Zigzagging: Bound by the Absence of Tie

The paper will unpack Deleuze/Guattari’s machinic conception of consistency, which is determined neither by the autonomy of the vitalist whole (organicism) nor by the geometric expression of the whole in its parts (mechanicism), but by the dark precursor’s zigzagging between the Scylla of submissive empathy and the Charybdis of dominating abstraction. In the words of Deleuze: “it is not a matter of bringing things together under one and the same [universal] concept, but rather of relating each [singular] concept to the variables that determine its mutations.” The argument starts from the hypothesis that the current digital turn in architecture effectively reproduces the Cartesian duality of mind and body, removing the former from contexts of engagement with the environment while treating the latter as no more than a kind of recording mechanism, converting the stimuli that impinge upon it into data to be processed. It is for this reason that we want to revamp the legacy of Deleuzian transcendental empiricism in general and Gibsonian ecological perception in particular.

The American psychologist Gibson vehemently rejected the reductionist information-processing view, with its implied separation of the activity of the mind in the body (abstraction) from the reactivity of the body in the world (empathy), arguing instead that perception is part and parcel of the total system of relations constituted by the ecology of the life form or its mode of existence (metastable plasticity). Let us make it, after Guattari, ecologies in the plural: environmental, social, and psychical (transversality). Life forms perceive the world directly, by moving about and discovering what the environment affords, rather than by representing it in the mind. Hence, meaning is not the form that the mind contributes to the flux of raw sensory data by way of its acquired schemata. Rather it is continually becoming within relational contexts of pragmatic engagement. Empathy and abstraction are mutually constitutive.

Everything starts from the sensible to be consequently extended to that which makes sensibility possible; that is, sensations mobilise the differential forces that make thinking possible. This is what Deleuze means by “pedagogy of the senses”—we are completely at the mercy of encounters (epigenetic turn). To quote the late media guru Kittler, “It’s funny, this thing turning back on itself. It’s called feedback (and not, as should be noted, reflection).” The cognition is extended and not interiorised or centralised, embedded and not generalised or decontextualised, enacted and not passive or merely receptive, embodied and not logocentric, affective and not unprovoked. If architects ever stopped to consider how much of life is guided by ego-logic (intentionality) and how much by eco-logic (gratuitous encounters), they would certainly pay far more attention to relational properties or the bind by the absence of an a priori tie.

The Dark Precursor and the Musics of the World

In a musical context, Deleuze’s concept of the Dark Precursor stimulates us to consider a range of ways in which heterogeneous, intensive systems can be related, thereby enabling communication or, to use later Deleuze–Guattarian terminology, “consistency.” The words “fusion” and “crossover” are regularly used to cover that growing multiplicity of cases where previously independent musics encounter one another as forces, in ever-variable plays of give and take. Such is the case in the fusions of Indian and various Western musics pioneered by musicians such as Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar, John Coltrane, George Harrison, John Mayer, and Joe Harriott, and more recently Anoushka Shankar. An alternative example is the Mugham-based jazz of Azerbaijani musician Aziza Mustafah-Zadeh, but the examples could be multiplied ad infinitum. Alternatively, in the case of Western art music in France, the experience of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris was pivotal in expediting much more intimate engagements between Western composers and a range of other world musics, which went beyond the nineteenth-century interest in exotica. Exposure to the Javanese gamelan and the Annamite theatre was of great importance for Debussy. André Jolivet and Olivier Messiaen were seriously affected by the sound of the gamelan heard once again at the Exposition Coloniale in 1931. Messiaen’s music is marked by Greek and Hindu rhythms, a range of pitch modes, Eastern-sounding instrumental groups, and a sense of temporal stasis that he related to Japan. Pierre Boulez’s early ethnomusicological aspirations, his contact with Messiaen and ethnologist André Schaeffner, and his lifelong interest in aspects of Asian and African music are apparent in his own work. An interest in and inclusion of aspects of Asian and African musics is also found in the work of younger composers, such as Hugues Dufourt’s monumental Erewhon (1972–76) for percussion or Georges Aperghis’s opera Tristes Tropiques (1990–95).

Viewing this series of musical encounters and inseminations, the challenge then is to think the Deleuzian Dark Precursors that operate between global musical traditions. The range of music considered in the talk embodies varying degrees of fusion between forces. Given that every viable composition or improvisation can be viewed as the work of consistency, the question arises, is consistency absolute or are there degrees of consistency? Who can judge whether a musical experience achieves Deleuzian consistency? Is the fact of its existence sufficient guarantee? Does consistency imply molecularity? Are less molecular forces less consistently integrated within the work? Finally, to what degree do compositions/improvisations of varying consistency manifest different values and relations?