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

References

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.

Deleuzabelli Variations # 4

Grounded in Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy, William Kindermans’s book Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (1987), and Michel Butor’s Dialogue avec 33 variations de Ludwig van Beethoven sur une valse de Diabelli (1971), the Deleuzabelli Variations expose Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, op. 120, to several musical encounters, letting other times and styles interfere with Beethoven and making unconnected connections happen. In the time frame of the original piece, diverse techniques of elimination, substitution, and replacement are used. Alongside interventions from other times and styles, including composers such as Bach, Mozart, and Cramer, six new pieces were especially written for this performance.

The title is a triple homage: to Beethoven, Gilles Deleuze, and Anton Diabelli. Beethoven’s music functions as the backbone of the performance, while Deleuze’s idea of differential repetition provides a sort of method related to processes of continuous transformation and permanent becoming; and Diabelli’s name must be highly praised, for without him none of this would ever have happened.

links

concert programme

audio recording

video interview with Paulo de Assis

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?