1. Our analysis of the contemporary productive potential of Deleuze and Guattari’s musical philosophy cannot be as complete as our account of their borrowings from—and participation in—historical pop music was, in part because that potential is still in the process of being realized in diverse concrete forms, but also, more importantly, because its mass political threshold has yet to be crossed. At present there is no broad-based socio-political movement, comparable to the counter-cultures of the Sixties and Seventies, in which that potential can find smooth, open territory for large-scale experimentation and composition. So far it has found only small and temporary autonomous territories, hemmed in by the market or the state and sustained precariously by the local refrains of DJ Spooky, Richard Pinhas, and other musicians. But the market and the state are themselves nothing more than temporary territories, legitimated by advertising jingles and national anthems, and yet ominously prone to mutation whenever enough people call a different tune. Plato recognized this instability in the Republic when he warned that "the introduction of novel fashions in music is a thing to beware of as endangering the whole fabric of society, whose most important conventions are unsettled by any revolution in that quarter" (Plato 115). If for the moment such a revolution is effectively contained at the local level, its deterritorializing effects summarily reterritorialized in musical niche markets, the potential for its intensification and spread remains, awaiting the bigger and better assemblage that we will have to construct in order fully to realize it.

  2. For now, though, we have the brief audio assemblages dedicated to Deleuze. They are not models to be imitated, but rather distinct cases of realization for the conjoined potentials of sound and society. Guattari would call them molecular revolutions. We have scarcely begun to explore the richness of invention contained in these memorial discs and the related works of the musicians in question, but we hope that our analysis has at least sketched a provisional answer to our question: what use were Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts to these musicians? In brief, the musicians extracted concepts like tools from the Deleuze-Guattari toolbox and used them to intensify or amplify their own thinking and performing in sound. This is not a matter of simply applying or illustrating philosophical ideas in another medium, but of thinking in and with what we play, what we sing, and what we hear. Atom Heart captures this idea neatly in "Abstract Miniatures in memoriam Gilles Deleuze" (disc 1, track 7 of IM): as the track opens, a deadpan, synthesized voice says, "What I see is thinking. What I hear is thinking too."

Timothy S. Murphy
University of Oklahoma
Daniel W. Smith
University of New South Wales

   2   3   4   5   6   Works Cited 


1. Two pages earlier, they offer an expanded version of this analytic chain that implicitly demonstrates the importance of pop to their conception of philosophy and critique: "RHIZOMATICS = SCHIZOANALYSIS = STRATOANALYSIS = PRAGMATICS = MICROPOLITICS" (22).

2. As this essay will make clear, we are not using the term "composition" in the restricted sense of a notated plan for subsequent performance, but in a broader sense that includes both improvisational production (as in jazz or raga) and concrete sound assembly (as in musique concrète, electronic and process music).

3. Deleuze and Guattari draw this "dimensional" terminology from Pierre Boulez, who proposes it in Boulez on Music Today, pp.116-121.

4. This rhizomatic reading of the development of modern Western music also demonstrates that the history of European concert music is not necessarily trapped within a linear, tree model of development, as it may have appeared from our mention of the Germanic tradition in the introduction above. That history too may be treated as a rhizome, on the condition that critics give up the restrictive presuppositions and exclusions of traditional musicology.

5. For a discussion of a specific musical example involving these issues, see "Boulez, Proust and Time." For Boulez's acknowledgement of the value of Deleuze and Guattari's forays into musical philosophy, see Boulez/Menger 1990, p.9, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe program notes.

6. In its emphasis on the dialectic of aesthetic form and subjectivity, and in its relentless negativity, Adorno’s theory of mass culture draws upon and consequently resembles psychoanalytic criticism, as many scholars (for example Barbara Engh in Dunn and Jones, 126-130) have noted. We will return to the issue of Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of psychoanalysis below.

7. The earliest direct reference to a pop musician, if not pop music, in their works appears in their third collaboration, Rhizome (later incorporated into A Thousand Plateaus as its introduction). By way of contrasting the hierarchical, exclusive structure of the "arborescent" or tree model of thought to the immanent, acentric rhizome, they cite "the American singer Patti Smith [who] sings the bible of the American dentist: Don't go for the root, follow the canal." (Rhizome p.57, and A Thousand Plateaus p.19). We have not been able to locate the source for their Smith citation; the line does not appear in any of the songs included on her two albums released prior to the appearance of Rhizome, Horses (1975) and Radio Ethiopia (1976), and may actually be drawn from her published or unpublished poetry.

8. Italicized lyrics cited in English in Deleuze's French text. Further citations from the song refer to this recording.

9. Beyond this aparallelism of distortion, the song also shares with Deleuze's account of Bacon an emphasis on fact, but fact conceived in an unconventional sense. "Fact" in these contexts does not describe the relation of a representation to its material referent or the status of a piece of information independent of the theory that explains it. The fact for Deleuze and Talking Heads is instead a kind of singularity prior to representation, a point or monad isolated from generality and identity. Deleuze draws his usage and analysis of fact from Bacon's interviews with David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact (Sylvester). "The relation of the Figure to its isolating place defines a 'fact,'" Deleuze claims. "Isolation is thus the simplest means, necessary though not sufficient, to break with representation, to disrupt narration, to escape illustration, to liberate the Figure: to stick to the fact" (Francis Bacon, 9-10). Talking Heads assert a similarly paradoxical conception of the fact as that instance which provides no information and indeed cuts open the supposedly unified subject:

I'm ready to leave—I push the fact in front of me
Facts lost—Facts are never what they seem to be
Nothing there!—No information left of any kind
Lifting my head—Looking for danger signs
There was a line/There was a formula
Sharp as a knife/Facts cut a hole in us
There was a line/There was a formula
Sharp as a knife/Facts cut a hole in us
. . .
The island of doubt—It's like the taste of medicine
Working by hindsight—Got the message from the oxygen
Making a list—Find the cost of opportunity
Doing it right—Facts are useless in emergencies
. . .
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don't stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

The paradoxical idea that "Facts are simple and facts are straight" while at the same time "Facts continue to change their shape" reveals their generative nature, their implicit virtuality. Like Leibniz's monads, "Facts all come with points of view." "Facts are nothing on the face of things," that is they are not objects to be seen in specific cases of expression because, on the contrary, "Facts are living turned inside out," sedentary interior life drawn outside itself, exteriorized, along a line of escape: "Facts go out and slam the door." And it is precisely in the form of such facts that pop music can provide components to expressions that exceed the commodity form in all directions.

10. Information on Pinhas' background is drawn, with permission, from his private e-mail correspondence with Timothy S. Murphy.

11. Deleuze actually reads from the French translation, Humain, trop humain I, 335-336.

12. We would like to thank composer/musician Stefano Scodanibbio for this information on the Movement of '77 and much of what follows.

13. In this regard it is instructive to compare the documents and analyses of the American counter-cultural music experience and its antagonists, contained in Denisoff & Peterson, with the (much more diffuse) texts on the Italian movements and their music contained in Cowan, Alice é Diavolo and "Radio Alice-Free Radio," and in the special issue of Guattari's journal recherches dedicated to the "Untorelli" or "plague-carriers," as the Italian movements were labeled by the Italian Communist Party.

14. Martin Joughin translates this term as "Mediators," which has rather too Hegelian a ring to it for our ears (Negotiations, 121ff).

15. A year later Sub Rosa released a second CD of tributes to Deleuze. Double Articulation consists of revisions of the tracks from Folds and Rhizomes: the artists involved swapped tapes and remixed each other’s work. In order to keep our discussion of the musicians as focused as possible, we have chosen to examine the original mixes rather than the remixes.

16. For a Deleuze/Guattarian sociological analysis of the techno music scene with which these labels are associated, see Fitzgerald 1998.

17. On this significant transition, see Born, 183-193, 207-210.

18. For example DJ Spooky, whom we will discuss below, writes, "Based on the notion that all sonic material can be manipulated with the same ease that computers now generate composite images, the DJ combines the musical expression of other musicians with their [sic] own and in the process creates a seamless flow of music" (DJ Spooky, "Flow My Blood the DJ Said," included as liner notes to his debut album Songs of a Dead Dreamer [1996], p.8).

19. On the technologization of everyday activity, see Hardt and Negri, 7-11.

20. See Leibniz 1981, p.54: "To hear this noise as we do, we must hear the parts which make up this whole, that is the noise of each wave, although each of these little noises makes itself known only when combined confusedly with all the others, and would not be noticed if the wave which made it were by itself."

21. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid (the name refers to a character in the final chapter of William S. Burroughs' Nova Express, "Pay Color" [129ff]) is, after Richard Pinhas, the musician whose work is most consistently and closely bound up with Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy. Unlike Pinhas, who comes out of the Seventies progressive rock/ambient music scene, DJ Spooky is associated with the Nineties hip hop and "illbient" scene. See "Flow My Blood the DJ Said," pp. 7 and 14.

22. Something similar happens in the hyperkinetic form of punk rock known as "grindcore": simple chords and rhythmic patterns are played so fast that they begin to form higher-level gradients of sonorous density and diffusion in which the original chord patterns are rendered imperceptible. The early work of Napalm Death, for example the album From Enslavement to Obliteration, is perhaps the most significant manifestation of this form of smoothness emerging from extremely rigid striation.

23. On this technique of overlapping or superposition in general, and Glass' music in particular, see Richard Pinhas' discussion with Deleuze in "Vincennes Seminar Session," pp. 209-214.

24. Charles has collaborated with Oval on a CD entitled Dok, in which the German musicians use Charles' field recordings as material for electronic processing.

25. The classic statement of this is Louis Althusser’s "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" in Althusser, pp.170-183. Althusser’s formulation draws explicitly on Lacan’s reading of Freud.

26. This is a key element in Adorno’s argument in "The Curves of the Needle"; see especially p.54. For the most influential exposition of this model of the voice, see Silverman.

27. See for example "Twenty-seventh Series of Orality" in The Logic of Sense, especially pp.193-195.

28. See Deleuze and Guattari 1977, chapter 2. Although they do not explicitly take Adorno as one of their targets in this critique, his model of pop music is clearly implicated in it; see the Adorno texts cited above.

29. See Deleuze and Guattari's commentary on Berio's "Visage" in A Thousand Plateaus pp.96 and 546n91. On "Thema," see Murphy 1999.

30. Chris Cutler, who was close to the Residents and studied their techniques, describes the production of The Third Reich and Roll as follows: it was "made by running the songs to be copied on one track and then playing along with them, adding part by part and finally erasing the original—then cutting and montaging the whole into a long single work. A tribute to/vicious parody of pop" (Cutler 84).

31. For examples of Fripp's work, see his albums Let the Power Fall (1981) and the trilogy 1995 Soundscapes Live.

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
Tell us what you think...