Geomusic, Ecosophy and Molecular Oscillators

The thrust of both Deleuze and Guattari’s thought on music is ecosophic, in that it treats music as a component within a process of chaosmic symbiogenesis whose aim is the deterritorialisation of the ritournelle and the creation of a new people and a new earth.  A Thousand Plateaus develops the concept of the ritournelle and its relation to milieus, territories, and cosmic lines of flight; What Is Philosophy? elaborates on those themes and ties them to the project of creating a new people and a new earth; and The Three Ecologies, Chaosmosis, and What is Ecosophy? integrate these elements within a general ethico- aesthetic paradigm. Deleuze’s 1978 IRCAM presentation on musical time (published in its manuscript form in Lettres et autres textes) precedes A Thousand Plateaus by two years, but in large part it partakes of the same trajectory of thought. Though Deleuze does not mention the “ritournelle,” he speaks of the musical mode of individuation of a “sonic landscape” inhabited by “rhythmic characters,” and of music’s coupling of an “elaborated sonic material” and “imperceptible forces that the material renders audible, perceptible.” In a similar ecosophic vein, he refers to “molecular oscillators” in biological systems and relates them to the non-pulsed time of contemporary music, which is “a time made of heterogeneous durations whose relations rest on a molecular population, and no longer on a unifying metrical form” (Deleuze, “Le Temps Musicale,” in Lettres et autres textes). The correlation of musical time and molecular oscillators does not appear again in Deleuze (though biological molecular oscillators are referenced briefly in A Thousand Plateau’s ritournelle plateau); nonetheless, the correlation merits detailed consideration. The molecular oscillators Deleuze refers to are chemical clocks that regulate organisms’ circadian rhythms internally and entrain them externally with variations in daily light–dark cycles. Circadian clocks arose 2.5 billion years ago during the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) and persist across all three phylogenetic domains of Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryota. In humans, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) serves as the master clock, but clocks have been discovered in red blood cells and other tissues and various organs (colon, kidney) that interact with the  SCN.  Besides  circadian  clocks,  oscillators  have  been  identified at timescales of less than a day (ultradian sand circartidal) and greater (circalunar, circannual, and multi-year cycles). Although Deleuze stresses the temporal heterogeneity of molecular oscillators, their fundamental characteristic is that of a periodicity entrained to georhythms.

Broadly speaking, music occurs at the interface of geo- and biorhythms, articulated through the tekhnē of parajective instruments (as opposed to projective weapons and introjective tools). Human tekhnē threatens multiple aerobic life forms emergent from the GOE through global warming, and the ecosophic response must include a transformation of the ecology of mentalities. The music of John Luther Adams (not to be confused with the John Adams of Nixon in China) may be seen as such a response, especially in his interactive site “The Place,” the site-specific performances of Inuksuit and Ten Thousand Birds, and the orchestral compositions Dark Wave and Become Ocean.

Heterogeneity of The Word and The Image: What Is the Possible Dark Precursor?

The concept of heterogeneity is one of the key concepts in Deleuze and Guattari’s universe. Heterogeneity moves through all possible spheres of becoming. If one starts to discuss art at this moment, the concept of heterogeneity comes into play. They wrote, “To us, Art is a false concept, a solely nominal concept; this does not, however, preclude the possibility of a simultaneous usage of the various arts within a determinable multiplicity” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 300–301). There is also essential heterogeneity between visible and speakable. In his book This is Not a Pipe, Foucault, in cooperation with René Magritte, discovered the innate incompatibility between the word and the image. Foucault (1983, 36) noticed that Magritte discovered the gulf “which prevents us from being both the reader and the viewer at the same time.”

There is no preformed order between heterogeneities, but is there any possible common point of communication between them? In the book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari noticed that this communication is neither imitation nor resemblance; at the same time, something else entirely is going on—what is this something else? In his early book Difference and Repetition, Deleuze (1994) wrote that every system contains its dark precursor—the third party—which ensures the communication of peripheral series. Given the variety among systems, this role is fulfilled by quite diverse determinations. Deleuze does not define exactly what this dark precursor or a third party is. In his book on Foucault, Deleuze returned to the problem by mentioning that Kant had already encountered a similar problem: he had to find a third agency beyond the two forms—a spontaneity of understanding and the receptivity of intuition: the schema of imagination. Deleuze (1988: 68) discerns that even Foucault “needs a third agency to co-adapt the determinable and determination, the visible and the articulable, the receptivity of light and the spontaneity of language.”

In his text on Foucault, Deleuze reflects upon Foucault’s discussion with the Belgian painter Magritte. In his experiments with words and images, Magritte included the words in the pictures alongside the image, or even instead of the image or in a paradoxical correlation with the image. The Lithuanian artist and writer Jurga Ivanauskaitė (1961–2007) was inspired by Magritte’s experimental games in her visual works and in her literature as well (Ivanauskaitė 2011, 2013). Her poster for the rock group Antis (in English, “the Duck”) is based on the heterogeneity of the three meanings of the word “antis” and the impossibility of reducing the three meanings to any single one. This picture raises questions very similar to those that Foucault asked about Magritte’s “This is not a Pipe”: Does the word “duck” (antis) written on the wall have anything in common with a real duck or only with a metaphorical duck, meaning the duck as “the forgery in the press”? Do these three ducks (the painted object, the name of the rock group, and the word on the wall) have something in common? Is there any hierarchy between the ducks? Which one of these is the most “real”? What is the possible point of meeting? Is the picture the dark precursor of the three heterogeneous ducks? Deleuze would have answered: it is a thought. This battle between heterogeneous spheres—the impossibility of being a reader and a seer at the same time—inspires thought. In Foucault, Deleuze writes, “Visibilities are not defined by sight but are complexes of actions and passions, actions and reactions, multisensorial complexes, which emerge into the light of day.” As Magritte says in a letter to Foucault, “thought is what sees and can be described visibly” (Deleuze 1988, 59). Thought has a close relation with a diagram and the cinema. The diagram is an abstract machine or the map of relations between forces, which proceeds by primary nonlocalisable relations and at every moment passes through every point. Deleuze (2003) used Foucault’s concept of diagram to reflect upon Francis Bacon’s painting. On the other hand, Deleuze in Cinema 2 considered thought not as imagination but as a main dark precursor between the word and the image in creating modern conceptual cinema (see Baranova 2014, 2015). Thought is not so much the shock, discovered by Eisenstein, but the powerlessness to think as revealed by Artaud. Deleuze (1989, 165) writes that “thought has no other reason to function than its own birth, always the repetition of its own birth, secret and profound.”


Baranova, Jūratė. 2014. “Artaud versus Kant: Annihilation of the Imagination in Deleuze’s Philosophy of Cinema.” Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image 6: 137–54.

—. 2015. Between Visual and Literary Creation: Tarkovsky and Ivanauskaitė. Saarbrücken: Scholars’ Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Foucault. Translated by Séan Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

—. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1983. This is Not a Pipe. With René Magritte. Translated and edited by James Harkness. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Ivanauskaitė, Jurga. 2011. “The Fortress of Sleeping Butterflies” [excerpt from novel]. In No Men, No Cry: Contemporary Lithuanian Women’s Prose, translated by Milda Dyke, 63–75. Chicago: International Cultural Programme Centre.

—. 2013. “Year of the Lily of the Valley.” In The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature, edited by Almantas Samalavičius, 146–57. London: Dedalus.