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Recording Mythology, Pt. 50 / The Aphorisms

This post will be the last of my Recording Mythology articles. I did not begin this series to teach anyone anything, only to perhaps ‘unteach’ certain preconceived notions, and primarily in the realm of true sound recording and engineering.

I firmly believe that there is only so much that begs to be said in respect to a given subject before one resorts to redundancy, and I have said all that I feel is required of me, that is to say, I have reached the limits of my knowledge on the subject.

As I recently opined to a long-time musical colleague, the new generation does not understand the meaning of the word production in relation to music. If the truth were to be laid completely open, one could go as far as saying that ‘cut & paste’ production has a great deal in common with ‘point and shoot’ photography, in that both have little to do with producing anything close to what may resemble Art.

Any rebuttal would simply be an exercise in semantics, as the facts would quickly manifest in a true recording studio, where ‘virtual’ ends and ‘reality’ begins.

However, I was contacted by one clearly annoyed yet mysteriously anonymous digital ‘producer’ who informed me that I was an idiot. (as best I could tell, amidst the mishmash of misspelt words). I am left to assume that punctuation is considered an academic option these days, as the author had used none. If his or her literary prowess gave any indication as to their production ‘skilz’, I regret to inform the reader that we risk being overrun by a master race.


As a kid beginning in music, I had no idea where to start, or what to do. There seemed to be no one around who was interested in teaching me the way in which I required learning.

I persevered nonetheless, learning music in every way accessible to me, and what did become apparent to me after many years, was that although there are many paths to music, there is only one language, constructed of seven whole tones, five semitones, and innumerable intervals.

How one utilises it makes all the difference.

It is my sincerest hope that if you too choose this journey, with the best of intentions, we will both eventually find our way to wherever it is we endedavour to be going.


The following is an alphebetical listing of the Aphorisms which Mr. Fripp promoted throughout his Guitar Craft series. I have not acquired permission to reprint them, but I think that Robert had higher goals in mind when he originally distributed them. The goal in studying the Aphorisms is much as one might study a Zen koan; but to first understand and apply them in relation to one’s music. Attempt to apply them throughout life. Expect nothing.

Best of luck to you all. Captain out.


A beginning is invisible.
Accept nothing less than what is right.
A completion is a new beginning.
Act always in accordance with conscience.
Act from principle. Move from intention.
Act with courtesy. Otherwise, be polite.
A decision changes the world.
A function of language is to disclose. An effect is to reveal.
A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable and never acceptable.
An artist acts with the assumption of innocence within a field of experience.
An end may be a finish, a conclusion or a completion.
Answers will come through the guitar.
Any fool can play something difficult.
Anything within a performance is significant, whether intentional or not.
A principle is an instruction in qualitative endeavour.
A principle is universal. A rule is specific. A law is invariable.
Artistry repeats the unrepeatable.
Assume the virtue.
Before we do something, we do nothing.
Before we move from A to B, better to know we’re at A.
Begin with the possible and move gradually towards the impossible.
Being a slob is hard labour.
Being is a measure of our coherence.
Better to be present with a bad note than absent from a good note.
Be very careful about the beginning. Then, be very careful about the end. Then, be very careful about the middle.
Change one small part and the whole is changed.
Commitments are to be honoured.
Comparison with others is a mark of the fool.
Conscience is utterly impersonal.
Craft is a universal language.
Craft maintains skill. Discipline maintains craft. Craft follows the tradition. Discipline maintains the tradition. Music creates the tradition.
Creative work is serious play.
Define the aim simply, clearly, briefly, positively. Discard the superfluous.
Discharge one small task superbly.
Discipline is a vehicle for joy.
Discipline is not an end in itself, only a means to an end.
Distrust those who profess altruism.
Distrust anyone who wants to teach you something.
Don’t be helpful: be available.
Each part does the work of that part, and no other.
Establish the principle.
Even genius requires a competent technique.
Everything we are is revealed in our playing.
Expectation is a prison.
Expect nothing.
Good habit is necessary, bad habit is inevitable.
Health is a measure of our wholeness.
Hearing transforms sound into music.
Helpful people are a nuisance.
Honour necessity. Honour sufficiency.
How we hold our pick is how we organise our life.
If a quality is present, it is clearly recognisable and may be named.
If in doubt, consult tradition. If still in doubt, consult your experience. If still in doubt, consult your body.
If we can ask our body to do nothing for half an hour, perhaps we can ask our body to do something for half an hour.
If we can define our aim, we are halfway to achieving it.
If we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll probably get there.
In popular culture, the musician calls on the highest part in all of us.
In mass culture, the musician addresses the lower parts of what we are.
In popular culture, our musicians sing to us in our own voice.
In mass culture they shout what we want to hear.
Intentional action generates intentional results and unforeseeable repercussions. Unintentional action generates unintended consequences and inevitable repercussions.
Intentional poverty is fine. Unintentional poverty is wretched.
In the creative act, the Creation continues.
In the creative leap, history waits outside.
In tuning a note we are tuning ourselves.
It is difficult to exaggerate the power of habit.
It is not necessary to be cheerful. It is not necessary to feel cheerful. But look cheerful.
Just below the surface of our everyday world lie riches.
Let us find clean and cheerful friends.
Life is often desperate, but never hopeless.
Life is too short to take on the unnecessary.
Listening changes what we are listening to. Listening is a craft. Hearing is an art.
Listening is how we eat music. Hearing is how we digest it.
Mastery acts on what is below. Artistry submits to what is above.
May we have the clarity to see our work, the courage to embrace it, and the capacity to discharge it.
May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.
Money is not a problem, only a difficulty.
Music changes when people hear it.
Music is a benevolent presence constantly and readily available to all.
Music is a quality, organised in sound and in time.
Music is silence, singing.
Music is the architecture of silence.
Music is the cup which holds the wine of silence. Sound is that cup, but empty. Noise is that cup, but broken.
Music so wishes to be heard that it calls on some to give it voice and some to give it ears.
Necessary repercussions are possible. Inevitable repercussions are expensive. Unnecessary repercussions are dangerous.
Necessity is a measure of aim.
Necessity is never far from what is real.
Nothing is compulsory, but some things are necessary.
Nothing worthwhile is achieved suddenly.
Offer no violence.
Perfection is impossible. But I may choose to serve perfection.
Performance is impersonal yet intimate.
Performance is inherently unlikely.
Playing fast is easier than playing slow.
Quiet is the absence of sound, silence the presence of silence.
Relaxation is necessary tension. Tension is unnecessary tension. Relaxation is never accidental.
Rely on what someone does, not what they claim to do.
Remain in hell without despair.
Right action moves from principle.
Rightness is its own necessity.
Signposts are useful when you know where you’re going.
Silence is a bridge between worlds.
Silence is a distant echo of the approach of the Muse.
Silence is an invisible glue.
Silence is not silent.
Silence is the field of creative musical intelligence that dwells in the space between the notes, and holds them in place.
Small additional increments are transformative.
Sometimes God hides.
Suffer cheerfully.
Suffering is necessary, unnecessary or voluntary.
Suffering is our experience of the distance between what we are and who we wish to become.
Suffering of quality is invisible to others.
The act of music is the music.
The audience is mother to the music.
The concern of the musician is music. The concern of the professional musician is business.
The creative impulse animates whatever instrument is placed at its disposal.
The end is a finish, a conclusion or a completion.
The future is what the present can bear.
The highest quality of attention we may give is love.
The mind leads the hands.
The musician and audience are parents to the music.
The musician has three disciplines: the disciplines of the hands, the head and the heart.
The necessary is possible. The optional is expensive. The unnecessary is unlikely.
The only contribution we make is the quality of our work.
The performer can hide nothing, even the attempt to hide.
The presence of absence is an entry into loss.
The problem with knowing what we want is we just might get it.
The quality of a person is revealed in their conduct in front of sex, money and the use of time.
The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer. The question is its answer.
There are few things as convincing as death to remind us of the quality with which we live our life.
There are no mistakes, save one: the failure to learn from a mistake.
There are three kinds of repercussions: the necessary, the unnecessary and the inevitable.
There is only one musician, in many bodies.
There’s more to hearing than meets the ear.
The science is in knowing, the art in perceiving.
The simplest is the most difficult to discharge superbly.
The way we describe our world shows how we think of our world. How we think of our world governs how we interpret our world.
How we interpret our world directs how we participate in the world.
How we participate in the world shapes the world.
The work of one supports the work of all.
Things are not as bad as they seem. They are worse than that. They are also better than that.
Trust music.
Turn a seeming disadvantage to your advantage.
The greater the seeming disadvantage, the greater the possible advantage.
Understanding changes what we understand.



About Johnny Nowhere

Johnny Nowhere is a songwriter/composer and owner of Hell Paving Company, music publisher. Johnny doesn't really exist outside of the music industry and Facebook. He is simply a figment of my imagination.

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