Steve Ball Diary - 2003
Monday October 27
Tuesday October 28 
Wednesday October 29 
Thursday October 30 
Friday October 31 
Saturday November 01 
Sunday November 02 
Read the archive
Monday November 03 
Tuesday November 04 
Wednesday November 05 
Thursday November 06 
Friday November 07 
Saturday November 08 
Sunday November 09 

Monday October 27

This just in from BTV field correspondent, David Lavallee:

----- Original Message -----
From: David Lavallee
To: Steve Ball
Cc: David Singleton
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2003 10:26 AM
Subject: RF in the November '03 Vanity Fair Magazine, pp 324

I'm not a usual consumer of this ragazine. The issue has some very nice rock photography.

To mange an oft tossed justification, "I just buy it for the pictures".


* * *

Tuesday October 28

Dinner this evening with old BTV exec crew JohnL and GeorgeM.  Joined by the delightful and funny Bob Leighton.  Some fun conversations about life during and after start-ups.  And interesting discussions of the current Seattle landscape in and outside of big companies. 

Good people, all around.

* * *

Wednesday October 29

News flash: Ferny is in the house!  I believe he arrived earlier today and is hanging out at Frank and Ingrid's for a couple of days. 

* * *

Pre-SGC rehearsal dinner with Joel, Lee, and Sandra to bounce some ideas around about next year.  One thing I've learned from various BTV and MS projects: sometimes it is best to do small 'focus group' vetting of ideas before going live in front of a large audience.  

This has at least two benefits:

a) the ideas can be tested and refined (in some cases, abandoned outright)
b) emotional attachment to the ideas has potential to be safely grounded

In this case, the dinner focus group had mixed results.  It is clearly impossible to  consolidate, articulate, or transmit my 18 years of various GC group project experiences via words in a way that does not sound like dire warnings about 'what not to do.'

A better approach may be this: simply put some dates in the calendar and let the logistics (and reasons for this work and these projects) sort themselves out in the minds of potential participants.   Let's call that 'plan A' for now.

* * *

Thursday October 30

MS all company meeting today at Safeco field.  The future is so bright I have to wear a bright green fleece blanket.   < everyone was given a brightly colored blanket at the door - and good thing too... >

Did I mention how cold it was outside?  Welcome to Seattle in the fall. 

* * *

Finally, reunion dinner with Ferny at Jitterbug in Freemont.  Great to see Frank and Ingrid in the handoff too.   Many reminiscences about our long history together and many ideas about the future (2nd Electric Gauchos CD - the material is already in the can from 1997 0 and live projects in Seattle and/or Japan next year.) 

Many warm memories of Gauchos and Electric Gauchos days and friends.  And memories of MG and Mendoza come flooding back as if it were yesterday.  

Sometimes I forget that we have an incredible body of friends spread out across the globe.    Speaking of, how wonderful to hear from Crafty Guitarist and Prometheus bass player Nigel Gavin again on a fairly regular basis.  Seems he has a new CD in the can as well.  

* * *

Friday October 31

Long day at work, then retrieved Ferny from Frank and Ingrid's to whisk him off to Pelota HQ for a (good?) nights sleep and day off before he heads to Atlanta for two weeks. 

* * *

Saturday November 01

Calisthenics and sitting at SandraP's this morning with special guests TonyG and PabloM.  We visited Tony's twisted 'where's the nurse' picking patterns and chords after a "D-Warmup."  Good workout.

Then, breakfast with Ferny at QA cafe (same menu as Vera's but slightly more QA than Ballard.) 

Ran into a couple of "interesting" people while there: one guy I work with on the Windows Shell team, a good guy.  And another who I barely know (and did not even acknowledge this morning) -- strange to feel a very real, non-personal, yet explicit and tangible, 'pull' of someone who has had a intense affect on the course of your life.  I've even mentioned him before in these pages.

* * *   

Sunday November 02

Homework today.  Some EG mixing and then practicing harmonic minor runs on two and three strings.

Hoped to receive a phone call this evening, but was not meant to be.   Yet.

* * *


Monday November 03

Busy week of social engagements.  Branching out and hoping not to get hit by swinging branches. 

* * *

Tuesday November 04

Sent out a potentially controversial email to a few Seattle Circle people today, testing the water for some project-defining principles.  Here is an edited version of what I included in the email:

1. Relationship of Seattle Circle and Seattle Guitar Circle to Guitar Craft and League of Crafty Guitarists.

Within Guitar Craft and associated spin-off groups, there is a rich history of muddled missions, overlapping organizations, and general inspired confusion in both our public and private messaging about who we are, how we operate, and why we do what we do. My comments at our dinner meeting last week (mentioned in these pages) stem from direct experience with what happens if we do not make (or even understand that there is) a necessary distinction between these entities.

Some suggested definitions (in my own words) to promote clarity:

Seattle Circle is a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and actively promote music appreciation in the Puget Sound area through education, workshops and music events. This will be achieved by providing a professional facility in an inclusive, educational atmosphere for the enhancement of skills in the field of music, by providing instruction on both the individual and group level and by presenting the results of our work to the general public through performances, workshops, and presentations.  < this lifted directly from the official SC mission statement on file with the govt. >

The Seattle Guitar Circle is the primary public performance troupe of the Seattle Circle community. Membership varies from show to show, recording to recording, or course to course, but includes both aspiring and professional musicians who work together regularly to refine personal and group performance skills.

* * *

Guitar Craft is a world-wide apprenticeship-based applied music school founded in 1985 by British guitarist Robert Fripp. Guitar Craft courses and projects are organized by various individuals and entities around the world, but these activities require oversight and direct involvement of Robert Fripp and/or Robert's appointed trustees. Guitar Craft, as its name implies, is focused on instrumental instruction on Guitar.

The League of Crafty Guitarists is the front-line performance troupe of Guitar Craft. As with use of the term "Guitar Craft" in public or private descriptions of projects or events, use of the name LCG requires approval and oversight by Robert Fripp and/or approved  Guitar Craft Directors.  It also implies history, propagation, and transmission of 18+ years of Guitar Craft repertoire and practices presented to address the world-wide needs of Guitar Craft.

Guitar Craft has an international scope and mission, designed to serve the long term mission and vision of RF. 

Seattle Circle is local in scope and mission, designed to serve the 1-7 year needs and aspirations of our local community, members, and musicians.

So, why does any of this really matter?

In my experience, the average Crafty fan/participant/audient makes no real distinction between an SC project and a GC project or an SGC show and an LCG show.  To the average audient, both involve presentations of often barely-accessible 'crafty' repertoire (spewing streams of angular interlocking sixteenth notes) delivered sans expression or explanation, free of any intellectual or emotional context, by a floor-staring semi-circle of dreadful and depressing-looking spectacle-wearing goateed dudes with black, blonde, brown, and sometimes red plastic guitars.

The brilliant cartoonist who designed BPM poster/CD cover captured it pretty well.  If I'm not mistaken, I'd guess that face is modeled after my dear friend MartinS.  Or is that TonyG?  CurtG?  AndrewE?   JonathanB?  TomR?  Non? 

BTW, I'm not saying this presentation 'style' has no value, in fact, it does have at least one redeeming value:  it is instantly recognizable in form and essence.   It is completely unique.

We, in fact, constantly refer to our own work with SC and SGC projects as "Guitar Craft" work. I'm not suggesting that we sever or hide this connection or stop describing it this way. However, I am suggesting that we be clear about what these terms mean and take care in how and when we refer to the SC and SGC connection to Guitar Craft work.

Case in point: by confusing GC with SC, it implies SC activities require oversight, approval, or participation by RF and/or RF-blessed 'directors.' In my view, this both limits our potential and constrains our ability to serve the local needs of SC musicians (not just guitarists) who are now and may eventually become part of the SC community.


1. Jane Siberry, Bill Frisell, and Tony Levin have nothing (explicit) to do with Guitar Craft, but all three have potential to be part of a future SC curriculum, performances, and events.

2. Singing, songs, and lyric-writing have no real place in Guitar Craft, but, for some, these are an essential part of past, present, and future SC activities.

3. Work with electric guitars, Group Loops, and drums have nothing (directly) to do with formal Guitar Craft courses to date, but for some, these are an essential part of past, present, and future SC activities.

Suggestion: let's be clear to ourselves and in our communications to the public that, although we share some common heritage, the Seattle Guitar Circle is an independent entity from Guitar Craft

2. Seattle Guitar Circle Recording Project
I would like to propose an SGC recording project to parallel the existing DGM/Inner Knot/Plauge of Crafty Guitarists 'compilation' CD project. 

Principle: members of the SC community collaborate and contribute submissions for a CD to be released next spring. There are no limits or restrictions on format or instrumentation except one: at least one member of contributing groups needs to be a current or formerly active SC member.  Previously released tracks are welcome for submission and encouraged.

Group Goal: present a CD that will give press and public a reason to come see SC-related artists live.

Individual Goal: give SC 'artists' a vehicle for releasing their work as part of the larger SC mission.

Suggestion: let's release one CD with an accompanying 'slip case' (read: box set-style box, like the SB Box Set) so that individuals and group can sell/give away the SGC compilation along with their own work as a set that shows off their specialty while sharing the work within the context of the larger community and its 10-year history.

I propose we look at this CD project not as a money maker, but as a 'marketing' effort - the goal will be to give away as many CDs as we can to potential fans, press, family, and friends. 

If someone wishes to buy the CD, wonderful. But let's not mistake the process of getting this music out into the world with a process of making money.   

3. Seattle Guitar Circle Music Director
Based upon recent direct suggestions from Lee, Paul, Andrew, and Sandra, I would like to offer my services in the role of "SGC Music Director" for one year, beginning in January of 2004, with three simple goals:

1. build a reliable and top-notch SGC performance team capable of flexible membership while delivering original, accessible repertoire that demonstrates our unique performance practices (circulations, Group Loops, visuals, story-telling, warm-ups, exercises, practices, and songs.)

2. host frequent, high-visibility performances the next 12 months in order to raise awareness of SC artists and activities (out of the rest homes and into the art galleries, fine performance spaces)

3. enable the public to experience, appreciate, and finance the ongoing work or Seattle Circle in it's mission to acquire a high-quality facility

To this end, I am visualizing 'big' shows in 2004 including Folklife, Bumbershoot, Broadway Performance Hall, The Triple Door, Odd Fellows Hall, On the Boards, Seattle Art Museum, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, not to mention KUOW, KPLU, KEXP, and KONG-TV.

Playing rest homes are fine for those who wish to rest.   (And I will continue to encourage, participate in, and support these performances as well.) 

However, why not also aim higher and realize (or at least test the idea that) our work has value?  Raising the level of our aspiration is one practical means of raising the quality of our work.   If we discover along the way that the quality of our work/playing does not live up to these aspirations, we have at least two choices:

grow/improve and rise to meet the challenge

- or -

settle back down to the "we suck" habit and keep working until we are ready and able.

After working with the SGC this fall in preparing for the Hugo House show, it is clear to me that this current crop of Seattle aspiring musicians is ready and able to rise to the challenge.          

Sent this in email to a largely resoundingly silent response.  Perhaps a good sign?  Or perhaps a very bad sign.  Oh well.  Trusting my instincts.  And that when they fail, my friends will forgive me.

* * *

Wednesday November 05

Dinner with Bill Barrett and Pat Rodden this evening at Oceanaire.  Bill is one very connected individual.   Example: Pat and Bill were in Portland yesterday and Bill put in a call to his old pal, Nike CEO, Phil Knight, who promptly joined them for a spontaneous catch-up get together. 

These are the kinds of friends that Bill has spread out around the globe. 

This reminds me that Ferny was given a pair of 'custom' Nike shoes in Japan by one of the famous musicians he was playing with.  Seems that Nike Japan issues limited-edition artist-branded shoes.  Wow.

Can wait to get my pair of all-black, Bill Rieflin High-tops.  

* * *

Personal recording/CD release goals for next year, release 3 new CDs:

  • Seattle Guitar Circle, Compilation CD (and accompanying slip case)
  • Electric Gauchos, 2nd CD (tracking already in the can!)
  • SB new 'pop' CD, featuring 2004-2005 edition of SBRS (want to know what I am thinking next?  Imagine Greenthumb meets Electric Gauchos playing Secret Agent.)

I also hope to facilitate or at least encourage releases by the Atomic Chamber Ensemble, Bob Williams, Tobin Buttram, Travis Metcalf, to record and release 'solo' projects.  Not sure about Tobin and Travis, but I know ACE and Bob have tracks in the can and have only to do the remaining production work to get their projects out the door.    

* * *

If all of this were not enough, I also 'received' a quick vision this evening for a Level Four Guitar Craft course in Seattle beginning in January of 2004.  Sometimes, these fully-formed pictures just arrive instantaneously my pelota inbox.

Not sure just yet what to do with this vision, so best to just shut up and let it brew until Curt comes home, then perhaps I'll call a meeting with Curt, Bill, Jaxie, Tobin, Frank, and Debra and see if there is resonance here?  

Or not.

However, I wonder: what are we waiting for?   What if this next year were our last on earth?  What would we wish to do?  For me, this question, and the answers it brings are part of where all of these words are coming from lately.

* * *

Thursday November 06

Spoke to old pal LisaA who is now Design Director for MSN.  Great to catch up with her and learn a bit about what she is up to.  Also spoke to old friend PabloM who was recently in Seattle about getting his portfolio together and in shape to share with Lisa next week. 

There are opportunities in the air for those willing to do some serious homework.

Up late in the evening for a rather surreal CD release party at Tula's Jazz Club.  Sweaty hands and smirky smiles.  Met some people who even work in my building - it is a very very small world and getting smaller.

Many smirky smiles all around this evening.

* * *

Friday November 07

I was up very early this morning knowing that I would have to leave work early to catch a Ferry to Whidbey Island to go hang with Pat Rodden for his birthday celebration! 

And it was a wonderful evening of great food and music at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.   Roots guitarist, Corey Harris, played a solo show, and I found myself holding a vision of 2004 throughout the show.

Corey Harris, blues guitarist, was recently profiled by Martin Scorsessee in his recent and acclaimed PBS blues documentary.   Wow - what a voice.  It reaches right into your chest and gives your heart a big squeeze. 

BTW, happy Birthday, PatR - you are a generous friend.

* * *

More reflections on the venue this evening: SGC and SBRS played the WICA theatre almost four years ago thanks to the efforts of Peter Dervin and KSER in Everett.  The SGC at that time was a quintet with Curt Golden, Bob Williams, Jaxie Binder, Dean Jensen and myself on acoustic guitars. 

The SB Roadshow at that time also featured Curt Golden on electric guitar, Bob Williams on bass,  Jaxie Binder on acoustic guitar, Dean Jensen on electric guitar and loops, and Brock Pytel on drums.

If it is not obvious from the above two paragraphs, the same people were in both groups (except the addition of Brock on drums.)  This is a theme that I hope will be coming back in 2004.  

That Whidbey SGC/SBRS show was pretty good, overall.  BootlegTV (specifically, Ken and Violet) filmed the whole show, which turned out to be the first BTV show we ever filmed, I believe.  I have a VHS copy of the SBRS portion, and somewhere there exists the raw footage of the SGC show. 

Would be good to find these for potential use in the DVD project that SteveT, JimG, and JulieB are compiling.

* * *

Speaking of the past morphing into the future, I had a fun IM session with Bill Forth today - he has some ideas for some recording project for Dec/Jan.  Hmmm... interesting possibilities brewing.

* * *

Oh, and minor work update:

After nine+ months of work and internal 'shopping' had what felt like the best 'review' meeting of a significant 'side' project I've been working on with my MS colleague, ShaneW.  We have some potential to finally get this work in front of an important audient.

It is not often that one has an idea/concept/vision that could influence and positively impact the next wave of personal computing in such a significant way.  Those who know me, know that I've been brewing this one since BTV days, and, as empirical proof of morpogenic resonance, ShaneW actually built this thing and then sought me out without even knowing about my explicit history with this idea.  

More validation today from some pretty big brains that we are, in fact, on to something.

* * *

On top of all of that, SBBS posters finally arrived today.  Look good with exception of a small black seam between Roadshow and Naive covers that no one except me will ever even notice. 

Hmmm... Looks like the PDF export has the wrong fonts.  Oh well.  The printed version got it right.

One more step in incrementally feeding the SBBS promotion machine.

* * *

Saturday November 08

Up early in non-wireless Langley for brunch with Pat.  

Work for the morning: pave the way to book a follow-up show at WICA for the SB Roadshow and SGC for Jan/Feb timeframe.   To this end, contact with Joe's Music on Whidbey Island, dropped off posters and box sets with the obligatory pelota schmooze.

* * *

Evening: dinner at 10 Mercer with PeteW and TobyB, some MS pals who share the same taste in music and 'behind the music' relationship analogies.  Excellent, food, conversation and then...

The best live show I've seen in yearsBill Frisell and the Intercontinentals at On the Boards.  We saw the late show, and it left me buzzing. 

So much that I hit send on the following:

-----Original Message-----
From: SB
Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2003 4:53 AM
To: Travis Metcalf; Derek DiFilippo; Chris Gibson; Fernando Kabusacki
Cc: Joel Palmer; Sandra Prow; Andrew Boscardin; Tobin Buttram; Curt Golden; Lee Silberkleit
Subject: Just home from Bill Frisell show at On the Boards...

and I'm buzzing like a mf. His band tonight was incredible. It was Electric Gauchos, and/or everything I've ever dreamed of in an electric band. Unf***ingbeliveable. Sound familiar? Four electric guitars, percussion/drums, (and a violin.) Ferny, reminded me so much of our Mendoza and BA EG shows. Except five years later, and five years of evolution.

Emailing Sama tomorrow with an invitation to Seattle/Japan.

I swear, the repertoire WAS Electric Gauchos. Geeze. I know what I wish to do next.  Best wishes from one buzzing mofo.

BTW, met Bill after the show and gave him SBBS and invited him to do 'master class' for Seattle Circle.

* * *

Sunday November 10

Bikram yoga at 9, then home to shower, do some cleaning, errands, and organizational puttering.  More errands in the afternoon with telephone tag to Atlanta followed by an evening upgrade to Windows Media Center Edition 2004 (the 'classic' Hartnett "four hour problem if there ever was one.)

Also, listening and editing Electric Gauchos sessions from 1997, live in Buenos Aires.  About 35 minutes of wonderful improvisations waiting to be productized.  None of this has ever been heard (except in the live studio where we recorded these improvisations.) 

* * *

Still buzzing from the Frisell show last night. 

Taking that energy and putting it to work.

Electric Gauchos, coming back to life in 2004.

* * *

One other slightly weird thing that I stumbled on by chance today, from Bert Lams diary last June, two days after my birthday:

Friday 13th. June, 2003

Friday the 13th. 11;54 pm. We are staying with John and Chris in the quiet countryside, not far from Rochester. It rained all day; it is so green here, and wet…I now realize how much I miss England.

Last night I dreamt that I was in a circle with some 30 other people from Guitar Craft. There was a circle on the inside (with mostly South American people); the circle was bursting with good energy and people were pushing to extend outwards. On the outside was a circle too, with mostly people sitting in chairs, some in rocking chairs (the inner circle was standing). There was so much outwards pulling that some of the people in rocking chairs rolled over backwards to the floor.

Some started climbing on the shoulders of others, and while the circle slowly moved around, people raised themselves one by one through a hole to the roof of the building. It was all in an organized and coordinated way, like a circulation.

In the end there was too many people and some people made a special formation to let others go past them to the hole in the roof, knowing that they would not be able to make it. I noticed my friend Steve. He was up there giving his shoulder for someone else to climb on; loosing his place in line to make it through himself…I felt gratitude - it woke me up.

* * *