Sound’s Matter: ‘Deleuzian Sound Studies’ and the Problems of Sonic Materialism

Contemporary Music Review 39 (5):618-637 (2020)
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This article evaluates the theoretical and practical grounds of recent debates around Christoph Cox’s realist project of a ‘sonic materialism’ by returning to Gilles Deleuze, a key theoretical resource for Cox. It argues that a close engagement with Deleuze’s work in fact challenges many of the precepts of Cox’s sonic materialism, and suggests a rethinking of materialism in the context of music. Turning to some aspects of Deleuze’s work neglected by Cox, the ‘realist’ ontological inquiry Cox affirms is challenged through the ‘onto-ethology’ that Deleuze and Félix Guattari develop in their A Thousand Plateaus, with this diversely constructive theory of relations explicated through musical examples from John Cage and Pauline Oliveros. To conclude, this article suggests that Deleuze can indeed be understood as subscribing to a materialism, but a materialism that is practical rather than doctrinal.

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Iain Campbell
University of Edinburgh


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