Deleuze and Painting: Music and the Figure

Much of Gilles Deleuze’s work reflects his interest in pure semiology and power structures. However, particular examples in his sole-authored work explore the abstractions of his theoretical oeuvre through close and vivid analysis of artworks themselves, most notably in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Deleuze’s reading of the paintings draws in part on the painter’s interviews with David Sylvester, a perspective expressed in language that could not be less un-Deleuzian, and yet captures some of the essential motifs that go to the core of Deleuze/ Guattari’s characterization of ‘Schizophrenia’: the ‘body without organs’, sensation as an alternative to representation, and conformity to prevailing hierarchies such as those manifest in capitalist systems. Deleuze develops numerous concepts through his reading of Bacon’s figurative paintings, especially that of the ‘figure’, an entity distinct from the figurative, or that which represents. The concept of ‘figure’ is a complex one, but relates only in part to the fact that Bacon mainly painted (human) figures. Deleuze himself suggests that those few paintings that do not depict a human or animal figure — such as the series of paintings from the mid/late 1980s that includes the two versions of Jet of Water (1988), or Blood on the Floor (1986)— are nonetheless figural in the sense he intends. This opens up the possibility that other art forms, such as music, can also incorporate the figural according to Deleuze and Bacon’s particular understanding of sensation. Moreover, Deleuze’s writings on music (and in particular his concept of the refrain) are arguably less persuasive, and certainly less focused on actual artefacts (as opposed to abstract theory) than his discourse on Bacon. This paper explores how Deleuze’s critique of Bacon’s works can usefully enable discussion of the related concepts of figure, sensation, and force in music, with reference to the music of Brian Ferneyhough (b. 1943) and other contemporary composers who have either expressed specific interest in Bacon or Deleuze’s work or whose artistic outputs suggest that this conceptual framework might offer useful interpretative insights.

Ceci n’est pas la musique: Laying the Groundwork for a Schizoanalysis of Brian Ferneyhough’s Carceri D’invenzione I (1982)

The interaction between composer and performer, performer and audience, recording and audience, and memory and active recall, form a complex rhizomatic web that locates the phenomenon of music in a constant process of becoming. All aspects of musical creation, performance, and recollection are locked into various artefacts that can be seen as tracings (notations, the vibration of air, a memory) that, to be activated as music, must be returned to the map of temporally bound perception. This act generates yet another tracing through the act of writing (to the page, to the air, to the memory) that is frequently mistaken for the phenomenon of music.

By taking Brian Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’Invenzione I (1982) as a case study, this presentation will demonstrate how Deleuze and Guattari’s theorems of deterritorialisation can be applied to the different states of becoming present in the musical act (Delezue and Guattari 1988). The composer’s own writings (Ferneyhough 1995) and analysis of his sketches (Toop 1994; Fitch 2013) will illuminate the creative act that resulted in the published notated score (Ferneyhough 1982). Discussions around performance practice and the interpretation of notation (Fitch 2013) will similarly explore the act of realisation into sound. Finally, research into the perception of sound and the functioning of musical memory (Hallam, Cross, and Thaut 2009; North and Hargreaves 2008) will be employed to propose a similar analysis of how specific passages in the work may be perceived and remembered.

This attempted schizoanalysis contributes to the literature on the ontology of the musical work (e.g., Goehr 1992) and attempts to function as an avant-garde aesthetic, engaging directly with creative practice and attacking an Academy that valorises the past to the detriment of the present.


Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1988. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ferneyhough, Brian. 1982. Carceri d’Invenzione I. New York: Edition Peters.

—. 1995. Collected Writings. Edited by James Boros and Richard Toop. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Fitch, Lois. 2013. Brian Ferneyhough. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Goehr, Lydia. 1992. The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hallam, Susan, Ian Cross, and Michael Thaut, eds. 2009. The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

North, Adrian C., and David J. Hargreaves. 2008. The Social and Applied Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Toop, Richard. 1994. “‘Prima le Parole . . .’ (On the Sketches for Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’invenzione I–III).” Perspectives of New Music 32 (1): 154–75.

The Emergence of the Interpreter in the Preparation and Performance of Unity Capsule for Solo Flute by Brian Ferneyhough

My paper will attend to the emergence of the interpreter and the repositioning of the contemporary music score from a Deleuzian viewpoint. The manuscript of Unity Capsule is a highly detailed and labyrinthine one that embodies both resistance and provocation for the performer. In my paper I will explain the processes I embarked upon to learn Unity Capsule and adopt the Deleuzian interpretations of résistance and création to articulate the aesthetic and technical demands the piece places upon the player. As part of this process, I will also chart how the performer emerges from the score to challenge hierarchical preconceptions pertaining to the performer–composer relationship.

The perspective I will adopt in this paper is an autoethnographic one that will interleave film excerpts of Deleuze as himself, taken from his final project, the Abécédaire, directed by Pierre-André Boutang. Alongside, there will be a complete performance with technical demonstrations of the iconic and “impossible” Unity Capsule by Ferneyhough. This will include projections of my annotated score as well as explanations of my schematics and the conceptual trajectories that led me to my interpretation. My purpose is to open an interrogation into the score-object, the existence of the performer in this new territory, and the implications of such an immersive experience on collaborative practices in the future.