In 2002 choreographer/dancer Jonathan Burrows and composer/musician Matteo Fargion decided to create Both Sitting Duet, a choreography where they are both equally involved. The piece marked the start of a long- lasting collaboration that has, until now, resulted in the creation of eight short duets that all “straddle the line between dance, music, performance art and comedy” (Burrows). What characterises all these pieces is that the different elements that are brought together (music, movements, scores . . .) never add up. Rather, they run parallel and keep their own heterogeneous operational logic and quality. In the pieces of Fargion and Burrows, the music and the score, the movement and the sound, the two performers and so on never really come together. As such, the performances of Burrows and Fargion don’t create a harmony—as in a Gesamtkunstwerk. Rather, both performers always search for “impossible moments to meet in the middle” (Burrows and Fargion). Here the middle should not be understood as a middle ground, but as a no man’s land or a space of difference, a meantime (entre-temps) that makes the components “communicate through zones of indiscernibility, or undecidability” (Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?).
By looking at the notion of rhythm this presentation sets out to explore how Fargion and Burrows create these specific “meetings in the middle.” More specifically, it aims to connect the concept of rhythm that is operational in the practice of Burrows and Fargion with the notion of rhythm that Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari develop in AThousand Plateaus. In this book, Deleuze and Guattari define rhythm as that which unfolds “in-between” heterogeneous milieus and ties them together. Burrows and Fargion seem to bring this conceptualisation into practice. To do this they trade a traditional “divisive” approach to composition, in which the whole is divided into standard units of measurement, for an “additive” approach, in which heterogeneous patterns are played out simultaneously to (per)form a polymetric dialogue (Davis, “‘Roots and Wires’: Polyrhythm Cyberspace and the Black Electronic”). Rather than fusing the different patterns into a unified structure, Burrows and Fargion adopt a strategy of “apart-playing,” which has already been developed in African and Black Atlantian musical theory (Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility). The rhythm that emerges through this separated playing diverts from its traditional definition. Rather than referring to a primal or natural means of communication—a “medium of communal participation” (Cowan, Technology’s Pulse: Essays on Rhythm in German Modernism)—rhythm introduces a dimension of difference. It takes on the form of syncopation: a “violent off-beat” (Davis, “‘Roots and Wires’: Polyrhythm Cyberspace and the Black Electronic”), a “moment when time falters” (Clément, Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture), a “difference between anybody and everybody” that “makes one endlessly troubled” (Stein,Lectures in America).
By connecting rhythm to syncopation, this presentation aims not only to use Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptualisation of rhythms, but also to rearticulate it. As Steve Goodman states, Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of rhythm is compromised because it draws on Western musical sources (Messiaen, Berg). Shifting the focus from these traditional Western musical references to Black Atlantian currents of polyrhythmic music allows us to bring the concept further.