Sounds Flush with the Real: Mixed Semiotic Strategies in Post-Cagean Musical Experimentalism

In Paulo de Assis & Paolo Giudici (eds.), Machinic Assemblages of Desire: Deleuze and Artistic Research 3. Leuven, Belgium: pp. 107-114 (2021)
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When beginning to think about the relation between experimental music and the thought of Gilles Deleuze, this quotation seems to be a natural starting point. In Deleuze and Guattari’s affirmation of this phrase from John Cage they suggest a resonance between music and philosophy: in both fields the experimental approach entails a dismantling of predetermining codes and hierarchies, and with this arises the opportunity for an open-endedness that accommodates singular events and encounters. This understanding of experimentation, however, is not as transparent as it seems. In the context of the uptake and critique of Deleuzian ideas in the theorisation of music and sound, as well as recent re-evaluations of the milieu of “experimental music,” critics have argued that a range of normative demands, ideological assumptions, and metaphysical reductions undermine the purported freedoms of both Cagean and Deleuzian experimentalism. Here I can only deal with a small aspect of the wide historical and theoretical problem this involves; but in short my aim is to begin to construct a means through which Deleuze and Guattari’s thought can be used to help us examine some strategies that composers and performers in post-Cagean musical experimentalism developed to navigate around the demands, assumptions, and reductions of Cage’s thought.

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Iain Campbell
University of Edinburgh


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