Sonic Nuptials. Composition and Improvisation in a Double Capture: Refrain and Processes of Territorialization

Although there is an intermediate field between composition and improvisation, when discussing the differences between these two forms of musical creation  the  main issues that arise relate to dualities: deferred time and real time, intentionality and non- intentionality, controlled and non-controlled, predictability and unpredictability, work of art and process.

In the collaborative project we propose, these differences will be used as fuel for the elaboration of an artistic work where ideas devised in a deferred time through the creation of original scores/scripts are concretised in a performance in real time. Thus, in a singular way, the project combines composition and improvisation, approaching what has been designated “comprovisation.” Like the Deleuzian image of the orchid and the wasp, this project involves a double capture and unfolds in a composition/improvisation-becoming, giving rise to a third thing that is in between them.

There is another important component: the performer improvises using a kind  of “hybrid machine” that can be summarised in the following formula: musician + acoustic instrument (with preparation) + digital instrument (microphone + interfaces + computer + patch + speakers). These elements should—all together—adapt to the performance environment.

Our proposal puts all these elements into play and takes the form of a saxophone solo improvisation performance with live electronics guided by a score/script prepared in deferred time in which new representational and solfege resources are dealt. From a compositional point of  view, the project involves researching and inventing new types  of scores. From the point of view of the preparation of improvisation, the project includes researching and inventing new instrumental approaches such as instrumental prostheses, modifications in the body of the saxophone, symbiosis with other instruments and accessories, and so on. Finally, the project aims to provoke, also in the audience, a new attitude of listening in a broad sense.

Furthermore, the performance should show the functioning of the acoustic-digital coupling, both at a more specialised level, with respect to the technologies involved,  and at the level of physicality, with respect to the elaboration of specific instrumental techniques, appropriate to the agency of this “hybrid machine” in a continuous process of territorialisation, deterritorialisation, and reterritorialisation. Due to the complexity of this environment, this performance could be thought in terms of the dimensions of the refrain as described by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus. This happens because the refrain, at the same time that it outlines a centre, is susceptible to cosmic calls, to lines of wandering. According to Deleuze and Guattari, “to improvise is to join with the world, or meld with it.”

East Meets West in France: Catching the Musical Scent

French modernism since Debussy has integrated within itself aspects of  the  music and culture of geographically diverse regions, including elements from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Vietnam. This paper focuses on the work of the generations of composers who succeeded Messiaen, Jolivet, and Ohana and Boulez in exemplifying how French modernism and the musics of the world encounter one another in innumerable, innovative ways.

On the French-born side, a large number of composers, many one-time members of Messiaen’s celebrated class, have drawn on the East in their work. Jacques Charpentier used Indian Karnatic modes for his seventy-two piano studies. François-Bernard Mâche composed a number of works drawing on aspects of the East including Maraé, Aera, and Khnoum. Jean-Claude Eloy engaged with the music and cultures of Japan, India, and Tibet, in works such as Kâmakalâ, Shânti (peace), and Gaku-no-Michi. French Canadian composer Claude Vivier integrated non-Western sounds into several of his works, and others, such as Hugues Dufourt, Georges Aperghis, Marc Battier, and Thierry Pécou, continue to engage with other cultures.

Such conjunctions are not the exclusive preserve of French-born composers and there are now several generations of Asian composers who have studied and worked in France. These include Japanese composers Sadao Bekku, Makoto Shinohara, Akira Tamba, and Yoshihisa Taïra. Chinese composers include Hao Chang and Chen Quigang and there are Vietnamese composers Ton-that-Thiet and Nguyễn Thiên Đạo. Some of these figures have worked, in turn, with their own French-based Asian students: among Taïra’s pupils are Chien-Hui Hung, Liao Lin-Ni, and Malika Kishino. Other French-educated and/or resident composers include Xu Shuya, Karen Tanaka, Fuminori Tanada, Misato Mochizuki, Kenji Sakai, Sanae Ishida, Mayu Hirano, Keita Matsumiya, Naoki Sakata, and Aki Nakamura.

Beginning from this mapping–out of the musical landscape, the task of this paper is to consider the nature of the rhizomatic workings operational in these musical engagements, the deterritorialisations and reterritorialisations, the movements of the macro and micro, molar and molecular forces of East and West, which meet one another in ever-shifting assemblages of cultural, linguistic, and sonic forces. At least since the time of Debussy,

East and West may be thought of as partners in a Deleuzian “aberrant nuptial,” the aim of this paper being to consider how this operates in the music of Taïra, Dao, Thiet, Eloy, Pécou, and Kishino. In doing so, I will refer also to the work of Edouard Glissant, who drew on a number of Deleuzian concepts in his thinking on the relationships between global cultures. Thierry Pécou, for example, picks up on Glissant’s concept of “Creolisation,” which applies to the entire mix of global cultures and which is open equally to the cultures of China, Egypt, Japan, South America, and the rest. As Jean-Luc Tamby notes, in his “encounters with traditions,” Pécou “dreams of ‘making the whole world resonate.’” To further open out this idea and to explore such resonances will be the goal of the paper.

Reconceptualising the Deleuzian Artist: Intention in Art Practice

This paper focuses almost entirely on Deleuze’s only book devoted to the visual arts, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. The question I set myself in the first half concerns the question that led Deleuze to the development of the concept of the “diagram”—in other words, how the artist succeeds in creating new work while existing in an environment already saturated with “old” forms, techniques, and clichés. This is the problem through which I confront the issue of the painter’s “controlling intelligence”—a vexed issue in much of Deleuze criticism. I argue, however, that existing criticism of The Logic of Sensation often misses Deleuze’s emphasis on the preparatory work that Francis Bacon (and other artists) undertook before actually beginning to paint. I argue that what I term the “will”  of the artist operates both before and after the moment of “self-abandonment” that Deleuze develops in reference to the diagram. In support of this argument, I reference the passages Deleuze devoted to Bacon’s use of photographic images in the preparation of his paintings, arguing that Bacon’s use was both characteristic and habitual: in other words, that it truly represented a method.

From this starting point, I develop the relation of will and intelligence to Deleuze’s analysis of Bacon’s practice. By reconceiving and recognising the practice of  painting as  a process that includes initial moments of de- and reterritorialisation, the critic can fully appreciate the importance of  the painter’s guiding intelligence in this process. Since  the process of de- and reterritorialisation involves the painter performing an operation on him- or herself too (eliminating the clichés that exist within the painter’s head)—it is important to reconceptualise the artistic subject in Deleuze’s work as a self-developing one, and Deleuze’s artists as subject who truly have an artistic career in which their practice is systematically developed. Though space in a short paper is limited, I will touch briefly on the relation of Deleuze’s artists to broader trends in art history, arguing that they are in fact situated in and profoundly connected to broader, temporally defined movements in the history of art, with reference in particular to chapter 14 of The Logic of Sensation. Moreover, even the moment of deterritorialisation represented by the “diagram” requires the application of the artist’s control and skill to prevent the painting becoming “overloaded.”

I thus present the concept of the diagram as a microcosm of a broader engagement of the Deleuzian artist with the forces of “chaos”—which must precisely be engaged with rather than fully embraced, and controlled as only one moment of the process. I thus present the guiding intelligence of the Deleuzian artist as an example of “limit function.”

The second half of the paper confronts the notion of style and argues that style is a key defining characteristic of the Deleuzian artist. Engaging with the work of critics such as Simon O’Sullivan and Andrea Eckersley, I argue that style exercises a unifying function over an artist’s body of work, and allows the artist to represent and reuse past material from his or her “archive.” I argue that we can understand style best as the “singularised perception” and “unitive vision” of the artist, citing Deleuze’s analysis of the work of Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh to defend the personal nature of such a style, and the importance of the personal history and experiences of the artist, and thus arguing against any critical presentation of the Deleuzian artist as merely impersonal, or a collection of artistic “effects” without any defining and unifying characteristics.

Machinic Propositions

Machinic Propositions is an artistic project and an attempt to critically examine Deleuze and Guattari’s theorems of deterritorialisation as found in chapters seven and ten of their seminal book A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze and Guattari 1980). The output will be an audio-visual expression with the same over-arching goal to attempt to counteract the predominance of one medium over the other. Our objective is not to integrate them, but to approach what is described as “a confidence with no possible interlocutor” (Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues II).

Our artistic method is one where conceptual deduction and improvisation play central roles. It has grown out of our thinking about contemporary media and our attempts to critically examine both our own pro-technical approach and the hyper media landscape we live in. This method was developed on the basis of our artistic ideas, the needs of the projects we engage in, and the conditions of our respective practices. At the core of our work lies the attempt to deconstruct the relationship between sound and image. Our work process is slow and meticulous. The work on the present project began over a year ago and is likely to continue past the premiere at the DARE conference in November 2017. In other words, the actual work only materialises at the very end of a relatively long process of interaction.

There are interesting parallels between the way we work and the idea of a style as the ability to “stammer in one’s own language” (Dialogues II). In this sense our working process is situated in our personal conditions giving us concrete access to both the attempt to stutter in “language” and the attempt to avoid it in “speech.” Although the work here proposed does not yet exist in its final form, it started a year ago with reading, discussions, and conceptual experiments.

The modes of synchronisation that have become central to our works will be further explored in the modes of thinking relating to the theorems introduced by Deleuze and Guattari (in particular the second theorem is of interest to the notion of synchronisation). There are, however, many points of entry. First, the systems of de/reterritorialisation in this context we interpret as the attempt to detach both sound and image from their highly defined modes of engagement. Second, we will continue to examine what the actual relations are within our system of working, ranging from a historical view of audio/visual art to our specific conditions of working. One mode through which we will experiment with these topics, related to all theorems but particularly the first, is to change roles in the work process.

Through the theorems loosely described in chapters seven and ten of AThousand Plateaus we will work out an abstract audio/visual work. As artists there is nothing to suggest that we are able to provide a philosophical output with scholarly relevance. The potential interest of this project for this context is instead the way our process informs our and others’ readings of Deleuze and Guattari. More specifically, the way the senses see and hear in our work may be seen to create a “zone of indeterminacy,” which may provide possibilities for understanding what we do as artists and researchers, but may also provide openings into understanding what the significance of a “generalised chromatisism” (as mentioned in the call) may develop into in other contexts as well. The conflict between the video and the audio in our work is never one that we attempt to overcome but one we strive to see precisely as the “opposite of a couple.”