For a Nanomusic: “Sound Desiring Machines” and Multiple Time

Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts had an important impact on my musical thinking. When I started reading both philosophers, I had been working for several years at the intersection of musical writing and psychoanalysis. In Order of Release, Border of Relish (2002–4), I developed a transversal between musical time and the time of the unconscious. Echoes, resonances, and rebounds between sound fragments build a complex and non-linear temporal form. Processes of condensation or dissolution induce a mutative and elastic musical matter with heterochronic textures, a multiplicity of strata, and transitory sound objects.

When I read Deleuze and Guattari, it occurred to me that the minimal units I was combining in ever changing sound constellations—their capacity for connection and propagation through the sound field—could be referred to the “asignifying” particles of the “machinic unconscious (Guattari 1979; Deleuze and Guattari 1980). In my music, small modular three-pitch pendular figures are the elementary constituents of a sound “abstract machine,” and are pushed by antagonistic forces: stratification or “destratification,” “territorialisation” or “deterritorialisation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1980), repetition or mutation.

These pendulums, with their modular quality and their constant pivoting movement, keep forming evolving “assemblages” (Deleuze 1964; Deleuze and Guattari 1980) whose ramifications (chains of interconnected pendulums) can either converge towards one centre, such as Guattari’s “black hole” [Guattari 1979], with the condensation on one object or figure, or create independent lines and migrate toward other zones. Since they keep circulating and building ever renewing fleeting configurations, they can be considered as sound “desiring machines” (Deleuze and Guattari 1972). In these sound rhizomes (Deleuze and Guattari 1980), repetition has an important function. It is a step-by-step process. Each repetition of a pendulum alters its envelope, generates a small gap, a small differance (Derrida 1967). It is a “differentiating repetition” (Deleuze 1968). Being caught in a permanent flow, these elementary figures both repeat and mute, simultaneously form and dissolve. This formal paradox characterises all my pieces. Abstract figures are elaborated only in order to show that they can be undone, that they are plays of forces. They are perceptible only because they insist. Their appearance/disappearance reveals not only a “capture of forces” (Deleuze 1981) but also the paradoxical “becoming” of a present that suggests before and after, past and future, “Aion” (Deleuze 1969) or the “empty form of time” (Deleuze 1968)—time as a pure process.

The musical form is not preformed; it is the result of the sound trajectories, of different “becomings” according to the different pieces.

Psyché-Cité/Transversales (2005–7) is a psychogeography. The sound topology is both a becoming-machine and a becoming-scream, a “zone of indiscernibility” (Deleuze 1981) between the brain and the metro, the psyche and the city, scream and noise. It is a hybrid sound territory. Mutatis mutandis (2008) is a whole set of vibrations. Fluxes of particles coagulate or trace more or less dense migratory paths. It is “musical genetics,” with repetitions and errors (such as DNA). It is a becoming-filament and a becoming-molecule. Shel(l)ter (2009–10) refers to an atomic bunker in Berlin and to nuclear physics. It is a becoming-atom, a “nanomusic.”

From the Body Without Organs (Deleuze 1981; Deleuze and Guattari 1972, 1980), a kind of “organum-body” underlies my music topographies—that is, a never definite and never stabilised sound body since the invested vibratory fields are never frozen.


Deleuze, Gilles. 1964. Proust et les signes. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

—. 1968. Différence et répétition. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

—. 1969. Logique du sens. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

—. 1981. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Editions de la Différence.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1972. L’anti-Œdipe. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

—. 1980. Mille plateaux. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

Derrida, Jacques. 1967. L’écriture et la différence. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Guattari, Félix. 1979. L’inconscient machinique: Essais de schizo-analyse. Paris: Recherches.

Dialogue III: On Music or The Combat of Chronos and Aion

Whereas Chronos was inseparable from the bodies which filled it out entirely as causes and matter, Aion is populated by effects which haunt it without ever filling it up. Whereas Chronos was limited and infinite, Aion is unlimited, the way that future and past are unlimited, and finite like the instant.
—Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, 165

Already in 1969, thinking about extra temporality of the event, and inspired by the Stoics, Deleuze rehabilitated for contemporary thought the distinction between Chronos and Aion. Introducing an outside of time into the inner fabric of time itself, Deleuze argued for a chronology that is derived from the event—the event being the singularity that originates any given chronology. For a musician, for someone permanently involved in the radical here and now of the performative moment or compositional decision, Deleuze’s argumentation seems completely logical, even if paradoxical. Later, in collaboration with Guattari and particularly in A Thousand Plateaus (1980), Deleuze further developed notions of time that are seminally related to Pierre Boulez’s concepts of the smooth and the striated: (1) the non-pulsed and the pulsed flow of musical time, and (2) the continuum or the discontinuum of musical spaces. Boulezian dualisms, like Deleuzian ones, are meant neither as oppositions nor as dialectical pairs; more creatively, they refer simply to attractors, which might be activated or not, according to different actualisations of forces. The combat of Chronos and Aion is, therefore, not to be seen as a fight between opponents, but rather as lightings, as bidirectional discharges of power between two fields loaded with differential energy.

For this dialogue, the combat of Chronos and Aion is taken both as an initiator to the discussion and as a pars pro toto in terms of possible relations between Deleuze and musical practices: How and to what extent can the work of Gilles Deleuze contribute to or enhance new understandings of music? How can it be used reflexively and productively? Is there a new music after Deleuze, a new musicology after Deleuze, a new performer after Deleuze, a new listener after Deleuze?

This dialogue is born out of a public dissensus: Brian Hulse’s review (2015) of Edward Campbell’s book Music after Deleuze (2013), and Edward Campbell’s response to Hulse’s review (2015), a debate that makes reference to some texts by Martin Scherzinger and a debate that was published at a time when Martin was a visiting research fellow at the Orpheus Institute (February 2015). In a slightly provocative gesture, but in the sense of enabling a richer debate on Deleuze and music we decided to invite all parts and have a productive dialogue on music before, after, with, or without Deleuze.

Paulo de Assis, chair


Campbell, Edward. 2013. Music after Deleuze. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Campbell, Edward. 2015. ‘Musicology after Deleuze: Response to Brian Hulse’s Review of Music after Deleuze – All Music is ‘Deleuzian’. Deleuze Studies Journal, 9 (1), 145-52.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense. Translated by Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. Edited by Constantin V. Boundas. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hulse, Brian. 2015. ‘Review of: Edward Campbell. 2013. Music after Deleuze, London: Bloomsbury’, Deleuze Studies Journal, 9 (1), 137-45.