Robert Fripp Completes His Year-Long Pledge to Share Music For Quiet Moments

Robert Fripp of King Crimson, photo via IMDb

It’s been quite a year for English musician, songwriter, and record producer, Robert Fripp and today marks a very special day in his musical journey. Fripp and his wife, Toyah Willcox have actively been posting lighthearted and silly rock song cover performances to Toyah’s YouTube channel each week, while simultaneously Fripp has held fast to his pledge from a year ago to post previously-unreleased weekly installments of his own ambient Frippertronic series entitled, Music For Quiet Moments

The project was initiated on May 1st of 2020 following an announcement on Fripp’s own website. Fripp dedicated himself to release a soundscape every Friday for fifty-two weeks on DGMLive, Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and all the main online music platforms. In the April 29th announcement, Fripp’s producer, David Singleton remarked:

Hopefully something that will nourish us, and help us through these Uncertain Times. I have certainly enjoyed the peace that comes with editing and mastering them.

Turning a seeming disadvantage to our advantage, a year at home without touring offers the chance to listen for the first time in many cases to existing live recordings. And there are treasures to be found!

The announcement was followed by a brief write-up by Fripp outlining the philosophy and concept he had in mind for the series. Fripp wrote:

Music For Quiet Moments…

I

A Quiet Moment is how we experience a moment: the moment which is here, now and available.

Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet;

and also where we find them.

Sometimes quiet moments find us.

Some places have an indwelling spirit, where quiet is a feature of the space:

perhaps natural features in the landscape;

perhaps intentionally created, as in a garden;

perhaps where a spirit of place has come into being over time, as in an English country churchyard.

Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound;

in a place we hold to be sacred, maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square.

A Quiet Moment is more to do with how we experience time than how we experience sound.

A Quiet Moment prepares the space where Silence may enter.

Silence is timeless.

II

My own quiet moments, over fifty-one years of being a touring player, have been mostly in public places where, increasingly, a layer of noise has intentionally overlaid and saturated the sonic environment.

III

Quiet Moments of my musical life, expressed in Soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.   

Paradoxically, they have mostly taken place in public contexts inimical and unsupportive of quiet.

Some of these Soundscapes are inward-looking, reflective.

Some move outwards, with affirmation.

Some go nowhere, simply being where they are.

Robert Fripp

Tuesday 28th. April, 2020;

Bredonborough, Middle England.

Today marks the publication of the fifty-second and final installment of Fripp’s year-long series. Every Friday, the artist has faithfully shared thoughtful and introspective soundscapes which serve as a meditative medicine for melancholy during these difficult times.

Early on in the project, the ambient radio program Hearts of Space’s producer and presenter, Stephen Hill dedicated a full transmission to showcase the first four installments of the series for programme #1251 broadcast June 19th, 2020.

From the Hearts of Space website for that transmission, Hill wrote:

Through his work with Eno, Fripp developed an analog looping system he called Frippertonics. Looping repeats musical phrases with a delay and layers them on top of themselves, turning musical fragments into continuous streams of sound. When combined with Fripp’s sophisticated guitar technique, Frippertonics has produced a series of refined electronic soundscapes.

On this transmission of Hearts of Space, the sublime soundscapes of ROBERT FRIPP, on a program called MUSIC FOR QUIET MOMENTS. We’ll feature the first four releases in a projected series of 50 weekly installments available online at Fripp’s website DGMLIVE.com for exactly 99 cents each.

These Frippertronic soundscapes flow seamlessly from one track to the next. The complete library of fifty-two pieces clocks in at a total of over 8 hours and 47 minutes of contemplative music, and serves as a magnificent soundbed for work, quiet reflection, or sleep. It’s been quite a year, and at last the series is complete. Music For Quiet Moments is highly recommended as some of the finest ambient music of the pandemic period to date. For anyone who enjoyed Fripp’s prior Frippertronic soundworlds, these are definitely worth your time and exploration.

Published in: on April 9, 2021 at 7:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Brian Eno: Oblique Music

Brian Eno - Oblique Music Book

Oblique Music is a 2016 collection of essays examining Eno’s work as a musician, as a theoretician, as a collaborator, and a producer. It was published by Bloomsbury Publishing, who also released my favorite musicological text, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. The book is divided into two primary collections of essays – the first pertaining to Eno as composer, musician, and theorist, and the second section on “The University of Eno” exploring his work as a producer, collaborator and ethnographer.

The book’s introduction dives right into Eno’s early influences. Crucial to Eno’s early development as an artist, in addition to his experiences at The Fine Art Department at Ipswich in the mid-sixties, was Beers’ book The Brain of the Firm which Eno received from Jane Harvey, the mother of his first wife. The central insight of the text was this idea: “instead of specifying it in full detail, you simply ride the dynamics of the system where you want to go.” This resolved the stubborn dilemma of how one can get anywhere creatively if they don’t know what or where their destination might be. Beer’s insights were incorporated into Eno’s strategies as he moved from the quasi-hierarchical working structure of Warm Jets to his present position – that of a key part of the creative system, but not necessarily its centre.

It is this very tenet of Eno’s philosophy which attracts me to his generative work – that Eno endeavors to remove the ego from his artistry and instead he merely engineers the conditions from which his process music will commence and then permits the system to run its course. There seems to be an almost Eastern / Buddhist perspective about this approach to musical composition, and I find it infinitely more satisfying than the proud and declarative concrete structures typical of rock music.

Chapter 1: The Bogus Men explores the forcefully and glamorously modern synthesis of style and experimentation pioneered by Roxy Music in the early 1970s. Quoting Allan Moore, essayist David Pattie describes how the band managed to create a sound world in which ‘the traditional instrumental relationships are frequently and subtly overturned.’

The virtual environment of sonic space is examined structurally as three component parts – localized space,  spectral space and morphological space, and contrasts are drawn between the sonic environments of Roxy Music’s “Do the Strand” from 1973 and Eno’s “Discreet Music” from 1975. The essay closes touching upon the creative divergence of Eno and Ferry and the unsustainability of the Roxy Music project. “Ferry,” Pattie describes, “was drawn towards the shaping of a musical object; Eno, then and now, preferred to explore systems and processes.” This tension led to the breakdown of their relations.

Chapter 2 explores Eno’s non-musicianship, his experimental tradition, and his strategy of deliberately selecting musicians who would be incompatible with one another, as well as creating conditions wherein the performers are not able to hear each other to introduce unexpected interactions. Both the Portsmouth Sinfonia and The Scratch Orchestra are examined. The chapter closes drawing parallels between the non-musical properties of Discreet Music and Satie’s Musique d’ameublement (“furniture music”) from a half-century before. The chapter addresses the fundamental differences between the teleological nature of traditional musical structures and what Eno calls the ‘hypothetical continuum’ of experimental music.

Describing his ‘non-musicianship,’ Eno remarks,

“Since I have always preferred making plans to executing them, I have gravitated towards situations and systems that, once set into operation, could create music with little or no intervention on my part. That is to say, I tend towards the roles of the planner and programmer, and then become an audience to the results.”

In chapter 3: Taking the Studio By Strategy, David Pattie offers an examination of Eno’s creative process. Pattie calls attention to Eno’s serendipitous taxi accident which created the circumstances inspiring his discovery of ambient listening, via the now legendary tale where Eno was bedridden and unable to turn up the volume on a barely-audible recording of eighteenth-century harp music. He also describes Eno’s incorporation of chance into otherwise strictly-structured systems. And like his contemporary Cornelius Cardew, his approach to composition permits hierarchical structures to give way to a more heuristic process. However, Pattie notes, Eno endeavored not to simply recast the compositional framework of Reich’s Music As a Gradual Process, but incorporated the artists’ response to the introduction of chance, via what Eno termed, “scenius” or communal genius.

Chapter 5 by Mark Edward Achtermann entitled Yes, But Is It Music? views and analyses Eno’s earliest ambient works through several lenses and philosophies of established artistic theory beginning with Tolkien’s critique of allegory and aesthetic theory, as well as Collingwood’s 1938 Principles of Art. Eric Tamm’s 1989 book, Brian Eno: His Music and The Vertical Color of Sound is also touched upon to frame the merit of music employing static harmony and timbral homogeneity. It was interesting to see ambient music framed by Tolkien’s theory, specifically his argument that art provides three great benefits: escape, recovery, and consolation. Achtermann proposes that Eno both confirms and challenges this theory. Further parallels are drawn between the systems at play in Eno’s ambient compositions and Lazlo’s evolutionary theory.

The final chapter of Book One entitled The Voice And/Of Brian Eno examines Eno’s post-humanist use of voice in song “to chart the convulsions at the boundaries of race, gender, and the human.” The use and manipulation of voice on albums released between 1991 and 2014 are explored, as are other artists who have synthesized and otherwise technologically manipulated voices of “post-human ventriloquism” in popular song from the 1940s to contemporary artists like Boards of Canada, DJ Shadow, and Giorgio Moroder.

Sean Albiez quotes P.K. Nayar’s Transhumanism proposing that Eno “explores strategies that emphasize co-evolution, symbiosis, feedback, and responses as determining conditions rather than autonomy, competition, and self-contained isolation of the human.” And it is that “loss of ego,” that concept of “scenius” which makes him such a powerful critical force of the post-human perspective.

mi00044121301432564378.jpg

Part 2 is entitled, The University of Eno and explores his work as a producer and collaborator.

Chapter 8: Before and After Eno contextualizes Eno’s seminal lecture, ‘The Recording Studio as a Compositional Tool’ and how Eno “acts as a nexus between historical and contemporary currents in experimental, avant-garde, and popular musics.” Parallels are drawn between Eno’s musical philosophy and that of John Cage, as well as those of Satie, Varèse, Russolo, Schaeffer, and other pivotal music theorists of the era of recorded sound. Albiez and Dockwray demonstrate that Eno reiterated ideas many decades in the making but that his work is noteworthy due to his unique position in bridging the early & twentieth-century avant-garde with later experimenters in popular music.

Interestingly, not all of the essays are voices of praise. Elizabeth Ann Lindau offers some important criticism in chapter ten of the ‘ethnographic surrealism’ of Byrne and Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and its role in cultural anthropology. Further criticisms are presented in the final chapters detailing Eno’s role as producer for Devo and U2 as well as in the closing chapter where Martin James’ briefly examines Eno’s curation of the no wave scene in 1978 with the album, No New York.

Oblique Music effectively contextualizes the many facets of Eno’s work throughout the course of his illustrious career. And I appreciated that the text wasn’t all one-sided praise, but instead sheds light on the friction between Eno and his many collaborators. The book also excels at outlining Eno’s musical philosophy without being overly academic and makes for a stimulating survey of one of the most influential artists and producers of the century.

Midnight on Mars: Ambient Worlds

Checking in for the Playlist of the Day! Tonight – Midnight on Mars: Ambient Worlds.

The list comprises the work of 1300 artists and clocks in at 2,794 hrs 29 mins. It’s a collection of the finest LPs from nearly a century of ambient music.

NP: Fripp & Eno’s “The Heavenly Music Corporation (Reversed) Pt 1”

A Bit of Eno

I’m so very excited – just a few days ago I was browsing Discogs and by a sheer stroke of luck happened upon the newly-released first-ever vinyl pressing of Fripp & Eno’s Equatorial Stars.

Recorded in 2004, the album marked a 30-year reunion for the two musicians, who last collaborated on the Evening Star LP in 1975. Evening Star was the follow-up to their premiere frippertronic album – the monumental classic, (No Pussyfooting).

My Eno LPs to date…

Eno Collection 1Eno Collection 2Eno Collection 3

Brian Eno is an incredible hero of mine. From his genre-defining masterpiece, Music for Airports to his 77 Million Paintings project, from his zen-like Oblique Strategies deck to The Long Now Foundation, I’ve been following his work for more than 15 years and loving each new discovery.

One of my favorite (and sadly lesser-known) works by Eno was his January 07003 / Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now which features chimes for a timepiece that operates with minimum human intervention for ten millennia.

I’m still missing a few of the albums from Eno’s primary discography on vinyl, such as Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, Music for Films 2 and 3, and Thursday Afternoon, but I do maintain a 64-album digital discographic archive for added accessibility.

Eno’s recent collaborative projects with my other hero, Karl Hyde were a dream come true. Both are highly-acclaimed visual artists as well as musicians and have been wonderful inspirations for my own creative ventures.

Their collaboration drew inspiration from the repetitive minimalism of my other favorite composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, and from the polyrhythmic music of Fela Kuti and funk.  For those who missed my post from the album’s debut, check out the fractured groove of “DBF.”

At age 66, Eno has no intention of slowing down, and I look forward to his next innovative project.

__________________

The History of Modern Ambient Music: Part 1 – 1973-1993

Hello friends!  My second video is now up on The Innerspace Connection’s Youtube channel – this is the first of a 2-part series showcasing milestone recordings of modern ambient music.

Here are the highlights of albums recorded between 1973 and 1993, presented in the order of their release.

Or click here for the HD version.

Treasures Untold

Between my recent motherboard failure and setting up the replacement PC my stepfather so generously donated to me, I’ve picked up a lot of vinyl that didn’t make it to my blog.  I thought I’d take a moment to highlight some of the better ones that I’ve neglected.

First, I found Funkadelic’s Electric Spanking of War Babies in NM shape at an antique shop.  It is another outstanding example of Pedro Bell’s artwork.

The next item I picked up was the first album to feature regenerative tape loops which Robert Fripp and Brian Eno dubbed ‘Frippertronics.’  The album is an ambient classic – No Pussyfooting.

Side A is the standout track at over 20 minutes in length, titled “The Heavenly Music Corporation.”

I insist on tracking down original pressings whenever possible, and I was lucky to find an extremely clean copy at a great price.

And thanks to my friend Brrrn and good timing at a flea market, two more early Eno recordings fell into my hands.  One was Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) – Eno’s second solo album and the other was a long-time favorite collaboration with Harold Budd titled Ambient 2 – Plateaux of Mirror.  Plateaux was one of my first digital ambient albums many years ago.

The next treasure is a deep cut, and one of historical significance.  I was exploring The Orb’s catalog and read about a curious track called “The Blue Room,” a 17 minute song which appeared on the album u.f.orb.  What I discovered was that the original single was in fact 40:00 long.

From Wiki:

The UK charts had recently decided that any release with more than 40 minutes of play would be classified as an album rather than single. The Orb thus decided to record a 39:57 version of “Blue Room” for a special release. “Blue Room” is the longest single to ever reach the UK charts, peaking at number eight.

If you have ANY interest in ambient house, you need to hear this song.

The last find in the spectrum of ambient music was a dollar bin neoclassical LP by David Lanz.  Nightfall is one of his best works.

There were several other discoveries including a number of Yes albums previously missing from my collection and Zappa’s Hot Rats which features wonderful contributions from Don Van Vliet.

Last but most certainly not least, I found a number of Sesame Street albums to add to my Jim Henson library.  It’s getting harder and harder to find ones I don’t already have, (over 40 at last count) so these were a treat.

The Ernie LP is extra special.  Mint in shrink, it includes some of my most beloved memories from the Street – “Rubber Duckie,” “Imagination,” “I Don’t Want to Live On The Moon,” and the hilarious “Dance Myself to Sleep.”

If only it featured “Put Down the Duckie” it would be my favorite Sesame record ever.  Sadly, that duet between Ernie and Hoots the Owl never made it to vinyl.

Here’s the video for “Dance Myself to Sleep.”  If you’re really savvy you might just catch the Andrews Sisters reference Ernie makes to a hit from 1941.  Watch for it!