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!
Music has a female suffix, which better suits its persona.
She is playful, social, friendly.
Music is not necessarily an elitist, though she could be quite sophisticated: the more you engage with her the more she reveals of herself, the more you experience the more curious you become.
In any case, she is not a snob, neither does she discriminate between races, ethnicities, status, situation and gender, although she does have a weakness for the male, human and animal.
Music is to be heard along any given human activity: parties, shopping, biking, walking, day-dreaming, riding the elevator, working, sex, dining, studying – there is no other art so versatile and accommodating.
She is there for you, so much of your life and of yourself: not too mental, not too carnal.
A remarkably balanced creature!
Musicians differ from painters and dancers, they are more of a family folks – music provides a homey feeling and demands a wedding ring.
With her, there is no overwhelming need for excess, for the ever-haunting pursue of raw intensities.
Seldom need you hunt her for she is everywhere: in the fractals of the flower petals, in the frequency pattern of any color, in the brain waves’ pulsation, in the wistful song of the bird at twilight, in the stridulation of the infatuated cricket, if you are to greatly slow it down. . ..
“The question is more what is not musical in human beings, and what already is musical in nature.”
All you need is to tune in to her waves. Or is it to un-tune from what we customarily call ‘reality’? Sometimes this un-tuning is so crucial that music has to take on the lead and act radically: she robbed Beethoven of hearing! Criminal, yes, but otherwise would we have gotten all those late works, bizarre and redolent, themselves portraits of the lady? Tragic? Tragic. Yet, if the biggest tragedy for the composer is his deafness, see what Beethoven did with that! Is there a great blind painter?
Music is a more antropophilic than the other arts: approachable and mercurial, invested in the experience and the exchange rather than the authority, interested in YOU and your growth.
“Who sings he thinks no evil.”
Controlling as it is, language is also vague and often misleading. The short “Ah, mon Dieu!” could be “a prayer or a malediction, a forecast or a memory, a fear or a regret” or simply “Ah, mon Dieu, I forgot to talk to my stockbroker today!!!”
Painting is at its core anti-social, the art-persona demands a solitary focus and devotion. And one can see only one side of the Mona Lisa.
Music cannot be misunderstood,
“There is no place there, on any side, that does not see you.”
Music enters a person not though the eye, not even through the ear or cognition, it pervades through the whole bodymind: “Dance with me!”
And you do, barely conscious, for resisting her deep-rooted call is like resisting your very nature.
“Reasonable enough, when you consider that our consciousness, our being – undeniably, our entire reality – is constructed of rhythm and pattern”.
“All so benign and lovely . . . is this all?”
“Oh, this music, this music! Save me from it! It is here, here [pointing to his head], and will not give me any peace,” cries the little Tchaikovsky at midnight, sitting in his bed.
During the remarkable three-weeks-lasting birth of Messiah’s, Handel had to shut himself from the world and even rejected food – all not to lose the precious connection to music. “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with his Company of Angels,” he said.
Is Ravel’s Bolero – this 20th century signature piece – a product of a genius’ tuning in to music? Or rather it was the un-tuned, diseased, disorganized brain that afforded a way for music to express itself in a fashion we have never witnessed before?
Admittedly, sometimes music does come as a vision or disease, and other times she may haunt your dream (Stravinsky’s accounts on the inception of his Octet for Winds) or request a demanding payoff (21-years-old Tartini’s dream of how he exchanged his soul for the The Devil’s Trill). . ..
Freaky, flirty, foxy, fun. What is a female that never indulges in a little display of power?
Yet, the worst music can do is to reject you and leave. Then, Rachmaninoff lies down on the bed of his hypnotherapist, every day for four months, longing, hoping to lure her back. And she returns, forgiving, and rewards the faithful with the second piano concerto. . . .
I mean, music is not a real entity, right?
Yet, on a mass scale we act as if it is. We build opulent places of music worship with an utmost attention to the idiosyncrasies of music’s medium, sound – concert halls, opera houses, discotheques, clubs.
And we go to these music venues 1) to meet music and its shamans, and 2) to maybe see our friends, while the order perhaps should be reversed were we more loyal to our conspecifics – in which case we would have built halls for friendship worship with maybe music in the background.
But we know: friends are expendable variable, music is for life.
It is also strange to consider the lengths we go in our commitment to music. To become a musician, one sacrifices pleasure, pals, play. To hearken a song, to sing in a choir, to go to a concert, to play in an orchestra, to write a book on music – though of different order and scale, these all are sincere offerings to music, offerings of humans’ most precious commodities – time and energy.
We are so eager to personally try any adapt to any-thinkable-thing that might please music and that might tease another color out of it: devising ever-new instruments, for example, or inventing technologies that create musical industries and provide people’s life with sustenance and meaning.
Or, modifying our voice – the human voice was not necessarily meant to sing opera, to yodel, to experiment with registers and diapason defying the ‘laws of nature’ like the Tuvan singing does, to sing together with the singing of another person (how playful! how weird!), or even through another person’s mouth cavity like the Inuit’s throat singing.
Yes, we really don’t know what a body is capable of!
And even these bold experimentations fall under the rubric ‘Miscellaneous’ when compared with the abhorrent transgression to our biological foundations, which sacrifices family and progeny in the name of music – for how otherwise to describe and fathom the phenomenon called castrati?
Such dedication could only sprout out of the feelings of ease and affection, of the relief obtained from the complete lack of boundaries, from the culture of unconditional trust that characterizes people’s affair with music.
Which cannot be stated with the same certainty regarding Sapiens’ liaisons with other species or even with each other.
For example, although humans have selectively bred animals for thousands of years, it is only 45 years ago, in 1973, that they were able to crack the DNA code and to begin modifying the genes of plants, animals and microorganisms, and it is only two decades ago, in 1996, since the first creature, Dolly the sheep, was successfully cloned. Genetic modification and cloning are still very sensitive topics of large-scale public debates, and subjects of difficult reasoning and ethical upset. In contrast, with regards to music we set no limits to our imagination and agency, and experiment lustily, ethics-free, with its space-and-time, pitches and harmonics, rhythms and meters, genres and styles, systems of organization and sound-producing technologies – we mix and remix, arrange, re-arrange, disarrange and counter-arrange, dabble and tinker with musical materials and expressions to our heart’s delight.
And we always have.
Scrupulous and squeamish when it comes to experimenting on animals, even for the sake of science’s quest for ‘bettering the human condition’, we have no laws or even principles forbidding unnatural, abominable and appalling musical practices, i.e. the elevator music, karaoke or the ‘cancerous meme music,’ of polluting the auditory space. Perhaps only the fear of exposing to ridicule our bad taste could reduce or limit our musical trespasses.
“Why does music never say ‘no’?”
What a joy music is!
Unless it is the music of other people – then it is hell.
We carefully select our music according to our needs, moods and culture. Dr. Music is our go-to practitioner in rain and shine.
But then, of course, there is the other kinds of music, which we have not chosen and therefore consider intruding, aggressive, hostile,
Vulgar, stupid, unworthy, irritating, awful, unbearable – other people’s music should be forbidden, today!
“Isn’t music also disorder, disturbance, destructuring of an overly constructed and polite (polished) world?”
Yes. On the one hand music sooths, inspires, and motivates the conscious while organizing the unconscious, fragmentary content of our mind. But on the other – it destratifies and unsettles stagnated structures, stirs quiet waters, blurs the contours of the world that appears the best of all possible worlds, ever so dainty and polished.
A smooth operator, music accomplishes a balancing act of a tuner between self and world.
The Williams syndrome is well documented (although not de-mystified), and especially eloquently so by the professor of neurology Oliver Sacks in “A Hypermusical Species: Williams syndrome”, a chapter in his acclaimed book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007).
The William’s brain differs anatomically by what we consider normal “at both micro and macro level”: it is 20 percent smaller, as “the decrease in size and weight seems to be exclusively at the back of the brain, in the occipital and parietal lobes, whereas the temporal lobes were of normal and sometimes supernormal size.”
As a result, these people process music very differently, as evidenced by MRI brain imaging:
“They employed a much wider set of neural structures to perceive and respond to music, including regions of the cerebellum, brain stem, and amygdala which are scarcely activated at all in normal subjects” (Sacks Musicophilia).
How this difference manifests in behavior and ability is striking: the Williams people have a “helpless attraction to music and sometimes overwhelming reactions to it” (ibid.); there is a strong desire to play music with and for others, a “good understanding of rhythm and its role in musical grammar and form (…) all aspects of musical intelligence seemed to be highly and often precociously developed” (ibid.). Their condition is associated with extreme friendliness and sociability, and high levels of empathy (Klein-Tasman & Mervis, 2003), “as well as subnormal IQ scores and difficulty understanding how a whole is made up of its parts, although language skills are generally highly developed” (Farran & Jarrold, 2003). . . .
Williams’ enhanced abilities have a cruel payoff, resulting in their “impairments of visuo-spatial sense” (Sacks 2007: 329) – all due to a ‘microdeletion’ of 15 to 25 genes on one chromosome.
The Williams brain has been associated with what is known in psychology literature as the ‘extreme female brain’, which points at the curious link existing between musicianship, gender female and the enlarged corpus callosum. In the past quarter of a century in scientific journals have appeared a number of studies of the corpus callosum which confirm that
1) the professional musicians have a statistically significant enlargement of the total area of CC (Öztürket coll. 2002);
2) they have thicker corpus callosum in comparison to non-musicians (ibid.), and
3) the early musical training has an “impact on the plasticity in white-matter fibers connecting sensory and motor regions, resulting in better sensorimotor integration reflected in increased bi-manual coordination” (Steel et coll, 2013).
This enlargement of the corpus in musicians connotes interestingly with gender research: apparently sex difference reflects in difference in brain morphology. In an 1992 article titled “Sizing up the Sexes” Christine Gorman and Madeleine J. Nash suggested that because the corpus callosum is “often wider in the brains of women than in those of men, it may allow for greater cross-talk between the hemispheres—possibly the basis for women’s intuition.”
Which brings us to our happy ending: the more you play with music, the more you develop female qualities, like communication, openness, empathy, intuition . . . love…
But WHAT IF we could go even further in our relationship?
What if there was no microdeletion of 15 to 25 genes on one chromosome and we all had slightly enlarged temporal lobes with highly augmented capacity for processing music and for communication, openness and empathy?
Not an impossible idea, reality constantly proves stranger than fiction. Bridging the disconnect between body and technology by certain implants, science of just these past few years enabled us to hear colors (eyeborg), to sense speed motion in 360 degrees (speedborg), to hear color, to taste images (BrainPort), to pinpoint magnetic fields, to feel sound (through a vibratory vest), or to plug in to Twitter-consciousness. It is all a matter of electrical signals coming to the brain of which the brain, this ultimate self-organizing machine, makes sense of. The sensory substitution or the voluntary cyborgism of self-enhancement is on the move, making our dreams not only possibilian, but really possible.
“The more sentient we become, the greater our quality, the more important our internal environment becomes to our evolution.”
Imagine if evolution, or our machines, takes us to the next level to where we communicate through music? Would anyone do or think ‘evil’ if exposed to the ugly sounds she emits, would anyone be fooled by their ego or misunderstanding of their true nature? No hypocrisy, no lie, no scam, no foul intention will go unnoticed. . ..
What if we enhance our audible range? To hear the pain of trees being cut, animals being slaughtered earth being dug and gutted? There will be a new contract between us and ‘the rest’, new paradigm in our relating to Gaia.
Music gives us much and potentiates even more. We reciprocate, but do we affect and stir music the way she affects and stirs us? Are we her lovers and engineers?
“Music for me is rather like the sea… I am overpowered, wonderstruck, enthralled, and yet afraid, so terribly afraid of its endlessness. I am in fact a bad sailor.”
 In German, French, Dutch, Russian, Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and perhaps many other languages “music” is of feminine gender.
 Music’s feminizing tendency has been a topic of discourse, e.g. Robin James discusses “the general feminization of white masculinity”, the “performance position (that of the musician as to-be-looked-at object; object, not subject of scopophilic desire)” in her book The Conjectural Body: Gender, Race and the Philosophy of Music, 2010: ix