PhD project


Metamorphosis“Metamorphosis”, Peter Schipperheyn

Music, metamorphosis, becoming is a philosophical exploration of music as a transformative practice. In this perspective music is not just about enjoyment and beauty, but also about truth and becoming. The musician is involved in a sonorous material which develops in the tension between perception and memory. He or she creates in a continuous feedback-loop between action and attention. The whole body listens, and this listening receptiveness is at the same time active alertness. Is it not conceivable that the paradoxical form of consciousness which sustains a musical process can be the starting point for a transformation of consciousness in itself; – that what takes place in and through music can teach us about possibilities for a transformation which involves the whole human being? Music is one way in which we create ourselves and researching the experience and performance of music may therefore contribute to an understanding and intensification of this creative self-transformation. In this way we would extrapolate from musical practice a potential otherwise “covered” by the music, and we could go back to the music with new ears and minds. Or put differently, we would make fully conscious that process which otherwise takes place only half-consciously.

In the project I use the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze as a theoretical framework for understanding the metamorphosis of consciousness through the concept of the synthesis of time. It will focus on how music can be an entry-point into a deeper experience of time and perception.

Musical time is not only chronological: we hear the past and the future as part of the present. The past and future of a melody are contracted into the ever-changing musical now. We do not experience music in time, but time is experienced as synthesis in music.  This is a time-consciousness which lies at a deeper level than the finished world of chronological events “in” time, where time appears as a “given”.

But this musical time which contracts moments into the present takes place also in the body, at ever deeper and more (unconscious) constitutive processes. There is in this sense also a music of the body, and of nature as a whole: the synthesis of colors and movements into the forms we see; the synthesis of various sense-impressions (movement, touch, color, sounds, balance, warmth, smell, taste, etc.) into our experience of objects and ourselves in the objective world. Or the synthesis of relations between birds and landscapes, as studied by Messiaen.

To find this creative becoming of time we need to enter into time as becoming – which requires that we step out of the pre-formed. This is what Deleuze theorizes as a disjoining and subsequent differential fusing of the various faculties (sensibility, memory, imagination, thinking) in the encounter with sensibility.

Music can stage such an encounter, and thus bring about a transformation of experience. This is a transcendental empiricism which is not external to artistic practice; art, according to Deleuze, is precisely about harnessing and sensing those forces otherwise concealed in our perception of the world – forces which are a non-organic life beyond the organism. Life in itself is revealed when we penetrate into the nature of time.

This philosophical articulation will be confronted with my musical and spiritual practices; with playing of pieces for piano (currently I envisage this to be by Scelsi, Messiaen and Feldman) and meditative deepening of sense-perception and thinking.

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