In the Aberrant Event of Musical-Philosophical Thought

The event considered as non-actualised (indefinite) is lacking in nothing. It suffices to put it in relation to its concomitants …
— Gilles Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life”

…improvisation has little or nothing to do with communication and more to do with ensuring that the channels of communication are kept open and alive.
— Gary Peters, The Philosophy of Improvisation

This presentation brings together  live  music-making  (solo  piano)  and  spoken  word  to elucidate what I am calling the “aberrant event” of musical-philosophical thought. Specifically, it is concerned with exploring how the relations between music improvisation and a Deleuzian philosophical approach can perform a complex movement of interdisciplinary interrelation from which emerges (concomitantly) new knowledge and knowledge of the new.

Drawing on Deleuze, Bergson, Peters, and my own music-making practice, I argue that in what we understand as the event of performance (in any disciplinary field) there is a differen(t/c)ial movement of complex “becoming,” wherein the “eventness” of the event unfolding is transformed on account of the encounter between the temporal constituents of any unfolding event; to certain extents negating the newness of its perceived novelty, to others, creating precisely the required degree of novelty in order to enable the conditions for future events.

Embracing this notion of the creative event of musical-philosophical nuptiality (however aberrant), I further argue that the categories of music and philosophy, considered as discrete disciplinary fields, are themselves products of an emergent temporal movement: an event of musical-philosophical thought; an “aberrant” event without that which moves but which is ever in motion, immanently creative in its constitution of those “secondary effects” we erroneously take as transcendent givens.

Deterritorialize Yourself!

time— … (in a sense) proliferating—connection … —(promulgating connectivity piecemeal)— …

This paper imagines a line of flight from composer J. K. Randall’s provocative, experimental 1972 essay “Compose Yourself: A Manual for the Young,” transforming Randall’s prescription into the imperative deterritorialise yourself, and pursuing its radical implications. Just as territorialisation and deterritorialisation form an always- ongoing assemblage through which identities are constructed and transformed—fixing and unfixing; always becoming-other—“compose yourself” (I suggest) bears with it a differential “decompose yourself” through which my identity is bound up in the very process of changing through the impingements of affective forces or actions of double capture that improvisational interactions engender. The thrust of this paper is to refract the implications of becoming-other enacted within processes of music-improvisational interaction back toward the emergent identity of the individuating participant, as a decomposing-oneself, as an always-ongoing process of deterritorialising oneself, as an enactment of an aberrant relationship with oneself, as a queering-oneself. This goes beyond the notion of performing one’s identity (or performing the identity of the musical work): performativity is nothing if not the acting-out of a differentiating relationship always already bound up within the more-than of a proliferating ecology.

The more-than, as Erin Manning describes, is an affirmation of difference, of the variation felt at the edges of relational experience, of the minor gestures that continually decompose performative acts even as they are being enacted. Like Manning, I assert  that to think in terms of  this double movement is to take an ethical position in which  the boundary between what we might call, even creatively and affirmatively, a subject and the others the subject affects and is affected by becomes productively porous and identities become expressions of relationships, impingements, movements. Nuptials. My composing/decomposing, territorialisation/deterritorialising (sonic) self-situates alongside and interacts fundamentally with a network of other selves, human and otherwise, all impinging on one another in complex arrays of affective relationships, all engaging in multiply-directed acts of capture. Identity, therefore, is a process of becoming-with as much as it is a process of becoming-other.

… —Drift. Slip a Cog.—drifting across some infolded interlock,—some mergingtime, Unfold.—(in passing). Reshape.—Refocus.— … colour of focus infolded: now merging, connecting;—infolded colour of merging unfolded: now focal;—structure: Bettertell time from time to time.

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.”

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.”