Almost a week back from Barcelona and still catching up with the repercussions – partly things kicked up by the Guitar Craft course, and partly the repercussions of being away for almost two weeks just before Christmas.
I had two and a half days as a tourist in Barcelona, my second visit. The weather was warm, the attractions quiet and I took my time. On the first day I went up to Mt Tibidabo for the panorama of the city. The name comes from scripture ‘haec omnia tibidabo’ ‘All this I will give you’ said Satan to Jesus ‘If you just kneel down and worship me.’ There’s an amusement park and a peculiar melancholy therein at 11 in the morning, almost empty, out of season, but with jolly background muzak playing quietly in the trees. Photos here. In the afternoon I went to the Picasso Museum.
Next day I went to Parc Guell where the quality of the buskers is unparalleled. Photos here including the video of the Headless Man. In the afternoon I headed out to the Botanic Gardens for sunset. The next morning I visited Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s strange cathedral, still under construction, but visibily progressed since my last visit last year.
In the afternoon I took the train to San Cugat and the 15m trundle to the Monasterio Nuestra Señora De Los Angeles , famous to those who follow Robert Fripp’s diary. Mr Fripp was his usual intense but amusing self, and as always I was overwhelmed by the sound of 40 guitarists in one room. Nationalities present included Argentinian, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Russian, Brazilian, Mexican, Canadian, American, Finnish, Danish, Australian and a few Brits. The first few evenings featured the ‘House of Guitars’ – all the guitars in two concentric circles. No instructions other than ‘When ready, begin’. What happens for the next hour is indescribable. During the days, difficult exercises in timing and awareness of each other, broken up by Tai Chi, Alexander Technique, lots of silence, and a few spontaneous jams. Then, on day Wednesday, the Performance Challenge: the beginners and intermediate (21 of us) have to compose one group piece plus 9 other pieces – solos, duets, trios, quartets and quintets with names drawn at random (from one of Fripp’s socks) for presentation to the rest of the team in 24 hours. The performance, as every Crafty knows, will be sabotaged by stage tampering, yawns, singing along, mischievous counting and, this time, exuberant use of a remote control fart machine. Most performers kept their heads, although I lost the plot entirely on one piece as I watched the stage manager’s set list being pickpocketed by a member of the audience. The last day, with individual practice, brought a quiet close to the course.
A few pictures from the Monastery – it’s not possible to photograph Guitar Circles practising, so these are all from the period of clearing up and packing.
It’s powerful stuff – as strong as any Zen retreat – and not really possible to go into in detail here.
In what feels like a strange reversion to an earlier life, I’m doing the singer/songwriter bit tomorrow night at Fire and Rain – The Three Sisters (139 Cowgate, Edinburgh) – it’s on the ground floor at the back.
Free to download. Five surreal story-songs. Just let me send you an occasional email!