Time, Territorialisation, and Improvisational Spaces

The ongoingness of improvisational musical space is productively described by a creative engagement with Deleuze’s three syntheses of time. The first synthesis describes a process of contracting the past into the ongoing, living present and the projections onto an open range of future actions engendered by such a contraction; the second synthesis confirms the present as the now-actual instantiation of the trajectories that determine the past’s own contraction. Both these syntheses are in continuous dialogue with each other, as well as with the third synthesis, which involves recognising the “event” as a location where actions take place that engender movement into the future. Interactive musical improvisation consists of an ongoing flow of such events, which give meaning to past trajectories and partially determine future ones.

For any improvisational utterance this can be thought of as the continuous, ongoing instantiation of a living present territorialised by the particularities of its past—dimensions or manifolds. Because the kinds of improvisational utterances I am concerned with represent singularities within loosely-defined ranges of “types” (the real or imaginary syntactic constraints of jazz improvisation, for example), the notion of territorialisation (and de- and reterritorialisation) is particularly apt, since it involves bringing milieus, strata, and codings into communication, from an action-first perspective. For example, an external milieu of jazz syntax comprises notes, chords, rhythms, conventional gestures, histories, exemplary recordings, and so on, while an internal milieu comprises the semantic and syntactic connections between them: teleological harmonic motions, voice-leading behaviours, cumulative rhythmic impulses, motivic developments. Connections between the raw data of external milieus and the behavioural considerations of internal milieus are drawn within the territory to create meaning and expression. It is in the territory, therefore (and in deterritorialisations within the territory) that innovation happens, that conventions and performance practices are decoded and transcended, and that possibilities arise for differentiation, individualised/singular interpretations of codes, and plural communications across strata.

These actions occur in time, are constituted in time, and constitute the time of the improvisational performance. This paper engages the identity-generative aspects of Deleuze’s three syntheses to consider carefully the ways in which the singularities of the now-past that constitute the ongoing living present are assembled within the collective improvisational territory to project a virtual future (some version of which will become actual at the point at which it becomes a living present), and how through the ongoingness of that action the identity of the improvisational utterance is formed. By considering an improvisational utterance as a territorialising act, with multiple rhizomatic connections and multiple entry and exit points, we can consider Deleuze’s larger thematisations of repetition as difference and difference as identity in two ways: by foregrounding the internal repetition that characterises the types of improvisational spaces here under consideration (involving cyclical forms, creative variations, and call and response—this is Deleuze’s “refrain” taken in its most purely musical sense) and by locating a performative utterance along multiple historical trajectories, foregrounding the ways in which it defines the temporal space where its identity is acted out.

Eco-Specificity: Performing the Heterogeneous Centre of the Ecological Imperative

Sites of performance, of exhibition, or display are revealed to be culturally specific situations that generate particular contexts, ethics, and narratives regarding art, art history, and society. Community involvement and the social division between the notions of the public and the private are strongly associated with the ethos that is generated during the performance of site- and eco-specific art projects. This presentation addresses Deleuzian philosophy in relation to the question of the relation between oikos and “eco-dramaturgy” through an examination of the “eco-critical” and site-specific project “Eleventh Plateau” by the non-profit company Out of the Box Intermedia that took place in 2011 at eleven sites on the island of Hydra and the uninhabited island of Dokos, Greece.

The paper discusses the inseparability of the work and its context and the intersection between performance and visual arts, landscape architecture, and environmental science, to propose a theoretical framework for examining new models of site-specificity affected by the unstable relationship between ecology, location, and society.

“Eleventh Plateau” is a multidisciplinary project involving collaboration across universities, art companies, and scientific institutes that seeks to understand the landscape of Hydra, its origins, its influences, and the derivative effects of these on its natural and cultural milieu and to promote a shift of the ecological ethos of the island in the expanded context of art practice.

“Eleventh Plateau” refers to the eleventh plateau in A Thousand Plateaus, “1837: Of the Refrain” where the refrain (ritournelle) is defined as “any aggregate of matters of expression that draws a territory and develops into territorial motifs and landscapes.” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 356) A refrain can be sonorous, musical. A bird song can be a refrain; “there is no form or correct structure imposed from without or above but rather an articulation from within, as if oscillating molecules, oscillators, passed from one heterogeneous centre to another, if only for the purpose of assuring the dominance of one among them” (ibid., 362).

“Eleventh Plateau” creates an intra-assemblage that holds together the heterogeneous elements of the different sites/plateaus. This intra-assemblage can be seen as an alternative territory. A territory is the first constituent of an assemblage, and as such is fundamental to it. It is a place of passage. The territory is the critical distance between two beings of the same species. “Eleventh Plateau” focuses on practices of critical intervention that promote a specific ethos relating to the definition, production, presentation, and dissemination of art. The aim is to readdress in an activist sense urgent social problems such as the ecological crisis. The project investigates the different layers of the islands: the archaeological past, contemporary economic culture, the ecological future, the excluded and the popular, zoology (animal/human interrelations), and land art and shifts in the representation of nature by displacing the performances and the objects of art from the theatre or gallery to the landscape.

Web: outoftheboxintermedia.org; vimeo.com/33345060


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

Tonality in Music as a Key Concept to Explain Life

What do I mean by tonality? Is there a closeness between tonality and affection? Why did Deleuze use so many musical terms such as “rhythm,” “vibration,” “resonance,” “tone,” and “ritornello”? (Deleuze and Guattari 1980; Deleuze 2002).

Each musical piece is a totality of sound waves. Produced by single or multiple sources, they interact between themselves and with the environment that they are in, creating an “atmosphere” by travelling distances and transmitting energy; furthermore, they go through our bodies. So what do we mean by tonality in music? Is it so crucial in understanding Deleuze? Is it so crucial in understanding life? Can an oscillation be related to what we call “the soul” in living beings? Can music, as a certain form of harmony in sound waves be considered as a model for explaining affectivity?

“Tonality” and “affection” are closely related terms that constitute the antithesis of all thinking based on human rationality. Furthermore, these two concepts may serve as tools to understand the animal question and its links to music (Heidegger 1995).

Animals can produce various sounds with rhythm, tonality, intensity, and variation, and so on; nevertheless, we assume that they do not have a language. There are scientific studies that prove plants are affected by certain types of music and react according to the levels of tonality and atonality, to expressions of affectivity. It is argued today that all living creatures have a language in their own way to communicate with one another (Gould and Gould 1994; Dawkins 1998; Grandin and Johnson 2005).

These are the pure basis of “having a soul” or “being alive” (vitality). This “being alive” does not lie in human logos (reason) only; it lies in the production of meaning inside the universe. Tonality (in music, in painting, in literature) explains the nature of this production and, for Deleuze, this can be examined in all kinds of art and thinking, but music differs from the others especially in its physical relation to the body.

Deleuze says that we need to understand that everything in the universe is a “becoming” and build our “becoming-animal” by “recapturing the forces” (Deleuze 2002, 56) through arts, literature, and music—especially through music—to travel distances inside bodies, to grasp the unity of the body/soul. How? (Deleuze and Guattari 1980, 237).

“Becoming-animal” can only be built by grasping the functioning of affects defined by Spinoza. “Becoming-animal” as the grasping of the nature of affects and the affirmation of life as a whole unites all becomings (Deleuze 1969). Those sound waves which are going through our bodies can be considered as mediums of transmitting energy between “bubbles” of life, as Uexküll (1957) once called it: as transmitters between worlds. Just as language is a transmitter of meaning and significance for humans, music can be a transmitter of meaning and affectivity for all living beings. Music is an infinite source to show why there cannot be a single and central point of view (human perception and sensation) from which to understand and explain the universe (Zourabichvili 2003). Following the analysis of the concept of devenir-animal, we may clarify the role of tonality in music in the elucidation of life in general.


Dawkins, Marian Stamp. 1998. Through Our Eyes Only? The Search for Animal Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1969. Spinoza et le problème de l’expression. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

—. 2002. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1980. Mille Plateaux. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

Gould, James L., and Carol G. Gould. 1994. The Animal Mind. New York: Freeman and Company.

Heidegger, Martin. 1995. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Translated by William McNeill and Nicholas Walker. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Temple, Grandin, and Catherine Johnson. 2005. Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Uexküll, Jacob von. 1957. “A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds.” In Instinctive Behavior: The Development of a Modern Concept, edited and translated by Claire H. Schiller. New York: International Universities Press.

Zourabichvili, François. 2003. Le vocabulaire de Deleuze. Paris: Ellipses.

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.