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.”

Afterimage: The Dark Precursor

One morning in September, during the preparations for the conference, we noticed these large black-and-white photographs hanging on the walls of De Bijloke. We learned that every season, De Bijloke invites a visual artist to reflect on music: Michiel Hendryckx (2011/12), Randall Casaer (2012/13), Jan Van Imschoot (2013/14), Dirk Zoete (2014/15), and, this season, Iphygenia Dubois and Lore Horré with their new series Afterimage. No other relation between Afterimage and DARE 2015 was apparent, except that we would soon be sharing the foyer. A small incident we were about to ignore and yet the conference topic forced us to think again.

We can recognise an ambivalence important to Nietzsche: all the forces whose reactive character he exposes are, a few lines or pages later, admitted to fascinate him, to be sublime because of the perspective they open up for us and because of the disturbing will to power to which they bear witness. They separate us from our power but at the same time they give us another power, “dangerous” and “interesting.” (Deleuze 1983, 66).

There and then, external circumstances were forcing an encounter, inducing a double capture (Deleuze 1987, 7). Artistic research is made of such encounters. Sometimes, something passes across disparate series in art and research, producing when it happens the tingling electric feeling of the sublime and, when it has happened, the electrifying fascination with what it creates. In this passage, Lyotard seems to capture the dark precursor at the highest intensity:

Sublime feeling is analyzed as double defiance. Imagination at the limits of what it can present does violence to itself in order to present that it can no longer present. Reason, for its part, seeks, unreasonably, to violate the interdict it imposes on itself and which is strictly critical, the interdict that prohibits it from finding objects corresponding to its concepts in sensible intuition. In these two aspects, thinking defies its own finitude, as if fascinated by its own excessiveness. (Lyotard 1984, 55)

A few weeks later, I remembered where in Deleuze I had found something about the afterimage and found the reference in Brian Massumi’s translator’s foreword to A Thousand Plateaus. I quote it here as a conclusion to this short introduction and as a good omen for Iphygenia and Lore and for the entire DARE 2015:

In Deleuze and Guattari, a plateau is reached when circumstances combine to bring an activity to a pitch of intensity that is not automatically dissipated in a climax. The heightening of energies is sustained long enough to leave a kind of afterimage of its dynamism that can be reactivated or injected into other activities, creating a fabric of intensive states between which any number of connecting routes could exist. (Massumi 1987, xiv)

Paolo Giudici


Deleuze, Gilles. 1983. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Claire Parnet. 1987. Dialogues. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lyotard, Jean-François. 1984. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Massumi, Brian. 1987. “Translator’s Foreword: Pleasures of Philosophy.” In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, ix–xv. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.