Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari | Soundmain
Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari

PDF Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari Jan 12 2017

Book author
  1. Hanna Väätäinen
  2. Milla Tiainen
  3. Pirkko Moisala
  4. Taru Leppänen


This is the first volume to mobilize encounters between the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and the rich developments in cultural studies of music and sound. The book takes seriously the intellectual and political challenge that the process philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari poses for previous understandings of music as permanent objects and primarily discursive texts. By elaborating on the concepts of Deleuze and Guattari in innovative ways, the chapters of the book demonstrate how musical and sonic practices and expressions can be reconsidered as instances of becoming, actors in assemblages, and actualizations of virtual tendencies. The collection pushes notions of music and sound beyond such long-term paradigms as identity thinking, the privileging of signification, and the centrality of the human subject.

The chapters of the volume bring a range of new topics and methodological approaches in contact with Deleuze and Guattari. These span from movement improvisation, jazz and western art music studies, sound and performance art and reality TV talent shows to deaf musicians and indigenous music. The book also highlights such fresh ways of doing analysis and shaping the methodological tools of music and sound studies that are enabled by Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy. Their philosophy, too, gains renewed capacities and potential when responding to ethnographic, cultural, ethnomusicological, participatory, aesthetic, new materialist, feminist and queer perspectives to music and sound.


This volume was generated from the research project ‘Deleuzian Music Research’ (2012–2016), which was funded by the Academy of Finland and conducted at the University of Helsinki. We are indebted to the Academy of Finland for giving us the opportunity to immerse in exploring encounters of music, sound and the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. We wish to thank Professor Claire Colebrook, Professor Suzanne Cusick and Professor Jocelyne Guilbault for their support; the contributors of this collection; Sari Miettinen; people involved in the production of this volume from Bloomsbury Publishing, particularly Leah Babb-Rosenfeld; as well as the anonymous readers of the book proposal and manuscript.


According to Gilles Deleuze, one of the most influential philosophers of our time, Western frameworks of reasoning have crucially rested on the principles of identity, opposition, analogue and resemblance. In modern Western music cultures including music research, the logics of identity thinking can be detected most readily in the grounding of music in work identities and the figure of the composer–creator prevalent especially in the field of classical music. The way Deleuze conceptualizes encounters, for example, in his book Difference and Repetition (1994: 39–40) opens up another view to the world: encounters regarding contact with something in the world that perplexes existing categorizations and already established ways of being. They are the moments where an object or a process refuses to be immediately recognized in the terms of the already given, as similar or opposed to something familiar. In encounters, a thing can at first only be sensed. Its power to affect, and to make a difference is registered. Consequently, it poses new problems for thought. Considered in this manner, encounters are fundamental because they give us new sensations, experiences, ideas and modes of being. Our aspiration is to initiate such encounters where both Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking and the musical and sounding processes examined in the present volume could reveal revived or hitherto unnoticed aspects and potentialities in each other. In this endeavor, we draw inspiration from previous projects that, while working with Deleuze and Guattari, have explored the power of contemporary art practices in order to invite new possibilities of sensing, conceptualizing and being, instead of just representing or reshuffling already existing realities and meanings (see O’Sullivan 2005; Kontturi 2012).

The chapters in this collection of essays are about a variety of encounters between musical and sound-related events and the philosophy of Deleuze and his collaborator Félix Guattari, which stresses the primacy of immanence, processuality and variation across all forms of existence. As noted by the cultural theorist Claire Colebrook, ‘immanence … has no outside and nothing other than itself’ (2002: xxiv). For Deleuze and Guattari, immanence means processuality, which has no transcendent and stable foundation. As A Thousand Plateaus (1987), possibly the most significant volume co-authored by Deleuze and Guattari, powerfully exemplifies, everything in existence, all phenomena, thoughts and categories are formed as relations in constant processes of becoming. The challenge this philosophy sets to music and sound studies is this: instead of taking categories, identities or systems – pieces, performances, conventions, communities of music and sound – as given we should examine what kinds of components and forces – practices, ideas, beliefs, materialities, discourses – they are constantly formed and reformed from.

The set of essays presented takes the intellectual and political promise entailed by Deleuze and Guattari’s process philosophy seriously when addressing music and sound as becomings – as actors in assemblages and actualizations of potential or what they also call virtual, as yet unactualized, tendencies. The chapters included in the volume relate to cultural studies of music and sound, jazz and popular music studies, ethnomusicology, as well as dance, performance and disability studies. ‘Musical’, in the title of this volume, encompasses a wealth of actions, responses, actors, things, spacetimes and connections that somehow participate in the construction of music and sound as ongoing practices and ideas: as material, temporal and sociocultural forces. Expanding on Christopher Small’s (1998) concept of musicking – music as a verb – music and sound are understood here as heterogeneous and continuously occurring activities, relationships and thoughts rather than as phenomena foreclosed by any one pre-existing perspective. In the individual essays, this multiplicity of musicking and sounding ranges from new experimental music, reality TV singing competitions and moving human bodies to music-making in a Nepalese village milieu and the inaudible vibrational patterns that underlie the sonorous features and multimodal perception of sounds.

This volume particularly examines the methodological implications of Deleuze and Guattari’s work for various kinds of music and sound studies. The methodological practices that the contributors of our volume bring into contact with these thinkers span from musical ethnography to variants of performance analysis, approaches to listening and collaborative research methods. Besides exploring how engagement with Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas advances understandings of the musical phenomena and the situations studied, the chapters also enquire how the research methodologies at play can be reconsidered and taken in emerging new directions in conversation with their thoughts.
The volume at hand strives to expand music and sound studies through encounters between the music and sound events studied, the engaged music studies discussions and Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking. The key aim of this book is, then, to demonstrate how the processual Deleuzian-Guattarian philosophy works both as a meta-theory which guides the researcher to think differently, as well as how their concepts – particularly becoming, affect and assemblage – can function as transforming methodological tools in the research process. Deleuzian and Guattarian concepts are transformed into active powers both in analytical and fieldwork processes.

Instead of general conceptual exposition where examples mainly serve an illustrative function, we hope to put pronounced emphasis on how instances of sound and music – in media cultures, arts and everyday life – invite concepts and problems from Deleuze and Guattari’s thought, and how their thinking may in turn translate into important, yet situationally attuned, analytical tools. Several articles have this very dynamics of translation as their subject. Thus, the assembling of this volume has been guided throughout by the conviction that the encounters between music, sound, their study and Deleuze and Guattari are co-constitutively relational. The topics explored, the strands of music and sound studies that individual chapters invoke, as well as the insights of Deleuze and Guattari, each move and modulate one another within their mutual relations. Each re-emerges from these relations somewhat renewed, in ways only specific to that relationality and unknown prior to the encounter
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