The Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists III

The Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists III is a manifestation of 25 years of work by an evolving and expanding group of musicians (primarily guitarists) using the same approach, technique and musical vocabulary.  It was (still is) one example of what is possible.  It involved musicians from all over the world including (but not limited to) Italy, UK, USA, Argentina, Germany, Mexico, France and Russia.

The week preceding the concert involved experiments in group improvisation by the assembled orchestra (consisting of close to 100 acoustic guitars).  Over several days different approaches to working as a group were tried and evolved into the final performance configuration.  Several “section leaders” were identified and became the focal points of each self-determining section.  Basically, the section leaders  began playing and each orchestra member gravitated towards the leader they felt compelled to follow, echoing what the leader was playing and literally following them around the room.  The instruction was given to keep moving (even when standing in the same place).

The final performance was held in the church at the Convento La Pace in Sassoferrato, Italy.  The orchestra assembled in the dining room and then marched single file across to the church entering the space one at a time and coiling around the center of the room (where an array of mics were set up to record the event in surround sound).  After calmly and quietly considering the assembled audience (as the audience looked back with curiosity) Robert gave the instruction ‘Orchestra, when ready please begin.”

What followed was music previously difficult to imagine.  Sections sounded like crazed Ligeti-style strings, several pianos simultaneously being dropped from varying heights, pizzcato blips and chirps of alien birds and even occasionally the sound of a handful of acoustic guitars.  All of this accompanied by marching feet and smiling faces from the OCG III and looks of varying degrees of wonderment (or confusion) from the assembled audience of townspeople.

As the piece wound down the OCG filed out (again, single file) and returned to the dining room.  Inside the church a few select musicians remained and performed a handful of pieces from the GC repertoire.  Then the OCG returned filing in and forming 2 circles one large one with a smaller one inside.  Robert gave the command “Orchestra, when ready, whizz.”  Whizzing is essentially the passing of a single abrupt dissonant staccato chord passed down the line of musicians as fast as possible.  The sound is something akin to a localized burst of static travelling around the room.  The variations in timing in the response of each musician created a rhythm not unlike a rollercoaster ascending and descending throughout it’s circuit.  The OCG then returned to the green room/dining room.

The personal significance of the experience probably requires an entire entry to itself.  Coming soon.

Robert’s account of the event (with many more photos) can be read here.

Italy, pt 2

Rehearsal in the church:


Roberto Duse’s excellent poster:


Local press.  I had a friend translate it (see below).  I think my favorite line is

“a band of guitar masters of great fame and notoriety”.

Here is the translation (huge thanks to Joe Tamagni!):


Incredible but true. It will become reality Friday at 9pm, when the leader, founder of King Crimson (in the photo Fripp is the last one on the right), a progressive rock group that was all the rage a few decades back, will be at the La Pace convent for what some have defined as a true music event of… See More a high artistic level. Robert Fripp and the orchestra of Crafty Guitarists is the title of the program that features a band of guitar masters of great fame and notoriety.

The project that was presented in Barcellona in February of 2009 and in Seattle last October, will make Sassoferrato its third stop. Fripp, who developed a very original style that influenced more than two generations of avantguard musicians, will present himself again to the public, playing acoustic guitar after 17 years.

With him will be an orchestra formed by a variable number of guitarists (generally 40 to 100: Friday evening there will be about 50), with the object of playing new material with characteristic symphonics(?) symphonies(?). The famous English artist is founder of “Guitar Craft” that since 1985 has been celebrated all over the world. In July of 2008, Robert Fripp introduced, for certain verses, the new experience that he had in mind, speaking of “acoustic explosions of improvisation, surprise and marvel for an hour.

Finally, after being asked for 21 years to construct a vehicle for this eruption of subtle energy, the time has come to present it to the pubic”. They will follow, therefore, the Barcellona concert, and then, at a distance of eight months, that of Seattle. Right now appointment in Sassoferrato. Free admission (you can make donations).”


Notes from the conductor:


March 18-19:  Vermont -> New Jersey -> Rome -> Ancona -> Sassoferrato.  A long day of travel involving planes trains and automobiles.

Convento la Pace

Luxury Accommodations.

I won big in the roommate lottery.

Robert Taylor-Manning

Tim Butler

I was really lucky with the room assignments.  Sharing a relatively huge room with Robert Taylor-Manning and Tim Butler (who I know from previous courses and adventures with the Stone Document Northern New Jersey Circle).  The sign on the door indicates there will be one more but no sign of Massimo yet.

Initially dubbed “The Diptheria Ward” our room’s name was later changed to “The Lounge” as it became a place for a handful of us to decompress at the end of the day.

Our room’s high ceiling with Tim for scale.

The view was nice.

Preparing for Italy

In a couple of days Dennis and I will be on our way to Italy to participate in the Guitar Craft 25th Anniversary Completion Course Special Project: The Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists III.  “What pray tell is that?” you may ask.  In the words of (founder/conductor) Robert Fripp:  “The focus of the course, and one of the primary questions in the work of The Orchestra Of Crafty Guitarists, is this question:  how do we work with others, and specifically in the Guitar Circle?”

So, in preparation I’ve spent the last few weeks with an acoustic guitar in my hands.  A rare occurrence that usually means a Guitar Craft event is looming on my horizon.  It is also a reminder of how little effort is required to get sound out of Stick.