chapter  1
20 Pages

MUSICA NATURANS: DETERRITORIALIZING THE REFRAIN

The issue McClary articulates, that of the contradiction between listeners’ personal experience of music and the professional theorization of music, points to a fundamental question: Is music strictly self-contained structure, or does it have some relation to that which is outside itself-to the emotions of human listeners, but also to their lives, their activities, and

the myriad dynamic processes going on in the world around them? In A Thousand Plateaus, especially in plateau 11, “The Refrain” (“De la ritournelle”), Deleuze and Guattari argue that music is an open structure that permeates and is permeated by the world. They offer a reading of the relationship between the cosmos and music not as mechanical and mathematical but as machinic and rhythmical. Their point of departure is birdsong, a topic that might initially seem tangential to the business at hand. But this topic allows them to situate music within the general context of sonic and rhythmic patterning in nature and to suggest a continuity among human and nonhuman species in their modes of occupying space and establishing interspecific and conspecific relationships. It also allows them to develop the implications of some of the concepts and practices of the composer Olivier Messiaen, whose approach to rhythm and birdsong in his musical compositions and theoretical writings opens the way toward a conception of music as an engagement of cosmic forces. The object of this chapter is to outline the basic features of Deleuze and Guattari’s musical cosmology, and then to show through Messiaen’s work how this general theory may be related to musical composition per se. The next chapter concerns Deleuze and Guattari’s remarks on music history and their approach to periodization, and the third addresses the question of the relationship between music and nature, this time exploring the biological implications of Deleuze and Guattari’s musical cosmology.