becoming + music


becoming + music
  ---- by Marcel Swiboda
  'Becoming' and 'music' are two terms that can be brought together such that a becoming is capable of proceeding through music, for example through the musical operation known as 'counterpoint', or the interweaving of several different melodic lines horizontally where the harmony is produced through linear combinations rather than using a vertical chordal structure or setting. Counterpoint might most usually constitute a specifically 'musical' case in that when one speaks of musical counterpoint the assertions made regarding the term usually refer back to a given musical example: in short, counterpoint is something that we normally hear. However, when counterpoint describes the interweaving of different lines as something other than what we can hear, then it opens up to a different function, a function that frees the term from a direct relation to properly musical content. Consider the work of the ethologist Jakob von Uexküll on the relationship between animal behaviour among certain species and the environments inhabited by these species that led him to propound a theory of this relationship based on a conception of counterpoint. To this extent, nature - in the very ways in which it can be figured through the interaction of different lines of movement, between animals and their environments, or between and across different species of animals - can be understood as constituting a counterpoint in a sense that extends beyond a strictly metaphorical deployment of the term. From the perspective outlined here, music enters into a relation of proximity to nature where music becomes nature.
  If in cultural theory the term 'nature' is somewhat problematic it is to the extent that it cannot be unquestioningly presupposed as having any objective existence beyond the terms that define it, terms that are often loaded. In the present case, the term aims at neither an objective conception nor a discursive one. Rather, this description attempts to restore to 'nature' a material dimension that extends beyond the confines of discourse, to the extent that discourse implies material processes that cannot be reduced to interpretation or the status of fixed objects. To im-ply, in this instance, is to en-fold, whereby language can in some instances be deployed in ways that foreground its enfolding of material processes. Implication in this sense is illustrated by the use of the term 'counterpoint', a term which has largely been retained by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus because it is highly amenable to a thinking oriented towards process. As was mentioned earlier, the term is most often used in a musical context to figure the (harmonic) interactions of melodic lines. As such it does not describe a fixed object and the term's linguistic or semantic sense is insufficient to account for what actually happens when counterpoint takes place as it draws its contingent connections between different melodic lines.
  This characteristic of the term makes it amenable to the task of constructing a different conception of nature, in that it is detachable from its strictly musical context in such a way that it still retains its capacity both to describe and at the same time to imply, or enfold process. This capacity is what allows us to use the term to describe non-musical as well as musical interactions, where the idea of the melodic line, strictly speaking, gives way to an expanded conception of linear interactions, such as those taking place between the bodies of different animals, animal species, their environments, and one another. This expanded sense of the term permits the construction of a renewed conception of nature that puts it in proximity to music, where nature becomes music. An example of this proximity is embodied in the work of the French composer Olivier Messiaen who famously transcribed the songs of different bird species before incorporating them into his musical compositions. The territorial codings between and across certain bird species and their environments (transcodings) are carried over into the music in the use of birdsong, such that there can no longer be a binary or hierarchical distinction drawn between the productions of 'culture' and those of 'nature'.
  Music becomes nature and nature becomes music and their resulting indiscernibility is the product of a philosophical labour: to select terms best suited to the task of thinking and describing process. Counterpoint is such a term because it is capable of putting music and nature into proximity and describing the material implications that orient thought towards process.

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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