On the cover of No Pussyfooting, the 1973 improvisational collaboration between British guitarists and inventors Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, the two men are seated in a room with mirrored walls. The camera faces toward a wall at an angle, so that the objects in the room seem multiplied, radiating into space. It's an apt metaphor for Frippertronics, the innovation of Fripp and Eno that runs through the record: Tape machines capture and repeat Fripp's guitar signal as he plays anew over the repetition. No Pussyfooting and the techniques it employed have inspired many.
As a founder of the progressive rock group King Crimson, Fripp is no stranger to adventurous music, and—since 1985—he's advocated a reconfigured system of tuning for the guitar: His "New Standard Tuning," now taught in his "Guitar Craft" seminars worldwide, means the lowest four strings are tuned like those of a cello, upward by fifths from a low C. This approach causes players to reinvent their playing while extending their sonic range beyond that of traditional tuning. Several outfits use New Standard Tuning exclusively: The League of Crafty Guitarists, which Fripp founded, exercises the system with steel-stringed acoustic guitars.
So what's it like to be taught guitar by Robert Fripp? There is a curriculum of sorts, with prerequisites for advanced classes. In "guitar circles," students learn from each other's experience. Sometimes, though, the classes may have little to do with the guitar at all, concentrating on ways of shifting thought: In beginner classes, instructors provide an introduction to Tai Chi, the Chinese philosophy that involves meditation with movement, and The Alexander Technique, aimed at reforming "habitual limitations." Or as Fripp has described it, it's "a way to develop a relationship with the guitar; a way to develop a relationship with music; a way to develop a relationship with oneself." He's not just retuning the guitar in class, then, is he?
Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists play The ArtsCenter Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.