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

Steve Tromans, Mike Fletcher

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 10, 2015
venue: De Bijloke Music Center, Kraakhuis
format: performed
practice: music and sound
keywords: aesthetics, apparatus, jazz, music performance, Plato, simulacrum

abstract video about the author(s)


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.


about the author(s)

Steve Tromans

Steve Tromans is a Birmingham-based pianist and composer working predominantly in the disciplinary fields of jazz and improvised music. He has given in the region of six thousand performances at a national and international level, and composed over one hundred works for a variety of ensembles and music-making situations. Tromans’s Birmingham-Chicago Improvisers’ Ensemble project, bringing together expert improvisers from the UK and the USA, was featured on BBC Radio’s Jazz on 3 programme in 2013 and 2015. In recent years, Tromans has undertaken practice-as-research in improvised performance, giving mixed-mode lecture-recitals at a host of academic conferences/guest workshops, and has received publication in a series of music and performing arts journals and books. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in jazz at Birmingham City University.

info & contact


Birmingham City University, UK


Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who performs throughout the UK and Europe. As a nominee for the ECHO Rising Stars 2014/2015 programme he has recently appeared at the Barbican Centre as part of the London Jazz Festival, Hamburg’s Laiezhalle, and BOZAR in Brussels. Mike works predominantly in the fields of jazz and improvised music, with his primary interest being in balancing composition with improvisation. In 2013, he was chosen by BBC Radio 3 to tour on lead alto with the European Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Ann-Sofi Søderqvist and has more recently toured Europe with his trio as part of the ECHO project. Mike is currently undertaking a PhD in composition at Birmingham City University and is preparing a chapter for inclusion in a forthcoming edited collection of academic articles in the field of jazz studies.

info & contact


Birmingham City University, UK


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