Sunday, December 5, 2010

Robert Fripp Soundscapes Live at the Winter Garden

by baad lamb

Robert Fripp, the King Crimson mastermind and maybe the world’s best (certainly the most "disciplined") guitarist, played four free Soundscapes performances this Friday and Saturday at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center, NYC. I was lucky enough catch the 12:30 Saturday gig.

Play, record, echo, delay, reverb, repeat.
That, in the simplest of terms is the Frippertronics formula, and the method employed for his “Soundscapes” series. Technology has changed since his pioneering work with Brian Eno in the mid seventies, so instead of double modified reel-to-reel tapes, Mr. Fripp uses a stack of modern digital equipment piled immediately to the right of his guitar stool, giving him plenty of knobs, dials and buttons to twiddle with after each guitar phrase is recorded and looped. As previously recorded riffs get processed and re-recorded, he adds another note, sound or riff to accompany the earlier ones, subtly shifting and shaping these sonic textures, layering sound on sound and deciding how long to allow the overlap and echo, till it quietly fades away. The result is lush, beautiful, cerebral  and often- very quiet.

More pics and video after the jump.
          Usually,  I would post a video that I took here,  but since I had not even heard this event was happening till an hour before starting time,  I arrived as the entrance applause was waning,  and Mr. Fripp was just walking on stage.  After the event,  I learned that he had requested that no video of the event be taken  (flash-less photos were ok).  Please see the final video in the series at the end of this post for a professional  (and I hope, Fripp-sanctioned) example of a Soundscapes Performance. I respect  (fear?)  "The Dark Knight,  the scariest guitarist who ever played while sitting in a chair..." (as one YouTube commenter succinctly put it) too much, to defy his wishes.          

Mr. Fripp makes his entrance
To fully appreciate this music requires as little outside noise interference as possible. Unfortunately, this daytime performance took place in the central public space of a shopping mall and office center, as well as a Ground Zero tour hotspot.

People came and went, wandered, talked to each other continuously, and generally forgot that an artist was performing. I’d like to fully blame the poor public etiquette of people in general, but the daylight, minimal stage set and relative low volume of the performance contributed to not keeping boorish behavior in check.

The following egregious examples though, there is absolutely no excuse for:
  • Lady screaming into a cell phone in Japanese for three minutes
  • Father who brought his son, along with a bag of hard plastic toys, soon dumped out and played with on the marble floor
  • GenX-er who allowed his skateboard to tumble down the marble steps
  • And, I kid you not, a tour group operator who brought his charges down onto the floor where the performance took place.
May you all be sentenced to walk a continuous loop of airport-security-style full body scans in front of friends and co-workers for the rest of your lives. (Sadly, security was quick to enforce a “no video” policy, but not once did they ask someone to please be quiet). Let's hope a more respectful and appreciative crowd attended Saturday evening’s performance.

The sounds are manipulated                                            The Winter Garden setting

Lady, the crowd would have noticed you less if you spontaneously combusted
Mr. Fripp takes 3 bows for the standing ovation crowd
The sound mixing board
The Frippertronics Tower
Monitor, guitar, stool, pedal effects

JUST IN CASE YOU'RE NOT FAMILIAR with Robert Fripp and King Crimson, or only know the screaming distortion Vietnam war protest "classic rock" radio staple "21st Century Schitzoid Man", here are some helpful videos you should check out:

For those of you who might think he's just an ambient guitar lightweight, listen to these compiled solos and feel your face melting...

My favorite line-up of the continuously morphing King Crimson was the early eighties version: Fripp on "disciplined" guitar, Adrian Belew (fresh from Frank Zappa and sometimes touring with Talking Heads) on the "wild" guitar, super-sought-after session musician Tony Levin on Chapman Stick and bass, and Bill Bruford (yes, from Yes) on drums and percussion. Feel the funk and polyrhythmic precision on this live version of "Waiting Man"...

The same line-up with the genre-defying "Elephant Talk" (Talk? it's only talk, babble, burble, banter, bicker, bicker, bicker; brew-ha-ha! balderdash, ballyhoo, its only talk. Back-talk). A barely moving, sometimes smiling (!) Fripp is doing Bach-like arpeggios up and down the neck, while banshee Belew is banging and scraping between staccato shouts. This is immediately followed by "Thela Hun Ginjeet" (anagrammatically, "Heat in the Jungle")...

Next, step into the wayback machine and watch "Lark's Tongue in Aspic".
Robert Fripp maintains he has never done drugs. He has certainly done a 'fro, though, and he sports a fine one here...

And finally, coming full circle to the present again, here is professionally shot video of a Soundscapes performance in Madrid in April, 2010...

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Tickledrop here. I came across your blog via an email alert for Adrian Belew. Great you made it to the show, great you wrote this informative blog about it, and great that I found it! I also love the early '80s lineup, still do. I fell in love with Adrian via the KC live show in Los Angeles in the summer of '84. Thanks for sharing.