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  • Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari ed. by Pirkko Moisala et al.
  • Iain Campbell
Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari. Ed. by Pirkko Moisala, Taru Leppänen, Milla Tiainen, and Hanna Väätäinen. pp. 244. (Bloomsbury Academic, London and New York, 2017. £96.00. ISBN 978-1-5013-1674-6.)

While attention has been paid to the role that the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (1925–95) can play in theorizing music since as early as the 1970s, what had been a loose grouping of diverse approaches has recently taken the form of a distinct strand of musical research. Following the work of Edward Campbell's Music after Deleuze (London, 2013) especially, musical research has witnessed what has been termed a 'Deleuzian Turn' (Music's Immanent Future: The Deleuzian Turn in Music Studies, ed. Sally Macarthur, Judy Lochhead, and Jennifer Shaw (London, 2016)). An increasing number of musicologists have joined the many scholars across the humanities who have looked to the experimental, fluid, transformative concepts Deleuze develops, both in his individual writings and his collaborations with the psychoanalyst and activist Félix Guattari, in order to develop new approaches to their research.

The use of Deleuze in musical research is often posed as an attempt to move beyond the presuppositions that underpin traditional scholarly approaches to music. The project of Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari is presented in a somewhat different manner. In their informative introduction to the volume, Moisala, Leppänen, Tiainen, and Väätäinen [End Page 145] make clear that the essays are not to be thought of as the imposition of a philosophical system from above, but as a dialogue. Not only do they insist upon a reciprocity between the interpretative models drawn from Deleuze and Guattari's thought and the musical and sounding processes to which they are applied(p. 1), but they also stress that if there has been a 'Deleuzian Turn', the work it has produced is not sui generis—indeed it exhibits a certain continuity with ongoing strands of critical musical research, especially in cultural musicology and ethnomusicology (p. 21).

This is a more modest proposal than some other instances of Deleuzian work on music, then, yet not one that leaves the foundations of musical research untouched. This is evident in how a Deleuze-inflected language is used to frame the ten essays presented in this volume—a language of 'encounters', 'events', 'experiments'. While these need not imply 'grand revelations or breaks with the past' (p. 6), we nevertheless find significant challenges to the perceived assumptions and limits of music scholarship, traditional and otherwise.

Perhaps the most notable example of this comes through the sustained engagement across this volume with Christopher Small's thesis of Musicking (Middletown, Conn., 1998). Small's emphasis on the contribution that any and every actor within a performing situation can make to the performance is here affirmed, but, through Deleuze and Guattari, numerous critical engagements with and expansions of the idea are developed. This derives, in the first instance, from Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the assemblage—a constellation of heterogeneous components, brought together into a relative stability that is nonetheless always provisional and productive. In the assemblage, the theorists here find the opportunity to extend and enrich the idea of musicking.

Marie Thompson, in one of the most theoretically illuminating essays, draws from Deleuze's interpretation of the seventeenth-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and in particular from another key Deleuze–Guattari concept deployed across this volume, that of affect, in an attempt to move beyond the binary of active musicking subjects and passive musical objects she finds in Small's notion of musicking. By making Spinoza's maxim that 'we do not know what the body can do' central to her analysis of experimental music, Thompson shows how the assemblage can expand our understanding of musicking beyond human actors towards the possibility of a non-human musicking in which instruments, media technologies, and environments are equally considered as active and affective components of the musicking process. For Thompson, the non-anthropomorphic notion of the affective body that Deleuze offers us via Spinoza provides the basis for 'a materialist account of experimental musical...


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