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The Airport Exercise
June 25, 2009 — 12:14 am

Steve Ball, guitar protégé of Brian Eno‘s old pal Robert Fripp, has developed his own music for airports:

Whenever he waits for a flight, he pulls out his guitar to practice, and the piece above is based on one of his standard musical exercises. Ball says on his site:

There was a period of my life when I made it a priority to carry my guitar with me everywhere I traveled so I could practice in every nook and cranny of the day that would open up. It was as if very minute mattered.

One place I love to practice is in airports. While some may dread the idea of hanging out at airport gates, bored with the constant hurry-up-and-waiting, I actually delight if there is a delay or disruption that means I have an extra half-hour, hour, or half-day to sit in a secluded corner of the waiting area and practice without the distractions and interruptions of home or work.

This finished mix is also a distributed collaboration, with contributions by Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, and Pat Mastelotto added into the mix later from remote locations.

You can also see an earlier iteration that stays slightly closer to its roots as a practical exercise:

Among all the crafty guitarists whose work I’ve enjoyed, Steve Ball has always been at or near the top of the list. It was through an AOL forum message (I was borrowing a friend’s login) posted by him that I discovered Possible Productions way back in 1994, from which I ordered an autographed copy of King Crimson’s first new release in a decade — and, more significantly for me, their first new release since I’d become a fan four years earlier. (“Your eyes are all a-twinkle,” my college roommate Dave told me after he walked in on me gleefully listening to it for the first time.)

It was also through Steve Ball that I snagged an autographed cassette of Get Crafty I, which was by far the most diverse and wide-ranging set of music the League of Crafty Guitarists ever released. Subsequent projects by Guitar Craft alumni have taken Fripp’s techniques in interesting and engaging new directions, but that cassette was sort of a revelatory milestone in my own musical education. It’s a shame it’s never been released on CD. (It’s not for everybody, though — one of my uncles heard a couple of minutes, and dismissed it as video game music.)

Steve Ball has also released plenty of his own music (the first video embedded above will apparently be part of a forthcoming release) and was instrumental in founding the Seattle Circle, the first time a Guitar Craft group had been organized as an ongoing regional project. That type of circle may soon become the only formal home for Guitar Craft instruction.

Another large chunk of Steve Ball’s life happens at Microsoft, where he heads up many of the company’s audio initiatives — including acting as the program manager for Windows Vista sound. Here’s a video of Ball with his mentor, Robert Fripp, as they experiment with ideas for the then-forthcoming OS.

— Eric D. DixonComments (5)

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  1. Protégée is for the female gender.
    Protégé is for male.



    Comment by Cédric — June 26, 2009 @ 5:47 am

  2. Ha! Thanks, Cédric; it’s fixed now. I’m surprised I didn’t catch that myself — I already knew the similar rule about fiancé and fiancée, and it only makes sense that this word would have a similar method for specifying gender.

    Sorry, Steve! It was entirely unintentional.

    Comment by Eric D. Dixon — June 26, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  3. Not to put too fine a point on it, but shouldn’t it be ‘sex’ instead of ‘gender’?

    Comment by Justin M. Stoddard — June 26, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  4. He’s making a general linguistic point as I applied it to a particular person, but not talking about flesh-and-blood people himself, so I think “gender” is right. You might even use a male-gendered word to refer to a woman who culturally identifies as male, even if she still sports female sexual organs.

    Comment by Eric D. Dixon — June 26, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  5. I’ll concede that you can see it that way, but that’s not how I originally read it.

    Comment by Justin M. Stoddard — June 26, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

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Eric D. Dixon

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