Who Interprets?

Beginning with David Stromberg’s recording of Helmut Lachenmann’s Pression, I ask the question: who interprets?

Operating within a conventional understanding, one would say that David Stromberg interprets Pression. This understanding indicates that interpretation marks the individual subject. However, it could also be said that Lachenmann reinterprets the instrument–body complex, bringing this complex into a new orientation of expressive structures through extended techniques of notation and cello playing. It is not simply a question of the performing subject interpreting the score but also of the performing body itself interpreted by systems of notation.

Taking Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche as a starting point, I will argue that performance does not have to be organised around the interpreting subject. As Deleuze (1983) describes, the “will to power” is not a “who” but a force of creation. A current that runs through The Logic of Sensation is that invisible forces manifest themselves on the body: “Bacon’s bodies, heads, Figures are made of flesh, and what fascinates him are the invisible forces that model flesh or shake it” (Deleuze 2003, xi).

Borrowing from Deleuze’s conceptual framework, I argue that “technique” cannot be thought of as co-extensive with the body’s movements—simply instrumental in conveying the performer’s “interpretation.” Rather, I argue that Deleuze’s philosophy allows one to reappropriate technique as a structuring entity (or invisible force) that plays across the body, without falling into a hylomorphic scheme in which form is distinguished from matter. Technique is never present; it is not an appendage; it is not co-extensive with the material body or the psychological subject.

It is easier to say what technique is not than what it is. However, again in line with Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche, I argue that technique should be spoken of in terms of becoming, not being. Technique is continually developing in relation to different modes of articulating music: as we have seen, Lachenmann’s notation is one example of composition reinterpreting the body and technique. However, many technical treatises—from Pierre Baillot’s violin treatise to Gerhard Mantel’s cello manual to the acoustics research of the bassist Knut Guettler—can be thought of as critical reinterpretations of the body, affecting and indeed becoming part of the technical assemblage.

I will argue that a critical and theoretical language about technique that incorporates Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy might allow us to describe performance on its own terms, aesthetically and formally independent (and yet co-dependent) from (and with) composition. The work of Mantel and Guettler treats technique as an independent object of study shifting between the phenomenological and the empirical. This research values technique in a fundamentally different manner from its treatment as a means of expressing an “interpretation” of musical compositions.

Guettler and Mantel work with technical bodies as machinic assemblages, developing a bodily calculus in line with Deleuze and Guattari’s “minor science”: “This science is characterized less by the absence of equations than by the very different role they play: instead of being good forms absolutely that organize matter, they are ‘generated’ as ‘forces of thrust’ by the material, in a qualitative calculus of the optimum” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 364–65). Guettler and Mantel introduce knowledge about the body, but a knowledge that is inseparable from material action. This knowledge follows the indeterminacies of the technical body’s programmed action, disrupting (to different degrees) the methodologies of “royal science.” It is of note here that differences in valuing and observing the technical component of musical practice led to propose radical revisions to the structure of conservatory education, demonstrating the close relationship of material practice, aesthetics, and politics.


Deleuze, Gilles. 1983. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Guettler, Knut. 1992. A Guide to Advanced Modern Double Bass Technique. London: Yorke Edition.

Mantel, Gerhard. 1995. Cello Technique: Principles and Forms of Movement. Translated by Barbara Haimberger Thiem. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Machining the Voice Through Continuous Variation

The main aim of my artistic research project is to investigate the interactions between the phonetic characteristics of a text and the timbral and formal features of a composition, including voice, instruments, and electronics, and to explore the transformations between sound and sense.

According to Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 97), it is impossible to conceive a separation between linguistics and stylistics “because a style is not an individual psychological creation but an assemblage of enunciation.” In this regard, a writer’s style will be characterised by the attempt to expand the limits of the standard language by making “the standard language stammer, tremble, cry or even sing” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 176). “Making language itself stammer . . . involves placing all linguistic, and even nonlinguistic, elements in variation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98). Therefore, all the phonological, syntactic, semantic components can be affected by a process of continuous variation leading to the creation of “a language within a language” (ibid., 97).

If every linguistic element contributes to the development of a literary style, vocal music, in turn, will be stylistically determined by the possibility of interacting with all the linguistic dimensions. In this perspective, the dissemination of new linguistic theories, the improvement of vocal and instrumental techniques, and the development of new technologies, enabled Luigi Nono to establish in his compositions an interaction with all the linguistic elements, especially focusing on the phonetic features of a text, thereby emphasising the timbral dimension of the language. As stated by Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 96): “Only when the voice is tied to timbre does it reveal a tessitura that renders it heterogeneous to itself and gives it a power of continuous variation: it is then no longer accompanied, but truly ‘machined,’ it belongs to a musical machine that prolongs or superposes on a single plane parts that are spoken, sung, achieved by special effects, instrumental, or perhaps electronically generated.” As a paradigmatic example of a musical machine, I will present an analysis of Omaggio a György Kurtág (1986) by Nono. Through the phonemic analysis (International Phonetic Association 1999) of the text and the analysis of vocal and instrumental techniques, I will demonstrate how Nono could explore a “zone of indetermination” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 273) within which “something or someone is ceaselessly becoming-other (while continuing to be what they are)” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 177), giving rise to “that secret neuter language without constants” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 96) where a voice never ceases to become an instrument and an instrument to become a voice. This analysis will be linked to my compositional practice, being a substantial part of my research, which is based on the use of music as a tool for text analysis through the composition of a piece for voice, instruments, and live electronics. The creation of a musical machine will be based on the application of the continuous variation to the invariants of language, such as the phoneme’s distinctive features (Jakobson, Fant, and Halle 1961). Since the distinctive features are classified according to a binary opposition, and since each pair of features implies the presence of a specific acoustic characteristic, I aim to explore the continuum between opposite terms forming a series of distinctive features. In this regard, the “continuum of values and intensities” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98) was identified by Deleuze as one of the key factors characterising Bene’s theatrical practice when, writing about Manfred (Bene 2008a), Deleuze (2008, 1466) highlighted Bene’s ability “to fix, create or change the basic color of a sound.” This ability allowed Bene to blend his voice with the sound of the orchestra, thus creating a “single sound plateau” (Giacchè 2007, 84).

As my composition is still a work in progress, my presentation will highlight the early stages of my creative process, such as the phonemic transcription of the poem by Caproni (1999, 724–25), the phonemic analysis of the text, and the adoption of heterogeneous techniques of text fragmentation.


Bene, Carmelo. 2008a. “Manfred. Byron–Schumann. Versione italiana e rielaborazione per concerto.” In Bene 2008b, 925-51.

—. 2008b. Opere: Con L’Autografia di un ritratto. Milan: Bompiani.

Caproni, Giorgio. 1999. “Il mare come materiale.” In Tutte le poesie. Milan: Garzanti.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2008. “A proposito del Manfred alla Scala.” Translated into Italian by Jean Paul Manganaro. In Bene 2008b, 1466–67.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

Giacchè, Piergiorgio. 2007. Carmelo Bene: Antropologia di una macchina attoriale. Milan: Studi Bompiani.

International Phonetic Association. 1999. Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle. 1961. Preliminaries to Speech Analysis: The Distinctive Features and Their Correlates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Exhibition as Psychic Event: Interpretation Method as Delineating Imaginary Capacities

Extracted from the exhibition Competence at the Fotograf gallery, Praha (2015), in collaboration with Isabela Grosseová, “Exhibition as Psychic Event: Interpretation Method as Delineating Imaginary Capacities” is an artistic lecture in which a particular exhibition will be presented and discussed. The presentation will bring out aspects of the exhibition that served to produce a certain type of psychic or virtual event for visitors. This is thus an attempt to grasp the here and now in terms of somewhere else and, by doing so, expand the actual inventively. (Automatisation of subjectivity)

The out-of-category data generated from this experience will become the main object of the presentation. An open, customised version of an interpretational method, inspired by the BNIM (Biographical–Narrative–Interpretation–Method), will serve this particular presentation. (Assemblage)

This apparent schematic interference will involve an informal division of the audience in a provisory playful interpretation by setting up a blind panel, giving us a real-time spontaneous transfer of what was at stake in the exhibition (there and then), as well as in the presentation of the essential strategies applied in the exhibition in order to enable the world to surprise us again (here and now), however gently. (Process)

Beside demonstrating a temporary collapse between theory and practice, the overall interest is to enable a discussion on how this transposition or dislocation may (re-)produce but not repeat certain substantial components in the overall theme relating to competencies. We may discover possible blind spots and render visible realities on which we are missing out, through delineating our imaginary capacities. (Becoming)

A as in Animal

Art, according to Gilles Deleuze, does not produce concepts, though it does address problems and provocations (Grosz 2008). The video “A as in Animal” is an artwork that is on the lookout for encounters. Assembled edits and cuts within the video are rendered both exact and invisible, inciting both problems and provocations. Processes of performative assemblage and appropriation are constants through the work as a critical engagement with post-production, philosophies, and the mediated. The work draws on Deleuzian concepts of assemblage and multiplicitous attractions and influences, taking its title from L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (1988–89). Deleuze didn’t think much of television and stated that the interview should not be aired before his death. In the interview, Deleuze discusses with Claire Parnet the crucial link between creativity, the very possibility of thinking, and animality, through the practice of être aux aguets (being on the lookout) for rencontres (encounters). To avoid zigzagging in his discourse, Deleuze received the list of topics beforehand, and although he worked assiduously on the answers, he then improvised during the recordings (Peter Stamer 2014).

“A as in Animal” assembles collected material from this interview and other sources from internet searches and YouTube browsing activities. The best of Deleuze can be found on the internet for sure—working and thinking through performative assemblage(s) of browser doings, apparatus, or equipment structurings, rhizomatic unfoldings, non-human historiographies, and philosophies. The film highlights search actions of retrieval and playback. Panic or anxiety fluctuates across a variety of disciplines including, among others, linguistics, gender studies, social theories, and art practices. Keeping fit with Donna Haraway, Derrida, blue and green screen special effects, and a spy mission project “Acoustic Kitty.” Together with reverse path tracings, dissonance, discordance, and difference are brought into close proximity without a video camera or recording device, and spread “like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, eroding what is in its way.”

Emergent indeterminate properties pervade both sound and image. We cannot know whether we are inside or outside through use of blue screen and green screen effects. Images and sounds, objects and things highlight contingency and multiplicity and overlap. This approach articulates activities of accumulation, arrangement, and movement that call attention to processes, which are improvisatory. Activities that are on the lookout for encounters, movement, and “doing” are prioritised. Through this process, less emphasis is placed on observation, representation, and subjectivity. Articulations stutter between different intensities, intensities that include over-saturation of colour, shimmering substances, non-diegetic sound, and transdisciplinary couplings that are resonant with rubbing up to the non human. The video work is shaped conceptually by site and the context of peripheral indifferences. Software presets and preconditions are cut with modalities of classification and taxonomy that flicker with continued involuntary repetition of sounds and image. The cat breaks the bowl, the cubists spend their time trying to glue it back together.


Deleuze, Gilles. 2008. “N as in Neurology.” In Gilles Deleuze from A to Z, with Claire Parnet, directed by Pierre-André Boutang, translated by Charles Stivale. Cambridge, MA: Semiotext(e), DVD.

Grosz, Elisabeth. 2008. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia University Press.

Stamer, Peter. 2014. 26 Letters to Deleuze. A project by Peter Stamer with Jörg Laue and Alain Franco at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. A work-in-progress performance Saturday 22 March. Accessed 20 October 2015. http://peterstamer.com/works/26-letters-to-deleuze/.