1. Following Deleuze's suicide in November 1995, two record labels released memorial CDs in his honor. The first, Folds and Rhizomes for Gilles Deleuze (hereafter abbreviated FR), had been prepared by the Belgian label Sub Rosa prior to his death but did not reach stores until afterward.15 In the liner notes to that disc, label founder Guy Marc Hinant writes:
    "L'Anti-Oedipe was written by the two of us, and since each of us was several, we were already quite a crowd." It is on the basis of this sentence, the first in Mille Plateaux, that we conceived of Sub Rosa. From the beginning, we wanted to be more than a label; a machine perhaps, composed of rhizomes, of peaks and troughs, of tranquility and doubt… Obviously, this is not an official tribute to this great figure, one of the foremost of our time. It is only the fraternal salute of a few young people who admire him deeply, and who, better still, were one day helped in their lives and in their creations by his writings.

    The disc contains tracks by five bands or artists, four of which also contributed tracks to the second memorial project, a two-disc, 27-track set entitled In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze (hereafter IM), from the Mille Plateaux label in Frankfurt, Germany. Founder Achim Szepanski describes the work of the artists on his label as "Becoming, so that the music goes beyond itself; this is the search for the forces of the minoritarian that the label Mille Plateaux is part of. In a letter Gilles Deleuze welcomed the existence of such a label" (IM, 5, trans. modified).

  2. Both of these labels are independents, unaffiliated with the large multinational music corporations that dominate the international recording market. They are also "alternative" labels, in the sense that the music they circulate is not designed to compete directly with the "mainstream" music of multinational labels. In addition to the Deleuze tribute discs, Sub Rosa has also released recordings of sound experiments by William S. Burroughs, Antonin Artaud, Bill Laswell, and Richard Pinhas, among others, while Mille Plateaux specializes in dense techno dance/trance mixes and electronica.16 What they have in common is a focus on musicians who have been profoundly affected by the most recent computer revolution in music—the one that broke the monopoly of large, limited-access mainframe machines (and their bureaucratic administrators) over sound synthesis.17 The proliferation of personal computers through the Eighties and Nineties spawned an entire generation of musicians (and listeners) for whom sound is practically a tactile substance, digitally reproducible, malleable and storable, and consequently for whom traditional musical forms and notation have become increasingly irrelevant.18 Their music is pop, not in the Adornian sense of commodity music produced by corporate professionals and intended to impose a false universality upon consumers, but in a sense much closer to the old meaning of "popular": an amateur, bricolage music arising from people's everyday activities. In this regard at least, the contemporary cultural situation is similar to those that gave rise to the blues, or to the American counter-culture of the Sixties and the Italian one of the Seventies. Today, everyday activities for many people depend upon advanced digital technology, and the music that arises from, or mixes with, those activities constitutes an index of political potentialities that have yet to coalesce.19

  3. What use were Deleuze and Guattari's concepts to these musicians who were seeking new categories and forms for musical creation and social intervention? We turn now to discerning the ways in which certain musicians have detached concepts from, or grafted elements onto, Deleuze and Guattari's philosophical rhizome for use in their own creative activities. To do so, we must make a little machinic assemblage, a refrain or temporary musical territory, of our own: we must select a few tracks, passing over others in silence, and re-sequence them in order to make the breaks fall, not between the two memorial discs, but between our particular line of enquiry and other virtual lines. Our choice of line should be construed neither as an essentially privileged account of these recordings nor as a devaluation of other approaches to them, but simply as one stem of a rhizome. We do what we can with them, and leave it to other listeners to do otherwise.

  4. For our enquiry, the clearest line goes back to Deleuze and Guattari's basic concepts, but we view it from the less systematic, more pragmatic and selective perspective of these musicians. Music is made of percepts, intensive sensory complexes which "are no longer perceptions; they are independent of a state of those who experience them… Sensations, percepts, and affects are beings whose validity lies in themselves and exceeds anything lived" (What is Philosophy, 164, trans. modified). But before the elements of music can be percepts, they must become perceptible. This becoming-perceptible complements or complicates the becoming-imperceptible of movement which Bergson described:
    If movement is imperceptible by nature, it is always so in relation to a given threshold of perception, which is by nature relative and thus plays the role of a mediation on the plane that effects the distribution of thresholds and percepts and makes forms perceivable to perceiving subjects. It is the plane of organization and development, the plane of transcendence, that renders perceptible without itself being perceived, without being capable of being perceived. (A Thousand Plateaus 281)
    This threshold of perception must be crossed for music to arise, and the work of the musician is directed toward making perceptible what is as yet imperceptible.

  5. The crossing of the threshold is the object of two tracks on IM, Jim O'Rourke's "As In" (disc 2, track 1) and DJ Spooky's "Invisual Ocean" (disc 2, track 8). O'Rourke's track takes almost three minutes to fade slowly into perceptibility, and as it does it gradually assembles a smooth continuum of modulated sound (to which we will return in a moment). This track assembles itself as a perceptible continuum, however, only through the accumulation and superposition of myriad instantaneous "little perceptions." It is like the murmuring of Leibniz's ocean:20
    we say that the little perceptions are themselves distinct and obscure (not clear): distinct because they grasp differential relations and singularities; obscure because they are not yet 'distinguished,' not yet differenciated. These singularities then condense to determine a threshold of consciousness in relation to our bodies, a threshold of differenciation on the basis of which the little perceptions are actualised, but actualised in an apperception which in turn is only clear and confused; clear because it is distinguished or differenciated, and confused because it is clear. (Difference and Repetition, 213)

    As the little perceptions accumulate, their differences become audibly distinct from one another (to the perceiving subject), and in so doing they define a large-scale perception of the ocean. The perception of the ocean is clear because the little perceptions from which it is assembled are audibly distinct, but because the little perceptions are not fully individualized, this clear perception remains dynamically confused. DJ Spooky's track assembles such an audible ocean, which remains "Invisual" (invisible or infra-visual, imperceptible to vision?), out of non-maritime sound elements in precisely this way. This ocean forms part of the larger sonorous and social territory that defines all his work: "I wanted to create music that would reflect the extreme density of the urban landscape and the way its geometric regularity contours and configures perception … The sounds of the ultra futuristic streetsoul of the urban jungle shimmering at the edge of perception" (DJ Spooky 7-8).21

  6. Once the threshold of perceptibility has been crossed, the assemblage of sound begins to actualize its space-time, its imperceptible plane of organization. Such a plane actualizes itself in terms of its breaks and cuts, or rather its resistance to them. A smooth, sonorously continuous space-time unfolds, as in O'Rourke's "As In": glissandi, continuous lines or gradients of sound that modulate from tone to tone without discontinuous jumps across the sonorous spectrum. The tracks by the German group Oval, "You Are * Here 0.9 B" (disc 2, track 2 of IM) and "SD II Audio Template" (track 3 of FR), also embody this smooth construction, at least temporarily. The Oval tracks also intentionally dramatize the process by which smooth space-time becomes striated and vice-versa. "Oval is a very strict and limited approach," claims principal musician Markus Popp, "in order to make some new distinctions clear—and, in a way, to go beyond the music concept, the music metaphors underlying the concepts used in the digital instruments involved" (quoted in Weidenbaum). In "SD II Audio Template," the continuously modulating tones are abruptly interrupted by punctual percussive events that sound like scratches on the surface of an LP. These interruptions obviously allude to the dialectic of tone and noise, consonance and dissonance that has defined modern music from Schoenberg to Cage, but they also have a more novel function. Despite their metric irregularity, these events introduce something like a rhythm or striation into the smooth plane. As Deleuze and Guattari point out, "Meter, whether regular or not, assumes a coded form whose unit of measure may vary…whereas rhythm is the Unequal or the Incommensurable"; this unequal element is the imperceptible "difference that is rhythmic, not the repetition" of perceptible meter (A Thousand Plateaus 313-14). These irregular striations are digitally "looped" to form a repeating metric phrase that constitutes the striated space-time of the Oval track. Thus metric irregularity at short intervals becomes rhythmic regularity at longer intervals or higher levels of scale.

  7. Conversely, the striations can also reconstruct a smooth space/time through acceleration and accumulation; in "SD II Audio Template" this happens when the metric striations occur at shorter and shorter intervals until they begin to overlap, either in actuality or simply in the perception of the listener. As they do so, their differenciated or striated features begin to merge, to return to a smooth continuity or indistinguishability at a higher frequency. The track passes through a circular progression, from smooth sonorous continuity to striation and then back to smoothness via increasing striation. As a result of these exemplary transformations, this track by Oval can stand, as its title implies, as an "audio template" or abstract map because it reveals that all audio assemblages are in fact what Deleuze and Guattari call multiplicities: "A multiplicity has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions that cannot increase in number without the multiplicity changing in nature." Thus when the tempo of striation, the number of one of the track's sonorous dimensions, increases, not only the speed of the piece but also its sound quality changes. "When Glenn Gould speeds up the performance of a piece, he is not just displaying virtuosity, he is transforming the musical points into lines, he is making the whole piece proliferate" (A Thousand Plateaus 8). Just as acceleration changes the nature of the piece, so does deceleration. Obviously, deceleration of a sound lowers its pitch and thus alters its tone quality, but it also alters all its other relationships and reveals qualitatively new features in them; if you slow down a passage of pizzicato strings, for example, you will find the continuous hum of a motor. To a certain extent, the Blue Byte track "Can't Be Still" (disc 1, track 12 of IM) and the Bleed track "Pâtent" (disc 2, track 5 of IM) also embody this principle of audio multiplicity via acceleration and deceleration.22

  8. Another way that smoothness emerges from striation—in fact, the most common method employed on the Deleuze memorial discs—is via the superposition of a number of distinct metric patterns of striation. These superposed patterns intersect at a variety of singular inflection points, creating indirect harmonies and virtual melodies. Deleuze and Guattari describe it this way:
    Certain modern musicians oppose the transcendent plan(e) of organization, which is said to have dominated all of Western classical music, to the immanent sound plane, which is always given along with that to which it gives rise, brings the imperceptible to perception and carries only differential speeds and slownesses in a kind of molecular lapping. (A Thousand Plateaus 267)
    In this molecular (over)lapping the perceiving subject "hears" virtual sounds that have not actually been played and "counts" virtual beats that have not actually been measured. The amplified ensemble music of Philip Glass is the most well known example of this method of superposition; the track "The Grid" from his soundtrack for the film Koyaanisqatsi is representative. On the Deleuze memorial discs, the tracks contributed by Mouse on Mars, "Subnubus" (track 1 on FR) and "1001" (disc 2, track 3 on IM), provide examples of generative superposition in techno music.23

  9. Within the mutating smooth/striated space-time of the musical multiplicity, other concepts drawn from Deleuze and Guattari's work also become productive. In his piece "Unidirections/Continuum" (disc 1, track 6 of IM), Christophe Charles makes use of the techniques of musique concrète pioneered by Pierre Schaeffer to construct a decentered sonorous rhizome according to principles of connection and heterogeneity. Musique concrète assembles not only pure sounds produced by wave generators but also everyday sounds not normally considered to be musical: the creaking of a hinge, a sigh. This heterogeneity follows from the musician's recognition that all sonorous materials are available for use on this plane of development. The musician makes music by assembling "semiotic chains":
    Semiotic chains of every nature are connected to very diverse modes of coding (biological, political, economic, etc.) that bring into play not only different regimes of signs but also states of things of differing status… A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive… (A Thousand Plateaus 7)

    Charles' semiotic chains range from the unearthly mechanical
    purity of oscillator and wave generator tones to the entropic crackle of broadcast static and recording surface noise. Between the extremes, we hear pitched and unpitched percussion, sirens, the delicate movement of water and sounds of flight in field recordings; the heterogeneity of connected elements leads the listener across vast distances of sonorous intensity.24
1   2   3   4   5   6   Works Cited


Smith and Murphy:
Deleuze and Guattari

We Thank the Technology Goddess

Beginning Credits and Beyond
Blair: a-ha

Daughtry: Five Windows
Review Essay
Eldredge: Jackson
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