FAQ - Robert Fripp
What is "Frippertronics" all about?
One September evening in 1972, Brian Eno invited Robert Fripp to his home-studio. Eno had devised a method of producing music from two tape recorders. When a sound emitted from one machine was picked up by the other, it would be played back, but at a lower volume. Allowing for variances in volume and echo, the 'player' could effectively play the machine independent from the original source. Fripp found the interplay between Eno's taped sounds and his Les Paul guitar to be startling: the partnership resulted in two albums of electronic music called 'No Pussyfooting' and 'Evening Star'.
In 1980 Fripp formally defined Frippertronics as
"the musical experience resulting at the interstice of Robert Fripp and a small, mobile and appropriate level of technology....."
The technology employed here was Fripp's guitar, an effects pedal board, and two Revox reel-to-reel tape recorders. Fripp found that he could achieve the same effects alone, and took the analog technology with him on the road, playing small venues around this time.
For more on Frippertronics, read the essay at http://www.annihilist.com/loop/tools/frippertronics/frippertronics.html.
What are "Soundscapes"?
Soundscapes are today's digital equivalent of Frippertronics. With the advent of the digital guitar synthesizer and its ability to sound like almost anything, RF has taken the sonic textures of Frippertronics to the next logical step.
Soundscapes are essentially improvisations with very little in common with traditional structured music. As in the case of Frippertronics, RF has taken Soundscapes with him on the road. In 1997, RF opened the shows on the G3 North American Tour. In the fall of 1998 he played several Soundscapes concerts, including two as part of the New Sounds Live series of the World Financial Center Arts & Events Program.
What equipment does Robert use?
RF no longer plays his guitar while seated next to a Mellotron. The guitar-synthesizer can create orchestral sounds similar to a Mellotron, as well as dozens of other instruments. He has used several different Roland guitar synthesizers on stage, including the GR300 and the VG8. Robert has used various guitars, like the Les Paul guitar, in tandem with a synthesizer unit.
Echo effects are possible now without analog tape machines. Instead of the REVOX tape recorders, TC2290 digital delay units are used. On the Soundscapes album '1999', RF listed the following equipment as being utilized on tour:
- Tokai Les Paul guitar
- Roland GR300 guitar synthesizer
- Eventide 3000SE
- Korg A2
- (2) T.C. Electronic TC2290 digital delays
- Digitech Whammy pedal
In a recent issue of Guitar Player Magazine (October 1998), a more thorough list of Robert's ProjeKct 2 equipment was given:
- Custom Fernandez guitar w/ Les Paul body
- Fernandez sustainer
- Roland GK-2a divided pickup
- Kahler tremelo
- De Salvo guitar strings
- Roland GR1 guitar synthesizer
- Roland GR30 guitar synthesizer
- Roland GP-100 pre-amp
- Roland VG-8
- Eventide H3000
- Sound Sculpture Switchblade 16 audio routing system
- T.C. Electronic G-Force
- Rocktron all-access MIDI pedalboard
- (4) T.C. Electronic TC2290 digital delays
- Digitech Whammy pedal
There is a very cool diagram of Robert's setup at guitargeek.com. Check it out!
Who is J.G. Bennett and what is his relation to Fripp?
John G. Bennett (1897-1974) was a British mathematician, scientist and philosopher who studied the ideas of G.I.Gurdjieff from the 1920's until Gurdjieff's death in 1949. Bennett then taught the ideas of Gurdjieff, known as the Fourth Way, along with modifying and refining those ideas.
In 1971 Bennett established the IACE Sherborne, which offered a 10 month instruction/introduction in the Fourth Way. Fripp recently said "When I found Bennett, the top of my head blew off (July 1974)" (DGM diary; December 18, 1998). Fripp broke up King Crimson when he entered Sherborne in 1974, and Fripp's later pursuit of "small, mobile and intelligent units" is traceable to Bennett. Fripp remains involved in the promotion and dissemination of John Bennett's ideas, and continues to work with people that he met a Sherborne in the 1970's. Claymont Court was the American offshoot of Sherborne, and continues to function and promote Bennett's ideas.
Some relevant web links for Bennett, Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way:
- http://www.duversity.org/ is the site for Anthony Blake's Duversity. Blake was one of Bennett's students and later an editor of Bennett's books. Fripp has worked with Blake for 25 years.
- http://www.bennettbooks.org/ continues to print Bennett's books, and they are a source where tapes of Bennett's teaching can be obtained.
- http://www.claymont.org/ is the web site for Claymont Court in West Virginia.
- http://www.gurdjieff.org/ has extensive readings on Gurdjieff, the Fourth Way, and his followers.
Thanks to Kathryn Ottersten for her contribution of this Q&A - FAQmaster.
What is Guitar Craft?
Guitar Craft is a school of guitar playing (and wider philosophy) created and largely operated by Robert Fripp.
Fripp was first introduced to Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Bennett at Sherborne House in 1974 (see above question). Fripp began his involvement with the American Society for Continuous Education (an extension of Bennett's institute) near Charles Town, West Virginia in 1977. In his first three month course he became more acquainted with the principles of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Bennett. In subsequent years RF was named to the Board of Directors of ASCE, and was eventually elected president. After the dissolution of King Crimson in 1984, Robert was asked to conduct a seminar on his guitar method. This was the beginning of Guitar Craft.
Fripp developed "a new kind of guitar technique working on three levels of being -- heart, hands and head". Guitar Craft courses are offered every year. RF has played on and produced recordings featuring The League of Crafty Guitarists, and members of The California Guitar Trio are graduates of the program.
For general information and inquiries, check out the Guitar Craft website.
What is the New Standard Tuning for the guitar?
From low to high, it is C G D A E G. The low C is the C below the standard low E.
(high) --||G----| T-||E----| A-||A----| B-||D----| --||G----| --||C----| (low)
Recommended gauges for acoustic (steel string) guitar are:
G-1st - .011
E-2nd - .013
A-3rd - .022w
D-4th - .032w
G-5th - .047w
C-6th - .058w
"Kaman/Ovation makes a set but I prefer the ones from John Pearse (Breezy Ridge Instruments Center Valley PA 18034). Even with the special set, you still need to be careful when bringing them up to full tension."
Thanks to Joan Bull for the string info. - FAQmaster
Opinions vary on the value of the New Standard Tuning. This author likes it very much for at least one of the same reasons RF does: the old patterns don't work. Also, it gives the player a much wider ranges of pitches. On the other hand, much more open hand movement is necessary to play scalar patterns, which proves difficult for many players.
The FAQmaster has also discovered that his old Martin D-35 tends to shriek in pain when the New Standard Tuning is attempted, especially when the high-E is tuned up to G. Perhaps a new guitar, especially crafted for the new tuning, would help. This from the California Guitar Trio website:
"The California Guitar Trio recently premiered new custom made Somogyi guitars, a departure from their black, trademark Ovation semi acoustic guitars held over from their days with The League of Crafty Guitarists. Crafted especially to accommodate the New Standard Tuning technique employed by the band, the guitars were handmade by Ervin Somogyi of Berkley, California. Somogyi used a fret board system developed by Ralph Novax, also from Berkeley (phone 510/483-3599). The fret board system is unique, utilizing tight fretting near the body of the guitar, which gradually becomes wider and angles more obtusely as one travels down the neck."
In a Robert Fripp/Andy Summers interview re-printed in ET#178, Robert commented that the first recorded use of the new standard (Guitar Craft) tuning was 'Maquillage', on the Fripp/Summers album 'Bewitched'. (Thanks to Marc Roemer for pointing this out - FAQmaster)
Although it had previously been noted here that Adrian Belew does not use the new tuning, posts by Robert in his DGM diary with regard to Summer/Fall 1999 ProjeKct rehearsals in Nashville indicate Arian is experimenting with it.
Can I tune my drums/keyboards/nose flute to New Standard Tuning?
It will not produce the same results as NST for guitar, for the basic reason that those instruments aren't guitars. The guitar has a unique sound, and part of that is based upon the relationship between the strings. When the tuning is altered, chords and scales are affected. The important thing is that your instrument is tuned in a way that works for you, however that may be.
Who is Eric Tamm, and what is his book about?
Eric Tamm is a musicologist who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He has been a fan of King Crimson for many years. He has written two books. One of them is about Brian Eno (Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound), and is currently available through commercial outlets; the other is about Robert Fripp:
Robert Fripp: From King Crimson to Guitar Craft by Eric Tamm Faber & Faber (1991) $12.95 / £9.99 ISBN 0-571-16289-4
Most readers have recommended it. RF himself asked Tamm not to write the book, but claims that the chapter on Guitar Craft is "very good."
Is Tamm's book on Fripp still out of print?
Despite rumours in ET that a new edition has been spotted, according to Mr. Tamm, his book on Fripp remains out-of-print.
In ET#646, Eric Tamm made the following post:
I have posted the full text of my book, 'Robert Fripp: From King Crimson to Guitar Craft' on the Web. Here's the link: http://www.erictamm.com/tammfripp.html regards, Eric"
Is it true that Robert Fripp is left-handed but plays guitar right-handed?
Yes. Many ETers attending playbacks have noted that Robert signs his name with the left hand. Of course, anyone who has watched him play knows he plays right-handed: fretting notes and chords with the left hand and picking with the right.
Robert has talked about this in Guitar Player Magazine interviews, and it is well-documented in Tamm's book on Fripp. Robert took up the guitar at the age of eleven and adapted his method of playing to a right-handed instrument. This approach is in direct opposition to the way most guitarists play: that is, picking with the "stronger", dominant hand and fretting with the "weaker" one.
Has Robert Fripp made any concert videos or television appearances on his own?
Several concert appearances by Robert Fripp, separate from King Crimson, can be purchased. The 'Road to Graceland' 1993 tour of Robert Fripp and David Sylvian was filmed at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Japan and is available on laserdisc. Another 'Live in Japan' concert, this one by The Robert Fripp String Quintet, can be had on VHS through DGM. And a special laserdisc series called 'Careful With That Axe' features Robert Fripp in the second volume. This video, which was also released on VHS, features Robert playing in Guitar Craft sessions, as well as some archival footage of King Crimson in the 1970's and 1980's. Robert has also made the following television appearances:
- Midnight Special: RF thanks the producers for their bravery , then plays a ~3 minute solo over a prerecorded Frippertronics track. Episode aired Oct 5, 1979; other guests were Blondie, Rick James, & Robert Palmer.
- Robert Fripp: New York - Wimbourne: a BBC-TV documentary on Robert's career, made during the time of KC's 'Three of A Perfect Pair' album. For a detailed overview of this documentary, contact Martin Lennon at emotion at ednet dot co dot uk.
- Cue The Music: a David Sylvian and Robert Fripp live appearance in Japan. It is assumed this is the same concert that appeared later on video.
Also, in the "Sightings" (not yet substantiated) Department, on May 19, 1979, Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow appeared on the Saturday Night Live television program and sang a duet. During a performance of 'The Married Men' (from the first Roches' album, produced by RF), a very Frippish-looking man sat on a stool in a dimly lit portion of the stage playing a black Custom Les Paul guitar, with a Revox tape deck behind him. It seems very likely this was Fripp, although the performance was un-credited.
Why is the CD release of Fripp's 'Exposure' different from the original LP?
The original LP was first remixed: one of the reported results was a 6:10 version of 'Water Music II'. Subsequent CD releases did not contain this longer version.
The liner notes from the 1985 CD release say "Remixed to Sony digital stereo system by Brad Davies and Robert Fripp." The Definitive Edition release contains further changes. For a complete and thorough analysis of the different releases (include the many vocal differences), visit the Elephant Talk Exposure Pages.
Has any of Robert Fripp's 'Exposure' album been performed live?
Yes. The song 'Exposure' was performed on the Sylvian/Fripp tour. (The performance was not included on the live CD 'Damage', but is available on the video laserdisc 'Live in Japan').
And although not ever a member of King Crimson, Peter Hammill (who contributed vocals to the 'Exposure' album) often performs the song 'Chicago' as an encore in his concerts.
ETer Robert Miyares reports that, at a Hall & Oates concert at Avery Fisher Hall in New York around 1978, Robert Fripp came out for an encore. They performed 'You Burn Me Up I'm A Cigarette'.
Did RF ever tour with Peter Gabriel, under a pseudonym?
Yes. Robert Fripp toured with Gabriel as "Dusty Rhodes (or Roads)" during both the first and second Gabriel tours, for PGI (1977) and PGII (1978). Both times he played off to the side (in the shadows) or behind a curtain, so his identity was obscured. ETer Chris Smith reports that RF was also introduced as "Ned Strangler the West Country punk" at the Hammersmith Odeon during a Gabriel show.
Where can I find a Robert Fripp discography?
John Relph maintains one at http://www.elephant-talk.com/discog/fripp/.
Has Robert Fripp ever written any song lyrics?
Yes. In addition to the line:
Cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the Virgin Mary
(from 'The Great Deceiver'), Robert also wrote the words to an early Crim-jam called 'Drop In', available on the 'Epitaph' box set. And, on his first solo outing 'Exposure', RF wrote the words to 'You Burn Me Up, I'm a Cigarette'.
What albums are considered to be part of "the Robert Fripp trilogy"?
During the latter part of the 1970's, well after the dissolution of King Crimson, Robert Fripp began a slow re-emergence into the world of music. By way of various associations with fellow musicians, he ended up producing three record albums that, although distinctly different, were actually part of a trilogy. The albums (in order of release) were:
- 'Peter Gabriel II' (Peter Gabriel)
- 'Exposure' (Robert Fripp)
- 'Sacred Songs' (Daryl Hall)
(Note: although 'Exposure' was, in RF's words, "the third part of an MOR trilogy with 'Sacred Songs' and 'Peter Gabriel II'", it was 'Sacred Songs' that was released last....RCA held the record off the market 2 1/2 years after it was completed).
RF's production is evident on all three albums. 'PG II' is much more minimalist in nature as compared to the Bob Ezrin-produced first album. Of course, 'Exposure' is RF's own album. 'Sacred Songs' features a lot of Robert's Frippertronics between tracks, as well as a song ('NYCNY') co-written by Hall and Fripp.
RF's guitar playing dominates all three albums, as well. Hall also appeared on 'Exposure', and the newly re-issued 'Sacred Songs' features two bonus tracks: 'You Burn Me Up, I'm a Cigarette' and 'North Star' (two songs originally on 'Exposure').
Did RF ever use an "e-bow"?
It has often been speculated that Robert Fripp once used the e-bow, a device that enables the electric guitar to achieve long sustain. After the issue generated a long debate in ET, Mr. Fripp himself addressed the question in his DGM diary:
"Response to ET:Date: Mon, 01 May 2000 11:53:42 -0400 From: Joseph Shelby Subject: ebow <*other bands/artists that feature the ebow in action include Big Country and David Bowie (its how the main guitar sound is generated in "Heroes", both studio and most live versions i've seen...)>I have never used an e-bow professionally, and almost never otherwise. Chris Stein (of Blondie) gave me one c.1978 when we were chums in NYC. But "Heroes" was simply a Les Paul, Marshall cabinet and a way of working."
Did Robert Fripp write a book called 'The Becoming'?
Yes, but that's not our Robert Fripp! There is apparently another Robert Fripp lurking about who happens to be a Man of Letters.
In fact, a search at http://search.contentville.com/ shows several literary Fripps:
- Jon Fripp, author of 'Speaking of Science: Notable Quotes on Science, Engineering, and the Environment'
- Peter Fripp, who wrote 'The Book of Johannes'
- Archbald Linley Fripp, Jr., who pontificated on 'THE EFFECT OF GRAIN-BOUNDARIES ON THE RESISTIVITY OF POLYCRYSTALLINE SILICON.'(!)
- John Fripp, who wrote an article on 'A Future for Business Simulations?' in the Journal of European Industrial Training
- and, of course, Patricia Fripp, (Robert's sister), authoress of 'Get What You Want!' (among others!)
What does Fripp's "Drive to 1981" refer to?
Robert Fripp's reference to this occured during the creation of Exposure, part of the trilogy of albums he created in the late 1970's. However, it's clear from reading this interview at ET Web that he intended the drive to include more than just the three albums (in fact, he refers to a Frippertronics album as one in the trilogy).
The "drive", in fact, signified Robert's return to the public arena of recording and performance. It was also, more importantly, his return to the marketplace. As he once said:
"Action in the market place but not governed by the value(s) of the market place."