Monday, December 28, 2009

OCG II Course Day 6

[I didn't technically write this day, aside from some scribbled notes at the end of the night. Here, I'm fleshing them out, according to reason.]

10/29/2009 - Up early, like every morning, though I admit that I am cheating, as I'm still on the edge of being on East Coast time.

7:15, sitting.

8 a.m, breakfast. Some additional discussion of logistics; at dinner, the night before, the day had essentially been laid out. This morning, a further clarification of some important points, beginning with wasteful talking. This has been something of a feature for kitchen work--rather, the emphasis of useful talking. RF discusses how he knows that we may be filled with energy, and may be riding in a car next to our "chums", and may want to discuss and chatter. Better to save this for the stage.

Curt chooses to emphasize the need to be attentive, as well as to further press the need for useful talking. He also points out the absolutely unquestionable necessity to remember that we are on course, and to simply acknowledge some of the brighter, more distracting features of the "off-course" world, but not dwell on them.

Patrick discusses a breach of kitchen etiquette: willfully entering through the wrong door. He does not name names, and has no need to do so.

One of the Gnarlies asks about visual cues for moving, noting that he can't see at times. The consensus (and thus convention) is that the group moves together.

As I'm putting away my dishes, I notice a few somethings that have been placed on the board: today, 10/29/2009, is the 60th anniversary of the passing of G.I. Gurdjieff. Posted is a collection of letters sent about by some of his closest students, in the days following. This is courtesy of Christine F., and gives a little extra weight to the day. It doesn't cross my mind that this was intentional, but it seems like such good luck that it should be so.

After breakfast, I shower, and proceed to warm up my fingers. An Alexander meeting at roughly 10:30 (or maybe 11 a.m.), with more practicing and playing afterwards. I join in for Level T (this has been an unstated aim for myself, for this course).

Lunch at 1 p.m. Restoration of the kitchen following.

From about 2 to 3, I don't find myself doing a whole lot. I change into gig clothes at half past 2 (having read Curt's blog the previous weeks before I left, I knew to expect something), and find the decision between shoes to be surprisingly difficult. Eventually, I choose the soggier, but less "laundry day" shoes, and make my way up to the main hall, happy with my choice of clothing [which, incidentally, I happen to be wearing at this moment, in the future of December].

The Martin's case gets tagged with blue tape, and my name. Curt had mentioned earlier in the day about the little piece of tape that he leaves on one of his cases at home--it was placed there by Hernan Nunez in 1989 for a League tour. Naturally, it seems quite fitting to leave my own tape on my case, for the future.

Sitting in the hall at 3:00 p.m., the bell is struck for the first time. We are engaging in the 60 points, as an exercise to stay on course, while en route to the performance.

With final load-in at 3:40, we all enter our respective vehicles. Hellboy Tom is riding shotgun in ours, and asks our "advanced team" riding in this van if we may participate in a slightly more involved exercise: every ten minutes, we will ring a bell.

I am riding in the middle set of seats. Behind me, one of the Team begins to take photos with a digital camera that he brought along in his jacket pocket. I had seen him using this, earlier, but did not notice the sound that it makes: a very conspicuous "shutter" sound. At first, this doesn't bother me, though I do note that the choice to bring a camera seems odd. But, as the trip progresses (it's roughly an hour or so), the somewhat random, many-pictures-at-one-time pace begins to grate on me, and I find myself growing quite judgmental. The snapping generally goes off whenever we pass. . . anything, really, be it one of our cars, or a bridge, or a bunch of ships.

Strangely, though, the incessant and erratic photography actually heightens the surrealism of "being off-course": there is almost no talking, and no active sound, save for the bell. The sound of driving simply melts away, and all that's left is the sound of being quiet and attentive. . . until the camera goes off.

This reaches a climax, which I suppose had to happen, when we find ourselves driving past some sort of automobile accident, with a pair of ambulances (or was it just one?). The camera goes positively nuts, and I can actually hear the sound of it moving back to continue taking pictures, as we slowly move past. As detached as I am, the accident is strange, and nothing more--the only thing that really concerns me is "assuming the virtue" and being patient in regards to the camera.

Eventually, we reach the Abbey. It is 5:15 p.m.

Moving directly into the Abbey. The look of it is positively beautiful: it's hard for a converted church to not look good, especially with high white ceilings and walls. The sound is very live, as well, and everything just explodes in the acoustics. Andrew, from the June course, is assisting, tonight.

What follows after this is not terribly interesting: warming up for the fourth time today, everyone playing something different. Curt apparently committing acts of high diplomacy in the basement downstairs. Watching RF beginning to warm up with Moving Force, and thinking, "Oh, that's how it's done." Everyone moving to the basement, and further warming up, with the points continuing to be noted. Elisabeth makes a coffee run, and I cover someone else, which actually makes me feel pretty good. The cappucino is incredible.

Some of the Orchestra are working with Calliope, and I find myself wishing I could join in. At some point (I think around 6:30), I simply stop playing, and instead choose to let my hands be loose but not worn out. At 8:00 p.m., the time is noted, and roughly 3 minutes later, everyone in the room goes silent. A minute or two later, everyone upstairs in the performance space ceases movement.

8:11, we assume the formation. 8:12, we walk out, Mariana leading and RF holding up the rear. On the way into the space, which we have sufficiently protected, I see Charles C., a fellow beginner from June. He is serving as a Four Quarters Maintainer.

At 8:13, we enter the space. 8:14, we invoke the Muse, in our own fashion.

At 8:15, Point 22.

We begin.


We finish playing, at apparently a little less than an hour later. The whizz has whizzed.

This was art.

Walking out to thunderous applause, the team continues into the basement, with Tuning The Air remaining behind, and then assuming the space for an encore.

Down in the basement, the Outer Circle can just hear the music, and the audience's raucous appreciation. Some of us (myself included) keep hoping that we will be called back, but this is not to be.

King for a Day (I am not familiar with this, but most of the Seattle team is), Eye of the Needle, and then a second encore of Thrak. This is taken very fast.

The Inner Circle return to the basement, and rejoin the Whole Circle. We thank the Muse in a similar fashion to the invocation.

A cooling-down, while we wait for the crowd to fully disperse. Sandwiches are made available. Almost immediately after the call for "free dispersal", one of the Team sits down, and instantly starts to wank on his guitar--I snap at him, and tell him to leave it.

I will still regret this action, months later. I will also still wish that I had chosen a different tone, a different choice of words, though I will not necessarily regret the informing intent. He looks hurt and angry, and rightfully so, but stops playing. Walking past, I lay my guitar on the floor next to me and lie down, in hopes of getting rid of the enormous knots in my back.

A short time later, with some food consumed, and almost all the restoration of the building done, we recircle in the space for a completion of the task, and acknowledge the help from those that helped.

In the vehicles at 10:15 or so. Continuing with points for everyone, and the bell in our van. On the way home, I briefly pass out with the bell in my hand, but am thankfully awakened in time.

Arriving back on course at roughly 11:30-11:45. Small talk with tasty cakes and coffee--no decaf for this fellow.

Bed, at roughly 12:45 a.m. A good day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

OCG II Course, Day 5 (did not write on Day 4)

10/28/2009 - Didn't write yesterday. Getting up quite early, each day. Feels nice, and something I wish I could manage to do, all the time. Discipline would play a role in this, but the day job plays into this as well. . . .

We are definitely in the middle of the middle.

Breakfast after the sitting. The 60 Points Exercise is both difficult and not so, in that the concept is fairly easy to grasp, but the execution is quite difficult. The good news is that the problem is identified: an inability to, or perhaps inexperience in, maintaining attention. It both works, and does not.

[What follows is not exactly what I wrote down, but is tempered by experience and observation from the past couple of months. Nonetheless, I am choosing to retain the same journalistic style.]

The less experienced "gnarlies", as the aspirants have been termed, have what is to me an inexplicable difficulty with counting time. I am in a curious spot, wherein I float in and out of those-who-cannot-count. When in the company of those who count, I generally do not fit in this club, but am still easily shaken; if put with a number of severely rhythmically-challenged people, I can not as yet hold my head above water, and become drowned in a sea of off-timing. My boat is little more than a raft.

Maybe I am wrong, but I think that the body is starting to work with me, or rather that I am starting to work with my body [within the context of this course]. Things are getting easier for me, musically; I think something that is helping is the occasional need to fill a leadership role. Having to be the example really firms up your stance.

RF gave a very engaging lecture today, in regards to the tetrad:

Spontaneous Composition

Extemporization - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - Improvisation

Riffs and Tricks/The Rank and File

The unfortunate part is that it was in direct relationship to the gnarlies. Not even the low house, so to speak, can be maintained. I find that I sit somewhere around 8 o'clock (if the tetrad were a clock), with an amount of facility, and can do the job, but have trouble maintaining the job in improvisation. Moving towards noon is usually impossible, but I do feel that it has happened, personally.

Anyway, the nature of was presented as rightfully bleak, but I am thankful because I am aware of a place of less bleakness--regardless of whether I am able to attain it.

Tony G is here, as has been noted. This has been an interesting course for me, in that a lot of names and faces that are either familiar or known to me have been on the course: people from the AAD course, or mentioned in RF's diary, or names from the history of Guitar Craft. There are those, of course, that I remember from the last course. This is beginning to leave the realm of the remembered and imagined, and approach the realm of the active and alive. Guitar Craft, and whatever it may become, has definitely moved itself into the realm of the present, for myself. This may be coming off a little nebulous and needlessly florid, but having a person to attach to a name is very powerful, and makes this more real than a book or a diary can suggest.

I believe that we crossed the Great Divide, at dinner tonight.

9:15: Tonight, the House of Guitars became the Orchestra of Crafty Guitars. The inner circle was comprised of Tuning the Air, with some noteable additions to their number (Fernando and Mary Beth). The outer circle was primarily composed of the Gnarlies, with Tony and Mariana serving as section leaders. Personally, I was flanked by Alex and Hank, with David on the other side of Hank. Seating was crystallized.

No improvisation, only practicalities and whizzing. Now that we're relatively familiar with each other, the whizzes are becoming much faster and fluid, with some sputters (to be expected). David likes to call this the "personality" or "voice" of the whizz--indeed, it does seem to reflect the state of the circle.

Afterwards, the inner circle ran some repertoire, and I got a chance to finally see how that group works in the circle, and "how it should be done". When I get back, I am very interested in attempting "in the round", as well as some of the exercises that I've seen here.

  • Soundball (circulating and random). Perhaps something to try would be to know a piece, and attempt to circulate it in a random fashion around the circle.
  • When ready, begin.
  • Play the same note at the same time (one person plays a note, and everyone tries to play it as he or she is playing--this would then move to two notes, then three, etc.)
  • 60 Points
  • Pattern circulating.
To bed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

OCG II Course, Day 3

10/26/2009 - Up at 5:50 a.m, or 8:50 a.m., Boston. Shower, went in for sitting. Made it through 60 points, after relaxing, with 15 min to spare.


10 a.m. Gnarlies in Dining room, working on the map of 5/16 over 5/4.


Completing this work, David then requested to present a game that was often used in improv theater, which is one of his backgrounds. In "Lumberjack", a vocalization is passed around the room: "Whooh." It is passed by one person, who raises his or her arms up as if a tree, and then is "chopped down" by the two people flanking him or her. The intent is passed to a random person in the circle, who then becomes a tree, and passes to another person.

11:10 > 11:40, taught Bruno Eye of the Needle; he'd seen me playing it in the circle, yesterday.

11:45, House of Guitars.

When ready, begin--stopped quickly.
When ready, begin, rain.
Then, sunshine.
Then, rain again.
Then, blue skies.
Whizzing with magic chord, with Mariana and Mary Beth heading up each half of the room (because "women are vicious!"). 90° displacements around the circle.

1 p.m., lunch, with various comments on communication. Lumberjack game mentioned.

2 p.m., Level T.

3 p.m., guitars with Curt and Jaxie. Moving around and maintaining awareness of the whole space and one's immediate space, and then forming four circles, in each quadrant of the room. Each group has a leader. Patrick, in G1, plays a note, repeatedly. Greg, in G2, plays a complementary note. The next two leaders blend in with the other two.

Now, each group complements their leader. G1 now changes, gradually, and G2 changes to match, once they've sensed the full change. Each group in response. Now, groups circulate within themselves in C Major. Eventually, all groups circulating. Brought to a close by Curt.

Now, G4(new leaders all around) plays with a simple motif, with each member of the group playing something to complement that. G2 (led by myself, now) responds in kind, followed by G1 and G3. This moves around, until brought to a sort of conclusion by Curt.

4 p.m.: tea.

4:45 - 6 p.m.: free time. Adrian, David, and I find ourselves talking about performance challenges, and small talk in general. We decide to go into the chapel, which is thankfully free, and work with circulating C Major in 3 octaves (low open C to 8th fret C) up and down. After a bit of this, we try "Soundball", another David game--instead of direct circulation, we pass across the circle. This is difficult with only 3 people, but quite fun. Added Ryan to the circle. After a bit more of this, we shift to circulation in C Major, free, with Alan and Mark (who both happen to be AAD participants). We try shifting to a sort of form, as we become more comfortable with this: straight circulation, 4 passes around the circle, and then random passing around, with ability to pass around and start straight circulation.

Music appeared.

6 p.m.: Body beat w/ Tony G.
6:30 p.m: Quiet time.
7 p.m.: Dinner is late; I suspect that there's been a delay (someone was burned, apparently).

9:30 p.m.: House of guitars.

When ready, duet.
When ready, duet (a different duet).
The same duet, joined by the circle. This is unintentionally humorous, with RF first cuing the circle to "crash the party" with a massive magic chord. This apparently doesn't quite do the job, as the two continue to play very sensitively with each other. So, the circle truly joined in.

When ready, fast.
When ready, slow.
When ready, hot.
When ready, cold.

At the end of the night, bed at roughly 11:30 p.m, or 2:30 Boston.

Monday, December 21, 2009

OCG II Course, Day 2 (first full day)

10/25/2009 - Up at 5:30, shower at 5:50. Sat in the dark until 7, with a couple of pictures before hand. Sitting at 7:15.

Robert introduces us to a sitting exercise that almost all the beginners are unfamiliar with, including myself: the 60 Point Exercise. Very difficult.

Breakfast at 8. Kitchen team (whole course) at 9:30 a.m. 11:00, meeting with guitars.
When ready, begin, rhythm.
When ready, begin, soft > loud > soft.
When ready, begin, lo > hi.
Eye of the Needle. While playing this, I had a very immense and strong feeling of connection with this piece, like I have not had before.
Circulation: two groups. Group one, with chromatic notes, forward and back 3 times. Group two, with chromatic notes, forward and back 3 times. Full circle, 3 times, then repeat.
Circulation: same form, but with full circle 4 times. Each pass gets a point on the 60 Points.
I can't see to my right.
Whizz with a magic chord, 60 Points.
Lunch, and then Level T.
3 p.m., the aspirants learn to count.
4 p.m., tea.
4:45 p.m., AAD meeting with RF, for those who are concurrently participating in the at-a-distance course. I mention my recent difficulty with sitting (it's taking too long, and strays a lot), as well as the very close and personal connection I had while playing Eye of the Needle.
6 p.m., Body Beat with Tony G.
7 p.m., dinner, then clean-up (with RF running the dishwasher, which is surreal for me, though I'm not really surprised by it). Excellent food.

9:15 p.m.: House of Guitars.
When ready, begin.
When ready, begin again > led to whizzing, followed by silence, then a second beginning: sparse and open, followed by whizzing again.
RF comments on stance while performing.
David solo.
Patrick solo.
Gnarly solo.
Holding the Audience.
Chromatic magic chord whizzing, with backs to the inside of the circle.
RF: "This is going to be fun!"
Bed at roughly 11 p.m.

OCG II Preparation Course, Day 1

10/24/2009 - Probably somewhere over the middle of Montana, right now. It's roughly 9:15 a.m., Seattle time, and 12:15 p.m., Boston. We took off at 8:00 a.m. sharp from Logan International, and there were no snafus getting into the airport (Alaska Airlines is more than happy to let you take your guitar on board, which sets my mind at ease).

I had a very revealing lesson with Victor, last night--this is all starting to come down to my inability to feel time, or rather to. . . no, feel. The physicality of a pulse is something that is still not happening with me, without overt or intentional foot stomping. Once I'm warmed up, it gets easier, but it's still not good. With an additional backing, it gets a lot better, but the whole idea of being able to support myself on my own is thrown out the window.

We also worked on wrong notes, and how to just let them go. When I hit a bad note, I have a tendency to lock up and choke the note. Some of this comes from still not having a masterful grasp of the fretboard, but a lot of this also stems from being afraid of being wrong, which is one of my more unfortunate traits. This can usually be dealt with by just playing the wrong note, and making it the right note.

We also touched, for a little bit, on the right hand work. Mostly, it looks good, but I still have a tendency to compress and pull in--I'm currently suspecting this is in part due to where the guitar sits or slips to, along with my continued trouble in playing from the spine. Victor has asked me, while I'm out here, to ask Sandra to work with me on learning to crawl.

This week should be very telling.


Got in at 1:20; Travis Metcalf picked me up at the Inn. Arrived on course just in time for lunch, then helped with cleanup. Claimed my bunk, explored again, sat on the dock (I'd missed it, that morning), practiced, photographed, practiced more, and got a little recording of events done.

Dinner at 7:30. silence twice, for maybe 7-10 minutes each. Inaugural meeting scheduled for 9:30. Have an hour to kill.

There is definitely a different quality in the air, this time around. Maybe it's the chill, or the fact that it's dark before 7. But then, this is before the beginning of the beginning, and I expect it will get interesting from here.

In the cabin: Brad, Sotirios (of Vancouver, and my beginner's course), Jason (began at San Cugat in July), Alex (NYC, also began with Sotirios and me), and Marcello, from Buenos Aires (off and on since 1994!).


Introductions, tonight. My words: "My name is Brad Hogg, from Boston, MA, and originally Montana. What brought me here was my interest in the Orchestra, as well as the encroaching sense of my own work. My own aims are to be present, and to possibly take something back to GCNE, from this course."

Robert's introduction served to inform us of one extremely important fact: this is no longer a preparatory course for the Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists II. Instead, this is the Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists II, and we have a gig on Thursday evening at 8:15 p.m., at Fremont Abbey.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Playing tonight was hard. I didn't touch on anything new, with the exception of the 28 bar exercise.

But in tuning the air, I came around to an unexpected completion for the night.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On time.

Before I sit down to practice, tonight (which will take monumental effort, as today was quite taxing), I'd like to mention something that jumped right out and grabbed me, last night, in the Ouspensky book. It was a fairly in-depth description of his theory on dimensions, and the beginnings of how they relate to Gurdjieff's octaves. Seeing this in print was thrilling and alarming, because I'd never seen anything like this in a book before, but it was directly related to some speculation on dimensions that I'd written down, back in May/June 2009. True, someone had already gotten to it before me, but the fact that it was Ouspensky was a much bigger shock.

This is something that I'll be uploading to this journal in full, in the future, but a quick sketch of the idea from June:

We are already aware of multiple dimensions: 1, 2, and 3, with the 4th dimension being time.

Think, instead, of dimensions in this way. The first dimension is a line. One might think of it as a ray, with a beginning from a point, but it is a line.

The second is essentially two lines, an x and a y, yielding a graph.

The third adds depth, or z, creating a three-dimensional graph. One could measure out a cube or a 3-d shape.

The fourth adds time. This allows things to not just exist, but to exist with a directionality to it. It is important to think of this as ray-based, as opposed to a continuous line, simply because time exists in one direction, essentially.

The fifth dimension adds other time, or an alternative directionality to the time. It could simply be the other direction, so to speak, or it could be to another spot, but the really interesting work starts when one realizes that, as before, time can only go in one direction, so it's entirely possible for time to work backwards and end in the same spot as forwards. If it doesn't make any sense, it's because it really doesn't: we don't perceive time in this fashion. It has one direction for us, and to think of the concept of time moving backwards as we raise a glass of water to our lips, and to ostensibly be raising the glass as we're putting it down, does not compute in our brains.

The sixth dimension adds a third directionality, which essentially adds depth to the picture. Now, everything in a given field of measurement is happening at once. A block of time is literally a block of time.

And how is a seventh dimension to be perceived and described?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What I mean (part I).

At the end of the course in June, coming home was emotional for me, and a little surreal; when telling Victor about the course, he made a comment about how a course can sometimes feel a little Jungian, as if every last thing has some sort of significance and symbolism. A very accurate and appropriate comment.

Coming home after the OCG II course*, there was still the sense of surrealism. The flavor was different, though--the day itself was an extremely laid-back and peaceful travel day, and the weather in Seattle was a pretty close match for that of Boston. The other big difference was that, instead of this tsunami of "omigodwhatdidijustdo" accompanied by a dewy-eyed sense of wonder, the sense was of having really completed something, and having a focus.

This feeling of separate selves has been growing, lately. In a report to the current AAD course, I said something about my "life with guitar and Guitar Craft" and my "life in the world", and how life seems to be taking on this dichotomy. Taken a step further, one could also see this as "life with intention" and "life in reaction", and the struggle to unite the two as a whole has me wondering about how and where I am spending my energies. Anyone who knows me personally knows that this is becoming a sort of common theme for me, sometimes expressed as "What am I doing here?" An appendage to that question that rarely gets vocalized would be something along the lines of "And how does it help what I am doing?"

Some of these concepts have been getting stirred up, lately. There have been some ideas that have been floating around in my head--changing jobs, moving in Boston, moving elsewhere--and they all are coming back to this idea of "What and How?" An additional conceptual idea that is presenting itself, one that is related to timing, is more of a "When and Where?"

More tomorrow.

*This will be the next major thing that gets posted here, along with the finalization of the June course. Just in case you're on the edge of your seat.