03 December 2010

Robert Fripp in NYC

Tonight, I attended the second of four performances of Robert Fripp's soundscapes at the World Financial Center in NYC.

Being a King Crimson and Fripp enthusiast, I've seen Fripp with Crimson a number of times, but had not had the experience of attending a soundscapes performance. I have many of the CD releases of Fripp's ambient work, but no live experiences. So, I was looking forward to this event in NYC. The added benefit of it being free was also a plus, but I would have paid, had the show needed advance tickets.

I arrived at the venue around 5:45pm, for a 7pm start time, and was able to get a seat at the front right side of the stage. The venue, while a public space, was very nice, with high ceilings, and a large backdrop behind the stage, which gave me the impression of being a sail.

Fripp came out at about 6:30pm to do a bit of soundchecking. Someone shouted "21st Century Schizoid Man," but fortunately that was the only bit of doofiness for the evening. Fripp was on stage for a few minutes, and then exited, to await the performance start time.

Fripp was introduced by one of the WNYC (New York's public radio station) hosts, I can't recall his name right now, but he does the "Sound Check" new music show on that station. He asked for no flash photography, and detailed how in this type of performance, which is mainly improvised, we the audience are as much a part of it as the performer. Our attention adds to the experience, and shapes it in ways that are both obvious, and subtle.

When Fripp then came on stage, he bowed to the audience at the front of the stage, then to stage right for a bow, and then to stage left before sitting at his stool to start the performance. Soundscapes are created by playing some different notes, patterns, or short melodies, that are then looped or processed in ways, allowing for additional loops or guitar solo melodies to be played along with the loops. It is a *quiet* music, but full of feeling.

Putting my own feelings on the table, I had had a full month. My grandmother died on this past Halloween, and some of the melodies, in their feelings of melancholy, loss, and reflection, I could not help but think about the life of my grandmother, and the loss that I have felt. But while it could be sad and maudlin to use music in that way, the soundscapes, for me, seem to have a feel of hope and redemption about them. Some do have a slightly darker feel, but even those have some feel of light about them. And, when reflecting on the life of someone close to you, it is good to have that feeling of being able to say goodbye, through music.

Fripp played for about 50 minutes, and I would say that there were 5-6 distinct pieces during that time. As some pieces flow into another, it's hard to say exactly how many pieces there might have been. For me, the second piece was particularly moving, and one of the transitions later in the set truly touched me.

There are two more performances in this series, both tomorrow (Saturday) at 12:30pm and 7pm. I would recommend these performances to anyone in the NYC area who would like to hear some music that is both very different from much of what is out there, but still can move you in ways that you will think about for a long time.