John Cage, Gilles Deleuze, and the Idea of Sound

Parallax 23 (3):361-378 (2017)
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In this essay we will take the American experimental composer John Cage’s understanding of sound as the starting point for an evaluation of that term in the field of sound studies. Drawing together two of the most influential figures in the field, Cage’s thought and work will serve as a lens through which to engage with recent debate concerning the uptake in sound studies of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. In so doing we will attempt to develop a path between conflicting sides of sound studies, putting forward an understanding of sound that presents it not as an uninterrogated ontological essence, nor as only a term in a discursive web, but as a problem which must be repeatedly posed anew. We will consider points where this may yet be pushed towards a reified, essentialized understanding of the nature of sound, but move to offset this by emphasizing the production of a practical process of learning and experimentation.

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Iain Campbell
University of Edinburgh


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