Alone/Together: Simulacral “A-Presentation” in/into Practice-As-Research in Jazz

No series enjoys a privilege over others, none posses the identity of a model, none the resemblance of a copy . . . Each is constituted by differences, and communicates with the others through differences of differences.
—Gilles Deleuze (2004: 348)

This lecture-recital, interposing live music making and spoken word is concerned with our understandings of the creative processes by which musicians make music with the core repertoire in their particular disciplinary field, and with how research in/into such processes can best be undertaken and communicated. It will draw on, as an exemplar, my ongoing practice-as-research in a duo capacity with the saxophonist Mike Fletcher—a fellow member of the contemporary jazz scene in Birmingham (UK). In this research, expert music making with the standard repertoire in jazz forms the basis for a range of “theoretical practices” (Melrose 2005), including (as will be discussed in the presentation) notions primary to the Deleuzian canon.

In Deleuze’s well-known attack on what he called “the failure of representation” (2004, xvii), he proposed the collapse of the Platonic model/copy concept of identity in favour of an ontology of difference grounded in heterogeneous “a-presentation” (ibid., 27) that privileges “no prior identity, no internal resemblance” (ibid., 372–73). Deleuze refigured Plato’s own term “simulacrum” to indicate this internally differentiated “positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the representation” (2004, 299). Resonating with Deleuze’s concerns, my own research has explored the theorisation of the ontology of musical works (in this case, jazz standards) with regard to the simulacrum, beyond the limitations of the model of the original and the copy that remains prevalent, however implicitly, in how we tend to think of the relationship between works in a canonical repertoire and performances of “the same” (see Brown 2011).

Through a series of practice-as-research enquiries, Fletcher and I have experimented with ways of playing jazz standards from multiple different perspectives, in the simultaneous performance of key aspects of the pieces in question. In so doing, we have sought to investigate a deconstruction of the original/copy model of the identity of the jazz standard via the apparatus of a simulacral “a-presentation.” “Simulacra are not perceived in themselves,” wrote Deleuze (2004: 313), “what is perceived is their aggregate in a minimum of sensible time.” By means of performing multiple perspectives of the same jazz standards in “aggregated” form, we will argue that my practice-as-research enables listeners—and, crucially, fellow researchers—to experience a temporally-grounded “sense” of the internally-differentiated, simulacral ontology of jazz standards, in terms of the complex manifold nature of their utilisation by jazz musicians.


Brown, Lee B. 2011. “Do Higher-Order Ontologies Rest on a Mistake?” British Journal of Aesthetics 51 (2): 169–84.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2004. The Logic of Sense. Translated by Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. Edited by Constantin V. Boundas. London: Continuum.

—. 2004. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

Melrose, Susan. 2005. “Words Fail Me.” Keynote address at “Towards Tomorrow?,” Centre for Performance Research, Aberystwyth, 6–10 April 2005. Accessed 29 July 2009.