Frippertronics is a specific tape looping technique used by Robert Fripp. It evolved from a system of tape looping originally developed in the electronic music studios of the early 1960s that was first used by composers Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros and made popular through its use in ambient music by composer Brian Eno.
Technology of Frippertronics
Frippertronics (a term coined by poet Joanna Walton, Fripp's girlfriend in the late 1970s) is an analog delay system consisting of two reel-to-reel tape recorders situated side-by-side. The two machines are configured so that the tape travels from the supply reel of the first machine to the take-up reel of the second, thereby allowing sound recorded by the first machine to be played back some time later on the second. The audio of the second machine is routed back to the first, causing the delayed signal to repeat while new audio is mixed in with it. The amount of delay (usually three to five seconds) is controlled by increasing or reducing the distance between the machines.
Fripp used this technique to dynamically create recordings containing layer upon layer of electric guitar sounds in a real time fashion. An added advantage was that, by nature of the technique, the complete performances were recorded in their entirety on the original looped tape.
The (No Pussyfooting) recordings
Fripp first used the technique while recording in Brian Eno's home studio, combining guitar performance with two-machine tape delay, on the 21-minute piece "The Heavenly Music Corporation" released on the album (No Pussyfooting) in 1973. A subsequent album, Evening Star, was released in 1975. These recordings were not purely tape loops, since some after-the-fact processing, overdubbing, and editing were done as well.
This delay system was first used in live situations for a short European Fripp & Eno tour in May–June 1975, with the 28 May 1975 concert at the Paris Olympia Theatre being bootlegged as "Air Structures" (in 2010 the concert was officially released as a download, with Eno's original backing loops).
Frippertronics and its types
The term "Frippertronics" was later coined to label a version of this system that Fripp felt he could operate by himself as a solo performer. In what he called "Pure Frippertronics", Fripp created the loops in real time with no additional editing. Included was the method of rewinding the recorded tape, to be played back while Fripp would improvise a guitar solo on top of it.
Fripp used this type of Frippertronics to perform live solo concerts in small, informal venues. It allowed him to be what he referred to as a "small, mobile, intelligent unit", as opposed to being part of a massive rock concert touring company.
Only one and a half albums of Pure Frippertronics were produced: Side A of an album with two names God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners in 1980 and Let The Power Fall in 1981.
Frippertronics was also used by Fripp in more conventional rock recordings, replacing what could be viewed as musical parts normally served by orchestral backing. He referred to this as "Applied Frippertronics". Several of Fripp's albums, as well as albums by Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Daryl Hall, and The Roches, featured this usage. Also, Side B of God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners included what Fripp termed "Discotronics", mixing Frippertronics and a disco-style rhythm section.
From Frippertronics to Soundscapes
- Fricke, David. "Electronic Music and Synthesizers", Synapse Magazine, Vol. 3 No. 2, Summer 1979.
- Prendergast, Mark (2001). The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance: The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 1-58234-134-6.
- Tamm, Eric (1991). Robert Fripp. ISBN 0-571-16289-4.
- Baldwin, Douglas (November 2007). "Guitar Heroes: How to Play Like 26 Guitar Gods from Atkins to Zappa", edited by Jude Gold and Matt Blackett, Guitar Player, p.111.