Q: Whenever playing and you are on that Zen KC alternate plane ~ How does your body react? I imagine lightning coursing through your veins and lightning bolts coming out of your fingers.
RF: Perhaps Ms. E has a Romantic notion of the artist possessed by a Divine Influx of Music coming to life, coursing through their veins, becoming an uncontrollable fireball of rock fury? If I may re-phrase Ms. E’s question…
When playing with KC, and in a heightened state, how does Robert experience his body?
Firstly, we only properly experience anything when we are present: here in this place, in this moment. How to become present? Our most immediately available way-in to the moment is the body. There is a distinct quality of experiencing the body from the inside that is, conventionally, referred to as organic sensation. I use the term – the electricity of life – because this more accurately describes how I experience living inside the human animal that carries me around.
Secondly, the Zen KC alternate plane. In performance, our state is often heightened. Onstage, when the power falls and King Crimson walks into the room, moves into its current incarnation and Music switches on big time, it’s easy to get carried away. In some cases, blown away. Historically, in the early years of my professional life, drug use among players was both widespread and considered acceptable. But, if we surrender the faculties to drugs, we lose the capacity to hold our centre when the power comes online big time. In the relative innocence of the time, the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Music was changing the world and before professionalism became a norm for young players, rock concerts were often elevated experiences. It was an exceptional time to be a musician: as if Music were trying to give itself away.
Excitement! Bliss! This is a state: it is subjective. If we allow ourselves to be carried away, it is a moment of danger. It puts us outside the moment, separates us from the other players, blocks the musical flow, perhaps moves us into fantasy. Satisfaction in our performance is legitimate, necessary, and sustains a way of life that is pretty rough for much of the time. I walk onstage to serve the music, honour the audience, and be available to the unfolding performance. Anything that compromises this is to be approached with caution, even if that involves sacrificing having a (subjective) good time.
Thirdly, a reasonable assumption: when music comes to life, and with exceptional power, the musician is doing something. So, what is that something? But perhaps the musician is Doing Nothing: holding themselves in place and allowing the music to speak and act through them.
I begin with the body. It is available, here, now. If I’m getting blissed out, I come back to the body. If there are difficulties with gear, as with Tokyo II, I come back to the body. My thinking moves forwards and backwards – the moment expands, perhaps to include the whole performance. My feeling: I wish to serve the performance. But in the messy conditions of an actual show, my emotions can get ruffled. So, I come back to the body.
I allow my body to move gently with the rhythm and pulse of the music, not impeding its instinctive response, but keeping it within bounds. I go with the groove, but keep within the groove: I am present in the body, enjoying the motion. This is response. My body has a life of its own and is happy to run off and go where it goes. But onstage, it is subject to direction, a trained instrument at the service of music. So I deny my body the right to move without intention and direction: this is reaction; always returning to the electricity of life flowing within.
Fourthly, what is the experience of my body in a KC performance?
Some posters have taken issue with me referring to Fripp as if he were something other than who I am. He is. Fripp is the human animal Robert inhabits and is often happy to shoot off in some direction that has little to do with serving Robert’s interests. We have an ongoing exchange of viewpoints.
The experience, of which I am most aware during a performance, is of looking out through Fripp’s eyes. Something like, as if I were seeing Fripp seeing. I am not sure this is an experience of the body as such. My attention moves outside me into the larger performance event, so I constantly return attention to the body and continue playing.
Fifthly, have I been on that “Zen alternate plane” (whatever I understand by that)? Yes, and those experiences continue to inform and direct me. In a KC context? Also yes, the most recent in the Green Room of the Miller High Life Theatre, Milwaukee at 20.45 on
Tuesday 31st. August, 2021, five minutes before KC walked onstage. The various elements of who and what I am came together, indicating a change of station rather than a change of state. Since then, everything is the same, but I know that same differently.
If anyone has an interest in a longer commentary, perhaps visit VI Moving Between Worlds at the bottom of An Interior Architecture (The Guitar Circle book). A practical approach – less words, more action – is available in The Guitar Circle.
Monday 6th. December, 2021
Hotel It-Is-Posh, Tokyo