from Robert Fripp


Date: 21 Jan 97 07:41:02 EST
Subject: from Robert Fripp
Thursday 16th. January, 1997.

Dear Team,

In ET 327 Matt Lincoln writes (8th. January):

"On August 25, 1996 I caught the KC show at Maryland with Vernon Reid
opening. During Vernon's set I noticed RF sitting by the soundboard. Wow, I
thought, I've really appreciated all this man has done for music (since
I've been a fan from way back when I went with my brother when I was nine
to buy "In The Court of ...") so I thought I would just say Thank You. I
waited until the applause died down from the last Vernon song and said to
RF, `Excuse me I would like to say..' but before I could start talking he
ran away. And not just moving away but RAN. Like he was afraid. (Kind of
like Sir Robin the Not So Brave RUNNING away from the Three Headed Beast in
the Holy Grail). I'm left thinking I am a fan of a person who dislikes
people, especially the ones who give him money for his music. He could've
said "please don't bother me", or "do not talk to me". Maybe if you talk to
RF you could express my apology as well as giving him the opportunity to
behave like a human and apologize to me as well. I've worked in the music
industry and met and dealt with people such as Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins,
Bono, Sting and others but none have ever RUN away from me. What was it, my
breath???".

I

Firstly, Matt feels some umbrage at my response to him, and has given me
"the opportunity to behave like a human and apologize to" him. I apologise.

Secondly, Matt's letter raises several issues which I would be grateful if
he (and other readers) would address in response to my own recent posting
(ET 328, 13th. January, on King Crimson's 28th. birthday). My own letter
refers to readers expressing "opinions and judgements, often with some
heat, on the basis of a clearly developed sense of what they expect of the
artists they patronise; umbrage when these expectations are not met; with
clearly implied assumptions on the part of what the artist's position is /
should / might / can only be, and certainly is despite anything, in any
case, anyway, because I've bought my ticket with hard-earned pay and that
gives me rights".

My letter touches on assumption, expectation, negative reaction to
confounded expectation, and rights of the "consumer" in a commercial
culture. I didn't read Matt's letter until this morning and, given that, my
own lettter seems strangely prescient.

So, what does Matt assume, expect, how does he deal with his expectations
not being met, and how is his implicit / explicit demand for a response
from me, in a manner which he would find satisfactory, affected by him
having given me "money for (my) music"?

Whenever we form judgements, or draw opinions, from events it seems
reasonable, even necessary, that we take into account the circumstances
surrounding any particular occurrence or event: "Consider always time,
place and person". This gives us both the context and the specifics.

II

I remember the occasion Matt describes very well. The totally superb Vernon
Reid sets standards as a guitarist, musician and human being to which I
aspire. Robert the gigging musician gets very little opportunity to see the
musicians I really wish to see. Often, it's down to hoping that the other
band/s on the bill are players you'd travel to hear, let alone open veins
to see in action. This was one of my lucky times. I had hoped Crimson would
tour extensively with Vernon last summer, but he didn't have the tour
support from his record company to make it possible. So, we only had two
nights together, the last two of the Crim tour.

When the lights went down at the beginning of the show I walked round the
side way to front-of-house and the soundboard, running away (well, walking
in a very brisk manner in a direction contrary-to-that-of) two people
shouting at me along the way, and even hid at one point until they had
gone. During and throughout the radically wonderful Vernon set various
people sat behind me and stared at me, stood in front of me and stared at
me, kneeled down in front of me and stared at me, and walked around my seat
and aisle staring at me; several of them presented me with tickets to sign,
some while standing directly in front of me as the Reid band were playing;
one autograph was presented between tunes from a kneeling gentleman who
speedily disappeared when I waved my hand in an imperious and dismissive
gesture. Clearly a rude and arrogant man, this Fripp.

My own strategies of behaviour are based on principles of conduct which
are generally applicable in my life, modified by ongoing experience, and
adapted / changed / abandoned in any particular moment in response to
particular circumstance: "Act always in accordance with time, place and
person". Little in my life is arbitrary, however unexpected or irrational
it might appear to those not privy to my inner workings; that is, to anyone
and everyone other than myself. And rarely now do I stop and explain, as
once I tried to do.

Readers of ET who have been generous enough with their time to take an
interest in what is referred to as "Fripp's 'tude" may have noticed that my
responses, sometimes seemingly friendly, sometimes seemingly rude, differ
in different places, at different times, to different people, under
different conditions and circumstances. (This itself was also recently the
subject of comment).

The phrases "please don't bother me" and "do not talk to me" from my lips
would be rude. When I am listening to music being played in live
performance, even very obviously sitting and listening to the music being
played (which includes the moments in between when "nothing" seems to be
happening) my response to an overture from someone I don't know is likely
to be non-verbal: the language of gesture is immediate, direct and
telling. So, I might shake my head, lean to the left to look past the
person standing directly in front of me so I am able to continue seeing the
band playing, or run away. All three of these non-verbal strategies were
used on this particular occasion, all of them several times (and running
away twice). As well as a dismissive and imperious gesture.

When I do give voice to a reply, in moments which are inconvenient or
inappropriate for me to respond positively to any particular approach,
request for autograph or question, my responses are usually these: at
first, "No, thank you". If this first response is ignored, I repeat "No,
thank you" a second time.  If this is ignored, my response is "Excuse
me". If this is ignored, my response is "Kindly grant me my privacy". If
this is ignored, I leave. The speed of my departure depends upon the
situation and is usually not the process of long reflection and considered
analysis. If my feet appear to be moving very quickly, I follow
them. Sometimes this might be brisk walking, sometimes breaking into a
trot, and sometimes even running.

This is one standard approach / response to a recurrent situation. There
are other possible responses, some of which I have used and some which I
have not yet tested.

However, I would rather not discuss in detail my own expectations and
assumptions, rights and obligations as I see them, until there has been
some interest shown in the topic by members of the ET team. Otherwise,
fine.

III

What I would like to know from Matt, if he feels able to respond, is:

1. Why did Matt want to say "Thank you" to me? What response did he expect
from me? What response did he want from me?

2. Matt compares me unfavourably with Gabriel, Collins, Bono and Sting. I
have no complaint with this: in comparison with these people, by any
standard of humanity or musicality, I come out unfavourably. But to make a
valid comparison and value judgement between two situations, the
circumstances have to be reasonably (actually, highly) comparable.

Were Peter, Phil, Gordon and Bono sitting, intently listening to and
watching a performance, at the time Matt "met and dealt with" them? If not,
why mention them? If yes, what were their responses? (This I would love to
know!).

3. How are Matt's expectations / rights affected by the fact that he has
given me money? How does he know that I got the money? If I hadn't, would
that affect his opinion? Has there been any mention of my obligations
towards him in the exchange of cash, in addition to his acquisition of a
record / concert ticket? (If the exchange of cash gives him rights, why say
"Thank you"?  - the payment to an ungrateful artist is surely
sufficient. If the payment isn't a sufficient "Thank you", then why mention
the money? In any case, isn't it a sufficient "Thank you" that Matt was in
the audience?).

4. "I'm left thinking I am a fan of a person who dislikes people, especially
the ones who give him money for his music". Why? How does Matt get to the
second conclusion?

5. "Maybe if you talk to RF you could express my apology" ... for what is
Matt apologising? His position, as he describes it, seems blameless.

IV

I ran away from Matt the Three Headed Beast not because of his breath, not
because of his person, but because of his behaviour. My own view is that
Matt's conduct was inappropriate at that particular time, in that place,
between those specific people interracting under those particular
conditions. Matt's view is very different from this. My interest is in
Matt's expections, assumptions, his negative reaction, and the mention of
money.

None of this implies that Matt is creepy, or has an unpleasant nature, or
suffers from debilitating personal ailments which adversely affect his
social life. I dislike some people, like some people, and don't give much
of a hoot for a significant proportion not included in those two
categories. I like some people whose behaviour disgusts me, and dislike
other people whose conduct I set myself as an example to follow. (It is
actually easier to behave honourably towards people we dislike, because we
don't make the same demands of them, implicitly and explicitly). So, liking
and disliking people doesn't bother me very much and has more to do with me
than them.

V

If any of the ETers need further persuasion that not only is Fripp's
offstage demeanour appalling, but that his onstage demeanour is arguably
worse, they might like to consult the Prelude to Number 17 of "Progression
- The Journal of Progressive Rock" (July - September 1995) where the editor
John Collinge makes several critical comments regarding my onstage
behaviour.

I don't wish to direct / redirect / affect forthcoming responses from
interested readers by prematurely presenting my own views on John's
particular piece of writing. Alright, just this once: very rarely have I
seen an editorial at any level of circulation which displays this degree of
ignorance and blindness, trumpeted so proudly, with deliberate rudeness and
forced wit.

I am grateful to those who help me see what I do more clearly, by allowing
me to see through their eyes; and to hear through their ears. The true
audient is a rare friend to the performer. So it is a deep personal
disappointment for me, as a player, that John has failed, so successfully,
to see what is on offer. So, what is on offer?

At the moment, it seems a musician is reviewing the audience. I hope it has
the friend it deserves.

Sincerely,

Robert Fripp.


Mike Stok