Cosmic Refrains

During the 2022 I will finish my PhD project Cosmic Refrains which is an attempt at following some lines of flight that music traced out during the 20th Century – lines that I believe show us many future possibilities that are yet to be realized. By this I mean not primarily the compositional and technical aspects, although these are necessarily interwoven, but even more the visionary and cosmic dimensions of music that runs through it as refrains of creativity. Trying to unearth the philosophical and epistemological dimension active in the compositional activity of Schönberg, Messiaen and Scelsi, I use the images and concepts of music that emerge not only for the sake of these composers themselves, but also as representatives or examples that can illuminate the role or function of music. The goal then becomes a philosophical concept of music that turns on itself and becomes a concept of thinking as music – or philosophy as the screeches and songs of Minerva, as Deleuze and Guattari put it. Reaching this point of indetermination, music and philosophy are both caught up in a becoming-other. And, to my great surprise, this is exactly what I found as the future mission of music in one of Rudolf Steiner´s esoteric lessons. Music will acquire greater and greater importance in the future, but will also become much more than an art form: it will belong to life itself as a new reality of thinking, active in the heart. Like a cosmic music at the root of all music and of living thought itself, music will become a force of love flowing in and through thinking. Thus, many disparate elements that lived interwoven but independently in my work found a focal point, an “attractor”, a confirmation of their inner relation. It is this reality of a spiritual process traversing all these domains that I am fundamentally searching for, a process which is no less real and creative than any philosophical or musical “work.” At this level, thinking is not “about” something else, and is not less artistic, aesthetic and concrete than any art-work, even if many seem to have difficulty grasping this. Fundamentally, what we are creating here is a new element of our own life-process and of the soul, and, following the work of Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon which I also draw on, this has the potential to crystallize into new virtual formations that will enter the world-process itself, becoming ontological creativity. This, in my understanding, is a cosmic refrain towards which modern music directs us and of which its sounds and silences speak. Here is the present abstract of the thesis:

Cosmic Refrains is a philosophical exploration of modern music in light of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari´s philosophy. By looking philosophically at compositional operations in relation to the aesthetic plane they construct, I attempt to work out an understanding of essential characteristics of three representative composers of the “modern turn” in music. This modern turn Deleuze and Guattari understand as a music which – emerging at the beginning of the 20th Century – develops a new relation between form and matter. It´s principal aim, from a philosophical point of view, is to develop musical materials capable of effectuating an encounter with the forces of the sensible – which implies that art and music become entangled in what Deleuze calls a transcendental empiricism. In order to understand what this implies I begin by outlining transcendental empiricism in Deleuze´s Difference and Repetition. I then proceed in chapter two to outline a concept of music as bodies of intensity. This is also brought in relation to the three historical configurations (and transformations) of the matter-form couplet that Deleuze and Guattari outline in Of the Refrain (in A Thousand Plateaus).

In chapter three to five I put to play concepts previously developed (intensity, virtuality, material-force, sensation, BwO, the molecular) with regard to compositional ideas in Arnold Schönberg, Olivier Messiaen and Giacinto Scelsi. In each of these chapters, my aim is not structural analysis of musical works, but a philosophical intervention that unearths the epistemological and experimental dimension of this music understood as constituting a transcendental empiricism. I therefore engage compositional techniques, aesthetic ideas as well as general approaches to sound and sensation that the composers have employed. The source-material here is writings, interviews, musicological research as well as scores by the composers. From the exploration of these three composers I reach a more concrete image of the new problematic that was reached during the 20th Century: surpassing the dichotomic relation between form and matter for the sake of a material-force relation. The epistemological equivalent to this is the realization of a continuity between thinking and perception, intelligence and matter – as intensive life of the world, as a body without a hierarchically distributed organization, i.e. as a plane of immanence.

The two last chapters attempt to philosophically reflect this musical problematic by reading it in light of the confrontation between the smooth and the striated, and to see this musical operation and problematic as belonging to a general and micropolitical one: as refrains of confrontation in the machinic age. Machinism is here understood according to Guattari (and Deleuze) as ontological processurality, of which technological machinery belong as a subset. Here I arrive at a vision of music as an agent of difference that partakes in the problematic of what kind of post-human futures we are creating. This means to arrive at a cosmic refrain where music belongs to the task of singularizing subjectivity (Guattari). I end this chapter including some source-material for my own understanding and practice of this singularization (Ben-Aharon), following the vortical movements of the smooth space traced out by Deleuze & Guattari into new virtual formations outlined by Ben-Aharon. The last chapter is an imaginative-philosophical expansion of the cosmic refrain into the mythical past. Mythical images of how music and thinking are folded into each other are presented before the discussion of thinking and difference is repeated by way of Derrida´s On Touching – Jean Luc-Nancy. From this the fold of music and thought is suggested as having a directional meaning, a future potential: fold by fold, to make of thought itself “music” and thus also a living matter of the heart.