Schizo Zen, or Subjectivity and the Schizoid Musician

Michael Szekely
Temple University

Heidegger's Clearing (das Freie)

[1] In theorizing Being-in-the-world, Heidegger needed to first investigate an important distinction. In one sense, we may encounter Dasein theoretically, while, in another, we may encounter it experientially, or as Heidegger would perhaps say, existentially. Needless to say, theorization itself has its own limitations for Heidegger. As Dorothea Frede writes: "All these problems arise, Heidegger tells us, only if one posits a fundamental rift between the isolated subject or 'mind' and an independently existing realm of objects. Such a rift for Heidegger is not a necessary presupposition; it is rather the result of the philosopher's mistaken 'theoretical stance' and leads to what Heidegger calls a 'splitting asunder of the phenomena.'" [1] Moreover, theorization is itself susceptible to a further division—i.e., between the pre-theoretical and the theoretical proper. Heidegger has the early intuition—which has quite possibly had broad ramifications for not only a rift in phenomenology but for a certain legacy of the "Analytical/Continental divide" in academic philosophy—that phenomenology needed to go "back" from the theoretical to the pre-theoretical, only then to redirect its attention to the so-called "objective world." But such a change need not entail a kind of positivistic objectivism. On the contrary. For Heidegger, it became necessary to return to the "livingness" of the world (Erlebnis). Here we see the early signs of a shift from classical phenomenology to a more anti-Cartesian and, to some extent, less Kantian ontology. But one might also frame it in terms of Heidegger grappling with the more ancient rift between Parmenidean Being and Heraclitean becoming.

[2] In Husserl, there are, to simplify, three fundamental questions, each with a fundamental answer: 1) What is that which is asked about? Consciousness. 2) To whom is it asked? The transcendental ego. 3) What is intended? Theoretical meaning. For Heidegger, however, it is Being that is asked about, a Dasein who is asked, and practical meaning that is not so much "intended," but explored, or better, experimented with as a result of Dasein's "thrownness." Hence the launching of "interpretation" and the entrance of hermeneutics, but also, in turn, the ultimately suspicious response of poststructuralism, for example, which works its way toward experimentation over and against interpretation. We might recall here that Heidegger's quest for meaning is not a teleological one, especially as this might pertain to a theory of subjectivity: "Who I am as an agent," writes Charles Guignon, "is determined by the equipmental contexts and familiar forms of life that make up the worldly 'dwelling' in which I find myself. Since there is no ultimate ground or foundation for the holistic web of meaning that makes up being-in-the-world, Heidegger—undoubtedly prefiguring something of great concern to someone like Derrida, for example—suggests that the meaning of Being (i.e., the basis of all intelligibility) is an 'absence of ground' or 'abyss' (Abgrund)." [2]

[3] For their part, Deleuze and Guattari's project—at least in its basic orientation—seems to follow Heidegger and others in placing an emphasis on the existential and experiential aspect of being. [3] What does this mean? In a general sense, it entails the formative insight that ontology differs from metaphysics, the philosophical discipline with which it is nevertheless often aligned. One might say quite broadly that metaphysical study is perhaps the original study of Western philosophy par excellence. That is, within metaphysical speculation, one inevitably inquires as to "essence," or foundation, of the phenomena at hand. By "ontological," then, we mean to imply something that is, in a fundamental sense, less particular than its application to musical and art "works" in most contemporary aesthetic discourse. Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian ontology is rather rooted in what could generally be called the problems of the life world, or "existential" problems, and in how these problems pertain more specifically to social, cultural, political, and aesthetic issues—not so much in isolation but rather as meta-categories for what Deleuze and Guattari call "lines of flight" that intersect in rhizomatic fashion. What are the ramifications of this ontology for art and aesthetics? In Heidegger, works of art presented opportunities in which truth can happen. [4] We can extend this notion as having relevance not only for works of art, but also for the multi-layered horizon of musical activities—these activities themselves serving as "truths" in our experience. In other words, we move from a "what-orientation," from a preoccupation with defining art, to a "how-orientation," to what art does.

[4] As with the visual arts, music—our focus here—is also apprehended by much of current aesthetic theory as encompassing "objects" (i.e., works) to be appreciated from a distance. However, Deleuze and Guattari, although in a way setting aside questions of epistemology, seek the shifts and flows of the aesthetic, a practice that, unlike metaphysical speculation, asserts the contextual relevance of the ways in which art is both situated in society (even if this involves stating the obvious) and asserts its own immanence, rather than assuming a certain breadth with respect to this relevance: a curious mixture of oldness and timelessness (two very different things, of course), of being understood and elusive, of evoking confirmation and fear. Heidegger might say that we enter into and participate in the being of music.

[5] Of course, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, for Heidegger, as for Hegel, "philosophy necessarily becomes indistinguishable from its own history." Thus, in their view, "however close he got to it, Heidegger betrays the movement of deterritorialization because he fixes it once and for all between being and beings." [5] In terms of a Heideggerian-inspired music, then, Heidegger's end point ultimately risks the "molarization" of music; it would ground music in a kind of onto-theology. This concern is perhaps linked to the Frankfurt critique of Heidegger's "jargon of authenticity": being as a kind of untouchable, ahistorical, timeless—but all-encompassing—morality. That said, for Deleuze and Guattari, a Hegelianized critical theory might have its own Achilles heel in its reliance on dialectics, which we will touch upon briefly a bit later in this essay. The question for the moment—where instead can we trace a molecular music, a Dionysian music? Not surprisingly, Nietzsche will be one of our guides here, toward an ontology of music marked by the concept of being as exhausting itself and overflowing into an ontology of becoming: a becoming-music. [6]


[6] Any postulation of an antagonism between gesture and communication is, to a great extent, meant to be a theoretical provocation, and an intentional problematizing of "communication" itself. However, this would be somewhat redundant. For we cannot so readily ascribe the finality, the utility, to gesture that we might to communication. Where we tend to always ask of something, "What does it communicate?," we are not so inclined with gesture. "What does it gesture?," though an intriguing question, makes little sense, at least initially. This is because gesture itself is too slippery, more a hint of something, a grain, a trace, an indecision. It may lead anywhere. Its meaning is less defined. Gesture resists meaning. Surely, it may eventually submit to a meaning of sorts—and create, as Deleuze and Guattari might say, a point of intensity, a point where various modes of expression and meaning seem to coalesce—but not before a much more transversal trajectory (consider the diagonal, which is different from, and yet cuts across, the horizontal and vertical). Communication tends directly toward meaning. In Jacques Attali's repetitional economy of music, communication tends directly toward certain codes and roles—i.e., spaces in which music must exist, sounds of which music must be comprised, audiences for which music is intended, categories to which music must be assigned, etc. A slight digression into the realm of philosophical linguistics might prove useful here.

[7] On the one hand, the signifier is said to liberate meaning, to be ultimately resistant to a trajectory tending toward finality, completion of meaning—i.e., toward the signified. The structuralist-poststructuralist lineage of thought, one legacy of which is Derridean deconstruction, set for itself the task of this opening. However, paradoxically, as a result the signifier becomes itself a kind of totalizing concept, embodying a will to language. As Guattari describes, the signifier becomes "a sort of catch-all that projects everything back onto an obsolete writing-machine. The all-embracing but narrow opposition of signifier and signified is permeated by the imperialism of the Signifier that emerges with the's an enormous archaism that harks back to the great empires." [7] The undermining of a linguistic framework, to the point where even the signifier becomes problematized, parallels the positioning of music as not so much a langue all its own but as an assemblage of cultural phenomena all its own. [8] Music reminds language that it is not a secondary follower, but on the contrary, that it is "bio-cultural," that it achieves a certain immanence precisely because of its deep roots in biological ritual, which in turn link to cultural ritual. As Elizabeth Grosz observes, "for Darwin [unlike Spencer] ... music precedes language and is the direct result of sexual selection not of natural selection. Its origins lie in its erotic and enticing appeal ... [music] is seductive, even dangerous: music intensifies and excites." [9] Deleuze and Guattari will describe this as music's deterritorializing impetus, its ability to disrupt and break down. But of course this is, perhaps paradoxically, precisely what makes music able to "wield a collective force infinitely greater than painting." [10] This is also, we might add, its significance for ritual.

[8] As an assemblage, or perhaps meta-assemblage, music suggests a theoretical-praxeological axis in terms of flows and expression (gesture; noncommunication) rather than signifiers and meaning (communication). "We've got to hijack speech," writes Deleuze. "Creating has always been something different from communicating. The key thing may be to create vacuoles of noncommunication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control." [11] In Attali's compositional economy of music, then, music is rather "(tied) to gesture, whose natural support it is. It plugs music into the noises of life and the body, whose movement it fuels. It is thus laden with risk, disquieting, an unstable challenging, an anarchic and ominous festival, like a Carnival with an unpredictable outcome." [12] Elsewhere, for Christopher Small, the default use of language is ultimately marked by a verbal emphasis. Thus, his insistence upon musicking, or the variation "to music," is both an acknowledgment of this proclivity to verbalize and an attempt to surpass the limitations of language, at least as regards matters of music, beginning with the most basic discursive practices that surround it. Of course, though basic, these discursive practices are undoubtedly extremely varied.

[9] Although not the focus of this essay, the role that musical discourse—and, more specifically, some thing like music criticism—would play becomes quite obvious here. Not only does it provide something of a complement to the ontology of musical practice, but discourse and criticism would seem to be even more intrinsically linked, in light of Small's theorization. It is, after all, criticism that would entail this emphasis on music's extended, ritualistic function and, following Attali, upon newer tools, codes, and roles that it engenders. Moreover, following the theorist/improviser John Corbett, criticism is here not so much concerned with the genres of music as with an engagement at various levels, with different musical expressions and instruments, and the approach to that engagement. Music criticism, writes Corbett, should, "unlike Adorno's ... be very noisy, a theoretical racket ... a clamorous, disquieting analysis dissonant with the prevailing uncritical abandon, but also strident with those who would dismiss popular music out of hand." [13]

Musical space

[10] Where is the performer? This is a question of ontology, no doubt, and, to an extent, a question that speaks to a crucial tension within whatever musical milieu. But what is tension but a kind of suspended disruption, and such a disruption is precisely the mark of deterritorialization—i.e., creating, composing, performing, listening, exchanging. Content/expression: while the block of content proper to music is the refrain, the (re)territorializing of music, it is nevertheless not what music is, what music does. Rather, deterritorialization is music's expression.

[11] Making-music (not "making music" or "music making"): the conjunction is nevertheless the wrong kind of assemblage; like the "I," the cogito, the transcendental subject, the abstract individual, it is riddled with fear, preoccupied with intention, consumed with context. The ego of making-music must, in turn, either psychologize itself toward a what-orientation, toward a purely formalist ontology, or become dissolved—with a deterritorializing force knocking at the door—into a smooth surface—i.e. releasing into, surrendering to, being seduced by the moment of the musical space.

[12] But instead, a kind of oedipalized paranoia is ever-tempting. One trajectory: making-music meets the music space in a kind of bloated expression, where the performer attempts to remember all that she has learned, to utilize efficient memory instead of desirous forgetting—short-term memory, forgetting as a process. We do not truly forget, of course—nor should we. Rather, we forget in order to remember anew, to create, to be creative. Another trajectory: making-music meets the music space in a kind of starved expression, where the performer feels as though she has not learned enough. But is there a reverse trajectory—that is, from a musical space to making-music? In one sense, it would simply be the depletion of what we have described thus far. The musical space would be in some way questioned as to its fullness, or emptiness, reterritorialized in order to "make this music." Thus, the totality of historied having-to-do-with-music strata resurfaces in some form, and the performer objectifies the musical space in order to "make" music. Then, the musical space exists merely as an opportunity for making-music. Now, superficially, this is true—that is, spoken casually, "musical space" does have the connotation of something created beforehand (e.g., via categorization, instrumentation and its configuration, via venue, and audience, expected or presently gathered). It would be said that all of these "contribute" to the actual performance and that the performer in particular is well aware of them. However, these might better be described as a way of making-music "outside" of the music making in the performance. They constitute the discourses and social conditions of music as an historical entity. Indeed, we make most of our music outside of picking up any instruments. We talk about music. We categorize music. We situate music. But we often do so to the extent that music is demeaned in some way, prostituted, even lost. But what would it mean for the performer to become-audience? Or for the audience to become-performer?

[13] Musical space: the becoming of music: musical univocity: difference as the spark of rhizomatic linkage: "Starting from the forms one has, the subject one is, the organs one has, or the functions one fulfills, becoming is to extract particles between which one establishes the relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness that are closest to that which one is becoming, and through which one becomes." [14] Becoming-music is defined by a trajectory from making-music to the musical space. On the one hand, this trajectory operates as a break. But remember: "the term break is inseparable from the term flow." [15] Suspension equals flow. Making-music gives itself ecstatically over to the musical space: the musical space as the becoming(-music) of making-music. There is, indeed, a momentary sense of emptiness here, or, better yet, of numbness, but it is perhaps better described as what I have called fullness-to-explosion, and then, perhaps, smoothness. Fullness-to-explosion is precisely the confrontation between the totality of historied having-to-do-with-music strata—i.e. what can be the cumbersome striation of whatever contexts of knowledge, expectation, genre, theory are allowed to dominate the given musical experience (and the paradigm of the musical space). Making-music is precisely that which, most generally, threatens a sense of there-ness, of taking part in something, of being "along for the ride," of arriving into the middle of things. History—also the "micro-history" what one "knows" in general, as well as one's own epistemology of self, the "I," the subject in particular—is not insignificant here, but, as Deleuze and Guattari urge, it must submit to becoming. The subject must "subjectivate," if you will. The implication of this idea for the musical space, then, is not so much that of a beginning and an end, from this point to that point, from time x to time y, but rather that of intension. It does not suggest something that is ordered, or structured, though it may—perhaps must—entail certain ordering and structuring processes. But such processes are immanent: "One opens the circle not on the side where the old forces of chaos press against it but in another region, one created by the circle itself." [16]

[14] There is some truth to an adage amongst some musicians that one learns everything about music, about music-making, in order to "unlearn" it. "Becoming is an antimemory." [17] But one might state this yet another, seemingly antithetical, way, as when American composer/improvisor Bill Dixon states: "You can play everything you know." There is surely a kind of willful audacity here: Dionysus waiting to be unleashed. But what else could this mean but that all of the experience one has had, including the framework of technical language and knowledge attained through music alone, is part of a simultaneous letting go and expressing while improvising creatively? The critic Ben Young, in his discussion of Dixon, further expounds upon this methodology, describing how "skills honed through decades must be at the fingertips to be spontaneously deployed in improvising," [18] where any and all preconceptions based in experience, skill, talent, or intent collide with the immediacy of the moment and the confrontation with others, other selves, other wills (and this holds for solo improvising as well). The lesson improvisers seem to learn more readily is that what has been called "bodily memory" can be somewhat misleading when applied to music. Here is an experiment: attempt to trace, really trace, bodily memory. I doubt one could do so. True, we "train" the body to do certain things, and music is no exception. "Practice makes perfect." But the meeting of musical content and musical expression is beyond memory and preciously imperfect. Music, bent toward deterritorialization like a plant to the sun, is not so forgiving to the performer who attempts to remember all that she has learned in order to "create" a musical space. Music is also not so forgiving to the performer who feels as though she has not learned enough. We talk about "internalizing" music, and, implicitly, the skills, dexterities, etc. associated with it. This is fair—at least up to the point where intenTionality gives way to intenSionality, where the refrain gives way to deterritorialization. Along these lines, one might recall Deleuze's distinction between differenCiation and differenTiation, where the former speaks to the realm of what Deleuze, and with Guattari later, will call the "actual," while the latter speaks to the "virtual." [19] John Protevi observes how "Deleuze and Guattari use the distinction between virtual and actual to replace the transcendental from the conditions of possibility of knowledge to the conditions of existence of material systems. The actual is the realm of constituted bodies, whose 'traits' would be long-term tendencies, the patterns of their behavior, while the virtual, on the other hand, is the differential field of potential transformations of material systems, the thresholds at which behavior changes." [20] Thus, we see the differentiation/virtual couplet as suggesting perhaps a kind of clearing, less concerned about already established patterns, rooted patterns, "arborescent" patterns than with the possibility of new patterns and connections, uprooted patterns, "rhizomatic" patterns—less about a higher, transcendental realm beyond material systems than about a kind of transcendental possibility within material systems. In other words, immanence. Protevi offers "self-differentiating" as another descriptor for immanence, about which, we will recall, Deleuze and Guattari caution that it is not immanent to something else, but rather "immanent to itself...[but] whenever immanence is interpreted as immanent to Something, we can be sure that this Something reintroduced the transcendent. This is Descartes' cogito, or Kant's transcendental subject, or Husserl's phenomenological consciousness." [21] But...


[15] What kind of self, what kind of musician, apprehends the musical space? "A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst's couch. A breath of fresh air, a relationship with the outside world." [22] It is thus the schizo-musician who extends outward from the musical space in which she has been (de)territorialized, uprooted, made vulnerable from the first breath of playing. Program: 1) extend your ear outward to listen in the musical space, 2) let your ear be swallowed by the musical space, 3) extend your lips and your limbs, your bowels and your groin, outward to play in the musical space, 4) extend your hand-brain (for what else are appendages and organs for but as forming potential assemblages in simultaneity and symbiosis?), 5) extend outward to compose on a blank page, 6) fetishize the blank page, and 7) extend your sound-thoughts (yet another pairing of simultaneity and symbiosis) outward to think in the musical space.

[16] However, the initial, "given," (de)territorialization is not at all enough for the schizo-musician. Although it was in resisting the reterritorializing strains possible in any musical space that she extended outward to become any number of assemblages (e.g., performer-becoming-listener, as listener-becoming-thinker, as thinker-becoming-composer, as composer-becoming-performer), the schizo-musician ultimately stretches to extend so far outward as to touch the impossible. Try taking that old cliché to heart: get "lost" in the music. Your desire for a completely smooth, flattened, musical space from which you would be all but indistinguishable is so vital that you will risk yourself again and again, becoming(-)music to the point of stillness. Meditative excess. Schizo Zen. Somehow, like the musical space in which the schizo-musician finds herself simply by playing, this stillness toward which she ultimately extends herself seems inexorably attached to her desire, presenced/absenced simply by her desiring. Defy extension: desire to extend just that much further: "... spatium not extension, Zero intensity as principle of production." [23]

[17] The paranoid musician, on the other hand, is desperately preoccupied with isolating, or obliterating, spectrum-modes. Albeit with expectational intensities that could just as easily become performative intensities, she nevertheless retracts her ear inward to listen for the music-making, an ear straining to listen for "things" in the music. She retracts her lips and her limbs, her bowels and her groin, inward to play at music-making, a playing-at situated outside the musical space, as it attempts with such defeated precision to force the music, to create it. She retracts her hand-brain inward to control the musical space by composing on a blank page, a page she imagines already written, already played, already heard—a page which is truly blank. She retracts her sound-thoughts inward to think about music, to play at the having-to-do-with-music, to trace her knowledge, to arrive: "The map has to do with performance, whereas tracing always involves an alleged 'competence.'" [24] The paranoid musician is the one who consistently describes music in terms of methods, techniques, and approaches, who consistently asks, "Did you hear this in the music?," or, "How will I play this type of music?" Hear it. Play it. There is always time for discourse—indeed, discourse is unavoidable. In fact, even a multiplicity of performative intensities could be said to activate discourses, just as distraction and paranoia can slip into even the smoothest, flattest, musical space imaginable.

[18] So it is that, indeed, the distinction between the schizo and the paranoid musician cannot be too overdrawn. Music presents itself to us as simply, and unintentionally, productive, not dialectical (at least in the sense of harboring opposition or contradiction)—as producing certain tendencies and intensities. This is to say, once again, that music presents an ebb and flow of these polar tendencies, which breed their own intensities. As musicians, in the broadest sense, we then cultivate our place in the musical horizon. The inevitable problematic arrives at the threshold of this cultivation. Crucially, and somewhat paradoxically, however, what marks the schizo-musician is precisely the tendency to, at once, allow music's own cultivation to take place before her own cultivation and to open up freely to what might happen. This also entails embracing what the paranoiac cannot: "the schizo...affirms the forces of both attraction and repulsion, and takes them to the limit...thereby fueling the consummation of a perpetually renewed 'nomadic' subject, always different from itself..." [25] The schizo-musician suspends memory in order to forget, and create. The schizo-musician suspends identity in order to allow for difference (although, in essence, she has no choice in the matter!).

[19] Now, it is certainly the case that many musicians and composers have articulated this above idea in terms of a dismantling of the "ego," as casting out intentionality. By allowing ourselves—as performers or listeners—to be "vessels," or "channels" (as it is often described), of the music, we give way for the music to assert itself, to assert its own laws, so to speak. As an aesthetic approach, this has often been touted as a kind of objectivism, which exploits art's more "plastic" and transparent qualities. John Cage's music comes to mind, especially with its emphasis on "pure" sounds, "indeterminacy," and "chance operations" (for which he utilized the I Ching).

Cage's "Music for Amplified Toy Pianos" is one example.

[20] But in perhaps a more subtle way—although operatively quite different from Cage's music—Arnold Schoenberg's serialism also comes to mind, especially in its creation of a "total" system of music, which sought to give the music itself a seemingly endless array of permutations based on a fairly limited and incisive compositional methodology.

Performance of Schoenberg's "Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19".

[21] Not surprisingly, both Cage and Schoenberg (and perhaps their followers to an even greater extent—Boulez, a champion of serialism, especially) would speak somewhat uneasily, at the very least, about improvisation. But, as we discussed earlier with respect to what Guattari called the "imperialism of the signifier," improvisation also has its detractors in terms of theory that might otherwise be considered sympathetic. Improvisation, it would be argued, is the antithesis of both musical objectivism and theoretical deconstruction; it posits the musician before the music, intention before chance, ego before no ego, a script that still leaves a trace.

[22] No doubt this discursive field has yielded some interesting and creative debate. For the purposes of this essay, however, we will merely seek to articulate some key concerns. On the one hand, it could readily be argued that both Cage's indeterminacy and Schoenberg's serialism actually represent the egoistic and intentional artistic act par excellence: the long signifying reach of composerly genius. Both Barthesian and Derridean textualism, to give two examples, have attacked this idea with respect to writing, although valid criticisms have been made concerning possible limitations of these discourses. His emphasis on a gestural "musica practica" notwithstanding, Barthes is skeptical about improvisation. But what is Barthesian writing if not a kind of improvisation? For his part, Derrida confesses that

it's not easy to improvise, it's the most difficult thing to do. Even when one improvises in front of a camera or microphone, one ventriloquizes or leaves another to speak in one's place the schemas and languages that are already there. There are already a great number of prescriptions that are prescribed in our memory and in our culture. All the names are already preprogrammed. It's already the names that inhibit our ability to ever really improvise. One can't say what ever one wants, one is obliged more or less to reproduce the stereotypical discourse. And so I believe in improvisation and I fight for improvisation. But always with the belief that it's impossible. And there where there is improvisation I am not able to see myself. I am blind to myself. And it's what I will see, no, I won't see it. It's for others to see. The one who is improvised here, no, I won't ever see him. [26]

Surely we can acknowledge the simple fact that, even before the music can assert itself freely, and before the musicians even play the first note of music, there is arguably the grandest of any acts of ego and intention, and of course, the grandest of any agent: the composer composing. Here, we cannot help but think of the extreme version of this line of thought, as demonstrated by that strictest of all formalists, Eduard Hanslick, who, indeed, wished for the musician to be a vessel for the music, but more as a kind of automaton musician who simply took the perfect dictation of a music that was handed down to her by the supreme creative genius of the composer. On the other hand, improvisation is not necessarily saddled with this kind of grand egoism or intention. Although it is true that, in most cases, more individual freedom and interpretation is given in improvisation, it is often a kind of reflexivity with the music itself as it is unfolding which dominates improvisation, which dominates the musician's activity in improvisation.

[23] At one level, what we find with the comparison between classical avant-garde music and improvisation (typically linked to jazz, though this need not necessarily be the case) is perhaps two generally different points of entry into the musical milieu. Arguably, whereas discussions of the former tend to emphasize the standpoint of either the composer/compositional methodology and listener—often taking the performer's role out of the equation—discussions of the latter tend to emphasize the standpoint of the performer—often linking listener experience to the performer's operations. But what has been said about improvisation, about experiencing-improvising music, about listening improvisationally, etc., does not necessarily constitute any preference or argument for the broad musical idiom we know as improvisation. On the contrary, the postulation of improvisation in relation to that of a musical space is intended to be both more inclusive and expansive than any preoccupation with particular idioms, approaches, or role designations would allow. The objectivist stance will never compose itself out of all traces of subjectivism. The albeit honorable rallying cry of "Jazz is Freedom," or what the British improviser Derek Bailey calls "non-idiomatic" improvisation, still cannot escape what could be called the faintly objective nature of a musical space, whether this entails a kind of "immediate composing" or simply the mystery and unpredictability of the musical space.

A short Derek Bailey improvisation.

[24] Do we still not, as listeners, improvise Cage's music? And does not Bailey still compose an improvisation? Is the performer of Cage's music still not part of the immanent unfolding of the composition? And is not the listener of Bailey's music part of the immanent unfolding of the improvisation?

[25] Perhaps, then, the lines of flight that run through Cage and Bailey, the classical avant-garde and free jazz, experimentation and improvisation, seek similar things, intersect at similar intensities. Thus, when Eugene Holland writes that "the best concrete illustration of the process of schizophrenia I know of is improvisational jazz," what he is articulating is not necessarily an aesthetic preference for jazz (which may or may not be the case as well), but rather precisely "a fulfillment of the process of schizophrenia," which does not refer so much to mental illness as it does to a certain "principle of freedom," a "social ideal." [27] What is it about music—whatever music—that makes it become, that "enables rather than constrains the present...that exceeds the pre-existing musical composition or structure in complexity, nuance, and originality"? [28] Becoming in the musical space a kind of "letting go," and this applies to all musickers.


[26] Perhaps the risk of applying "philosophies of difference"—to which Deleuze and Guattari might often be attributed—is that, accurate as that descriptor may be, the crucial notion of immanence is lost. Writing about Deleuze and Guattari's concern with dialectics, Ian Buchanan states:

[Dialectics] supposes that the end point, understanding, is radically different from the starting point, chaos, with being able to explain how one kind of substance can be transformed into another. For Deleuze and Guattari, chaos is not a starting point, it is an end point ... theirs is not a theory of synthesis as such because for them everything is always already connected. How could it not be? We cannot imagine something that is truly disconnected because in the very process of imagining it we process by way of connections. What varies then is the modality of things—our concepts, our thoughts, indeed being itself, can be more or less chaotic, more or less ordered, but never completely chaotic or completely ordered. This is why their philosophy is a philosophy of immanence: one is always in the middle of things.[29]

Ultimately, we take heed of various contemporary interventions—from critical theory to poststructuralism to postmodernism—that have, at the very least, made the issue of subjective/objective duality a problematic one. Thus, the problematization of our two different musicians is stated with respect to these discursive spaces concerning subjectivity: the paranoid musician as cultivating, relying upon, the identity of the subject, the "I"; the schizo-musician as cultivating the difference of the subject as subjectivated, the "I" and the Other—and thus, the multiple. Derrida paves the way with his corrective concerning Husserl: The "I" cannot be realized for the musician, cannot be the object of a "here-and-now," precisely because even the musician who plays alone posits the "I" as an ideality, "the preservation or mastery of presence in repetition. In its pure form, this presence is the presence of nothing existing in the world; it is a correlation with the acts of repetition, themselves ideal" (Derrida 1973, pp. 9-10). This also implies that the "I" can function in the absence of the musician. Making-music attempts to fill this absence. The transcendental ego of Husserl marks the paranoid musician. A musical space, however, is full of absences.

[27] Finally, the schizo-musician—prefigured by the avant-garde artist, the surrealist, who forces the confrontation between art-as-institution and art-as-life praxis—has some desire, enough so that she may let go, parody, transform, deterritorialize the savoir, sabotage the discourse. It is the opposite with the paranoid musician. She uses discourse to sabotage the musical space, uses the savoir to reterritorialize performance intensities into expectational ones, attempts to form a musical space by making-music, attempts to redirect subversions, attempts to grab onto a territory. But "there is a territory precisely when milieu components cease to be directional, becoming dimensional instead, when they cease to be functional to become expressive. There is a territory when the rhythm has expressiveness." [30]

[28] Deleuze and Guattari have been generally linked to theories espousing a radical critique of the subject—and this is accurate, in my view, but less in the sense of disavowing the subject completely than of thoroughly overhauling the very notion of subject, uprooting and deterritorializing it. After all, their very point is, in a sense, that the subject is already deterritorialized, thus already not the traditional subject of the Western tradition. This is perhaps a different way of echoing Buchanan's point above. Chaos is an end point because everything is already connected. Subject is not atomized and unified because it is already multiple.

[29] Let us imagine the pop music voice as the musical analogue to the client's subject voice in music therapy. "In much pop music," writes Timothy S. Murphy, "the voice is the fixed point of thematic reterritorialization around which the sounds temporarily deterritorialize." And further: "Since the listener's attention to the voice as a carrier of discursive content or meaning usually effaces its impact as sound or intensity, the voice most often functions to delimit and preserve the pre-established territories of the piece, both harmonically and conceptually." [31] As in psychoanalysis, then, the pop voice, like the client subject voice, is a referent, a source, something to look back into, or something lacking that must be found—that is, found in memory. "In psychoanalysis...the voice functions like the gaze to address and thus subjectify individuals, to interpellate them as the subjects of a symbolic order whose structure their psyches reflect imperfectly." [32] Obviously, Murphy has in mind here the voice of the therapist—but this frame can be extended. The client subject voice then comes to gaze upon itself, thus becoming caught in an "endless deferral of desire conceived as lack ... incapable of escaping its own constitutive impasses." [33] What then of the pop voice? Is it forever doomed to a kind of paranoid narcissism, a kind of self-referential circularity, and thus of, at best, momentary interest for the active listener? Here, Murphy's example of the group Scanner points the way toward Deleuze and Guattari's alternative model of what he calls the "productivist unconscious." Without going into as much detail as Murphy, suffice it to say that the voice in Scanner is full of attributes that upset what might be our common expectation of musical subject voice, especially in the context of pop music. In one piece, "a hoarse voice whispers of events or haecceities...while the process of sound assembly creates an unexpected auditory space-time ... The slow, diffuse metric pulse of human breathing provides a foundation for the ungraspable fragments of speech and angular melodic cells." In another piece, "the voices become elements of the sound, values of timbre, without the privilege (or limitation) of discursive meaning ... The voice always has timbre, of course, but not all timbre is equally perceptible ... The voice becomes an inhuman sound, a noise, and is no longer personal, subjective." [34] Inhuman? No longer personal? No longer "subjective"?

Another example of such an approach may be found on Bjork's Medulla, where the voice saturates the musical landscape, but in a way that is less linguistic and, to paraphrase Bjork, more carnivorous than vegetarian; see especially "Ancestors" (; click on "Ancestors").

[30] For the psychoanalyst—and, Murphy notes, dialecticians like Adorno—this is the stuff of "anxiety," repression, the "fractured self." For Deleuze and Guattari, this is the stuff of possibility, new connection. "In this inhumanity, so unexpectedly close at hand," writes Murphy, Deleuze and Guattari would discover "an affirmative and convenient step out of the straightjacket of normative subjectivity." [35]


[31] Hence surrealist automatism (not "autonomism") as a kind of kindred precursor to Deleuzo-Guattarian immanence: suggesting a method for liberating desire, defined by its doing, its becoming. But how does this doing or becoming free automatism from being simply another artistic method or practice? If we recall that surreality is to be fully realized within our waking, experiential reality, then automatism, like art itself, can be seen as a tool for penetrating aspects of our experience conventionally held as hidden, for exploring the possibilities that they present, and allowing them to manifest themselves as creative energies. Transversal surreality: any notion of subjectivity is only one part of, and perhaps an afterthought for, comprehending experience as necessarily heterogeneous and intensive, not rooted but "rhizomatic," where the surrealist marvelous is synonymous with the way certain lines of flight (attractors?) meet to explode in collective assemblages of enunciation, a build-up of intensities. As Franklin Rosemont says of automatism: 'The automatic revelation absolutely defies vicarious pursuit; one must plumb these depths for oneself, at one's own risk, to attain that indispensable verification which assumes the value of criteria for the future ... What is crucial is that the words and images released under the automatic constellation refuse to return to their cages.' [36] The Hegelian dialectic—of subject realizing itself only through object—certainly informed surrealist philosophy here, but, somewhat paradoxically, it is precisely this dichotomy that surrealism came to reject: surrealism as the Deleuzian postmodern moment of modern Hegelianism. On the one hand, we must "plumb these depths ourselves." On the other hand, we seek "to attain that indispensable verification." Where is subject and where is object here? Gone. Both. With respect to poetry—and hence art—Breton often said that we are forever negotiating the relationship between perception and representation. We might say this another way—that surrealism aspires toward a blurring, not a widening, of this relationship. Blurring as smooth space. However, automatism seems to expose the operations of perception, while seemingly doing so less successfully with representation.

[32] Poetry, Breton observed, is subject "to the same acoustical conditions of rhythm, pitch, intensity, and timbre" as in music. [37] Here again, we have that quest for immediacy so prevalent in surrealist experience, and crucial to its link to sonic phenomena. So many times, surrealism is marked for its attention to "word and image"—and yet, in a certain sense, these media might be one step removed from the marvelous. We cannot, for instance, talk about sonic phenomena without talking about sonic affect. But one cannot so easily parse out such an affect. Here, the "haunted" subject of surrealism has its musical analogue in the individual musician within a larger collective. This is not the "Self," the "I," the Cartesian ego, or the atomized individual so very prevalent in the canon of Western philosophy, but rather a kind of subjectivation bound to a process of collective self-determination, which, as Jesse Stewart comments, "might well be applied to jazz, particularly free jazz and its derivatives, which involve constant negotiation between the freedoms accorded to the individual improviser and those of the group as a whole." [38] True, we speak in part of the texture and timbre that a musician produces, as well as her actual musicality, how she intones, attacks, and phrases. But we also mean something else. In music, especially improvisation, the method of surrealist automatism and the plane of juxtaposition and derangement (i.e. surrealist experience) becomes a bricolage of various musical, physical, social, erotic significations that hits us as a rush. What the music is becomes inextricable from what the music does, where the music goes. Music is still something partially conceptual here, but not so much in an overly intellectual sense. Rather, music is conceptual in an ontological sense. This is why we can speak of surrealism's entrance into music as one of immanence, an ontology of musical becoming—which is to suggest a music not affective by measure of what it refers to externally, or transcendently, but rather how it establishes, creates, explores, connects, and opens up its own horizons—something that is, once again, "immanent only to itself." [39]


[1] Dorothea Frede, "The Question of Being," in The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, ed. Charles Guignon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 61.

[2] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper, 1962), 194, quoted in Charles Guignon, introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger, 12.

[3] Unlike Heidegger, however, I use the term generally here—simply implying the most basic subject matter of ontological studies.

[4] See Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art," in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Perennial, 1971).

[5] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 95.

[6] Taking some of the ideas of Ian Buchanan a bit out from the specific contexts in which he discusses them, we can describe becoming as analogous to (in keeping with some of the economic underpinnings of Attali's framework) production: "Indeed, it is an axiom of Deleuze and Guattari's thought that everything is seen as production, especially the conscious," says Buchanan. And elsewhere, Buchanan provides a description of Deleuzian "schizophrenia," which would seem equally apt for becoming, as oscillating between a breakthrough (e.g., to a new form of society or a new mode of living) and breakdown (failing to reach the new form or mode). Interestingly enough, it is precisely for this reason that Buchanan describes schizophrenia as "utopian" (See Ian Buchanan, Deleuzism: A Metacommentary (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000)).

[7] Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations: 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 21.

[8] From Saussure's founding structuralism: a "langue" could be apprehended as an all-encompassing system that has specifically innate foundational characteristics, which are always decipherable, as musicology might have it.

[9] Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 31-32.

[10] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 302.

[11] Deleuze, Negotiations, 175.

[12] Jacques Attali, Noise, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 142.

[13] John Corbett, Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1994), 52.

[14] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 272.

[15] Félix Guattari, The Anti-Oedipus Papers, ed. Stéphane Nadaud, trans. Kélina Gotman (New York and Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2006), 416.

[16] Ibid., 311

[17] Ibid., 294

[18] Liner notes to Bill Dixon's Vade Mecum (Soul Note Records, 1994).

[19] See Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).

[20] John Protevi, "The Geophilosophies of Deleuze and Guattari" (paper presented at the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers, November 2001), 2-3.

[21] Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 45-46.

[22] Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen Lane (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), 2.

[23] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 164

[24] Ibid., 12-13

[25] Eugene W. Holland, Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1999), 35-36.

[26] This quote is from an unpublished interview Derrida gave in 1982. It was cited in the recent documentary about Derrida entitled Derrida (Zeitgeist, 2004).

[27] Holland, Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis, xi.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ian Buchanan, Introduction to Deleuze and Music, eds. Ian Buchanan and Marcel Swiboda (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 4.

[30] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 315

[31] Timothy S. Murphy, "What I Hear is Thinking Too: The Deleuze Tribute Recordings," in Deleuze and Music, eds. Ian Buchanan and Marcel Swiboda (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 165.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid., 166-167.

[35] Ibid., 167.

[36] André Breton, What is Surrealism? Selected Writings, ed. Franklin Rosemont (New York: Pathfinder, 1978), 360.

[37] Ibid., 268.

[38] Jesse Stewart, "Freedom Music," in Rebel Musics: Human Rights, Resistant Sounds, and the Politics of Music Making, eds. Daniel Fischlin and Ajay Heble (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 2003), 93.

[39] Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 45.