From Painting to Sound: Musical Reflections on Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation

In Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Deleuze becomes the philosophical voice of Bacon’s paintings. The book’s main arguments are developed in relation to Bacon’s thoughts and from Deleuze’s sensations and visual reflections on the paintings. Bacon resonates through Deleuze’s words; both the painter and the philosopher intermingle in the perception of the paintings and on the meanings of the philosophical arguments. Thoughts become images and images become thoughts. Does sensation have a logic? Or is logic merely the philosophical language derived from sensation?

The written expression of Deleuze’s sensations and my sensation of his words made me perceive and relate visual philosophical notions within the context of musical experience and thinking. My musical thoughts and sensations (or sonic imaginations) herein described arose from the experience of reading Deleuze’s book on Francis Bacon before establishing any connection with his writings on music. I relocated Deleuze’s visual notions to describe, in a particular way, musical layers and events spread through a musical piece. I will explain how my musical arguments relate and are similar to some of Deleuze’s thoughts on music, whilst emphasising the reason why some of his ideas on painting serve to describe and think musical problems with a different language and specificity.

In this presentation, I will introduce the three main pictorial elements that Deleuze describes in Bacon’s works: (1) spatialising fields, (2) the figure, and (3) the place. I will explain how I relate these pictorial elements to musical phenomena in my work and to the phenomenon of deterritorialisation through music as thought by Deleuze. In particular, I will delve into the idea of the “isolation of the figure” in Bacon’s paintings and explain how I relate “isolation” to a musical phenomenology. I will also describe how the mutual exchange and coexistence of the pictorial elements can be related to the interaction and resonance between multiple sonic layers and/or multiple realities, which consequently establishes a link between Deleuze’s visual thoughts on Bacon’s work and Jean-Luc Nancy’s ideas on resonance through listening.

To illustrate the relation of the pictorial elements to musical ones I will present a musicalised animation of Bacon’s painting Head VI (1949). The music will be created with processed material from the recording of my composition A Bao A Qu (2012) for nine musicians, a piece that I used in my doctoral dissertation to describe the relation between Deleuze’s notions on Bacon’s paintings and my music. The animated painting will transform in synchrony with the music, revealing and explaining through an audiovisual experience how visual elements can be associated with the musical ones.