Deleuze’s Cinema Studies as a Model for a Problematising Sound Practice

Within Cinema 1: The Movement-Image and Cinema 2: The Time-Image, Deleuze exposes cinema as a practice of thought. Cinema articulates perception, lived experience, and material components through particular strategies of formal organisation. These strategies are presented as rendering particular “regimes” of the image. A fundamental aspect of this proposition is that each regime yields a diverse status of the image, defines a particular mode of engagement with the visual.

In chapter 6 of The Time-Image, Deleuze opposes the crystalline regime of the image to the organic one. Within the organic regime, images “assume the independence of its object . . . stand for a supposedly pre-existing reality” (Deleuze 2013, 131) and are articulated to convey a continuity external to themselves. This is the domain of the sensory-motor schemes, where images become components of trajectories and “oppositions within a field of forces” that define a “hodological space” (133).

On the other hand, within the crystal regime of the image, the conveyance of an external continuity is interrupted. “It is now the description itself which constitutes the sole decomposed and multiplied object”; the image “stands for its object, replaces it, both creates and erases it” (131), drawing attention to the immanent and multiple conditions of its emergence. Rather than being determined by what they would refer to in themselves: “it is not a matter of knowing if these are exteriors or scenery” (131), it is the way they are articulated that defines its status. Translating this perspective to the domain of an artistic sound practice implies understanding how the status of sound would arise out of diverse regimes of sound.

I aim to propose that Luigi Nono’s “No hay caminos, hey que caminar . . . Andrej Tarkovskij” for seven instrumental groups is an example of a work that sets up a crystalline regime of sound. As is the case in the realm of the images Deleuze refers to, it is not a matter of sounds being referential or mimetic to sounds outside the frame of the concert hall; instead, it pertains to how the sound’s status arises out of the logics of the organisation of the work. An organic regime sets up sounds as interrelated figures within an imaginary space, a “hodological” space where parameter variations define trajectories. The claim is that within “No hay caminos . . .” each component in the formal articulation of the piece does not participate in constituting a detached field of trajectories or figural relationships. Rather, the sequence of sound instances is articulated as to sensitise the listener to the multiple threads (affective, material, perceptual) that constitute our apprehension of these instances. Through a process of successive recontextualisations, our active grasp of sound is put into question.

One fundamental example of how this strategy is deployed within this work is the way in which the spatiality of sound is dealt with. Rather than building up a plan of formal relationships that would render space as an imaginary field, contrasts are set up that expose the inherent spatial characteristics of every sound. By articulating this strategy, sound is exposed as a multiple instance, its status defined by intermingling conditions. This becomes a hint towards conceiving a practice that takes as its main aim the problematisation of the way listening unveils and our engagement with sound is constituted.


Deleuze, Gilles. 2013. Cinema I: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. London and New York: Bloomsbury.

—. 2013. Cinema II: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London and New York: Bloomsbury.

Machining the Voice Through Continuous Variation

The main aim of my artistic research project is to investigate the interactions between the phonetic characteristics of a text and the timbral and formal features of a composition, including voice, instruments, and electronics, and to explore the transformations between sound and sense.

According to Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 97), it is impossible to conceive a separation between linguistics and stylistics “because a style is not an individual psychological creation but an assemblage of enunciation.” In this regard, a writer’s style will be characterised by the attempt to expand the limits of the standard language by making “the standard language stammer, tremble, cry or even sing” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 176). “Making language itself stammer . . . involves placing all linguistic, and even nonlinguistic, elements in variation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98). Therefore, all the phonological, syntactic, semantic components can be affected by a process of continuous variation leading to the creation of “a language within a language” (ibid., 97).

If every linguistic element contributes to the development of a literary style, vocal music, in turn, will be stylistically determined by the possibility of interacting with all the linguistic dimensions. In this perspective, the dissemination of new linguistic theories, the improvement of vocal and instrumental techniques, and the development of new technologies, enabled Luigi Nono to establish in his compositions an interaction with all the linguistic elements, especially focusing on the phonetic features of a text, thereby emphasising the timbral dimension of the language. As stated by Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 96): “Only when the voice is tied to timbre does it reveal a tessitura that renders it heterogeneous to itself and gives it a power of continuous variation: it is then no longer accompanied, but truly ‘machined,’ it belongs to a musical machine that prolongs or superposes on a single plane parts that are spoken, sung, achieved by special effects, instrumental, or perhaps electronically generated.” As a paradigmatic example of a musical machine, I will present an analysis of Omaggio a György Kurtág (1986) by Nono. Through the phonemic analysis (International Phonetic Association 1999) of the text and the analysis of vocal and instrumental techniques, I will demonstrate how Nono could explore a “zone of indetermination” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 273) within which “something or someone is ceaselessly becoming-other (while continuing to be what they are)” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 177), giving rise to “that secret neuter language without constants” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 96) where a voice never ceases to become an instrument and an instrument to become a voice. This analysis will be linked to my compositional practice, being a substantial part of my research, which is based on the use of music as a tool for text analysis through the composition of a piece for voice, instruments, and live electronics. The creation of a musical machine will be based on the application of the continuous variation to the invariants of language, such as the phoneme’s distinctive features (Jakobson, Fant, and Halle 1961). Since the distinctive features are classified according to a binary opposition, and since each pair of features implies the presence of a specific acoustic characteristic, I aim to explore the continuum between opposite terms forming a series of distinctive features. In this regard, the “continuum of values and intensities” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98) was identified by Deleuze as one of the key factors characterising Bene’s theatrical practice when, writing about Manfred (Bene 2008a), Deleuze (2008, 1466) highlighted Bene’s ability “to fix, create or change the basic color of a sound.” This ability allowed Bene to blend his voice with the sound of the orchestra, thus creating a “single sound plateau” (Giacchè 2007, 84).

As my composition is still a work in progress, my presentation will highlight the early stages of my creative process, such as the phonemic transcription of the poem by Caproni (1999, 724–25), the phonemic analysis of the text, and the adoption of heterogeneous techniques of text fragmentation.


Bene, Carmelo. 2008a. “Manfred. Byron–Schumann. Versione italiana e rielaborazione per concerto.” In Bene 2008b, 925-51.

—. 2008b. Opere: Con L’Autografia di un ritratto. Milan: Bompiani.

Caproni, Giorgio. 1999. “Il mare come materiale.” In Tutte le poesie. Milan: Garzanti.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2008. “A proposito del Manfred alla Scala.” Translated into Italian by Jean Paul Manganaro. In Bene 2008b, 1466–67.

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

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

Giacchè, Piergiorgio. 2007. Carmelo Bene: Antropologia di una macchina attoriale. Milan: Studi Bompiani.

International Phonetic Association. 1999. Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle. 1961. Preliminaries to Speech Analysis: The Distinctive Features and Their Correlates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Compositions by Olivier Messiaen and Luigi Nono

Olivier Messiaen, Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (1985), Le Rouge-gorge (1), for piano

Olivier Messiaen, Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (1985), Le Merle Noir, for piano

Olivier Messiaen, Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (1985), Le Rouge-gorge (2), for piano

Luigi Nono, …..sofferte onde serene…, for piano and tape