For a Nanomusic: “Sound Desiring Machines” and Multiple Time

Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts had an important impact on my musical thinking. When I started reading both philosophers, I had been working for several years at the intersection of musical writing and psychoanalysis. In Order of Release, Border of Relish (2002–4), I developed a transversal between musical time and the time of the unconscious. Echoes, resonances, and rebounds between sound fragments build a complex and non-linear temporal form. Processes of condensation or dissolution induce a mutative and elastic musical matter with heterochronic textures, a multiplicity of strata, and transitory sound objects.

When I read Deleuze and Guattari, it occurred to me that the minimal units I was combining in ever changing sound constellations—their capacity for connection and propagation through the sound field—could be referred to the “asignifying” particles of the “machinic unconscious (Guattari 1979; Deleuze and Guattari 1980). In my music, small modular three-pitch pendular figures are the elementary constituents of a sound “abstract machine,” and are pushed by antagonistic forces: stratification or “destratification,” “territorialisation” or “deterritorialisation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1980), repetition or mutation.

These pendulums, with their modular quality and their constant pivoting movement, keep forming evolving “assemblages” (Deleuze 1964; Deleuze and Guattari 1980) whose ramifications (chains of interconnected pendulums) can either converge towards one centre, such as Guattari’s “black hole” [Guattari 1979], with the condensation on one object or figure, or create independent lines and migrate toward other zones. Since they keep circulating and building ever renewing fleeting configurations, they can be considered as sound “desiring machines” (Deleuze and Guattari 1972). In these sound rhizomes (Deleuze and Guattari 1980), repetition has an important function. It is a step-by-step process. Each repetition of a pendulum alters its envelope, generates a small gap, a small differance (Derrida 1967). It is a “differentiating repetition” (Deleuze 1968). Being caught in a permanent flow, these elementary figures both repeat and mute, simultaneously form and dissolve. This formal paradox characterises all my pieces. Abstract figures are elaborated only in order to show that they can be undone, that they are plays of forces. They are perceptible only because they insist. Their appearance/disappearance reveals not only a “capture of forces” (Deleuze 1981) but also the paradoxical “becoming” of a present that suggests before and after, past and future, “Aion” (Deleuze 1969) or the “empty form of time” (Deleuze 1968)—time as a pure process.

The musical form is not preformed; it is the result of the sound trajectories, of different “becomings” according to the different pieces.

Psyché-Cité/Transversales (2005–7) is a psychogeography. The sound topology is both a becoming-machine and a becoming-scream, a “zone of indiscernibility” (Deleuze 1981) between the brain and the metro, the psyche and the city, scream and noise. It is a hybrid sound territory. Mutatis mutandis (2008) is a whole set of vibrations. Fluxes of particles coagulate or trace more or less dense migratory paths. It is “musical genetics,” with repetitions and errors (such as DNA). It is a becoming-filament and a becoming-molecule. Shel(l)ter (2009–10) refers to an atomic bunker in Berlin and to nuclear physics. It is a becoming-atom, a “nanomusic.”

From the Body Without Organs (Deleuze 1981; Deleuze and Guattari 1972, 1980), a kind of “organum-body” underlies my music topographies—that is, a never definite and never stabilised sound body since the invested vibratory fields are never frozen.


Deleuze, Gilles. 1964. Proust et les signes. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

—. 1968. Différence et répétition. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

—. 1969. Logique du sens. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

—. 1981. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Editions de la Différence.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1972. L’anti-Œdipe. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

—. 1980. Mille plateaux. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

Derrida, Jacques. 1967. L’écriture et la différence. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Guattari, Félix. 1979. L’inconscient machinique: Essais de schizo-analyse. Paris: Recherches.

No Voice Is Lost

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari write that “There is always a woman, a child, a bird to secretly perceive the secret. There is always a perception finer than yours, a perception of your imperceptible, of what is in your box.” Our proposition is concerned with the perception of this imperceptible through the practice of the refrain (ritournelle) and how this is able to make visible long-hidden experiences and reunite scattered memories. The core argument is that the ghosts remaining after a catastrophe such as a genocide are still active as long as their role has not been properly worked out. One way of doing so is to let the ghosts speak through the gestures and words of the living, and the way they speak can be described using the notion of refrain, introduced by Deleuze and Guattari. Our project tells the story of Gülizar (1875–1948), an Armenian girl who became a legend during her lifetime because she was abducted by a powerful Kurdish tribe chief as a fourteen-year-old girl, but resisted him and managed to return to her village. Gülizar’s story lives on not only in Armenian communities but also among the Kurdish people living today in the area where she lived, in the Plain of Mush (Eastern Turkey). We have explored different ways of letting her presence be felt, and found that the different versions of her story, from the Armenian or Kurdish oral traditions, formed a territorialising refrain that asked many important questions connecting the unconscious, memory, and the politics of resistance.

The legacy of historical collective traumas has been widely discussed in psychoanalytical contexts. The works of Abraham and Torok, or of Janine Altounian, among many others, have shown that collective traumas can be transmitted through several generations. But this approach is centred on the individual perspective; the collective dimension of the traumas requires an approach to memory free from the individual psychic space and on another plane. On this question, Deleuze and Guattari’s suggestions in the “Refrain” chapter of A Thousand Plateaus, as well as Guattari’s own developments in his Machinic Unconscious, are useful. They understand the notion of refrain as both the intimate and the collective “temporalisation of our relation to landscapes and to the living world”; as such, it seems to be a necessary component of collective memories.

The issue is then on two levels: first it is about bringing a collective unconscious to the foreground; second, it is about mobilising a vivid memory in order to favour social change. The contribution will show the video No Voice is Lost, featuring the memory of Gülizar’s story through the testimonies of different people (Kurds and Armenians) for whom this story is important, along with the landscapes where she lived before 1915. The song (lament) about Gülizar is the refrain able to reconnect the living and the dead with this space, with this landscape, and cast a bridge over the breaches of time.