Memory as Difference, Material as Repetition: A Performative Presentation of Compositional Strategies and Multi-Source Interpretative Methods

We present an experimental compositional and interpretative practice in relation to notions of memory, repetition, and duration employed by Deleuze in Différence et répétition and Le bergsonisme, while secondarily employing concepts from Le pli.

A performance for flute and electronics by myself and Richard Craig using a multiple-source interpretative method to provide auditory material to the performer in addition to scored materials will demonstrate a compositional process currently in development. This process has evolved out of the Computer-Assisted Compositional method applied in most of my compositions to date, which is in essence the assembly of an electroacoustic maquette through layering of various recordings of pre-existing repertoire, and the subsequent transcription of this maquette into instrumental parts.

To describe the process in more detail: (1) the duration of each note (or other articulated unit) of various recordings of a given work is determined; (2) the recordings are time-stretched proportionally note by note so that, when superimposed, they are synchronised; (3) the superposition of these different versions may be subjected to further time-stretching to heighten the subtle variations between them and bring out the artefacts of the phase vocoding; (4) a spectral analysis of the maquette is performed using IRCAM’s SuperVP and/or Audiosculpt software; (5) the spectral data is quantified and transcribed, principally using IRCAM’s Open Music environment; (6) the maquette may also provide material for the electronics.

This superposition, which highlights the differences between the recordings, will be considered in relation to notions of repetition from Différence et répétition: “Perhaps the highest object of art is to bring into play simultaneously all these repetitions, with their differences in kind and rhythm, their respective displacements and disguises, their divergences and decentrings; to embed them in one another and to envelop one or the other in illusions the ‘effect’ of which varies in each case” (Deleuze 1968, 364). If repetition (in this case, by superposition) is to be considered as material—as it constitutes all the material for the composition—then memory is difference (Deleuze 1966, 94). Memory provides the possibility of expressivity in this process, in the perception of subtle distinctions between the various instantiations of the original composition, as well as between the new composition and the original composition upon which it is based. The newly composed utterance, a kind of interpretation or (re-)presentation of the pre-existing work (Alessandrini, 2014) creates several problematics not only of reference but also of memory: if the listener has previous knowledge of the work “interpreted” by my composition, how is that knowledge called into play in the listening process? How is the fact that the new composition is based on an existing work audible if one has no knowledge of the specific composition being referenced? How may the performers’ knowledge of the pre-existing work influence his or her interpretation? And how does my own memory of the original work subjectively and intuitively influence the compositional process, in addition to the objective use of data derived from analyses of recordings?

These questions will be addressed in terms of Bergson’s theory of memory as elaborated by Deleuze, in particular his description of the “leap into ontology” (Deleuze 1966, 52). To understand the difference of nature between memory and material, it is necessary to make the distinction between “l’être” of the past, as opposed to “l’être-présent,” which is “pure devenir” (Deleuze 1966, 49).

The identity of the “model” for the new composition poses another ontological problem, as it situates itself between performance history, score, and a new instantiation, the maquette. This problem will be addressed by drawing upon notions of monade and objectile from Le pli (Deleuze 1988): the work as it is subjected to this process is considered as monade in the Deleuzian sense of a unity composed of multiplicities (Deleuze 1988, 5) and its materialisation in the compositional and performative process as objectile.

For the objectile to maintain its dynamically changing substance and form in relation to the infinite multiplicity of the monade, each performance should actively engage the multiple aspects of the compositional process, from maquette to score. The demonstration will posit a solution, by communicating sonic elements from the maquette to an instrumentalist, Richard Craig, while allowing this sonorisation to be interpreted expressively (by myself, as electronics performer). Our performance will once again touch upon notions of memory, and the passage between a generalised past and a particular present as devenir.

References

Alessandrini, Patricia. 2014. Composition as Interpretation through Performative Electronics. Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queens University, Belfast.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1966. Le bergonisme. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

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

—. 1988. Le Pli: Leibniz et le Baroque. Paris: Editions de Minuit.