and engaged. And then once he had a form of tuning, he began strumming and singing Greensleeves. And as an example of how to move into subtle areas of music with just Intonation, this didn't really quite bang my bit. My bell was not struck loudly and I no longer pursued it. In terms of Harry Parch, this is a wonderful example of a man's complete life world. His music and his life were inseparable. would you agree, sir?
Those who have ever played a melotron will know that there is a very special form of tuning which is neither just nor tempered nor actually anything else. And the rule here is that tuning a melotron doesn't.
I digress. Thank you, sir.