Cosmic Refrains

What makes music and thought circulate and communicate with each other is that they both share the same problem: rendering forces, the differential play of forces, as a common ground of words and sounds, lines and colours.

In my phd thesis this convergence is researched via a philosophical exploration of modern music in light of Gilles Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism. Transcendental empiricism is an adventure of thought when it encounters those forces that belong to it, but to which thought is never referred. Music too opens the possibility of an encounter with intensive forces, and this encounter and its possibility is the fundamental object and aim of the thesis.

To this aim, I focus on the “experimental” dimension of Gilles Deleuze´s transcendental empiricism, grounding it in the concepts of temporal syntheses and sensation as a fold of force. Music as well as pure thought can be an encounter with forces and lead us into a deeper and more intense experience of time, perception and our (enfolded) continuum with the world.

How? In music time is not primarily 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 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). To think this requires more than good will, it requires an event. This is where philosophy becomes experimentation and art transcendental empiricism: in the encounter with sensibility as intensity the faculties are disjointed and sensibility raised to its “transcendent exercise”. Seeing how the various composers have constructed their music and how they have thought about and experimented with ways of entering into sensation we may thus be able to construct an image of music as transcendental empiricism.

Arnold Schönberg, Olivier Messiaen and Giacinto Scelsi are three composers who all explore the sensation of tone and musical thinking with regard to this question of time as a virtual space and sensation as part of a non-organic life of an extended consciousness.

Consequently, transcendental empiricism 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 and find sensation as a fold of forces.

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