Deleuze’s Syntheses of Time and Its Aesthetic Prolongations: Form, Style and Achievement. Can Philosophy Tell Something to Musicians?

It is well known that music for a very long time has been a central subject of  thought for philosophers. Even if Deleuze did not release a book specifically on music, as he did on painting or films, it is significant that one can find allusions to music or to sound in nearly all his philosophical texts. This can be related to the central place of his philosophy of time, and its close relation to the necessity of depicting mental processes leading to ideas and the creation of concepts. This necessity, and the investigation of the relation between time and mental processes, is today shared with considerations developed for both musical analysis and composition. Even if they are less evident and widespread than the influential models of rhizome, multiplicity, or the well-known opposition between ritournelle and galop, Deleuze’s propositions for a comprehensive philosophy of time have much to say to musicologists and composers, and imply a truly innovative way of thinking musical experience.

I will try to give some evidence for this strong relationship, first on the central theme of musical form, which shows that my own proposition for cognitive analysis is contemporary with the lectures in Difference and Repetition, and then by trying to get through the whole aesthetic ambitus of Deleuze’s philosophy, dealing with a truly challenging conception of style and artistic achievement.

Mobilising Deleuze: Thinking in Images and Sounds

Our presentation refers to the project “Other Spaces—Knowledge through Art.” Funded by FWF Austrian Science Fund, the project brought together artists and scientists, with their differing means of approaching the world. Focusing on Deleuze’s notion that the process of becoming is essential in thinking about philosophy, art, and science, the means at our disposal were those that artists and scientists utilise when writing, composing, staging, philosophising, interpreting, inventing, informing, and so on. The question of which aspects can be seen as common and/or different was not prematurely hypostasised with scientifically formulated theories, but was instead left open, thereby enlarging the realm of possibility for the unexpected or surprising.

The presentation shows the outcomes of a collaboration between conceptual art, cultural sociology, and composition, in the form of an audio-visual production named “Al niente—A Dissolution.” This Italian musical phrase literally says “to nothing,” meaning a diminuendo that fades until nothing is heard anymore—“a living silence” for the video’s makers Adreis Echzehn and Elfie Miklautz, who in this way examine the phenomenology of hearing and time experiences in other spaces.

Their double-screen video with an independent soundtrack by two collaborating composers follows a triple blind concept based on a compilation of music and sounds, videos, texts, and photographs produced by the authors. The focus is upon finding spaces in which everyday temporal constructs are lifted, permitting a deceleration to be experienced. It is about the search for heterotopias in which silence becomes audible, about experiencing the atmosphere of a place through the sense of hearing, thus exploring and exhibiting correspondences between exterior spatial experiences and sound spaces and interior experience spaces.

What we want to discuss after showing the video is the cooperation between artists and a scientist working independently of one another to create a common result that went beyond the differences, showing repetitions with minimal but substantial aberrations and following different paths of transition. Our creation is, so to say, an example of answering the question raised in the call for the conference: “the question of how a communication between heterogenous systems, ‘of couplings and resonance,’ occurs without being predetermined.” We will show and talk about how we composed these resonances and how we created “new couplings that are not accidental but rigorous and at the same time indeterminate.” The challenge for the scientist was working without any concepts and definitions—for example, of silence or nothingness—but instead experimenting with contemplating: trying to find the passage from affections and perceptions to affects and percepts in a Deleuzian sense with the aim to create a bloc of sensations standing for itself, untranslatable into words and assumptions. Contemplating in this way means becoming the percepted part of the world, having passed into it—“We are not in the world, we become with the world; we become by contemplating it . . . Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero” (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 169).


Unformed Sound in Multimedia Composition: The Šarapovas Project Silver Dust

The idea of the presentation is based on the Deleuzian concept of the deterritorialisation of refrain, using unformed sound and an investigation into how this type of sound works in the multimedia project Silver Dust. The experimental video project, created by Lithuanian artist Andrius Šarapovas, is interdisciplinary, comprising music, dance, and poetry (Nivinskas, Juodkaite, Navakas, and others). The uniqueness of this project is that Šarapovas has been interested in Deleuze’s philosophy for a few years and framed the composition by following some ideas of Deleuze. In the video project Silver Dust, different art lines run separately, parallel, or in different directions, are full of cracks, and at the same time create unity through the invisible links. The project is compounded from twelve short pieces.

How does Deleuze and Guattari’s mention of “broken tones” and “raw sounds” in What is Philosophy? stimulate the appearance of the art’s machine, vibration, and clinches between the different art lines in the composition Silver Dust? How much raw sound and how much sound modification during the sound editing deterritorialises the refrain of composition, mentioned in Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (1987)? How does this machine erase the boundary between natural and artificial unformed sound in music and produce clinches with dance and poetry? Is it the work of a dark precursor, described in Deleuze’s early work Difference and Repetition?

We don’t pretend to identify where the pick of interconnection and resonance becomes obvious and which unformed sound is of crucial importance. Everyone perceives the appearance of resonance slightly differently. Unformed sounds are welcomed into the composition; later sounds are recreated by design, engineering, and montage. As Šarapovas stated in an interview, “When everything is said and all harmony, rhythmic things step aside, there is nothing in front of you; the new briefing and intensity for creation approaches”; the pretext for that is raw sound (in a wrong way, an old double bass sound, a phone call, and the sound of an opening door are played). These sounds from one side are the cracks of a line, a bridge to counterpoints and a condition for experimenting with the intensity of frequencies while searching for deterritorialisation. They are also clinches, in Deleuze and Guattari’s words first of all—flesh, which leads to blocs of sensation, percepts, and affects and waiting for resonance. “Flesh is only the developer which disappears in what it develops: the compound of sensation” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 183). Unexpected and unformed sounds inspire the performance’s team, and first of all Šarapovas reacts to the moment “the one which ‘is lacking in its place’ as it lacks its own identity” (Deleuze 1994, 120). That provokes new turns in the art machine. Raw sounds quiet down and, to the contrary, some musical sounds are re-created into a loud noise, experimenting with different pitch and rhythm in the process of sound editing. Consequently, sounds are held, as Deleuze and Guattari state, in their “extinction,” “production and development” by the multimedia art machine. Moreover, Šarapovas tries to compound raw sound/noise in music and poetry and the raw view/noise in image to allow their interconnection during montage, opening conditions for vibrations and couplings between heterogeneous elements, as well as division. “All that, however, would be possible only because the invisible precursor conceals itself and its functioning, and at the same time conceals the in-itself or true nature of difference” (Deleuze 1994, 119).


Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

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.