- Cosmic Convolutions
BY MICHAEL GALLOPE
In Deep Refrains: Music, Philosophy, and the Ineffable, Michael Gallope presents a comparative study of four philosophical projects wherein music has been not only the object but also the method of study, that is, philosophical projects wherein "sound and music serve as an alternative mode of knowing" (Gallope 2017, 228). The book aims to survey philosophical paradigms wherein music has remained semantically ambiguous but philosophically and affectively efficacious. With each of the four approaches surveyed by Gallope, we find differing attempts not only to think about music but to think through music, to render music a philosophical enterprise that reaches a plane of absolute spontaneity that symbolic representation and conceptual determination fail to sufficiently grasp. It is this excessive spontaneity associted with music's affective impact that is associated with its perhaps most powerful and ineffable qualities. With such notoriously slippery prey in mind, Gallope's approach to the ineffable follows a number of cyclical paths, each of which requires perseverance, as the route taken through the work of four philosophical enterprises is challenging, requiring patience as we deal with the intricacies of diverse conceptual systems and the realization that each approach toward this elusive subject remains asymptotic. While the book focuses on four primary philosophical sources, with two short sections on Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein, each substantive study rapidly dives into details, an approach that is equally demanding and rewarding. Consequently, Gallope's text is densely populated with a range of philosophers, [End Page 217] concepts, and ideas that could easily become cacophonous and perplexing, especially as each presents a different perspective upon the same idea, yet the prose remains precise and not without welcome moments of humor. This is not an introductory text on music and philosophy, and Gallope's endeavor to get to the heart of the paradox of the ineffable in each of his four cases requires that introductions remain brief, as the scope of the text and its volume demand that pleasantries sometimes be skipped to get to the heart of the matter quickly.
Gallope's four substantive studies are initially divided along nationalistic and genealogical lines; a German and Hegelian tradition represented by Bloch and Adorno is presented as placing an emphasis on history, ideology, and abstraction, while a French and Bergsonian tradition represented by Jankélévitch, Deleuze and Guattari emphasizes temporality and lived experience. Such neat divisions quickly become blurred as Gallope's consideration of the ineffable, which through its association with the absolute attains certain universal characteristics, charts seepage across these borders. As methods of thinking not only about music but through music, these varied approaches all commit to an immanent critique. This moment of concord is evanescent, as in each approach we find differing concepts of immanence and how an immanent critique might be practically deployed. The concept of immanence is of importance for one of Gallope's principal aims: to map out a "two-way street" between music and philosophy, an identification that locates both disciplines upon a single horizontal plain, where neither assumes the role of a master discipline bestowing sense and value upon the other. This immanent praxis is something that Gallope steps in and out of as he maintains the role of external commentator that vitiates the immanence proposed by a method of thinking-through-music—what has elsewhere been called "sonic thought" (Cox 2013; Herzogenrath 2017). Gallope's book is a guide to what has been said of the ineffable power of music rather than itself being a theoretical exposition of this ineffable power, thereby locating Gallope's comparative study in a transcendent position. It is this willingness to vitiate the apparent immanence of a sonic thought that allows Gallope to situate music's ineffability in a complex historical context, draw comparisons, identify convergences and divergences. Through a constant oscillation between transcendent and immanent modes of thought, we find greater clarity on the ineffable than in texts [End Page 218] privileging an apparently immanent sonic thought that binds both critical discourse and the ineffable to notions of sonic flux. It is ultimately Gallope's guiding dialectical method that prevents the work...