Deterritorialize Yourself!

Chris Stover

conference: DARE 2017: aberrant nuptials
date: November 22, 2017
venue: Orpheus Institute, Concert Hall
format: in words
practice: music and sound
keywords: becoming, de/re-territorialisation, improvisation, James K. Randall, nuptial, queer/ing

abstract about the author(s)


time— … (in a sense) proliferating—connection … —(promulgating connectivity piecemeal)— …

This paper imagines a line of flight from composer J. K. Randall’s provocative, experimental 1972 essay “Compose Yourself: A Manual for the Young,” transforming Randall’s prescription into the imperative deterritorialise yourself, and pursuing its radical implications. Just as territorialisation and deterritorialisation form an always- ongoing assemblage through which identities are constructed and transformed—fixing and unfixing; always becoming-other—“compose yourself” (I suggest) bears with it a differential “decompose yourself” through which my identity is bound up in the very process of changing through the impingements of affective forces or actions of double capture that improvisational interactions engender. The thrust of this paper is to refract the implications of becoming-other enacted within processes of music-improvisational interaction back toward the emergent identity of the individuating participant, as a decomposing-oneself, as an always-ongoing process of deterritorialising oneself, as an enactment of an aberrant relationship with oneself, as a queering-oneself. This goes beyond the notion of performing one’s identity (or performing the identity of the musical work): performativity is nothing if not the acting-out of a differentiating relationship always already bound up within the more-than of a proliferating ecology.

The more-than, as Erin Manning describes, is an affirmation of difference, of the variation felt at the edges of relational experience, of the minor gestures that continually decompose performative acts even as they are being enacted. Like Manning, I assert  that to think in terms of  this double movement is to take an ethical position in which  the boundary between what we might call, even creatively and affirmatively, a subject and the others the subject affects and is affected by becomes productively porous and identities become expressions of relationships, impingements, movements. Nuptials. My composing/decomposing, territorialisation/deterritorialising (sonic) self-situates alongside and interacts fundamentally with a network of other selves, human and otherwise, all impinging on one another in complex arrays of affective relationships, all engaging in multiply-directed acts of capture. Identity, therefore, is a process of becoming-with as much as it is a process of becoming-other.

… —Drift. Slip a Cog.—drifting across some infolded interlock,—some mergingtime, Unfold.—(in passing). Reshape.—Refocus.— … colour of focus infolded: now merging, connecting;—infolded colour of merging unfolded: now focal;—structure: Bettertell time from time to time.

about the author(s)

Chris Stover

Chris Stover is Assistant Professor of Music at Arizona State University. His recent work is published in Music Theory Online, Media and Culture, Analytical Approaches to World Music, Open Space, and elsewhere, and he is the co-editor of a forthcoming volume on Jacques Rancière and music. He is also an improvising trombonist and composer in New York City.

info & contact


Arizona State University, Tempe, US


cdstover [AT]