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Author(s): Ronald Bogue

Source: SubStance, Vol. 20, No. 3, Issue 66: Special Issue: Deleuze & Guattari (1991), pp. 85-101
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IN AN AFTERWORDto theEnglishtranslation
of JacquesAttali'sNoise,
Susan McClaryaptlynotesthat
... it is quiteclearto mostlisteners thatmusicmovesthem,thatthey
responddeeplytomusicin a variety ofways,eventhough in oursociety
theyaretoldthattheycannotknowanything aboutmusicwithout having
absorbedthewholetheoretical apparatus formusicspecializa-
tion.Buttolearnthisapparatus is tolearntorenounce to
discover thatthemusicalphenomenon is tobeunderstoodmechanistically,
mathematically. Thusnon-trained listenersare preventedfromtalking
about social and expressivedimensionsof music(fortheylack the
vocabulary torefer
toitsparts)andso aretrained musicians(fortheyhave
beentaught, inlearningthepropervocabulary, thatmusicis strictly
contained structure).

McClary findsin Attali'sstudy a means of escaping this theoreticalim-

passe, but an equally engaging and suggestiveline of flightfromthis
double bind is indicatedas well in Deleuze and Guattari'sMilleplateaux,
particularlyin the eleventhplateau, "De la ritournelle"("The Refrain").
AlthoughDeleuze and Guattarido notproposea new technicalvocabulary
formusicalanalysisperse,theydo offera meansofconstruingmusicas an
open structurethatpermeatesand is permeatedby theworld,a readingof
thecosmosand musicnotas mechanicaland mathematical but as machinic
and rhythmical-whatone mightcall,witha certainPanglossianbravura,
a "rhizomusicosmology."Chiefamong those who inspireDeleuze and
Guattariin thisenterpriseis OlivierMessiaen,whose remarkson rhythm
and birdsongprovideseveralofthekeyconceptsin "De la ritournelle." My
purpose in this essay is to outline the basic featuresof Deleuze and
Guattari'srhizomusicosmology, and thento suggestsome ways in which
Milleplateauxand themusicaland theoretical worksofMessiaenmutually
illuminateone another. My objectis not to identifysources or tracein-
fluences,but to describethe process of "becoming"thattakes place be-
tween Deleuze-Guattariand Messiaen--one that is paradigmaticof the

SubStance#66,1991 85

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86 RonaldBogue

"encounters"thatgeneratethe unpredictabletheoreticaldevelopmentsof


Ifcontemporary musictheoristsgenerallytreatmusicas a self-referen-

tialsystemdivorcedfrompsychological, social and naturalconsiderations,
theirWesternpredecessorsfromClassical Antiquitythroughthe Renais-
sance tendto regardmusicas intimately tiedto theorderofthemicrocosm
and the macrocosm. The disciplinesof arithmetic, geometry,astronomy
and music-which comprisethemedievalquadrivium-arealreadyclosely
allied in much Ancientthought,and the conceptof the "harmonyof the
spheres,"whichexplicitlylinksmusicand cosmology,is regularlyinvoked
throughoutAntiquity,the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.' The con-
toursof thishistoryare well knownand need not be reiteratedhere,but
what is importantforour purposes is to note the extentto which these
ideas are informedby manyof thefundamental themesofPlatonism.
Pythagoras is said to have been the in
first theWestsystematically to
establishtheconnectionbetweenmusicaland cosmicorder.2 Pythagoras
and his followersnotedthattherelationbetweenmusicalpitchesmay be
expressedin termsofnumericalratios-the octaveas 2:1,thefifth, 3:2,the
fourth,4:3, the whole tone,9:8--and that similar relations
govern the structureof the createdworld. The Pythagoreansregarded
numberas the generativeforceof all geometricand physicalforms,and
theyfoundboth musical and numericalconsonancein the movementof
theplanets,which,theyclaimed,emitteda celestialmusic as each sphere
followed its perfectlyproportionedcourse. For the Pythagoreans,the
worldis characterizedby thetwo principlesofperas,or limit,and kosmos, a
word "whichunites,as perhapsonlytheGreekspiritcould, thenotionof
order,arrangement or structuralperfectionwiththatof beauty"(Guthrie
206).3 In the Pythagoreancosmogony,apeiron,or the Unlimited,is the
formless, boundless and chaotic flux which precedes the cosmos, and
which,by beingsubmittedto theforceof limit(peras),is transformed into
a universethatpossesses form,order,proportionand wholeness. Apeiron,
we mightnote,is also thesourceof time,but an unmeasuredtimewhich
limitconvertsinto chronos--time thatis numbered,measured and sub-
mittedto thecyclicalrhythms of thecosmos.4
For the Pythagoreans,then,music manifeststhe orderof number,
and cosmicharmonyentailsthecircumscription ofspace and themensura-

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Rhizomusicosmology 87

tionof time,in thattheproportioned partsof thecosmosare rendered

harmonious their in
through participationa delimited, macroscopic whole,
and timeis maderegularthrough itssubjugation tothe periodicrepetition
of thesame.AlthoughPlatoby no meansembracesall aspectsofPyth-
agoreandoctrine inhiswritings, he doesmakeregular use ofPythagorean
of and
concepts harmony proportion, and he repeatedly affirmsthatorder
requiresa subjection ofthemany totheoneandtheother tothesame.In the
Timaeus, theconnection betweenmusic,mathematics and cosmology is
elaboratelydeveloped, and the ontological status of number, which
remainsuncertain in thePythagoreans, is explicitly as ideal. In
otherdialogues,particularly theRepublic, theconceptofharmony is used
to characterize psychological and social order, and philosophy itself is
oftenseenas a musicalactivity. As EdwardLippmanobserves, theentire
Platonicenterprise mayfinally be conceivedofas a formofmusic: "the
musiciancreatesharmony inthepitchandduration oftoneandingesture;
man createsharmonyin the conductof his life;thestatesman creates
harmony society;theDemiurgecreatesharmony thecosmos;the
in in
philosopher createstheharmony ofdialecticand themusicofdiscourse"
It is essentiallythisPlatonicconceptionof musicthatBoethius
developsin theConsolatio and De Musicaand thatnumerous writers later
reiteratethroughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.5 In Boethius's dif-
ferentiationofmusica instrumentalis(actual vocaland instrumentalmusic),
musicahumana (thephysical, emotional and spiritual harmony ofhuman
beings)and musicamundana (theharmony ofthespheres),one findsthe
entirerangeof Platonicanalogies,as wellas theclearhierarchization of
physicaland spiritual thatrendersactualmusica meresensual
echoofthemoresignificant musicofmathematics and philosophy.And
holding the entiresystemtogether are the notions of number and propor-
tionas all-pervasive forms and cosmicorderas the delimitation and
regulation ofa whole.

In virtually DeleuzeandGuattari's
everyregard, treatmentofmusicis
theantithesis Platonicapproachto thesubject.In their
view,thecosmoswithwhichmusicis intertwined is nota circumscribed
totality an openwhole,whose dimensionscannever be givenas such.6
Theessenceofmusicis tobe foundnotinthemacroscopic orderofcelestial


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88 Ronald Bogue

cycles,but in themoleculardomainof transversebecomings. The pulsa-

tionsthatplay throughmusicand theworldare notmeasuredrecurrences
of thesame rhythms, but ametricalrhythms of theincommensurable and
the unequal. And the timedisclosedin musicis less thatof chronosthan
aion-the floatingtimeofhaecceitiesand becoming.
Deleuze and Guattaridescribemusicas "theactive,creativeoperation
which consists of deterritorializing the refrain"("la ritournelle") (Mille
plateaux369),7 a definitionthat obviouslydepends forits coherence on a
fullunderstandingof the conceptsof therefrainand of (de)territorializa-
tion. Using studiesof birdsongas theirguidinginspiration, Deleuze and
Guattaritreattherefrainas any kindof rhythmic patternthat stakesout a
territory. Three examples will sufficeto indicate thebasic ways in which
this process takes place: (1) A child afraidin the dark sings a song to
reassureherself,and in so doing establishesa stablepointin themidstof
chaos, a locus of orderin a nondimensionalspace; (2) A cat spraysthe
cornersof its house, the treesand bushes in its yardand therebydemar-
catesa dimensionalarea thatitclaimsas itspossession;(3) A birdsingsan
impromptuaria at thebreakof day, and thusopens its territory to other
milieusand thecosmos at large. A pointof stability, a circleof property
and an opening to the outside-these are the threeaspects of everyter-
ritorythattherefraindelineates."Forcesofchaos,terrestrial forces,cosmic
forces: all of theseconfront each otherand come togetherin the refrain"
(MP 384).
The elements fromwhich territoriesare formedare milieus and
rhythms, whichthemselvesare createdout of chaos. A milieuis a coded
block of space-time,a code being definedby "periodicrepetition"(MP
384). Everymilieu is in contactwithothermilieus,however,and "each
code is in a state of perpetualtranscodingor transduction"(MP 384),
whichmeans thattheperiodicityof thecode is onlyprovisionallystable.
The repetitivevibrationsof a milieuare measured,but theyare notrhyth-
mic,forrhythm takesplace betweentwo milieus,or betweena milieuand
chaos. Measuremaybe regular,butrhythm "is theUnequal or Incommen-
surable, always in a process of transcoding," operating "not in a
homogeneous space-time,but with heterogeneousblocks" (MP 385).8
Rhythm,in short,is difference,or relation-the in-betweenwhereby
milieuscommunicatewithone another.
Consider,forexample,thehumanbody. Itsvariouscomponents-the
heart,lungs,brain,nerves,etc.-may be viewed as so manymilieus,each
withits own rateof periodicrepetition.The rhythmsof the body, how-
ever,takeplace betweenthevariousmilieus,theheart'sregularmeasure,

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Rhizomusicosmology 89

forinstance,fluctuating inresponsetoneuralandhormonal chan-

ges in breathing rate,alterations in theexternal etc. In a
sense the heart's periodicrepetitionproducesrhythm, but not by
reproducing an identical measureand notin isolationfromothermilieus.
Its regularmeteris a vitalpulse,nota reproduction ofthesame,whose
regularityandvariability areinseparable fromtheinter-milieu
rhythms of
difference.It is in thissensethatDeleuzeand Guattari canassertthat"a
milieudoes indeedexistbyvirtueofperiodicrepetition, butsuchrepeti-
tiononlyhastheeffect ofproducing a difference
through whichthemilieu
passes intoanother milieu. Itis differencethat
is andnotrepeti-
tion,which,however, producesit; but thatproductive hasnoth-
ing do witha reproductive measure"(MP385-6).

a MilieubyArtistic
Territorializing Activity
A milieu,however, is nota territory,fora territory "is in factan act
thataffects milieusand rhythms, that'territorializes'
them"(MP 386).
Suchan actionis essentially andappropriative,
artistic onewhereby milieu
components as and
emerge qualities, rhythms become expressive.The
brownstagemaker for
(Scenopoi'etes picksleavesfrom
a tree,dropsthemto theground,and thenturnsthemupsidedownto
revealtheirpale underside andthereby demarcate a territory. Eachleafis
a milieucomponent thathasbeenremovedfromitsmilieuand converted
intoa quality,and thestagemaker's actioncomprises a rhythm thatis no
longersimplya function ofa milieu,butone thathas becomeexpressive.
Theleafis likea poster,a formofartbrutthatdeclarestheonenessofthe
Whatis crucialin theestablishment ofa territoryis theautonomy of
qualitiesand rhythms. In Deleuzo-Guattarian terms, a certain level of
decodingor deterritorialization musttakeplace if a territory is to be
formed.9In thecase of thebrownstagemaker, if leaf-plucking werea
constant periodicactivity, thenall placeswouldbe indifferently littered
withleafdebris;butsinceleaf-plucking has a certainautonomy and in-
determinacy, space may be differentiatedfrom all others and estab-
lishedas a territory.
Theestablishment ofa territory,
then,entailsa certain
of or of
degree decoding, "unfixing" qualities and rhythms, and a sub-
sequentrecoding of those qualitiesand rhythms in terms of a specific


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90 RonaldBogue

Autonomyis evidentas well in theshifting relationsthatlinkvarious

qualities within a given territory.Qualities and relationsdo notoccurin
isolationfromone another,but in complexesthat"express"therelationof
the territory to the internalmilieuof impulsesand the externalmilieuof
circumstances.Internalrelationsconstitute "territorialmotifs" and external
relationsform"territorial counterpoints" (MP 390), and both are charac-
terized by non-pulsed,autonomous rhythmsthat organize patternsof
innerimpulses and driveson the one hand, and outerconnectionswith
environmental variableson theother.Ethologistsreferto theformation of
such motifsand counterpoints as "ritualization," butDeleuze and Guattari
objectto the conceptionof such activityas a mechanicalvestigeof once-
functionalbehavior. Rather,the complex of actions that comprise a
ritual--e.g.,singing,nest-building, grooming,strutting, displayingcolored
plumage in a bird's mating ritual-presumes the existence of an
autonomous configurationof differences(i.e., rhythms)that puts the
heterogeneousimpulsesand circumstances of theritualin relationto one
anotherand in relationto a demarcatedterritory.The internalterritorial
motifsform"rhythmic characters"("personnages rythmiques") in which"the
rhythm itselfis now thecharacter in itsentirety," just as counter-
points form "melodic landscapes" ("paysagesmilodiques"), in which con-
trapuntalrelationscompose a melodythatis itself"a sonorouslandscape
in counterpointto a virtuallandscape" (MP 391). Motifsand counter-
points, in short,are rhythmswith a life of theirown, not secondary
byproductsof stimulus-response reflexes.We may say in somewhatdif-
ferentterms,then,thata territory is characterized by irregularpatternsof
differentialrelations that have a certain autonomy in respect to the
Territorialization also inducestwoimportant effects,a "reorganization
offunctions"and a "regroupingofforces"(MP 394),thesecondofwhichis
particularlyimportantin understandingthe cosmic dimensionof ter-
ritorialization.Activities, when territorialized, undergomodification and
specialization, and theresult is "the creation of new functions such as nest
building,thetransformation ofold functions, such as aggressionthatchan-
ges its naturein becomingintra-specific" (MP 394). Besides reorganizing
functions, "theterritory regroups all theforces ofthedifferent milieusin a
single sheaf constituted by the forces of the earth" (MP 395). Everyter-
ritoryhas a centerofintensity whereitsforcescome together, a centerthat
is at once withintheterritory and outsideit,always at hand yetdifficult to
reach. The equivocalnatureofthiscenteris mostevidentin themigrations
ofcertainanimalswhose territory is organizedarounda distanthomeland

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Rhizomusicosmology 91

or gathering place--salmon returning to theirspawninggrounds, locusts

and chaffinches assembling in masses,spinylobsters marching single-file
formilesacrossthe ocean floor. These are extremeexamplesof the
regrouping of forcesthattakesplacein territorialization, butnotexcep-
tionstothebasicprocess,foreveryterritory combines forces in an intense
centerwhichitself is an openingwhereby theterritory issuesforth ontothe
Territorialization, then,is a complex processofdecodingandrecoding
(deterritorializationandreterritorialization) whichtransforms milieusand
rhythms by creating expressive qualities and autonomous rhythms (both
motifs andterritorial counterpoints) thatinduce a reorganization
offunctions and a regrouping offorces.Hencewe can elaborateon our
initialclassificationof refrains by sayingthattheymay(1) markor as-
semblea territory; (2) connect a territory withinternal impulsesand/or
external circumstances; (3) identify specializedfunctions; (4) orcollectfor-
cesinordertocentralize theterritory orgo outsideit.
Suchrefrains formthecontent propertomusic."Whereas therefrain
isessentially territorial,
territorializing or reterritorializing, makesof
therefrain a deterritorialized content fora deterritorializing formofex-
pression" (MP 369). Music, it is true,subjects its own materials to sys-
tematic rules, such as thoseoftraditional harmony and counterpoint, but
DeleuzeandGuattari insistthatallgreatcomposers managetounsettle the
given conventions of their day and invent "a sortof diagonal between the
harmonicverticaland the melodichorizon"(MP 363). The process
through whicha refrain is deterritorialized is essentiallyoneofbecoming, a
a a
becoming-woman,becoming-child,becoming-animal becoming- or a
molecular, a passagebetween milieusand territories thatarticulates the
non-pulsedrhythms of an unmeasuredtime. Whatthismight mean
shouldbecomeclearerafter a briefexamination ofthecompositional prac-

At firstglance,one mightexpectto findlittlein commonbetweena
devoutCatholiccomposerand two Nietzscheanschizoanalysts.Yet
despitetheorthodoxy and thecentralrolehis
of Messiaen'sChristianity
faithplaysin his lifeas a composer, thereis muchin his thought and
practicethatis in accordwiththeremarks aboutmusicin Milleplateaux.
Perhaps part thisis becauseof Messiaen'smystical which


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92 RonaldBogue

lead him to emphasizejoy and ecstasyin his worksratherthanpain and

suffering:"my music is cheerful,it containsgloryand light. Of course
suffering existsforme,too,but I've writtenveryfewpoignantpieces. I'm
notmade forthat. I love Light,Joy,and Gloryin thedivinesense" (R6tiler
92). Many of his religiousworks,particularly thoselike Les corpsglorieux
that celebrate the resurrectedbody (its refinement, mobility,strength,
radiance,etc.),could well serveas confirmationof Deleuze and Guattari's
observationthat"musicis nevertragic,musicis joy" that"givesus a taste
fordying,a tasteless forhappinessthanfordyingwithhappiness,being
extinguished"(MP 367). Perhaps as well Messiaen's abilityto move
withoutdifficulty fromdivineecstasyto humanpassion and therhythms
of nature,to bringaboutin hismusica "juxtaposition ofCatholicfaith,the
Tristanand Isolde mythand a highlydeveloped use ofbirdsong"(Samuel
3) is notthatfarremovedfromDeleuze and Guattari'spracticeofcreating
plateausof desiring-production thatspan molecularand cosmicdomains.
But obviouslywhat mostdraws Deleuze and Guattarito Messiaen is
the composer's dedication to experimentation in all the parametersof
musical expression. Deleuze and Guattaricall fora music thatputs "in
continuousvariationall components,"thatforms"a rhizomeinsteadof a
tree,and enterstheserviceof a virtualcosmiccontinuum,in whicheven
theholes,silences,rupturesand cutshave a part"(MP 121). In thisregard,
Messiaen's music is exemplary. As earlyas 1944,Messiaen spoke in his
compositionclasses aboutthelimitations oftheSecond VienneseSchool,in
whose works pitchstructuresalone are investigatedwhile conventional
rhythmicand formalconceptionsremain unexamined(see Golda 247).
Throughouthis career,Messiaenhas experimented withrhythm and har-
monicmodes,and in his worksinceModedevaleursetd'intensites (1949)he
has explored various serial and modal approaches to dynamics,timbre,
durationand othercompositionalcomponents.
One of theareas of mostintenseexperimentation in Messiaen's music
is rhythm.Rhythmicmusic,he states,"is music thatscorns repetition,
straightforwardness and equal divisions. In short,it's music inspiredby
the movementsof nature,movementsof free and unequal durations"
(Samuel33). ForMessiaen,as forDeleuze and Guattari,rhythm and meter
are antitheticalconcepts,and what passes for "rhythmicmusic" (jazz,
military marches)he sees as thenegationoftruerhythm.Messiaendefines
rhythm' as "thechangeofnumberand duration":

Supposethattherewerea singlebeatinall theuniverse.Onebeat;with

eternity afterit. A beforeand an after.That is the
beforeit and eternity
birthof time. Imaginethen,almostimmediately, a secondbeat. Sinceany

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Rhizomusicosmology 93

beatis prolonged it,thesecondbeatwillbe

number,anotherduration.Thatis thebirth

Rhythmis born of momentsof intensity, incommensurableaccentsthat

createunequal extensionsof duration. Whereasmeterpresumesan even
divisionof a uniformtime,rhythm presupposesa timeof flux,ofmultiple
speeds and reversible
relations.As Messiaen remarks,themusicianmust
be sensitiveto thevarioustime-scales,
superimposedon each other,which
... theendlessly
themiddling oneofthehuman being, oneofinsects,
theshort theveryshort
one ofatoms(notto mention thetime-scales in ourselves-the
physiological, 40)
Throughrhythm,he says, the musiciancan experimentwith time and
disclosenew temporalrelations:
... bymeansofhisrhythms,hecanchopup Timehereandthere, andcan
evenputittogetheragaininthereverseorder, a littleas thoughhe were
goingfora walkthrough different
pointsoftime,or as though he were
amassingthefuturebyturning to thepast,in the process of his
memory of thepastbecomestransformed intoa memory ofthefuture.
Messiaen generatesametricalrhythms in his musicthrougha number
oftechniques,chiefamongwhichare theuse of "added values,""rhythmic
characters"and "nonretrogradablerhythms."12An added value, as
Messiaen's definesit in his Techniquede monlangagemusical(1944),is "a
shortvalue, added to any rhythmwhatsoever,whetherby a note,or by a
rest,or by thedot" (Messiaen 1:16). To illustratethethreeways in which
values maybe added, Messiaen providesthefollowingfourexamples:

Ex. 1 a b Ex.2 +

+- - -

Ex. 3 Ex. 4,
I" --. +-

The threemeasuresofexampleone (labeleda, b and c) aretheconventional

units to which values are to be added. In example two, measure (a) is
modifiedby an added note,in threea restis added to (b), and in fouran

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94 Ronald Bogue

added dot altersmeasure(c) (each added value markedby a + ). The effect

is to convertthecommonmetersofexampleone (3/4 [a] 2/4 [b] and 12/8
[c]) intothecomplexmetersof 13/16(ex. 2) 5/16 (ex. 3) and 25/16 (ex. 4).
Whenemployedfrequently in a composition,added values undermineall
metricalregularity, and the bar lines,ratherthanmarkingfixedunitsof
time,demarcaterhythmic cells of varyingduration,theirfunctionbeing
reduced to thatof convenientreference pointsforcoordinatingharmonic
Messiaen's concept of "rhythmiccharacters"("personnages rythmi-
ques"), which Deleuze and Guattari citein Milleplateaux,
may be seen as an
extensionof the notionof added values. By progressivelymodifyinga
figurethroughthe additionor subtractionof rhythmic values, the com-
poser can develop "personnages rythmiques" whose dynamicrelationships
are likethoseofcharacterson thestage:
Let'simaginea sceneina playbetween three characters: actsina
brutalmanner byhittingthesecond;thesecondcharacter thisact,
sincehisactionsaredominatedbythoseofthefirst; thethird
lastly, charac-
teris present butremains
at theconflict inactive.If we transpose this
parableintothefieldofrhythm,we havethree rhythmicgroups:thefirst,
whosenote-values arealwaysincreasing,is thecharacterwhoattacks;the
second,whosenote-values is thecharacter
decrease, and
whois attacked;
thethird,whosenote-values neverchange, is thecharacterwhoremains
The progressiveaugmentationor diminutionof values in itselfis not
an uncommoncompositionaltechnique,but in Messiaen's hands it be-
comes a complexand originalmode of musical development. Messiaen
handles rhythmic unitsas iftheywere livingentities,and as thetable of
fourteenbasic augmentations and diminutionsin Techniquede monlangage
cells as generationalcomponentsis farin advance of thatof most of his
Messiaen's thirdbasic rhythmicinnovationis in the use of "non-
retrogradablerhythms,"which may be definedsimply as palindromic
rhythmic patternswitha centralcommonvalue. Again,Messiaen'stechni-
que is not unheardof in othercomposers,but thepalindromeshe creates
are generallymuchmorecomplicatedand irregularthanthoseone meets
in others'works. Consider,forinstance,examplefive,whichis takenfrom

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Rhizomusicosmology 95

A +

Ex. 5 '
. .

Thelastthreenotesaretheretrograde ofthefirst three, thetwothree-note

unitsframing thecentralvalueofthequarternotetiedto thesixteenth.
Group B is also theretrograde ofgroupA. Therhythmic structureofthe
measureis farfromconventional, thevaluesof themeasurefallinginto
sixteenth-note groupsof 7, 5 and 7, theentirepassagefunctioning as a
measurein 19/16time.Suchnonretrogradable rhythms form closed units
thatMessiaengenerallyeitheruses as rhythmic pedals or develops
through augmentation of the outer units.As Messiaen observes, onesen-
ses in theserhythms "a certain unityofmovement (wherebeginning and
endareconfused becauseidentical)" (Messiaen1:21),a unityofmovement
thatdisclosesa timeatoncecircular andreversible.
In addedvalues,then,oneencounters an ametrical, staggered timeof
variableintensities; inrhythmic characters,anactive, germinal offlux;
and in nonretrogradable rhythms, a circularand reversible timeinwhich
beginning end are confused.GivenMessiaen'sgeneralavoidanceof
metrical regularity and theessentially staticand coloristic natureof his
harmonic language, it is not surprising thathis music often strikescom-
mentators as bothtimelessand intensely rhythmical. Messiaen's aim,in
one regard,is "tosuspendthesenseoftimein hismusic. .. in orderto
expresstheidea ofthe'eternal"'(Johnson 183),butitis alsotoengagethe
incommensurable ofthe
rhythms cosmos, whose varying time-scalesrange
fromtheinfinitesimal vibration ofatomsto theendlessmovement ofthe
stars. His object,in short,is to articulate a "timeless time"-ametrical,
nonteleological, reversible and unlimited. As one can readily see,thattime
is not unlikethe timethe Stoicscalledaion(literally, "Eternity")--the
elusive,fluctuating timeof"becoming" thatDeleuzeandGuattari describe
as "theindefinite timeof thepureeventor becoming, whicharticulates
relativespeeds and slownessindependently of the chronological or
chronometric valuesthattimeassumesin theothermodes"(MP 322)."3
Suchis thetimeofthehaecceity, theeventum tantum "whichhas neither
beginning end,neither originnordestination; itis alwaysin themid-
dle. Itis notmadeofpoints, butonlyoflines.Itis a rhizome" (MP 321).


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96 RonaldBogue


Messiaen is unique among composersin his intenseinterestin the

music of birds,which he describesas probably"the greatestmusicians
existingon our planet" (Samuel 51). He has made numerousfieldinves-
tigations of birdsongs around the world, often enlisting the aid of
prominentornithologists, and he has notatedwith great precisionthe
songs of hundreds of birds. Despitea lifelonginterestin birds,itwas only
in Quatuorpourla Fin du Temps(1941) thathe firstincorporatedbirdsong
intohis music. This was followedby a seriesof worksin whichbirdsong
supplied the principalmaterialforhis compositions,the major worksof
thisperiodbeingReveildesoiseaux(1953),Oiseauxexotiques (1956),Catalogue
d'oiseaux(1958) and Chronochromie (1960). In his compositionssince
Chronochromie, Messiaen's preoccupationwithbirdsonghas abated some-
what, although it has continuedto occupy an important,if no longer
predominant, rolein his scores.
Messiaenstandsalone amongcomposersin his extensiveutilizationof
birdsong,yetDeleuze and Guattariregardhis practiceofdeterritorializing
theterritorialsongs of birdsas paradigmaticof thecreativeprocessof all
composers. Music is the deterritorialization of the refrain,and all such
deterritorializationentailstheengagementof a sonic blockwhose content
is a "becoming"-becoming-woman,becoming-child, becoming-animal,
becoming-molecular.In the case of a becoming-animal(such as Mes-
siaen's), thesonic block "does not have as its contenta becoming-animal
unless the animal at the same timebecomes in sound somethingother,
somethingabsolute, night,death, joy-certainly not a generalityor a
simplification,but a haecceity,thisdeath,thatnight"(MP 374). Such "be-
coming" above no matterwhat claimsto
all is not imitativeor figurative,
representational a
fidelity composermight make. For even ifa musician
should attemptto imitateanimalsounds, "imitationdestroysitself,to the
extentthathe who imitatesentersunknowinglyinto a becoming,which
conjugateswiththeunknowingbecomingof thatwhichhe imitates"(MP
Abundant examples of this process of becoming are to be found
throughoutMessiaen's worksof the bird period,and perhaps none are
morestrikingthanthoseof theCatalogued'oiseaux,an extraordinary collec-
tionof thirteenpieces forsolo piano thatplay altogetherforalmostthree
hours. Each piece is dedicatedto the portrayalof a specificbird,whose
song Messiaen has attemptedto renderwith greataccuracy. Yet as he
describestheprocessthroughwhichhe translatesa bird'ssongintosounds

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Rhizomusicosmology 97

on thepiano,one findsthatat everystagea deformation andmutation of

thebird'smusictakesplace. "A bird,"remarks Messiaen,"beingmuch
smallerthanus,witha heartwhichbeatsfaster andnervousreactions that
aremuchquicker, in
sings extremely brisktempi, absolutely impossiblefor
our instruments" (Samuel62). As a result, Messiaenmusttranscribe the
bird'ssongina slowertempoifitis tobe playedatall. Theextremely high
pitchof a bird'svoicerequiresas wellthatthesongbe notatedseveral
octaveslowerthanitactually is sounded.A birdalsousesmicro-intervals
thatdo notconform to theintervals of our twelve-tone even-tempered
scale. Consequently, in adaptingbirdsong foruse in a pianocomposition
Messiaenpreserves therelations betweentonesbutexpandstheintervals
so thattheycorrespond to theintervals thatmaybe realizedon a piano.
Finally,thetimbre of a bird's voice is essential toitssong,andonlythrough
complex harmonic coloration can Messiaen suggestthesubtleties oftimbre
thatarepartofitsmusic.Hence,saysMessiaen,"reproducing thetimbre
ofbirdsong has compelledmetoconstant inventions ofchords, sonorities
and combinations ofsonorities andcomplexes ofsoundswhichresultina
pianowhichdoesnotsound'harmonically' likeotherpianos"(Samuel75).
The musical"translation" ofan individual bird'ssongmay,as Mes-
siaenstates,transpose it"intoa morehumanscale"(Samuel62),butitalso
deforms thesongand renders itother.Andwhenoneturnstotheactual
compositions thatutilize birdsong, oneencounters further forcesofmuta-
tionandtransformation thatmodify thesoundsofnature.In theCatalogue
d'oiseaux,forexample,Messiaenneverapproachesan individualbird's
songin isolation,butinsteadjuxtaposes itwiththesongsofotherspecies
and situatesit withinan evocativesoniclandscape. Messiaenprefaces
eachpiecewitha prosedescription ofthenaturalsetting and thevarious
birdshe seeksto renderin thework. He thenlabelsthevariousmotifs
throughout thescore,certainsectionsidentified by thenamesofspecific
birds,others by components of the natural scene. "Le merlebleu" (The
BlueRockThrush, Bk.I, 3), forexample,takesas itssubjecta seascapein
JunenearBanyuls, thecliffs and wavesproviding thesetting forthecries
ofswiftsand herring gulls and thesongs of the blue rock thrush and the
theklalark. The firsttwenty measuresare markedwiththefollowing
sequenceof labels: cliffs, swifts, cliffs,
swifts, water,swifts, water,blue
rockthrush, water,swifts, water,theklalark,water.Thisrapidsuccession
ofmotifs continues throughout thepieceandis typicalofall theworksof
theCatalogue d'oiseaux.
Such pictorialism mightsuggestthatMessiaen'saesthetic is purely
mimetic, but the actual results of his practice belie thissuspicion.The


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98 RonaldBogue

interplayof variousbirdsongsinducesmutualmodifications ofthemotifs,

each song developingas one componentofa networkofinteracting blocks
of sound. The landscape motifsinsinuatethemselvesinto thebirdsongs,
birdsand naturalsettingfunctioning finallyas heterogeneousand shifting
components of a singlesonic continuum. Each piece ultimatelycreatesa
specificatmosphericconfiguration interpenetrating elementsin flux,a
"haecceity,"whichlike "a season,a winter,a summer,an hour,a date" has
"a perfectindividuality and lacksnothing,althoughitis notto be confused
withthatof a thingor a subject"(MP 318). Occasionallybirdlikephrases
emergefromthe sonic continuumof each piece,but theyare thoroughly
subsumed withinMessiaen's modal and rhythmic style,so that,as Paul
Griffithsobserves,"itseemsmorereasonableto speak of thecollectionnot
as a groupofattemptsat fidelity to naturebutratheras a sequenceofpiano
pieces whose realizationnaturehelped facilitate"(183).
These are but rudimentary sketchesof thepointsof contactbetween
Deleuze-Guattariand Messiaen,yetsufficient, I hope, to suggestthefruit-
ful possibilitiesthat a thoroughanalysis of this relationmightexplore.
Messiaen's "imitations"of birdsongand his conceptsof ametricalrhythm
and "personnages rythmiques"have obviouslyprovidedDeleuze and Guat-
tariwithusefulmaterialsfortheirtheoretical speculations.The conceptsof
deterritorialization,becoming-animal, haecceitiesand aion,in turn,have
suggested ways in which Messiaen's apparentlyidiosyncraticpractices
point toward a general philosophy of music's relation to the world.
Messiaen's deterritorializationof theterritorialsongs of birdsindicatesin
Deleuze and Guattari'sanalysisa dynamicinteraction betweenmusicand
thecosmos,one thatdisclosesboth music and world to be open systemsof
differenceengagedin a processofmutualbecoming.Messiaen'srhythmic
innovations,rather than being mere formalexperimentations,are in
Deleuze and Guattari'sreadingmeansofexploringan unmeasuredtimeof
multiplespeeds and reversiblerelationsthatplay throughsubatomicand
sidereal domains alike. But aside fromsuch broad and speculativecon-
siderations, the conjunctionof Messiaen's practice and Deleuze and
Guattari'stheorysuggestsconcreteand specificways thatthesometimes
ratherabstractconceptsofMilleplateauxmightin thefutureserveas useful
toolsin theanalysisofmusicalscores.

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Rhizomusicosmology 99


1. Foran overviewofthedevelopment oftheseideas,see Leo Spitzer'sClassical

andChristian IdeasofWorld Harmony.
2. A usefuland reliableintroduction to thePythagoreans maybe foundin W.K.
C. Guthrie'sA HistoryofGreekPhilosophy: VolumeI: TheEarlierPresocratics and the
Pythagoreans, pp. 146-340.See also EdwardA. Lippman,MusicalThought in Ancient
Greece,pp. 1-44.
3. GuthrienotesthatPythagoras"was traditionally supposedto have been the
firstto apply the name kosmosto the world,in recognitionof the orderwhichit
displayed"(208). It is also worthobservingthatthePythagoreans mayhave beenthe
firstto use the word philosophia in its modernsense--thatof "usingthepowersof
reasonand observationin orderto gainunderstanding" (205).
4. See Guthrie,"Appendix:Timeand theUnlimited," pp. 336-340.No specific
name is givento the timeof the Unlimited, but Guthrieclearlyestablishesthatthe
Pythagoreans, Plato and Aristotlewereable to distinguish betweenmeresuccession
and chronos, ormeasuredtime,and so could"speakwithoutabsurdity ofa timebefore
timeexisted"(p. 338).
5. See AlbertSay,Musicin theMedievalWorld, pp. 1-24,and EdgarDe Bruyne,
The Esthetics of theMiddleAges. On Boethius,see HenryChadwick,Boethius:The
ConsolationsofMusic,Logic,Theology, andPhilosophy, especiallypp. 78-101.
6. The Bergsonianconceptof the "open whole" is implicitthroughout Mille
plateaux,butonlyexplicitly developedin Deleuze's Cinema1: l'image-mouvement, pp.
7. Further referenceswillbe abbreviated as MP and citedin thetext.All transla-
tionsfromFrenchsourcesare mine,unlessotherwiseindicated.
8. For an earliertreatment of thedistinction betweenmeasureand rhythm, see
Deleuze, Diffirence et rdp6tition,
pp. 32-33. I will returnto this distinction in my
discussionofMessiaen'sremarkson rhythm.
9. Anthony Wildenmakesthesamepointin thelanguageofinformation theory,
referringto variouslevelsof"semioticfreedom," or degreesofindeterminacy, which
make possible species-specific functions, such as territorialization.See Systemand
Structure: EssaysinCommunication andExchange, pp. 373-375.
10. Particularlyuseful treatments of Messiaen's music are RobertSherlaw
Johnson'sMessiaenand Paul Griffith's OlivierMessiaenandtheMusicofTime.Also of
interestare the books on Messiaen by HarryHalbreich,Alain P&rierand Roger
11. "Conferencede Bruxelles,"1958,citedby Johnson, p. 32. Compare this
passage withDeleuze's remarkson rhythm and meterin Diffirence etrdp6tition:"But
a durationonlyexistsin beingdetermined by a tonicaccent,controlledbyintensities.
One is mistakenaboutthefunction ofaccentsifone says thattheyare reproducedat
regularintervals. On the contrary, tonicand intensivevalues act by creatingine-
qualities,incommensurablilites, in metricallyequal durationsor spaces. Theycreate
remarkable points,privilegedinstantsthatalwaysmarka polyrhythm" (33).
12. One mustmentionas well theextensiveuse in Messiaen'smusicofancient
Greekmetersand the Hindu "de&i-talas"("rhythms fromthedifferent regions")of
Sharngadeva,bothofwhichunfortunately aremuchtoocomplexto discusshere. See
Samuel,pp. 33-49and Johnsonpp. 32-39. Johnsonprovidesa tableof the120 degi-
talasin an appendix,pp. 194-198.


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100 RonaldBogue

13. Deleuze treatstheconceptofaionat greatlengthin Logiquedu sens,especially

pp. 122-132and 190-197.Fora discussionofaionand Stoicthought, see my Deleuze
andGuattari, pp. 67-71.
14. In his extendedanalysisof thestructureand formof theCatalogue, Johnson
concludesthatthe"remarkable coherencewhichundoubtedly existsin thesepieces"
is tobe foundin theinterplayofmusical"groups"organizedaround"a continuum of
varyingcharacteristicswhichwill varyaccordingto theparameterchosen,"withno
singleunifying principlenecessarilyholdingthe groupstogether(pp. 137-139). In
Deleuze-Guattari's terms,theproblemJohnsonis addressingis thatof sonic-blocks,
lines of continuousvariationand the "consistency" thatholds the heterogeneous
elementsofa machinicassemblagetogether.


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