I might ask that I be forgiven, for the following article is a lengthy thesis concerning the creation and playing of Music, although it may not seem as such, or inasmuch, at least as as one may expect. Presented in two parts, and in a roundabout way (out of necessity), it will draw on several other subjects, all interconnected, that I shall ellucidate on along the way. Because of the somewhat arcane nature of the proceeding, I may lose many readers. This is a calculated risk that I am prepared to take for a purpose greater than my own.
I have borrowed the title for today’s article from one of the many aphorisms used in Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft courses which were held during the late eighties. Robert turned out some ground-breaking material with Brian Eno and others over a period of three decades, but he is undoubtedly best known as guitarist for the band King Crimson, who turned out some astounding (and what some would call bombastic) record albums during the seventies.
I discovered Mr. Fripp’s Guitar Craft through happenstance in 1989. I firmly contend that I would not have realised what it was that his instruction had to reveal, had I not become a seeker through the study of a particular system known as the School of the Fourth Way, only two years prior.
As it is demonstrated in the School, Luck cannot be wholly discounted.
Upon perusal of Mr. Fripp’s technique, it quickly became apparent to me that Robert had also submitted himself as a student to the School, and that his approach to music was centred around the application of the studies. In due course I was a ‘card-carrying member’ of Mr. Fripp’s league of practitioners.
A short sidebar is necessary at this point.
As a member of the School of the Fourth Way, students are shown that:
1) there are many Universal Laws which man must live under as a condition of life, and
2) there are likewise many unnecessary laws which man normally lives under, of which an individual may possibly free himself, granted a general knowledge of these laws has been acquired.
One of the irrefutable Universal Laws is one of scale. That is to say that all things follow an embedded pattern. Thusly known, all things become, to a great degree, predictable, except that only their scale differs. This has been demonstrated to my satisfaction in more than music and mathematics.
For instance, absolutely nothing within the known Universe shares any particular balance. In actuality, the existence of imbalance accounts for the movement of all things, seen and unseen. If any sort of ‘equality’ existed, movement would cease, and everything would come to a halt, except unless to immediately change direction. Consider the pendulum.
In every respect, ‘Equality’ is an imagined value around which many of man’s ‘laws’ are based, but such are the follies of mankind. An objective observation of nature is all that is required to see that nothing will ever be ‘just’ nor ‘equal’ in life nor in death, and that the entire facade of ‘fairness’ is an unachievable ideal. No amount of dreaming can change this reality, as this law is omnipotent within universal physics.
Likewise, any time a member of the School recognises another member, it readily becomes apparent which associate is the more advanced in their study by application of a ‘special language’. I do not mean to imply that a different language is spoken, only that in the School, certain key words are given particular meaning, through which a great deal more information is transmitted than would normally be possible. Usage of these words, and subsequent construct of phrases, thus communicated, and received by the aware pupil, establishes a status among individuals, admitting free exchange of knowledge.
It was in this way that I realised Mr. Fripp’s superior School knowledge, much of which he explicated through his Guitar Craft series.
In the School, I larned that most people rarely ever acquire any knowledge of genuine value for one of two reasons:
1) because their ego cannot bear to allow that someone else might actually be in possession of some bit of knowledge that they themselves are not already in possession of. Thus, a man who imagines himself to already be in possession of something is less likely to really ever have it, nor attain the ability to recognise the genuine article should he ever happen to stumble across it.
2) because they imagine that there is some special reward for their inactivity, and that if they simply believe long enough, wishing very hard, they will suddenly be endowed with knowledge in some miraculous manner. These are the sort of people who believe in sorcery, magic chants, free government health care, and manna from heaven.
Knowledge is a possession of true value, and cannot be stolen, nor had through any sort of deviation. There are no ‘short cuts’ in acquiring skill or knowledge. It may only be achieved through difficult work, applied over a long period of time. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. A lazy student will learn nothing, and soon the opportunity to learn will be removed.
Another shortcoming of man is his imagined ability to teach himself. This is another artifact of ego’s design. As he is, man possesses no true will, and is therefore incapable of committing himself to anything, in addition he hasn’t the tools nor the knowledge to teach himself. Therefore, in order to be taught, a man must become sincere with himself and the ego must be humbled.
As soon as the ego is sufficiently broken, a man may realise the need for a teacher. The teacher will be one to whom the so-called ‘will’ of the student must be surrendered for a period of time. This period of access allows the teacher to create veridical will within the student, after which time the student may be capable of directing his self-will, bringing about the possibility of further development.
Our developmental goal in Music is to become a ‘musician’ with a capital M and without quotation marks. This development is likely to take many years. If we are to become this type of being, we are to answer to a higher calling than that of ego which dictates trendy styles, or strange and unconventional behaviour. These are typical distinctions of guitar slamming morons.
Morons are of no use to Music. It normally takes them more time to get properly dressed and made-up for a performance than they ever commit to the practice of Craft. Getting all decorated to play guitar is unnecessarily hard work. Striking artfully masculine or feminine postures, and flailing the instrument with energetic flourishes may be entertaining, but are all uncalled for when they are merely part of a calculated act. Worse yet, the quality of the music generally suffers.
But as Mr. Fripp stated, being a slob is hard labour.
Let us return to our example involving the idea of equality, or as I refer to it, man’s ‘mirage of perfection’.
With equality, there would be no struggle, and without struggle, there would be no friction, and without friction there would be no tension; without tension there would be no movement, and without movement, there would be no development. Consider the tuned and plucked string in contrast to the slack, resting string. The taut string ‘neutralises’ a specific quantity of tension, struggle, and friction, through the development of the sounded note, full of possibilities. The string at rest exhibits none of these properties. Without movement, neither time nor music exists. But as artists we are in luck, for we have an universal supply of tension, struggle, friction, and unrest.
Our purpose in Music is to become the messenger which the aforesaid qualities may resolve themselves through. Alchemising the raw articles of discord, chaos, and disarray, we convert them into their polar opposites. The resulting sounds should sooth the soul, for this is the true purpose of music. Our job in Music is to make ourselves available.
Morons, having been given precedence over the musical landscape by money hungry ‘producers’, and due to their musical obfuscation, have caused great harm to the soul of music. They have disoriented the consumer, and they have assaulted Music, much as a leech might attach itself to its host, and drained it of a great deal of its medicinal properties.
It is always easy to identify these musical imposters. The music that they make is always of a coarser texture than the raw materials used in making it. The subject matter is generally inflamatory, espousing anger, and radiating negative energy. Individual pieces rarely seem to resolve musically, and the favoured frequencies tend toward the extremes with very little utilisation of the midrange frequencies.
The flourishing genres of darkwave, gangsta rap, techno-industrial, noise, porn groove, and death metal are the most common carriers. Coincidentally, this type of anti-music is most often created by those individuals who arrogate peace and ‘equality’, but whose works often share their hatred, betray their underlying disdain for women or anyone who disagrees with them, and their nazi-like proclivities.
Another of Mr. Fripp’s aphorisms applied here might be: Everything we are is revealed in our playing.
Music can assist us in finding ourselves, but only if we go forward with the expectations of finding ourselves. If we pursue music in a foolish attempt to ‘become someone else’, we will never find anything of lasting value.
One individual who said it best was also a member in an extremely successful tribute band. “It was like being a drag-queen man,” he said. “After playing for half my life, pretending to be [someone else], I realised one day that I’d allowed him to make a failure out of the musician that I should have been.”
The argument has been put forward that those driven to produce music typically suffer some emotional instability or trauma inflicted during childhood, and therefore seek out music to deal with the affect of the scars. Whereas this myth may sound a ring of truth, it is a canard on the whole. Many musicians have been known to suffer from nothing more than normality, but it seems that those with the aforementioned formatory defects end up receiving the bulk of the attention, if only because they appear more exciting.
Let this account serve as proof of another fact: Music has the ability to provide a theraputic counter-effect, but only when approached in a proper and respectful manner. When used as a vehicle to promote, or reinforce emotional instability rather than quell it, nothing but explosions can result. Consider Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.
After having seen both sides of the veil, I can assure the reader that neither drugs nor alcohol have a positive effect on music nor the musician. If the above examples are not enough, they bring to mind dozens of others. Artists from Billie Holliday to Eric Clapton have attempted to wage their internal wars using various substances as allies. Billie lost her war when her perceived ally turned out to be her foe. Eric won his fight when he realised what his enemy was. In neither case did the substances in question provide any of the aforementioned artists access to a ‘supernatural music portal’.
One cannot be dosed or maddened into becoming a musician. A musician is merely one who is drawn to play music, and one is, or is not. If, however, one is drawn into it, there is risk that the individual become consumed, that is to say that the individual may come to seem ‘single dimensional’ to some, perhaps eclectic to others. This may not always bode well for the musician if he allows himself to become obsessive in his development.
A humourous account will drive my point.
I once happened to become acquainted with Robert, a classical guitar teacher whose obsession gave rise to a most unpleasant key feature. His fixation on his musical discipline was such that it spilled over into his daily affairs, apparently making normal hygenic functions seem unnecessary. Although his speech was eloquent, and his teeth pristine; his hair was stringy and oily, his beard unkempt, and his clothing unwashed. He wore these sandals that appeared to be taken from the corpse of Moses, and all of his nails were in need of attention. He was generally accompained by a very pungent aroma. I felt he looked out of place without military fatigues and a cigar.
One day, he came into the music store in which I worked. ‘Sven, I’m in need of several good metronomes, and I am hoping that your establishment might be capable of satisfying my needs.’ (For those who may wonder, my name is not Sven, but that was the name which I’d chosen for my name tags during my ten-plus year tenure in retail.)
‘What sort of fire do you require, Squire?’ I asked with typical Cyrano de Bergerac bent. (Everybody who knows me would have known what I really meant.)
‘Well, it mustn’t be one of the analogue sort, ‘ he said (if only to irritate me), ‘only the digital ones will do; I attempt to impart perfect timing in my students, and I expect no less from the time-pieces that I provide them with.’
I looked him over. ‘For pause, the pendulum served Segovia satisfactorily. Now what once befitted the boss bumbles the bookmen?’ I touched a finger to my cheek, cutting my eyes skyward for effect.
‘I can tell the difference!’ he huffed and puffed. ‘Neither my students nor I are bumbled, as you put it. With all respect to the maestro, digital precisions have made the pendulum obsolete.’
‘So your skills, Castro, deals killing blows to those of the Maestro?’
He protested with the demur of a lemur, to such extent that Dennis, the owner of the store, made a rare emergence from his official retreat. ‘What’s going on out here? What’s wrong?’
‘The sun is on fire! He says we’ll expire!’ I told him, pointing at Robert.
The look of indignity on Robert’s face became one of bewilderment. ‘This asshole won’t sell me a metronome without giving me the third degree in verse,’ he explained to Dennis the Penis.
‘Everyone learns from third degree burns.’ I interposed.
The owner began to make excuses for me and told Robert that he’d fired me over a month ago, but that I continued to show up to work.
I returned to the task I’d been attempting all morning, with Dennis tending to Robert’s needs and putting his feelings right. ‘Have a good morning, Your Weirdness,’ he shot at me upon departing.
‘Bye-bye, Fry Guy.’ I was heard to reply.
Dennis turned, pointing toward the door with his hand held close to his torso, whisper-hissing,’You know that guy?’
‘Something inside has soured and died?’ I anticipated.
Dennis lowered his voice, ‘He fuckin’ stinks!’ he winced, heading back to his office. ‘Oh, by the way, you’re fired.’ he called out before re-entering.
Dennis was a horn-hating trumpet player. But then, everybody has their hang-ups, right?
Just don’t allow it to become an obsession.