Untimely Variations. A Video Interview with Paulo de Assis

A short video-interview to Paulo de Assis (Orpheus Institute, 20 September 2015) about Deleuzabelli Variations #4.


  1. Chronos 1:06
  2. Differential repetitions 4:24
  3. Resitence 5:24
  4. Veränderungen 11:26

Thomas Heiber, interviewer; Gerhard Schabel, camera; Paolo Giudici, editing.

The Paradoxical Form of Creative Practice: Exploring Deleuze’s Theory of Time in Logic of Sense

Deleuze is a philosopher of creation, intent on explaining the necessary preconditions for the possibility of radical creativity in all its forms. For Deleuze the problem of creation, and the connected problem of genesis, is central to his aesthetic, political, scientific, and purely philosophical theories. This paper will offer an analysis of the way in which Deleuze clears a space for the possibility of radical creativity by developing a non-deterministic theory of time.

The creative practice that Deleuze wishes to describe must be rigorously defined, pragmatic, and methodologically viable, while simultaneously affirming a poststructuralist metaphysic that embraces indeterminacy and radical change. This philosophical position generates a paradox: creative practices must be both non-deterministic and somehow controllable or predictable.

Instead of considering this paradox as a barrier to the possibility of creative thought, in Logic of Sense, Deleuze uses this paradox as the starting point for an original philosophy of creativity that is based on a radical understanding of time. Here Deleuze describes the way in which the nonsensical structure of a paradox allows us to see the process by which sense is generated. His theory functions by bringing to light the circular temporal structure of the paradox, and especially the paradoxes developed by C. S. Lewis in his Alice in Wonderland series. Unlike the linear time of lived experience, which Deleuze calls “Chronos,” the paradoxical form of time that defines a creative practice is non-linear and intensive. Deleuze calls this second form of time “Aion.”

The theory of Aionic time developed by Deleuze in Logic of Sense is not only intended to provide an answer to the problem of creative practice, it is also part of a larger theory of language. In this book, Deleuze aims to show how the paradoxical form of time that defines the creative process is also the key to describing how resonances can be developed between the two heterogeneous realms of bodies and language. It is the circular and non-extended empty form of the Aion that allows the two sides of the signifying series to interact.

In this paper I will outline the theory of time that Deleuze puts forward in Logic of Sense and will attempt to show how this work creates a theory of intensive time, which allows for the possibility of a creative practice that is both rigorous and non-deterministic. I will end by looking at the practical implications for artists wishing to create this form of creative practice and for researchers who wish to engage with them productively.

The Caesura or Break in Time

A “caesura” is conventionally defined as a break in metric time, a pause where time is not counted. A common device in the arts, but relevant to all modes of expression involving repetition, the caesura is said to introduce a “natural feeling” into exact or “metronomic” time. This is the active sense of the caesura, where it functions as a conscious device that reflects the rhythmic intuitions of a composer or performer—when to take a breath, when to sustain, release, or attack a line. However, there is a passive or unconscious sense of the caesura. Before it is actively placed in a line, a caesura already marks a passive shift in power, in affect as distinct from feeling. Feelings of joy and sadness, as Spinoza says, are at bottom increases or decreases in our power. Power, however, does not shift from metronomic to “natural,” but from potential to actual. In this sense, the caesura is about the actualisation of affective power, about becoming-intense. The caesura is the “non-place” of power, not just a device for the disruption of metre.

Time passes intensively, and caesuras create fluctuations in intensity. They are in fact immanent to how time passes. The power of an event, that is, its actualisation, coincides with its distribution of intensive breaks. What generates that distribution? It depends on local affinities, attractions, energy traps, and thresholds. Caesuras always have content but are not bound to one. A caesura is a break that repeats, but every repetition differs in itself, just as every break in breathing breaks breathing differently, and every interruption marks an immanent synthesis of time. We can think of the genesis of an affective temporal line, or multiplicity of lines, first as this passive distribution of caesuras. It is prior to any active control (which feeds on it) and actualises potentials before they are captured by various metrics. The distribution of caesuras forms a kind of proto-rhythm or uneven oscillation, immanent to time passing, which is spontaneous and ungrounded. In other words, events in themselves actualise rhythmic potentials. Caesuras prepare those events; they are the paradoxical syntheses of potential and actual times. The caesura is the “arrhythmic” pause or “glitch” that makes time pass, creates passive rhythms, and actualises capacities to affect and be affected.

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.