Ceci n’est pas la musique: Laying the Groundwork for a Schizoanalysis of Brian Ferneyhough’s Carceri D’invenzione I (1982)

John Hails

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 11, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Concert Hall
format: in words
practice: music and sound
keywords: Brian Ferneyhough, de/re-territorialisation, notation

abstract video about the author(s)


The interaction between composer and performer, performer and audience, recording and audience, and memory and active recall, form a complex rhizomatic web that locates the phenomenon of music in a constant process of becoming. All aspects of musical creation, performance, and recollection are locked into various artefacts that can be seen as tracings (notations, the vibration of air, a memory) that, to be activated as music, must be returned to the map of temporally bound perception. This act generates yet another tracing through the act of writing (to the page, to the air, to the memory) that is frequently mistaken for the phenomenon of music.

By taking Brian Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’Invenzione I (1982) as a case study, this presentation will demonstrate how Deleuze and Guattari’s theorems of deterritorialisation can be applied to the different states of becoming present in the musical act (Delezue and Guattari 1988). The composer’s own writings (Ferneyhough 1995) and analysis of his sketches (Toop 1994; Fitch 2013) will illuminate the creative act that resulted in the published notated score (Ferneyhough 1982). Discussions around performance practice and the interpretation of notation (Fitch 2013) will similarly explore the act of realisation into sound. Finally, research into the perception of sound and the functioning of musical memory (Hallam, Cross, and Thaut 2009; North and Hargreaves 2008) will be employed to propose a similar analysis of how specific passages in the work may be perceived and remembered.

This attempted schizoanalysis contributes to the literature on the ontology of the musical work (e.g., Goehr 1992) and attempts to function as an avant-garde aesthetic, engaging directly with creative practice and attacking an Academy that valorises the past to the detriment of the present.


Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1988. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ferneyhough, Brian. 1982. Carceri d’Invenzione I. New York: Edition Peters.

—. 1995. Collected Writings. Edited by James Boros and Richard Toop. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Fitch, Lois. 2013. Brian Ferneyhough. Bristol, UK: Intellect.

Goehr, Lydia. 1992. The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hallam, Susan, Ian Cross, and Michael Thaut, eds. 2009. The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

North, Adrian C., and David J. Hargreaves. 2008. The Social and Applied Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Toop, Richard. 1994. “‘Prima le Parole . . .’ (On the Sketches for Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’invenzione I–III).” Perspectives of New Music 32 (1): 154–75.


about the author(s)

John Hails

John Hails (b. 1978) is a composer, improviser, and lecturer based in Edinburgh, UK. Within his research, ethnomusicology, aesthetics, and music psychology form a symbiotic relationship with compositional and performative activities to produce new avenues of investigation. He is currently Senior Lecturer: Reader in Music at Edinburgh Napier University, the Subject Group Leader for music, and the Director of the Applied Music Research Centre.

info & contact


Edinburgh Napier University, UK


j.hails [AT] napier.ac.uk