Untimely Variations. A Video Interview with Paulo de Assis

A short video-interview to Paulo de Assis (Orpheus Institute, 20 September 2015) about Deleuzabelli Variations #4.

Chapters:

  1. Chronos 1:06
  2. Differential repetitions 4:24
  3. Resitence 5:24
  4. Veränderungen 11:26

Thomas Heiber, interviewer; Gerhard Schabel, camera; Paolo Giudici, editing.

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.

References

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.

Sisyphus and Deleuze

This paper will examine how my art practice applies ideas of classical reception theory in the production of a history of the myth of Sisyphus. As reception history reveals alterations and shifts of meaning through time and cultures, so the myth of Sisyphus can be seen as a metaphor of layers of repetition laid upon each other as each cycle of punishment begins, alluding to Deleuze’s concepts of difference and repetition. These are ideas born out of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal return, taken from the punishment of Sisyphus, first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey.

This Classical Reception history is realised as an illustrated journal. It is an assemblage of texts and images of Sisyphus as they have appeared chronologically and explores the evolution of myth and changes in meaning. My own drawings are included, in my guise as Sisyphus, as he attempts to articulate his own story. The decision to construct a visual diary, a common device employed both by artists and by those undergoing therapy as a tool to record and explore complex processes and to unpack thoughts, ideas, and emotions, is relevant because ideas of classical reception come out of Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis: a peeling away of layers to reveal core meanings. The conceit of this illustrated journal is to explore a single idea and how it has been expressed in a multiplicity of ways. It alludes to both the repetitions found in Sisyphus’s tale and in the reproductions and re-enactments of his narrative that have reoccurred through history.

Echoing the Greek Stoic philosophers, eternal return posits that the universe is recurring and will continue to recur an infinite number of times; that “This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence” (Nietzsche 2001, 194). Deleuze, however, believed that all repetition contained differences, “the only thing that returns or is repeated is the power of difference” (Colebrook 2002).

Sisyphus’s re-enactment can be seen, according to Deleuzian theory, as a way of perceiving the same act in different ways, although the actions remain the same: burden can become determination; eternity as constant purpose, futility as endeavour. The act of pushing the boulder up the mountain only to witness it tumbling down again without hope of ever reaching the summit becomes an act of becoming; a true becoming as it has no end. To strive without resolution is to learn to enjoy the journey and the attempt. Released from ambitions of outcome, the action becomes a metaphor for faith and trust and an awareness of the present. Deleuze insists that we value action and ideas of becoming in and of themselves.

This paper will look at how the Deleuzian theories of repetition and difference were born out of the stories of Sisyphus, and altered it in turn—how the original myth can be interpreted for new readers.

References

Colebrook, Claire. 2002. Gilles Deleuze. London: Routledge.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2001. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. Edited by Bernard Williams. Translated by Josefine Nauckhoff. Poems translated by Adrian Del Caro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Caesura or Break in Time

A “caesura” is conventionally defined as a break in metric time, a pause where time is not counted. A common device in the arts, but relevant to all modes of expression involving repetition, the caesura is said to introduce a “natural feeling” into exact or “metronomic” time. This is the active sense of the caesura, where it functions as a conscious device that reflects the rhythmic intuitions of a composer or performer—when to take a breath, when to sustain, release, or attack a line. However, there is a passive or unconscious sense of the caesura. Before it is actively placed in a line, a caesura already marks a passive shift in power, in affect as distinct from feeling. Feelings of joy and sadness, as Spinoza says, are at bottom increases or decreases in our power. Power, however, does not shift from metronomic to “natural,” but from potential to actual. In this sense, the caesura is about the actualisation of affective power, about becoming-intense. The caesura is the “non-place” of power, not just a device for the disruption of metre.

Time passes intensively, and caesuras create fluctuations in intensity. They are in fact immanent to how time passes. The power of an event, that is, its actualisation, coincides with its distribution of intensive breaks. What generates that distribution? It depends on local affinities, attractions, energy traps, and thresholds. Caesuras always have content but are not bound to one. A caesura is a break that repeats, but every repetition differs in itself, just as every break in breathing breaks breathing differently, and every interruption marks an immanent synthesis of time. We can think of the genesis of an affective temporal line, or multiplicity of lines, first as this passive distribution of caesuras. It is prior to any active control (which feeds on it) and actualises potentials before they are captured by various metrics. The distribution of caesuras forms a kind of proto-rhythm or uneven oscillation, immanent to time passing, which is spontaneous and ungrounded. In other words, events in themselves actualise rhythmic potentials. Caesuras prepare those events; they are the paradoxical syntheses of potential and actual times. The caesura is the “arrhythmic” pause or “glitch” that makes time pass, creates passive rhythms, and actualises capacities to affect and be affected.