Maintenant: Seeing the Untouchable, Touching the Unseen

We can say . . . of time . . . that it is the whole of relations.
—Gilles Deleuze (1986, 10)

A cinematic screen is filled with the image of my hands conducting, caught from above and behind my left shoulder. The motion and the touch of my hands captivate as they reach out into the blackness of empty space to make visible the materiality of sound as I sculpt and shape the evolving music. The image of sculptor Joël Prévost’s hands appear deeply immersed in the sensuality of their touch as his fingers probe what lies hidden beneath the surface of his clay. It is an unexpected pairing—music and sculpture—yet, centre stage at a slightly forward angle, Prévost’s finished sculpture of my hands, suspended in motion, draws the images together. Its form as sculpture speaks to the fleetingness of the unfolding moment and its longevity as a present grasped. The play between the sculpture and the images, the fleetingness and the grasping, points to the image of the hand that holds time embodied in the roots of the French word for now, main-tenant. This exposition explores the transformational power of the moment in all its temporal complexity.

The project stems from the long-standing gap between knowledge about music and that garnered through its embodied experience in the moment. Driven by a definition of music as a temporal art, the gap has framed listening as a function of the ear alone. Deleuze (2004, 73), however, argues “even in the joining of sensations . . . there is resonance.” Hearing has a tactile dimension. Touch is also a movement, a gesture through which one situates or places oneself in relationship to an evolving whole; and, as both a touching and being touched by, it “necessarily constitute[s] couplings of sensation. . . . [that] produce resonance” (ibid., 66). Prévost’s sculpture of my hands, made while I conducted, allowed me to cultivate these relationships and marry my own touch and hearing to the tactility of the sculpting clay to make visible the thought—the grasping—that had been hitherto hidden in my gestures.

These couplings also make tangible the “invisible,” “insensible,” “dark precursor” that precipitates the paradigmatic transformations of sudden flashes of creative insight. As in a developing variation, the multi-sensory, temporal, and spatial possibilities of film are used in combination with the sculpture onstage continually to “look again,” each time from a different perspective. Enhanced through a kinaesthetic memory invoked by my (live) voice, the ensuing rub of sight, sound, motion, stillness, past and present, spawns the echoes from which Michel Serres (1995, 119) argues time itself is born. My hands are constantly “re-membered,” as echoes, many “unheard” and seemingly without a past, become an opening to the future. Time itself is set in motion and sound renews Deleuze’s concept of touch. The exposition unfolds around Pászti Miklòs’s Fekete Lány and is based on a poem by Federico García Lorca originally “found” through gestures of the hand.

Web: eleanorstubley.com; joelaprevost.com

References

Brunner, Christopher. 2013. “Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media,” Simondon and Digital Culture Conference, Leuphana University.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 2004. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Serres, Michel. 1995. Genesis. Translated by Geneviève James and James Nielson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Music in Transit: An Interactive Interview With Juliana Hodkinson

In the past, the conference format has enforced a separation between the concert hall and the presentation stage, and hence also between the composer, performer, and researcher; however, as those involved in music are surely aware, the fluidity between these roles—the many hats of musicking—can overwhelmingly complicate such clear-cut divisions. Given the new possibilities of distributing audio (digitally and even wirelessly), a musical analysis could plausibly be heard simultaneously with the very music it seeks to explore; such is the aim of this performance-presentation.

Juliana Hodkinson describes her compositional practice as a kind of sonic writing that oscillates between musical notation, composition for instruments and extramusical objects, and the creation of digital audio. Milk and metal, bells and drums, toys and politicians, silence and noise, news media and field recordings, strings and winds: pointillist references that lead the compositional work away from the limited signifying economy of internal ontological coherence toward an aesthetic of proliferating and dynamically emerging sonic and multi-sensorial contexts. Martin Heidegger (1971, 152) once said, “A boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the Greeks recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins its presencing.” Like a film or skin, this mesh is porous, and in the post-digital age such boundaries need not adjoin one another, but might interlope ectopically, anachronistically, or multiplicitously across a non-Euclidean diorama of extending plateaus.

Whereas a traditional interview may extract music from its placial situation, this performance-presentation constitutes the typical texts of music’s reception synchronically within a given performative space. Seeking to coalesce traditional research practices with current compositional technologies, this “interactive interview” between musicologist and music theorist Danielle Sofer and composer and musicologist Juliana Hodkinson begins with a spoken dialogue of prepared interview materials, including excerpts from texts by Deleuze and/or Guattari and Erin Manning. In the course of the work, this prepared format becomes increasingly interposed by musical and verbal interference. Set up in this way, artistic practice seemingly causes the object of research to fissure, erupt, and escape those who study it, thus replicating the archaeological habits of research more accurately than a traditional conference presentation. Blurring the walls of the concert hall with the boundaries of “transitive places” in a much broader context, our collage locates itself within the delineated territories of Hodkinson’s recent compositions to create a transverse quilt of mix-matched identities, many parts of which are nominally fixed but which in their performance/recitation remain at once analogically open.

References

Heidegger, Martin. 1971. “Building Dwelling Thinking.” In Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, 141–60. New York: HarperCollins.

Machining the Voice Through Continuous Variation

The main aim of my artistic research project is to investigate the interactions between the phonetic characteristics of a text and the timbral and formal features of a composition, including voice, instruments, and electronics, and to explore the transformations between sound and sense.

According to Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 97), it is impossible to conceive a separation between linguistics and stylistics “because a style is not an individual psychological creation but an assemblage of enunciation.” In this regard, a writer’s style will be characterised by the attempt to expand the limits of the standard language by making “the standard language stammer, tremble, cry or even sing” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 176). “Making language itself stammer . . . involves placing all linguistic, and even nonlinguistic, elements in variation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98). Therefore, all the phonological, syntactic, semantic components can be affected by a process of continuous variation leading to the creation of “a language within a language” (ibid., 97).

If every linguistic element contributes to the development of a literary style, vocal music, in turn, will be stylistically determined by the possibility of interacting with all the linguistic dimensions. In this perspective, the dissemination of new linguistic theories, the improvement of vocal and instrumental techniques, and the development of new technologies, enabled Luigi Nono to establish in his compositions an interaction with all the linguistic elements, especially focusing on the phonetic features of a text, thereby emphasising the timbral dimension of the language. As stated by Deleuze and Guattari (1987, 96): “Only when the voice is tied to timbre does it reveal a tessitura that renders it heterogeneous to itself and gives it a power of continuous variation: it is then no longer accompanied, but truly ‘machined,’ it belongs to a musical machine that prolongs or superposes on a single plane parts that are spoken, sung, achieved by special effects, instrumental, or perhaps electronically generated.” As a paradigmatic example of a musical machine, I will present an analysis of Omaggio a György Kurtág (1986) by Nono. Through the phonemic analysis (International Phonetic Association 1999) of the text and the analysis of vocal and instrumental techniques, I will demonstrate how Nono could explore a “zone of indetermination” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 273) within which “something or someone is ceaselessly becoming-other (while continuing to be what they are)” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 177), giving rise to “that secret neuter language without constants” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 96) where a voice never ceases to become an instrument and an instrument to become a voice. This analysis will be linked to my compositional practice, being a substantial part of my research, which is based on the use of music as a tool for text analysis through the composition of a piece for voice, instruments, and live electronics. The creation of a musical machine will be based on the application of the continuous variation to the invariants of language, such as the phoneme’s distinctive features (Jakobson, Fant, and Halle 1961). Since the distinctive features are classified according to a binary opposition, and since each pair of features implies the presence of a specific acoustic characteristic, I aim to explore the continuum between opposite terms forming a series of distinctive features. In this regard, the “continuum of values and intensities” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 98) was identified by Deleuze as one of the key factors characterising Bene’s theatrical practice when, writing about Manfred (Bene 2008a), Deleuze (2008, 1466) highlighted Bene’s ability “to fix, create or change the basic color of a sound.” This ability allowed Bene to blend his voice with the sound of the orchestra, thus creating a “single sound plateau” (Giacchè 2007, 84).

As my composition is still a work in progress, my presentation will highlight the early stages of my creative process, such as the phonemic transcription of the poem by Caproni (1999, 724–25), the phonemic analysis of the text, and the adoption of heterogeneous techniques of text fragmentation.

References

Bene, Carmelo. 2008a. “Manfred. Byron–Schumann. Versione italiana e rielaborazione per concerto.” In Bene 2008b, 925-51.

—. 2008b. Opere: Con L’Autografia di un ritratto. Milan: Bompiani.

Caproni, Giorgio. 1999. “Il mare come materiale.” In Tutte le poesie. Milan: Garzanti.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2008. “A proposito del Manfred alla Scala.” Translated into Italian by Jean Paul Manganaro. In Bene 2008b, 1466–67.

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

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

Giacchè, Piergiorgio. 2007. Carmelo Bene: Antropologia di una macchina attoriale. Milan: Studi Bompiani.

International Phonetic Association. 1999. Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle. 1961. Preliminaries to Speech Analysis: The Distinctive Features and Their Correlates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Repeat, Please: An Experience of Creation

In this presentation, we outline a creative experiment organised by the Ornata group and carried out during the course “The Body, Memory and Becoming: Encounters and Vestiges of Art Jewellery” by art students of the Institute of Arts, State University of Campinas. Ornata is a group of teachers and researchers that runs courses and workshops for art students and employs a teaching methodology that seeks to deconstruct preconceived meanings of jewellery. By drawing attention to its symbolic potentiality, as a sign of power associated with the body, it posits jewellery as a potent medium for artistic creation, an individual and social object able to mediate or interrogate relationships of desire, power, and memory.

The methodology developed by Ornata is informed by Deleuze and Guattari; in the course, the guiding principles were the theorists’ concepts of “becoming” and “difference and repetition” and the relationship of these concepts to memory. The goal was to create an object in which the concept of “Becoming” is manifested, materialised, and produced through the body and for the body. We started from the notion of duration, in which being is conceived as an overlap, as a continuous construction in which past and present contract. As a strategy, we suggested to the students a procedure to produce something so that the body could evoke and/or invoke the concepts of becoming, and difference and repetition. We decided to highlight how time could be made tangible through the body by using the voice. We asked the students to repeat poems or extracts for ten consecutive days and record them. Through this procedure, the transformed speech gives rise to a word that would in turn be translated into an object.

The stages of the exercise were to select poems or extracts from Ana Cristina Cesar (a Brazilian poet) on the basis of a possible relationship found by the teacher between the poem and the student who recites it. Students were instructed to repeat these poems for ten consecutive days, recited at least twice a day. The reading should be governed by the way the text resonates with the student and not by its interpretation. Only the recording of the voice interests us, and the recordings must be posted on the group’s Facebook page every day.

After ten days, we collectively listened to the recordings—only the first and last—to compare the transformations over time and we compiled keywords that expressed the difference in utterance between each student’s first and last recording. The results were discussed among the group and two verbs that reflected the change in utterance (conjugated in the present continuous) were suggested, for example, “swallowing.” The students were asked to use the concept of translation (explored in previous exercises) to make an object for the body related to the verbs identified in the process, but not by making a representation. The guidelines for developing the piece were to think where in the body the object would be placed and what materials would better translate this action.

The objects presented showed unusual connections afforded by the choice of materials and the way they were worked. The relationship between the objects and the body was also unexpected. Thus, the unusual combination of different artistic and material languages, together with the methodological approach described above, set in motion a creative situation that contributed to foster imagination and to stimulate creation.