AFFECTS & PERFECTS: Part 2 DELEUZE AND MUSIC
MUSIC IN PHASE SPACE 42:
In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze presents art as a compound of sensations that is preserved in itself, in so far as it exists, and sensations as true beings, real existences.
“Art preserves, and it is the only thing in the world that is preserved”
Art is a compound of beings that preserve themselves for themselves, in themselves, without having anything else to explain, help them or would justify them. In their expression, sensations find a self-sufficient mode of existence. Art creates entities that remain as much as their own expression.
‘The percept is the landscape before man, in the absence of man.’
Deleuze is particularly struck by the way the great English and American novelists write in percepts, claiming that authors like Heinrich von Kleist and Franz Kafka write in affects by comparison. This could manifest itself in the ability of the characters of Virginia Woolf to merge with the world, in T. The destruction of his own ego by E. Lawrence, or even the relentless reluctance of Bartleby to be’ particular.’
Percepts are no longer perceptions; they are independent of a state of those who experience them.
As small children are unable to distinguish between themselves and the outside world, with the percept, literature becomes a way of exploring not how we exist in the world, but rather how we become with the world. It has the capacity to explore our existence as “thisness” on phase space to remind us that we ourselves are part of these sensation compounds.
The percept makes visible the invisible forces of the world, that overwhelm the writer. Consequently, it has the power of vision. The percept challenges conventional notions of forms and subjects. It also could have political significance, in that it enables us to explore an impersonal and pre-individual soup that might be the basis for a particular sort of community.
In DUNE through his perceptions of the worm, Paul passes into the landscape, which in turn becomes a plane of pure expression that escapes form. Paul enters into a relationship of becoming with the worm, and the desert emerges as a pure percept, a compound of sensations.
In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab and the ocean emerges as a pure percept, a compound of sensa-tion. Ahab enters into a relationship of becoming with the whale. Another important reference point is Virginia Woolf, who talks of ‘moments of the world’, in which a character such as Mrs Dalloway ‘passes into’ the town.
Deleuze referred to the way the moor is perceived by Thomas Hardy, like the steppe by Anton Chekhov and the desert by T.E. Lawrence. It can be seen, then, that the percept implies a particular relationship between character and landscape. The landscape is essentially no longer an environment that either mirrors, mocks, or shapes the character. Nor is it the case that by directing a gaze at it the character perceives the landscape. It’s more a case how the mind is a kind of membrane that is both in contact with the outside world and is actually part of it.
The self is not a distinct thing from the outside world, but something more like the outer world’s’ fold,’ a membrane that captures other things. The intimate contact between the outside and the inside means that literature can explore the resulting’ private desert’ (T. E. Lawrence) or’ private ocean’ (Melville).
As Deleuze puts it, every bomb that T. E. Lawrence explodes is a bomb that explodes in himself. He cannot stop himself from projecting intense images of himself and others into the desert, with the result that these images take on a life of their own.
Given this emphasis on impersonality and ego dissolution, it is not surprising that the’ man without qualities’ is the literary hero of perception. This kind of character-closely related to what Deleuze calls the’ seer’ (the voyeur) in his cinema books-ultimately tends to’ be’ everyone and everything, at once modest but also crazy.
He might be a literally’ on the road ‘ character, and an obvious example of popular literature would be the open-mindedness of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road narrator. Deleuze talks about how a specific, practical notion of democracy is reflected in the way the soul finds fulfillment in American literature, rather than redemption, through’ taking the road’ and being open to all interactions.
The percept is mainly an artistic literary form, but it has something to add to politics. Simply put, experience has the effect of pulling us out of ourselves and into the world and questioning the individualizing and infantilizing propensity of a great deal of contemporary culture.
It’s not enough to turn our own experiences and affections into a book,
Deleuze and Guattari suggest,
to embark on a journey in search of the father who eventually turns out to be ourselves
Art is presented as a radical philosophy of Nature where the brain exists among vegetables and minerals. Affects are blocks of space time. Affect is the change, or variation, that occurs when bodies collide, or come into contact. As a body, affect is the transitional product of an encounter, specific in its ethical and lived dimensions and yet it is also as indefinite as the experience of a sunset, transformation, or a ghost.
Deleuze engages and extends Baruch Spinoza and Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical conceptions of affect in order to describe the processes of becoming, transformation through movement and over duration. Deleuze rejects the philosophical tradition of passive reflection, and the value-laden associations of ascribing emotions to subjective experience or perceptions.
‘On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature’, Deleuze describes affect as
verbs becoming events —
naming affects as perceivable forces, actions, and activities. Within a Deleuzian context, affect acts as a matrix of attraction within any assembly to exploit meaning and relationships, inform and produce attraction, and create intensity.
Percept is a non-passive, guided and influenced constant moulding. Affect is an experiential force or a source of power that becomes enveloped by emotion by experiencing and mixing with other bodies (organic or inorganic), becomes an idea, and as such, as Deleuze describes, can compel information, history, memory, and power circuits systems.
ART IS NO REPRESENTATIONAL
Art’s power is its ability to distinguish affect from affection. Where we might sometimes suggest that the power of an art work lies in what it’ means’-what it reflects. Deleuze will insist that its power lies in its development of affect singularities. Instead of asking what a piece of music means, Deleuze would insist that we should ask:
what does it do? What new effects does it create, what new connections does it make possible?
The influence of a piece of music is not subsumed within an illusion of transcendence and that the peculiarity of its affective thinking style is perceived to be a significant part of its value. This demands that we deny an absolute interpretation of musical meaning, but also that we reject any claim that musical meaning is merely subjective (or relative): instead, we may assert that the singularity and significance of a piece of music lies in its effect, and the numerous relations that this effect can make.
“It is the percept or affect that is preserved in itself. Even if the material lasts for only a few seconds it will give sensation the power to exist and be preserved in itself (…). Sensation is not realized in the material without the material passing completely into the sensation, into the percept or affect. All the material becomes expressive. It is the affect that is metallic, crystalline, stony, and so on; and the sensation is not coloured but, as Cézanne said, colouring»
As such, by virtue of this principle, the work resembles nothing, mimics nothing. It must ‘subsist by itself’, on its own, without pointing or referring back to a world outside it, which it would reflect, or to a subject which it would express. The literary work is worth on its own, it is by essence that which stands right, that which stands: it is a ‘monument’ ”
Deleuze and Guattari also indicate this self-preservation of the sensation in art as an autonomous block of sensations. The work of art is a being of sensation.
“Sensations, percepts and affects, are beings whose validity lies in themselves and exceeds any lived. They could be said to exist in the absence of man because man, as he is caught in stone, on the canvas, or by words, is himself a compound of percepts and affects. The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself”7 .
From its beginning, the created thing is independent from its model, as well as from the spectator and the artist who created it. The sensations, percepts and affects do not need man as a subject that would grant them a consistency or a justification. They exist besides and before man. The feeling is above all, according to Deleuze and Guattari, the process of overcoming the lived (vécu) and becoming the object’s expressive qualities. It is in this sense that in an excess of the sensation, the artist also enters ecstasy. Since the artist is present in any material, he becomes an influence on himself, a compound of perceptions or affects:
“it is the painter that becomes blue”
The goal of art is to reach pure sensation. The main question of a theory of the aesthetic experience becomes then that of the nature of this “wresting” an affect or a percept, this “extracting” a block of sensations.
“Art undoes the triple organization of perceptions, affections, and opinions in order to substitute a monument composed of percepts, affects and blocs of sensations that take the place of language. The writer uses words, but by creating a syntax that makes them pass into sensation that makes the standard language stammer, tremble, cry, or even sing: this is the style, the `tone’, the language of sensations”
Art is the elimination from the entire subjective domain of the mere effect and interpretation. It’s a sensation distillation process. There are specific procedures for each creator to succeed in this process. But they all focus on the same point: the extension of the definition of human, of self the becoming-colour, the becoming-cry, or man’s pure sound.
Then these blocks of sensations need to be installed, to give them the state of a monument. The art work is a compound that stands alone, a monument. The memorial should be known not as a living or past experience, but as a collection of present-day experiences, self-sufficient. The monument is not a past memory, but a plural time compound that has the present as a center of gravity at all times.
“Affects are precisely these nonhuman becomings of man, just as percepts — including the town — are nonhuman landscapes of nature”
The centripetal effect of the art-monument, which wrests the affects from the perceptions, wrests the artist from himself. The artist is the one that mixes himself with nature, and enters a zone of indiscernibility with the universe. Van Gogh becomes sunflower, Kafka becomes animal, Messiaen becomes rhythm and melody.
“It should be said of all art that, in relation to the percepts or visions they give us, artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects. They not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make us become with them, they draw us into the compound (…). The flower sees (…). Whether through words, colors, sounds or stone, art is the 11
“Creative fabulation has nothing to do with a memory, however exaggerated, or with fantasy. In fact, the artist, including the novelist, goes beyond the perceptual states and affective transitions of the lived. The artist is a seer, a becomer”.
The artist is the one who lives the affect, the one who works with the affect and lives in the affect, the point of indifference between man and the animal or the entire world, the area of indiscernibility between words and things. The artist is the one who becomes, for example, ocean (Moby Dick) or mineral (Bartleby), as in Melville.
ART IS SPIRIT, NATURE, TERRITORY AND HOUSE
It is in this sense that Deleuze and Guattari insist that the primordial gesture of art is to cut out, to carve, either chaos or a territory, always to make sensations occur there.
“Perhaps art begins with the animal, at least with the animal that carves out a territory and constructs a house”.
To carve a territory or to cut our chaos: these are the very first moments of artistic creation.
“All that is needed to produce art is here: a house, some postures, colors and songs — on condition that it all opens onto and launches itself on a mad vector as on a witch’s broom, a line of the universe or of deterritorialisation”.
By this line, one returns to the field of indiscernibility between man and animal, words and objects, in short, art and nature. So art becomes the link between what Deleuze and Guattari call the
“determined melodic compounds” and “infinite plan of symphonic composition”.
There’s a second definition of art by Deleuze and Guattari: art as thought. Art is thought, art thinks just as much as science or philosophy. The purpose of art is to sensitize the chaos, because according to Deleuze and Guattari,
“art is not chaos but a composition of chaos that yields the vision or sensation, so that it constitutes, as Joyce says, a chaosmos, a composed chaos — neither foreseen nor preconceived. Art transforms chaotic variability into chaoid variety”
Not a relation of exclusion, but on the contrary, of inclusion. The thought is the result of an operation done to chaos, it is the very composition of chaos. To think is to give consistency to chaos. Making chaos consistent is cutting it out, giving it a reality of its own. Chaos becomes Thought, it acquires a reality as Thought or mental chaosmos. Art is one of the three forms of cutting out chaos. Art, science and philosophy are the three Chaoïdes, the three forms of thought and the three forms of creating chaos.
Thus, according to Deleuze and Guattari, within immanence occurs philosophy, within consistency occurs science and within composition occurs art. The junction of these three plans is called “brain”. “A concept is a set of inseparable variations that is produced or constructed on a plane of immanence insofar as the latter crosscuts the chaotic variability and gives it consistency (reality).
The brain is a unique spirit, both as the creation of concepts and the cutting of chaos. It is the most subtle dimension of a contemplating nature. Deleuze and Guattari are proposing their most radical assertion of what it means to be human: it’s not man who thinks, it’s the brain.
“It is the brain that thinks and not man — the latter being only a cerebral crystallization.
We will speak of the brain as Cézanne of the landscape: man absent from, but completely within the brain. Philosophy, art, and science are not the mental objects of an objectified brain but the three aspects under which the brain becomes subject, Thought-brain”.
Brain becomes a Subject when it becomes Thought.
Deleuze draws attention to a resonance between making a territorial form of art — house, postures, colors, songs — and the
“ the Thought-brain can be known as one “I”. The brain is an I, a philosophical “I conceive”, a scientific “I refer”, or an artistic “I feel”
More than being cerebral, art is about soul.
“Sensation is no less brain than the concept. If we consider the nervous connections of excitation-reaction and the integrations of perception-action, we need not ask at what stage on the path or at what level sensation appears, for it is presupposed (…). Sensation is the excitation itself (…) as it is preserved or preserves its vibrations.
“These are not Ideas that we contemplate through concepts but the elements of matter that we contemplate through sensation. The plant contemplates by contracting the elements from which it originates — light, carbon, and the salts — and it fills itself with colors and odors that in each case qualify its variety, its composition: it is sensation in itself. It is as if flowers smell themselves by smelling what composes them, first attempts of vision or of sense of smell, before being perceived or even smelled by an agent with a nervous system and a brain.
Of course, plants and rocks do not possess a nervous system. But, if nerve connections and cerebral integrations presuppose a brain-force as faculty of sensation coexistent with the tissues, it is reasonable to suppose also a faculty of sensation that coexists with embryonic tissues and that appears in the Species as a collective brain; or with the vegetable tissues in the `small species’” .
To feel is to contract, and the contraction is what preserves and is preserved. As an answer to chaos, the sensation contracts and preserves vibrations. It is in this force of contraction that the sensation is preserved in itself, and becomes quality or variety. The sensation contemplates and, at that time, it fills itself with what it contemplates.
The soul preserves what the matter dissipates, and is composed of other sensations that it contracts in its turn. However, the soul is not an action but rather a faculty to smell, to collect, to contemplate.
Soul is a pure internal Feeling, a passive faculty, a contemplation without action, movement or knowledge. It is a pure internal contraction of self-filling. Soul is thus a sensation in itself.
As such, the spiritual and the territorial dimensions form the two poles of art. Art as spirit corresponds to the other definition of art as demarcation of a territory, as yet disappeared when what follows appears. This is its way of responding to chaos. Sensation itself vibrates because it contracts vibrations
(…). Sensation is the contracted vibration that has become quality, variety. That is why the brain-subject is here called soul or force, since only the soul preserves by contracting that which matter dissipates, or radiates, furthers, reflects, refracts, or converts”
“Contemplating is creating, the mystery of passive creation, sensation. Sensation fills out the plane of composition and is filled with itself by filling itself with what contemplates: it is ‘enjoyment’ and ‘self-enjoyment’. It is a subject, or rather an inject»
Art is the capturing of life’s energy and also the development of a life that stands alone and absorbs the force of the immanence of life for itself. And Deleuze proposes a philosophy of the spirit by explaining this way of capturing life. The spirit, in what theory is defined? As “soul,” “energy,” “shape in itself,” it is what, in the mind, tends to fly over chaos, to make it alert, to slice it out so that it becomes a chaoid or a compound of affects and experiences.
Art is then a real transcendental practice, because at the same time it is both a brain-like activity (instead of faculties, Deleuze now suggests the brain, the micro-brain) and an artistic creation of a soul, a life as the absolute immanence of the sensation. So art is a transcendental empiric experience.
We therefore understand that the program of transcendental empiricism is the research of the absolute immanence.
With the figure of the brain as spirit or form in itself, Deleuze can now agree that the formal or the conditions of possibility coincide with the real conditions of thought. As creation, the former of sensations, the latter of concepts, art and thought meet each other. Thought has its roots in an immanent spirit, a spirit that makes the chaos reactive as a “form in itself.”
And art is precisely creation and spiritual composition of chaos. Therefore, understanding art according to Deleuze means understanding that art is a pan-psychism, a psychological and neurological philosophy of micro-brains, as a common matter of Nature.
Musical events often seem to come about as a result of accidents, whether while composing or performing, or even while researching and writing about music. both composers and performers may come across new techniques or interpretations through mistakes. This is especially applicable in jazz and popular music, but is equally so for Western classical musicians.
Maybe a hand stutters and loses its mark on the keyboard in the case of the composer or singer, fingers slip unexpectedly. From nowhere a note is made. Not what was meant, not what was planned, an accident. When such accidents happen, we always reduce them to anomaly status instantly. Maybe we’re carrying on, overlooking the failure, and reaffirming the context in which our success started: that’s how it should have gone. Or, we may replicate the slippage test, with aim this time alone.
Because it is not the same event, the sound is familiar. We repeat it again, and think of it as the “same” accident; it is interesting, it works, and it begins to sound good. We continue to play over the section, transforming the music. What was an accident ceases to be as such. It moves from a singularity to a particular instance of a general type. The accident is subsumed within a framework, and its singularity becomes repeatable, acceptable within the original framework, its surprising affect becoming part of a representational system. It is no longer a singular, idiosyncratic event.
Discovery and encounter prompted cosmographers to register new, often conflicting, and sometimes unthinkable things into their maps. As singularities these works were subject to change and revision — indeed what Deleuze often calls ‘open totalities’. As a philosopher he embraces the idea of virtual travel, along infinite trajectories or lines of flight that lead the thinker anywhere about the world, but first and foremost among and between conceptual islands or points of singularity.
Deleuze notes how a’ singularity’ is often associated with condensed events in Leibniz’s concept of the monad. Singularity allows the subject to perceive the world in both forms, infinitesimally and indefinitely. A uniqueness is a unique point, but it is also a point of constant restart and change.
Instead of describing the accident as an anomaly to ignore it, or subsuming its abstract potential in transcendence, Deleuze and Guattari put it to work to motivate non-representative thought. In particular, they see art as having unique affects; experiences encountered “in their singularity, freed from the structure of representation structures.”