What is success? Is it the attainment of perfection? Is it the nobility of the attempt? Or is it the willingness to acknowledge that a quest has been taken as far as it can go? These are questions that can only be answered by he who makes the attempt.
So who makes the conscious decision to aspire to learn a piece of music its own creator deems “impossible to play”?
Enter Anthony Garone, guitarist and obsessive. For 22 years (more on that figure later), he endeavored to conquer one of music’s highest mountains. Specifically, an 11-minute instrumental from King Crimson called “Fracture,” the closing tune from an album called Starless and Bible Black.
What started as a parental challenge as a teenager turned into a near lifelong quest. Lucky for us, Garone decided to document his efforts both via YouTube videos and his new book, Failure to Fracture (Stairway Press), a dense literary tome that goes infinite layers deeper than the pursuit of the song itself.
(Full Disclosure: I am a member of the Make Weird Music staff, and will be making assorted contributions throughout the year. While this may imply some sort of bias in favor of my boss, I can assure you that I both paid for a copy of this work with my own money, and I have no trouble telling truth to power where necessary. If I don’t like something, I’ll say so.)
I’m not going to take the book apart and describe it piece by piece. That journey should be taken by the reader. I will say that first impressions are everything when it comes to works of art, and this book is gorgeous! The book’s tactile quality stands up against any top tier coffee table book.
Trite though it may seem, this book truly is more about the journey than the destination. Rather than spend a couple hundred pages breaking down the piece in question, Garone discusses the twists and turns that accompanied him throughout his exploration, including music in the same vein that helped him along. Every bit of detail is beautifully notated in one form or another.
We learn that mere practice is insufficient to learn this tune. Garone had to completely change the way he approached and played the guitar to capture “Fracture” and its intricacies. Picking and fretting techniques, guitar positioning, posture, even breathing all come into play.
Yet when all is said and done, Garone is the first to admit that while he comes close to mastering the piece, he doesn’t completely get there.
We also learn through Garone’s words and deeds that the perfection of this piece is really beside the point. Like I said, the journey is more important than the destination.
Still, Garone’s efforts far exceed those of the average player, who no doubt would toss his guitar aside after a few weeks of trying, let alone two decades. Best of all, these efforts are endorsed by the song’s creator, King Crimson founder Robert Fripp.
The same cannot be said, however, for some naysayers on the web.
Garone and I differ in that he takes both his efforts and the harsh words of trolls with a grain of salt. He is not one to get hung up on the minutiae. For that, he is a better man than I. That being said, I find the trolls come in one of the following categories:
1. Those who have no interest in King Crimson, “Fracture,” or the intricacies therein. They see the piece as a bad song, and eagerly condemn it as such. Well if you don’t have any interest in the piece, I ask, why the hell are you even chiming in?
2. People who have somehow managed to conjure up an image of Garone working at the piece all day, every day, for 22 years. To their minds, he has done nothing else, and should therefore be ashamed of wasting so much time. The truth is, Garone had been doing plenty of other things with his life, including learning plenty of other music and writing compositions of his own. To say nothing of having a career and being married with a family. There’s simply no way he could give “Fracture” the continuous attention the trolls think he has, even if he has given it more time than the average player.
3. People who watch Garone’s YouTube video with the sole intent of taking him down for any musical transgression they can find in his playing. They deem his attempts at mastering the piece unsuccessful. Yet I can’t help but notice that no one — not ONE person — has posted his own attempt at playing “Fracture,” in order to show how they can do it better. They mock that which they can do no better, which to me is the height of ignorance. Those who can’t do, mock.
Garone is able to brush this off with good humor by reminding the trolls that the word FAILURE is in the book’s title! Like I said, he’s a better man than I.
No doubt Failure to Fracture is a quality read for obsessives and non-obsessives alike. There is much to be learned here. Garone might even help me lighten up a bit. Regardless, this looks like a journey well worth taking.
Anthony Garone’s Failure to Fracture
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell
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Writing a book about a failure to perfect a piece of music is either a very brave undertaking or a foolhardy one. I’m curious to find out which, but I’m not prepared to part with hard cash to do so, I’m afraid. 😉
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You appear to have a quandary on your hands.
And the book is about more than the song itself. That’s the beauty of it.