New Islands: The “Manifold” of Performing Gestural Electronic Music

New Islands is an entwined, manifold, physical, sonic, gestural, electronic, mediated, yet immediate musical performance.

The performance’s main issues are presence, agency, and mediation. This manifests in an interwoven, complexly folded situation of physically performing with electronic sound processes and technological instruments. At stake are the relationships between the artist’s body, actions and affects connected to the resulting soundworld, abstract narrative, and the imagination triggered in the audience. This happens in the social situation of the concert space, the period shared in co-presence with the audience, by sharing the moment of shaping the sounds and the overall musical form.

The performance is tied to the key elements of the physical actions, the perceived intentionality and agency of the performer, yet also the invisible presence of the “machinic” agency, and the interaction and dialogue with the musical processes and structures. Algorithmic, rule-based processes are counterbalanced by a state of pre-reflective, intuitive “surfing” of the piece.

The stage situation represents an “island” in the flow of everyday life, which comes naturally for the audience but is equally true for the performing artist. The moment onstage represents the tip the iceberg, a singularity, a focal point, the compression moment of a practice that spans a considerably larger scope. This compression results in a “manifold,” a “fold,” and a “millefeuille” of elements that are infinitely entwined. Yet, given a beginning and an end in a performance, this multiplicity of elements becomes finite, at least in time, and can be perceived and experienced as a unified object, created and shared in the presence of the audience/viewers.

The metaphor of the “manifold,” a concept from abstract mathematics, serves to point toward a state of affairs where many dimensions intermingle, explode, and get wrapped and enfolded in such a way as to render nearly impossible the task of identifying, isolating, and evaluating the individual constituent parts; or at least it only permits approximations to singular exemplars of the experience in question.

This abstract model represents the multiplicities of implications, operational domains, and significances present in any musical performance situation, particularly when applied to non-predetermined or non-textual practices.

New Islands investigates a core question through “showing/doing”: whether and how the signifiers, act(ors/ants), and shifting scopes that get (re)present(ed) in the stage situation are organised hierarchically and how they represent a gridded cultural space; whether and how they embody a decentred, shifting, and enfolded web of relationships and strata that we are forced to continuously traverse in multi-perspectival, shifting perceptions.

Web: jasch.ch/islands

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.

Deleuzian Expressionism as an Ontology for Theatre

This paper addresses the problematic ontology of postdramatic theatre. In particular, it looks at examples of “in-yer-face” productions, such as Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis and Cleansed, as well as Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker and Far Away. In doing so, it aims to uncover a novel way of positioning the notion of mimesis within the ontological texture of these non-Aristotelian works for the theatre. Herein mimesis becomes a constitutive principle and a generative procedure that guarantees continuity between disparate entities, such as words and worlds, pre-representational regions and representation, infinite indetermination and finitude. It is similar in form and function to Deleuze’s notions of “expression” and “re-expression” within Spinoza’s substance–essence–attribute and attribute–mode–modification triads as described in Expressionism in Philosophy.

Just as expression carries forward a progression from the infinite to the finite whereby the expressible (substance) becomes expressed sense, so does mimesis assume the role of a generative intermediary in the composition of literary worlds in postdramatic theatre. As a relational and transmissive component, Deleuze’s “expression” does not agree with Romanticist treatments of the term as “the internal made external” but captures the very motion of the expression of substance within what Thacker defines as a regime of “a radical Neoplatonism without a centre.” Thus described, expression becomes a topological progression. It precipitates the emergence of literary worlds from a vantage point of univocity, acting as a fluxional immanent substratum that is fundamentally generous, affluent, and flowing forth.

Assuming this vantage point, one begins to notice that postdramatic works for the theatre—albeit nonsensical to the habitual gaze—exhibit a quasi-causal logic governed by the continual interaction of Deleuzian “expression” and “sense.” This becomes especially visible in “in-yer-face” plays with their violence and excesses—almost campy and grotesque in their insistence on the aberrant. Rather than explaining such plays in experiential terms, the present paper assumes the stance that their “nonsensical” infusions expose the work of an event of sense within a play’s ontological texture. Confronted with the consolidation of an event of sense within the motion of expression, plays are at pains to readjust, recompose, and thus incorporate the supernumerary within their textual fabric. In the listed cases, the result is an inimical, injurious immanence.

The Pleats of Matter / The Matter of Pleats

This presentation comprises two intertwined components—“The Pleats of Matter” and “The Matter of Pleats”—as the perspectives from both composer and performer, respectively, on the Deleuzian concept of the fold as exemplified through the case study of Aaron Cassidy’s The Pleats of Matter for solo electric guitar and electronics.

The composition The Pleats of Matter (2005–7), which takes its title from the first chapter of Deleuze’s The Fold, is a work that explores the nature of folds, bends, and pleats, and their concomitant implications of surplus, enveloping, collapsing, and obfuscation. It is a work in which overflowing trajectories of material and process collide, overlap, collapse, and slide, where strata melt and rupture and deform, and where form and shape are only the final by-product of lines folding into one another, of shapes subsumed by other shapes, of forms twisted within other forms.

The guitar itself is a folding: the interaction between finger and string and fret, the bending and wrapping of strings with the nut and bridge and tuning pegs, the folding and slackening from the tremolo bar. . . . In this work, these folds are all made independent—not so much layered as merely simultaneous. The two hands traverse the fretboard independently, freed from their conventional roles and geographies, the actions of the hands as likely to appear behind or above an already-depressed fret as below. Joining this interface between finger and string is the tremolo bar, itself bent and folded by both hands and the occasional elbow, two foot pedals that bend and shape and twist pitch and timbre, and a further array of amplification and processing modifications on two additional electronic strands.

In “The Matter of Pleats,” presented from the performer’s perspective, the fold is examined as a concept likely to inform processes of individuation of physical gesture. The fold, as an operation that projects towards two infinities (or an infinity in two directions: “pleats of matter” and “folds in the soul”), sets a context for discussing the differences between the inside and the outside of physical actions and musical objects. And given that both physical actions and musical objects become one and the same in Cassidy’s work, a paradigm shift from sonic means-end-oriented training (for example, of traditional virtuosity) is required, implying the claim that music exists not only in the exclusive realm of sound.