The Fifth Deleuze and Guattari Studies in India Conference took place from 11th to 14th of November 2021. It was an online event with a good range of perspectives and approaches. The conference featured presentations from about 70 scholars from all over the academic world, like Ian Buchanan, Rick Dolphijn, David R. Cole, Joff PN Bradley, and many others. The theme was Life Infinite: Immanence, Inflection, Indeterminacy.
I too presented a paper, you could read the abstract below.
Catching the Musical: How Not to Make Yourself a Body without Organs
In Deleuze and Guattari’s virtual creaturedom, there are two concepts frequently used with regards to music that complement each other and, in a way, complete the musical project – the refrain and the line of flight. The refrain tries to capture music in number and measure, to chisel out its territory: it is the musical object with its inherent organizational and organic capacities. Flexing the muscles, exercising the movements, counting the rhythms and informing the shapes, the refrain reliably articulates music’s topology producing its consistent body of appearances. The line of flight emerges from the refrain: transpiring between the tones, it unfolds from sounds, rhythms, timbres and meticulous calculations, “veering toward destruction” (ATP 2013: 348), to liven and grace music with eloquence, to shock and ravish, captivating our attention, securing our return. If the refrain makes us aware of music, on the line of flight we hear music aware of itself.
This paper uses Deleuzoguattarian concepts and imagery to approach a musical problem: through a case study of the drastic art of Inuit performer Tanya Tagaq, it investigate ways to get ‘in the middle’ of the Musical, where the Musical is a line of flight-like aspect of music. How to comprehend and grasp this Musical, how to liquefy its overtly gaseous molecules and to in-form them into sounds’ vibrational matter, into language’s solid symbol shapes? In other words, how to catch it? As a musician nursed into musicianhood through osmosis, practice and repetition, I propose that ‘catching the Musical’ is not a matter of incremental steps softly treading on the body of music, but of a radical ‘assault’ from an outside. A willful defamiliarization and displacement is needed to create distance and gain clarity, to zoom out and study the general pattern in which the question is embodied, to perturb perception. Deleuze often deliberates on the value of decentering, arguing for willful deterritorialization and destratification as means to creating novel solutions. A way to do this is to approach a problem ‘from the middle’: “try it and you will see, everything changes” (Ibid.:24). Simultaneously, Deleuze maintains that it is crucial to come at a problem from elsewhere, e.g. to approach a problem in music from a non-musical perspective: competence and expertise are necessary for an inside-ful perception, he admits, but it is the ignorant, stammering and violent read that triggers revelation (L’Abécédaire, “N as in Neurology”).
Taking this advice to heart, I tackle the Musical by getting ‘out of music’, by construing and evaluating it against a philosophical concept, the Body without Organs, used as both theoretical lens and a practical method. Free from objects and identities and brimming with affects and intensities, the BwO is a milieu naturally befitting the Musical. If indeed the Musical emerges from refrain’s clever sonic calculations, from tones, rhythms, timbres and harmonies but is not them, should we not subtract the latter from music as the very organs that compose, control and conserve its body? This subtraction would leave music at its soft and naked, most Musical state. As in,
music – refrain = the Musical.
Exploring the potential of this formula, a musical Body without Organs is created which, while does not conform to the expected outcome, orients the question in a new direction, illuminating the ‘other side’ of the Musical, teaching a lesson in (musical) corporeality.
This is a recording of my session, it begins with a presentation of Christopher Thouny from Ritsumeikan University, Japan, and ends with KV Cybil from IIT, Varanasi, India. My presi begins at 26.32. Enjoy!