It is time for metaphor, for the/some rhizoanalysis.  The responses of the research participants stand above.  Or they would so stand if this dissertation-assemblage  was a photograph of a moment in time.  But time moves on; the texts have a life of their own within the rhizome.  They are always already modified and changed by my (your) rhizomatic readings, by the diagramming.  Each is always already changed by being juxtaposed with the others.  How do the maps of the other abstract machines of this dissertation-assemblage relate to the vignettes abstract machine?  If a line of flight from the cyborg abstract machine punctures and cuts the vignette, both are connected/entangled.  Tenuous and indeterminate boundaries are crossed.  But which piercings, which slicings?  In the rhizome there are infinitely many.  It would be easy to become despondent, like Borges’s librarians.  My rhizo-slicings are undertaken so that the rhizome may speak to me (you).  Other cuts are for other readers.  Our cuts may occasionally cross, or they may not.  But we are always in the middle, in the thick of it.  Some abstract machines actively summon lines of flight from others.  It is as if they are gravity wells or positive and negative electrodes, bound to attract.

So aspects of the other abstract machines of this dissertation-assemblage appear here and aspects of the vignettes appear elsewhere.  The whole abstract machine has what Kosko (1994) calls “fuzzy boundaries”.  They are the boundaries of here, there, this, that, and now.  Is what I say here about the four musicking/musickers’ vignettes true of all musicking/musickers?  That cannot be answered, because truth is meaningless in these contexts.


Thesis Abstract Machines Diagram

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Sous rature

Sous rature◀︎~The~r▼▼hizome~is~an~antigenealogy ▼▼~Dele△uze~and~▲Guattari~2004:▶︎▲▼ 23). ~This~thesis~is~rhizomatic.~It~can~be▶︎~read~genealogi◀︎cally,~but~that~would~be~to~miss~the~poin|t.~When~we~wr▼▶︎ite~of◀︎~hypotheses,~methodologies,~conc▽lusions~and~bibliograph✂︎✂︎✂︎✂︎✂︎✒︎i▼es,~such~wri▽ting~sometimes~resembles~nothi◁ng~more~than~a~description~of~a~high-◀︎△▶︎▶︎▶︎▶︎▶︎▶︎▻school~sci⍵⎖en|es.~This~thesis~is~about~things~which~are~about~cyborg~music.~The~thesis~and~its~putative~subject~exist~in~E␎ntangled~Network~Space.~It~starts~ with~this~con⚗clusion.~It~is~about~music⏀␞⏥.~And~humans.~And~technology.~◀︎And~ philosophy.~And~time.~And,~and,~and.“|~The constant~conjunct☪ions~of~and,~ofce~experiment.~T➢➤o~engage~with~this~resemblance~would~be~a~static~reading,~isochronous,~frozen~in~time.~A~bette㉿r~reading~is~dynamic,~heterochronic~and~ diachronic. ~At~risk~of~instant~contradicti▼on,~this~thesis~is~about~entanglements~and~disentanglem⚘ents,~comings~||and~goings.~That~is~thehe~writing~has~a~chronological~flo⏎↖︎w,~but~it~is~full✷~of~ heterochronic~wormholes,~whichgs~are~coloured~by~beginnings☩~and~beginni☄ngs~by~endings.~Ther▽e~are~no~m▶︎onads▷,~only~(ever-changing)~assemblag and,~o▷f~and.~An~assemblage~is~composed~of~ands,~and~the~ands~come~and~they~go.~And~further~ands~change~the~ands.~Entangled~Network~Space~is~full~of~voids;~andless~spaces~waiting~to~be~filled~by~ands~and~voids~which~the~ands~have~ vacated.~It~is~a~space~of~possibilitie◻︎s.~It~owes~its~existence~to~the~real~and~the~ real~owes~its~existe☑︎◁◁◁◁nce~to~it.~It~is~the~immanent,~one~truly~flat~ontological~space,~where~being~and~non-being~are~equivalent.~Tversed~at~the~speed~of~memory~or~of~Google-thought.~They~are~mental~footnotes.~It ~may~✽be~tra~nature~of~the~space,~real~and~metaphorical,~in~which~we~live.~Endin↓⇣⇣⌒radiates~and~is~irradiated.~All~writing~is~li⚩♒︎ke~t⦿his.~It~is~the~New~⇧Writing~in~the~ Hyperconn→ected~Age.~▶︎

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Deleuzian Plateaus

When trying to visually represent Deleuze and Guattari’s plateaus it is necessary to choose a metaphor wisely.  They say, “We call a ‘plateau’ any multiplicity connected to other multiplicities by superficial underground stems in such a way as to form or extend a rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari 1987:24).”  This is itself metaphorically descriptive language.  So, in the fashion of Lakoff and Johnson (why do these folk maraud in pairs?), in the quest for a visual metaphor, we pile them high.

The artist Marc Ngui (in Sellers 2009) contrasts plateaus (green ovals) with structured linear thinking (brown rectangles).

Screenshot 2017-04-05 16.11.54

In her 2009 thesis, Marg Sellers depicts its component plateaus with blue, slightly amorphous shapes, connected by lines.  This reminds me of looking down on a map of an archipelago with ferry routes between the islands.

Screenshot 2017-04-04 17.16.47

Here are some real islands, connected by boats, causeways, bird flight, telephone cables, radio, and the ever-present sea.

Screenshot 2017-04-05 16.36.41

This image shows bundles of connected lines. Paul Fry describes the structure of A Thousand Plateaus as “fascicular (2013: 38:30).”

Screenshot 2017-04-05 16.25.12

And here are some mushrooms.  Elsewhere (Hewitt 2013: 40-53) I have used a mycelial mycological metaphor to describe a Deleuzian rhizomatic space.  The mushroom does have the advantage of literally being a rhizome.  Perhaps the fruiting heads can stand for plateaus.


What terminology might replace “plateaus”?  In the mycological case, the fruiting bodies are called “sporocarps”.  The bundles could be “fascicules”.  Islands are “insulae”.  But island plateaus are, like Donne’s man, paradoxically not islands, in virtue of their interconnections.  So, perhaps “insulae”.  But then again, perhaps the Anglo-Saxon words suffice; or maybe just stick to “plateaus”.


Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari, (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Fry, P., (2013). ENGL 300: Introduction to the Theory of Literature. Lecture 15. Open Yale Courses. Video  http://oyc.yale.edu/english/engl-300/lecture-15 (accessed online 17 June 2013)

Hewitt, T., (2013). The Mycelium as a Metaphorical Meaning-Space for Music. Unpublished MA dissertation. The Open University. [ https://www.academia.edu/5194259/The_Mycelium_as_a_Metaphor_for_the_Metaphysical_Meaning-Space_of_Music ]

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson, (2003). Metaphors we live by. Chicago IL; London: University of Chicago Press.

Sellers, M.A. (2009).  Re(con)ceiving children in curriculum: Mapping (a) milieu(s) of becoming. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Queensland. [A version here: https://issuu.com/gfbertini/docs/re_con_ceiving_children_in_curriculum_-_mapping__a ]

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A rhizomatic text

I am at a junction in the preparation of my written thesis.  One road leads to a “standard” scientistic piece of work and the other to a rhizomatic text.  All of the writing advice counsels taking the first road, while my instinct (and to do justice to my material) says Route 2.

What now seems problematic is the situation in which young philosophers, but also all young writers who are involved in creating something, find themselves. They face the threat of being stifled from the outset. It’s become very difficult to do any work, because a whole system of “acculturation” and anticreativity specific to the developed nations is taking shape. It’s far worse than censorship. (Deleuze, 1995: 27) Quoted in  Honan and Bright 2016: 731

What is this system of acculturation and anticreativity? It is, perhaps, the suspicion which Honan and Bright share with St. Pierre, Law, and Koro-Ljungberg and Mazzei,

that a “conventional, reductionist, hegemonic, and sometimes oppressive” (St. Pierre 2011: 613) orthodoxy of qualitative educational research has infiltrated the writing of the thesis text. We fear that “we are being told how we must see and what we must do when we investigate” (Law, 2004: 4), and worry that in writing we increasingly find ourselves stifled from the outset, operating within a problematic of acculturation and anticreativity wherein we are urged to make original and creative contributions through practices of writing that “are necessary while at the same time necessarily limiting” (Koro-Ljungberg and Mazzei, 2012: 728).  Quoted in  Honan and Bright 2016: 731

Deleuze and Guattari warn us of the danger of “vehicular language” every use of which brings its own “little death sentence” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 76).  Honan and Bright say this,

our argument is that the vehicular language – the language of bureaucratic transmission – is the hegemonic language of the doctoral thesis within qualitative educational research studies, even when the thesis employs post-structural theory or post-qualitative research approaches that destabilize and deterritorialize understandings of the relations between researcher and researched, methods and methodology and writer and researcher. The universalizing imperative of scientistic method insists on the use of the vehicular language – the worldwide language of “everywhere” – for the transmission and commercial exchange of a scientistic apoliticism.  Honan and Bright 2016: 736

Bright, writing at two different stages of his doctoral research journey, said firstly, this:

This study will adopt a qualitative multiple case study approach to investigate and map the discourses which produce NEST subjectivities. Four individual teachers will be chosen as cases and will be observed and interviewed in the school. Additional interviews will be conducted with students, the school principal and non-native English-speaking teachers, and documentary artefacts will be collected to provide contextual information about the site in which these NEST identities are enacted. Honan and Bright 2016: 737

This text, Honan and Bright tell us, was “written for confirmation of the candidature, has a formal tone, high modality, and “gives them what they ask for”, transmitting order words in a direct and precise signifying account of research methodology (Honan and Bright 2016: 737).” Some time later, Bright wrote this:

I have worried a lot (can you tell?) about what I could legitimately name this methodology. Naming seems such a final act. An attempt (however futile) to halt the endless play of signifiers. An act of violence, determination, fixity, and closure. An act that privileges presence and being, instead of absence and becoming. Naming seems to suggest that I do know, then, what should be done, how one might be, and what one should do. It seems to suppress or forget the doubt and uncertainty which above all else has characterised my thinking about methodology, and that undermines my attempts at knowing. It seems almost unethical to me.  Honan and Bright 2016: 737

The following paragraph was from my own PhD research proposal in 2014:

The unique aspect of this research is in using ethnographic data to form and justify a future philosophical position.  A literature review will detect ‘existential threats’ to extant musical ontologies and epistemologies and focus the data-gathering phase.  What musicians and consumers of music actually do (and plan to do) determines ontologies.  This empirical work will include: surveys, analysis of forums, website traffic data, and interviews.  I will use two musical genres as exemplars of the general process; string quartets and, in contrast, contemporary music composed with the aid of computer programs.  Regarding the quartet genre, data will be gathered from the members of two ensembles, associated personnel and their consumers.  For computer-aided music, composers and programmers will be interviewed in addition to performers.  Technologists working with broadcast, podcast, recorded and streamed music will be an important data source.  Interviews must be of sufficient number to give statistically justifiable results. Hewitt 2014. CHASE DTP funding application

It easy to see how similar in style and modality my paragraph is to Bright’s first quoted paragraph above.  Bright’s second paragraph, Honan and Bright tell us, “makes use of the rhetorical devices of questioning, ellipses and repetition to construct more tentative, fluid “prose”, perhaps making moves into the referential and mythical languages, sensing that language itself cannot contain the world (ibid.,: 737)”  The question is, would I now set out my proposed methodology in quite the terms of the paragraph I quoted above?  Having done the research, is another slant required? If “the ontological framework is one of rhizome,” then “the relations are laid out so that these languages (or discourses) form a network, an assemblage of discursive practices, the edge of one language always in encounter with the edge of another in a double becoming that changes both (Sutton & Martin-Jones, 2008) (quoted in Honan and Bright 2016: 737).” How, then, to write rhizomatically?  Regarding her own doctoral thesis (2001), Honan says this:

First, the actual construction and ordering of the text followed the traditional mandates in that there was roughly an introduction, a discussion of methodology, a literature review, data analysis and conclusion. But, at the same time, each of the chapters of the thesis focused on a different tuber, a different middle, while still providing connections to other tubers, other parts of the rhizome. It is possible to read the text moving across particular plateaus (the data-analysis chapters) along lines of flight to other plateaus (the introduction and conclusion). There are connections, not only of linguistic devices but also between conceptual themes, that allow different pathways to be followed through the text.

Second, and of much more importance to me as a writer, was the validity afforded by rhizomatic thinking for the genre-blurring and transgressive type of text that I constructed.  Honan 2007: 533

She says, “Writing rhizomatically afforded me not only the possibility of blurring the linguistic boundaries of what is formally known as a thesis text but also allowed me to write my[selves] in to the text (ibid.: 535).”  Importantly, regarding understanding texts as rhizomes, Honan says this:

I began my doctoral journey on a familiar and comfortable path. I understood that texts were constructed through the use of various discursive systems, and I was comfortably assured in my ability to undertake a discursive analysis of the Queensland English Syllabus. I understood that such an analytic approach would involve the ‘teasing apart’ of various discursive threads within the texts, and began to think of the texts as a tapestry that I would carefully unpick. But when one does unpick a tapestry, the result is usually a jumbled tangle of short and disconnected threads. It seemed to me that the discursive threads in the syllabus texts were connected, and that such connections helped readers make plausible readings of these texts.

The ways in which discourses connected to each other and others, through the rhizome of the text and following lines of flight into other rhizomes, made sense to me when I began to think of these discursive systems as plateaus, in that they are particular assemblages of meaning that inform others and each other, that do not stand alone (do not stand in the immovable sense at all), and only make sense when read within and against each other. Honan 2007: 536

In her rhizomatically constructed 2009 thesis, Sellers says this:

beginning~a note for the reader 

Nothing ever ‘begins,’ it only has tentative links to what has gone before and what is yet to come – threads (e)merging from/with/in heterogeneous space-times of past~present~future in mo(ve)ments of middles. Uncertainly, the middle of this thesis is a processing through questions-without- answers, any pending ‘answer’ embodying another question, signalling partiality, decentring expert authority, speeding up the intensity. And, an ‘ending’ is but a momentary pause of speed, ebbing only until the flow again picks up speed, back/through/in/to the middle…(sigh)…so (deep breath) how, where do I start with my desire to generate mo(ve)ments towards conceiving of early childhood curriculum that welcomes young children as young people with views, opinions and understandings that are regarded as significant as those of adults to generating curricular performances authentic to the worlds children live~learn with/in and to social, ethical, political operations of wider worlds? This big question becomes a big picture in a never beginning~ending middle of ideas, difficult to negotiate, or so it seems.  Sellers 2009: 6

Sellers’s thesis eschews a conventional chaptered construction.  During her research and data-gathering, as well as in writing the thesis-assemblage, she utilises a “variety of imaginaries […] to perturb linearity towards generating an assemblage, a collection of conversations about connecting ideas presented as plateaus that have neither beginning nor end, origin or destination (ibid.: 7).”  She says,

Like rhizome, an assemblage is heterogenous, is always in the middle, unconcerned with points, made only of lines of movement and speed (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). From these opening moments, thesis is thus sous rature, the assemblage being comprised not of sequential chapters, but of plateaus to be read in any order. Ibid.: 7

Neither was the writing of the thesis-assemblage straightforward.

My choice of presenting the plateaus follows my line(s) of flight through the research processes and the project itself. While there was an opening line of flight, processing with/through the writing was not linearly straightforward, rather, it involved much to-ing and fro-ing in many directions, often all-at- once, as I (re)turned to (re)work various pieces, expressions and characterisations. Ibid.: 7

She presents the reader with a series of maps, as possible guides to reading the thesis-assemblage.

Screenshot 2017-04-04 17.09.13

The figure suggests four routes through the material, but others are possible.

This figure situates the plateaus in the rhizome (but it is arbitrary).

Screenshot 2017-04-04 17.16.47

 Mapping milieu(s) Sellers 2009: vii

My own research involves the construction of assemblage maps too.  This is one possible assemblage of a rhizo-analysis of some of my ethnographic data.

Broadhurst Musical Influences Aesthetics Network Diagram

Whilst examples of rhizomatic theses are thin on the ground, those that are extant provide good examples of an approach to writing-up research material which has been conceived, gathered and analysed from a Deleuzian perspective.  It is an approach which I am definitely considering.


Deleuze, G. (1995). Negotiations: 1972–1990 (M. Joughin, Trans.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari, (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Honan, E. (2007). Writing a rhizome: an (im)plausible methodology. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20, 531–546.

Honan, E. and D. Bright (2016). “Writing a thesis differently.” In International Journal of Studies in Education. 25 (5), 731-743

Koro-Ljungberg, M. and L. Mazzei,  (2012). “Problematizing methodological simplicity in qualitative research: Editors’ introduction”. In Qualitative Inquiry, 18, 728-731

Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. London: Routledge.

Sellers, M.A. (2009).  Re(con)ceiving children in curriculum: Mapping (a) milieu(s) of becoming. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Queensland. [A version here: https://issuu.com/gfbertini/docs/re_con_ceiving_children_in_curriculum_-_mapping__a ]

St. Pierre, E. a. (2011). “Post qualitative research: The critique and the coming after.” In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (4th ed., pp. 611–625). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sutton, D. and D. Martin-Jones, (2008). Deleuze reframed: A guide for the arts student. London: I. B. Tauris

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Research Review February 2017 – In Media Res


It is three years since I submitted my research proposal to the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.  The proposal was (and is) titled: Cyborg Music: A Future Musicotechnographic Aesthetic.  The research question it introduced was: Will current and future developments in music’s interface with an exponential expansion of technology lead to a new musical aesthetic?  There are a number of assumptions underlying the title and the research question which perhaps need a little in the way of explication and justification.  I hoped to show that all music is produced by cyborgs, that amalgam of human beings with technological tools which Andy Clark calls “human-technology symbionts (2003: 3).”  If all humans are cyborgs and music is only made by humans then all music is made by cyborgs. The fact that music is produced by cyborgs makes the case for an interface between music and technology.  The question becomes one of determining to what extent the technological side of this symbiosis is critical to any aesthetic appreciation of those musics. By musicotechnographic I meant no more than writing about aspects of the music produced by the human-technology symbionts.  I use the term exponential in the sense of an ever-increasing non-linear rate of growth.

Cyborg was a word which seemed, successfully, to capture the (funding) Zeitgeist.  But as time has passed, I am left wondering more and more whether the term “cyborg” is tautologous when used in conjunction with the term “human”. And, of course, “aesthetic opens a can of worms and is the proper subject matter of the entire thesis.  At the time I wrote the question, I was using “aesthetic” in a conventional analytical way, in the sense that has been passed down from enlightenment thinkers, from Kant to Scruton.  This would be a parochial position.  I am now more inclined to be thinking about “aesthetic” in terms of its original etymology, aisthesis (αἴσθησις), a much broader sense of “perception” than is allowed for in the enlightenment derivation and usage.  A fundamental flaw in the enlightenment-derived aesthetic is its acknowledgement of a transcendent / immanent dyad.  This thinking descends from the Platonic Kantian notions of noumena and phenomena.  I have never believed in such a dichotomy.  To posit the transcendental noumenal is anti-Occamist and does not provide what Deutsch would call a “good explanation (2011: vii).”  What is required is an epistemology based upon a monadic ontology, a monadic recognition of the immanence of everything that there is, with no place for the transcendent.  In short, an aesthetic rooted firmly in this world.

O’Sullivan (2006) eschews an art history predicated on the object, a practice which relies on “ideological critique and semiotic approaches (2006: 7).”  Musicology, too, has been so predicated.  Pace O’Sullivan, I shall explore the Deleuzian notion of “affect” (which involves aisthesis, directly) in describing an immanent aesthetic.  So fundamental is this concept of affect through aisthesis that Shaviro, developing Whitehead’s thought, describes aesthetics as “first philosophy (2014: 13).”

If there is a “golden thread” running through this thesis, it is the thought and writing of Gilles Deleuze.  During the eight years or so that I have been reading his work (and also his writing in collaboration with Félix Guattari) I have followed the exhortation in A Thousand Plateaus to read widely and to follow lines of flight to new territories, new writers and thinkers.  The potential cross-reference of though and ideas has as many synapses as the human brain.  But having mulled over the implications for my thesis, I constantly return to the Deleuzian concepts of the plane of immanence, de- and reterritorialisation, lines of flight, and assemblages.  And so it is with those concepts as the fibres of the golden thread that I am now revisiting my previous writing and embarking on the new, relying upon secondary literature insofar as it supports the central thrust of my thesis, and taking issue with that literature where it does not so support.  I am not uncritical of Deleuze.  For instance, I do not believe that Deleuze and Guattari give sufficient consideration to the entangled nature of strata and the lines of flight that de- and reterritorialise them.  There are no territories, no strata, which manifest themselves ex nihilo.  But that is not to say that assemblages are not novel, they almost always are.  I will describe an Entangled Network Space to accommodate this thinking.

A major concern for me at the moment is that of style.  All of my academic writing to date has had a certain scholarly style, relying on the conventions required of such work.  I should like to do justice to the spirit of Deleuzian writing.  As O’Sullivan says, “We need to repeat the energy and style of his writings without merely representing his thought (2006: 3).”  Of course, footnotes and in-line citations leading to bibliographic references are themselves lines of flight, so that is a start!  I want the thesis to be rhizomatic.  It is, after all, an assemblage.  So I am, as usual, in media res, which is not a bad place to be.  This is just as well, since one can never actually be anywhere else.

Works (Lines of Flight):

Clark, A., 2003. Natural-born cyborgs : why minds and technologies are made to merge. New York: Oxford University Press

O’Sullivan, S., 2006. Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Shaviro, S., 2014. The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism. Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press

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Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari – Simon O’Sullivan

Just before Christmas, Serendipity crossed my path, shook me by the hand and said, “Have one on me!”  I had chanced upon a tweet from someone in my Doctoral Training Partnership alerting me to a too-good-to-be-true offer from the academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan.  Well, as it happened, it was true.  They were offering £30 off any of their titles with free postage.  I rummaged through their catalogue and in the philosophy section I saw Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari | Thought Beyond Representation by Simon O’Sullivan.

9781403918093 At £27 my online order generated an invoice for the grand total of £0.00 and a few days later the package, from Heidelberg, dropped onto my doormat. “’Na fargen!” as they say in these parts.  See how The Fates their gifts allot.

I have more than my fair share of the burgeoning secondary literature on the work of Deleuze and Guattari and my thesis is heavily influenced by their thought, so the fact that I hadn’t come across Professor O’Sullivan’s work before might be considered surprising.  I suppose it must be down to the ghettoisation of academia.  O’Sullivan works primarily in the orbit of art history while my own research is based within music and musicology.  But, in another life, I am a painter and so, equipped with my undergraduate knowledge of art history, I took the plunge.

It is commonly acknowledged (even by them!) that the work of D&G is phenomenally difficult to read.  Many of the secondary commentaries and analyses of their work fall into the trap of parroting their complex prose, which does little to aid understanding of the underlying concepts.  Helpfully, O’Sullivan says,

It seems to me to be of critical importance to keep alive a certain style of Deleuze’s thought without over-academicising his writings or endlessly repeating his own words.  We need to repeat the energy and style of his writings without merely representing his thought. (3)

Representing (or, more precisely, representing) is, for O’Sullivan a cardinal sin in aesthetics.  It is the ultimate territorialisation and leads to stasis.

O’Sullivan begins with a quote from Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: “Something in the world forces us to think.  This something is an object not of recognition but of a fundamental encounter (DR 139).”  It is just such a critical, thought-provoking encounter that I have undergone in the last three days in reading O’Sullivan’s book, consumed in one extended sitting with pauses only for rest and refreshment.  He ends by saying, “I hope very much that the book will have operated as a productive case study of one particular encounter with Deleuze and with art.  If it moves any one reader to read Deleuze further and to conduct their own transversal experiments, then it will have more than served its purpose (155).”  It has so moved me.  Let me elaborate on the material therein between those opening and closing remarks which has done so. img_1777 In the spirit of rhizomatics, my remarks are in no particular order.  They are snapshots of lines of flight from my reading, which, as you can see from the photograph of the annotated pages, were many.

In my own writing I am attempting to knit some of Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) thinking into a description of a metaphysical aesthetic space, which I call Entangled Network Space.  The problem has been in trying to find a methodology which shies away from simply trying to plug examples directly into a Deleuzian framework (like some kind of DeLandan assemblage).  O’Sullivan counsels against such an approach.  He says, “One might be able to extract such a method or system but this would be to render Deleuze’s thought inoperative, to freeze it in, and as, a particular image of thought, to capture its movement, precisely to represent it (3).”  He strives for an anti-static approach, as do I, by, “jumping from one aspect of Deleuze’s thought to another, picking up the same threads in different contexts and repeating key notions with different emphases (3).”  But does it work?  Concerning the ideal book, D&G say that it would consist in, “lay[ing] everything out […] on a single page, the same sheet: lived events, historical determination, concepts, individuals, groups, social formations… The war machine*-book against the State-apparatus-book (ATP 10).”  But such an idealised single-sheet manifesto does not a real book or PhD thesis make.  So onward.

In Chapter 1, O’Sullivan tackles the topic which is at the heart of Deleuze’s thinking (and, in conjunction with Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus) the Rhizome.  He says that the style of ATP is “[…] at odds with much academic writing, especially that utilised by art theory (and I would include musicological theory here), inasmuch as its modus operandi is affirmation and creation rather than negation and critique (9).”  This is an uncoded jibe at the deconstructionist writings of those O’Sullivan labels the “signifier enthusiasts (10).”  “Style” is a word O’Sullivan chooses deliberately in that description, because as he points out in Chapter 2, it is, for Deleuze and Guattari, fundamental to what elevates art from brute matter, something which is intrinsic to art qua art.  It is style which, in conjunction with brute matter, induces the affect which constitutes the aesthetic.

It is style that organises matter.  Style that takes lived perceptions and affects into the realm of art: “in each case style is needed – the writer’s syntax, the musician’s modes and rhythms, the painter’s lines and colours – to raise lived perceptions to the percept and lived affections to the effect.” Quoting D&G What is Philosophy: 170 (53)

The beauty (or style) of D&G’s metaphorical rhizome is its lack of hierarchical privilege; its opposition to arboreal structuring, the root-like and tree-like thinking which pervades Western thought and culture.  The rhizome is anti-analytic.

It is a flat system in which the individual nodal points can be, and are, connected to one another in a non-hierarchical manner.  A rhizome, then, fosters transversal connections and communications between heterogenous locations and events. (12)

With this concept understood, the writings of other “connectionist” thinkers, DeLanda, Latour, Vitale, and even Hodder fall into place.

Writing over ten years ago now, before the advent of the iPhone, O’Sullivan outlines the importance of the development of the web in being a technology which is a “space of creativity, invention and expression (13).”  The web is, he says, “paradigmatically a rhizome (ibid.).”  Technological interaction marks the transition from monads to nomads, such is its power to connect.  The nomadic turn.  It is a moment in human evolution which sees a new folding; “prosthetic technologies involve the folding of silicon technologies ‘into’ our carbon ones (142).”  O’Sullivan likens this “turn” to Bourriaud’s “relational aesthetics”.

[…] we might position the system of arts in general as rhizomatic, each of the arts, and indeed each individual art work, connecting, or having the potential to connect, to every other.  In fact, the arts themselves might be said to be in rhizomatic contact and communication with other man-made, or indeed, ‘natural’ systems. (13)

Of course, Clark (2003) has pointed out that humans have always been cyborgs, “Natural-born”, so the nomadic turn might have been around for a very long time.  A rhizomatic approach, then, leads to “a mapping out of the parameters, via the rhizome, of an expanded art practice, between art and its participants, and between art and art history (14).”  Such an approach in musicological terms is precisely what Small (1998) describes as “Musicking”.  We might coin the generic term “Arting” regarding the arts in general.  O’Sullivan describes the rhizomatic connections between different milieus and registers as a creative smearing (17).  It is an active process with more than a little of the element of bricolage about it.  He says, “Again, we might note here the importance of the Internet for many artistic collaborations in this sense – the production of micro communities and local alliances even on a global scale (18).”  In their paper Bricolage Programming in the Creative Arts, McLean and Wiggins (2010) describe the early days of algorithmic music programming, calling practitioners bricoleurs.  McLean’s subsequent and current work in the field of live-coded music and the development of the worldwide Algorave community is a paradigm example of the utilisation of new technologies fostering rhizomatic connections between “different milieus and registers”.  McLean (2017) says, “Live coding is not a genre, or a set of tools, but a community of diverse practices.”

“Art here is less a label for an object than a name for a specific kind of coupling (23).”  This is important for arting and musicking.  It places the aesthetic experience and, therefore, artistic meaning, firmly at the conjunction of art object and beholder (or auditor).

It is not just our art-machine that produces these effects, but our art-machine in conjunction with a subject-machine.  For the signification effect, or indeed the aesthetic effect, does not come from the object, but from the object being confronted by (coupled with) a beholder. (22)

Of course, this conjunction is a real-world experience.  It is immanent.  This fact is a counter to those such as Dodd and Scruton who would claim that the meaning of an artwork is something intrinsic to it and that which lies partly in some transcendent realm. It doesn’t.

This notion of multiplicity then announces a different attitude to the world; an understanding of the latter as a plane of immanent connectivity and complexity.  Indeed, this multiplicity is not going on ‘elsewhere’, in some other ‘place’, but is here, in our world, albeit ‘seen’ differently.  (28)

Artworks such as statues and paintings are obviously objects, music less obviously so.  After all, where is the musical object when it is not before our ears?  Lydia Goehr (2007) describes the historical processes by which music came to be objectified in canonical works; exhibits in the “Imaginary Museum”.  O’Sullivan says,

[…] it is a determining feature of the contemporary work that it is obviously destined for the museum (collection, conservation, exhibition) and for the museum audience.  This approach is implied in any ‘theory’ of art, for the theory is made only of objects, in order to determine them.  But the work is not merely a cultural object.  (39)

O’Sullivan suspects

that a kind of rhizomatics has always been going on in between the various objects and practices of canonical art history; a secret and nomadic art history of sensation and becoming, and that likewise, art practice when it truly is an art practice, is always already rhizomatic.  (36)

Rhizomatics will free the exhibits from the museum cage, virtual or otherwise.  Regarding affects in art, in art history (and musicology) “where deconstructive approaches, let alone semiotic ones, to art have become hegemonic, their existence and their central ‘role’ in art needs asserting (43).”  And in this affective, participative encounter with art, as a dynamic process, we,

as representative creatures ourselves, are involved in a dance with art, a dance in which, through careful manoeuvres, the molecular is opened up, the aesthetic is activated and art does what is its chief modus operandi.  It transforms, if only for a moment, our sense of our ‘selves’ and our experience of our world.  (50)

Sullivan’s 4th chapter, From “Geophilosophy to Geoaesthetics” has some very useful material from my perspective.  He labels it as

an experiment in taking Deleuze’s philosophical concepts into other milieus (and in allowing the latter to feed back on Deleuze).  It is in this sense that the artistic ‘case studies’ are meant not as illustration but as parallels to, and in some senses deviations from, the conceptual work.  They also serve to demonstrate that art is a form of thought in and of itself.  (98)

My own research also involves some ethnographic case studies, what I have termed ‘vignettes’.  O’Sullivan’s approach will have lessons for my approach to the vignette material.   O’Sullivan emphasises Deleuze’s thought on the importance of the immanent as a foil to the lazy thinking of the doxa.

In short, the first philosophers are those who institute a plane of immanence like a sieve stretched over chaos.  In this sense they contrast with sages, who are religious personae, priests, because they conceive of the institution of an always transcendent order imposed from outside… Whenever there is transcendence, vertical being, imperial State in the sky or on earth, there is religion; and there is philosophy whenever there is immanence. (WP 43, quoted (111))

Religion and a transcendent worldview, then, can offer no proper explanation of art and the aesthetic.  Confronting this doxatic, theoretical, opinion amounts to nothing more significant than “pleasant or aggressive dinner conversations at Mr Rorty’s (WP 144 (112)).”  Non-philosophers are but “functionaries” who enjoy a “ready-made thought (113),” the quasi thoughts of the doxa (112).  Instituting the plane of immanence is a “survival mechanism” which “will allow thought and creativity to unfurl (114).” It is the life raft which saves us when the ship of transcendence sinks beneath us.

In the 5th chapter, “Possible Worlds to Future Folds”, O’Sullivan talks about certain philosophical concepts, the monad and the fold, making reference to the paintings of Gerhard Richter.  This interests me, not least since some of my own paintings have been inspired by Richter’s abstract works.


Pink Plank by Tom Tomos

He labels this another experimental approach; to construct a Deleuze-Richter conjunction, to set each alongside the other and in so doing to produce a new kind of assemblage between the two (121).  It would be a rich vein, which O’Sullivan acknowledges in his footnote, would require another book to do it justice.  Art considered as actual landscape (even abstractedly) proves a powerful metaphor for a “region of being (122).”  A canvas, whether “blank” (which it never is) or painted upon is a metaphor for the plane of immanence.  Richter says,

The invention of the readymade seems to me the invention of reality, in other words the radical discovery that reality in contrast with the view of the world image is the only important thing.  Since then painting no longer represents reality but is itself reality (produced by itself).  And sometimes or other it will again be a question of denying the value of this reality in order to produce pictures of a better world (as before). (RIC 124, quoted (127))

This alone ought to stop the doxatic question, “But what is it a picture of?”  Sadly, it does not.  The empty canvas isn’t; it is full of promise.  “Painting then becomes a process of subtraction from Leibniz’s ‘dark background’,  the black dust of the imperceptible (130).”  O’Sullivan says that this is a distinctive feature of Deleuze’s and Leibniz’s ontology, “An ontology of fullness, of plenitude, of which ‘the world’ as we ‘see’ it is an abstraction/subtraction (130).”  The air is alway already pregnant with music.

I have said nothing about O’Sullivan’s excursus into the workings of the Red Army Factions in Chapter 3, “Art and the Political”.  He uses the activities of the terror group to make valid points about D&G’s idea of the major and minor.  I noticed parallels in this discussion with what Barrett says in After Sound (2016) concerning the music collective Wandelweiser, who are still a major force (albeit without guns and explosives) in the minor.

These words have been but one salami slice as a line of flight through O’Sullivan’s book.  There are very many others slices to cut.  As a work to engage the thinking of anybody who is working at the conjunction of Deleuze and aesthetics, it is a “must read”.  One note on style.  The book contains 62 pages of endnotes.  O’Sullivan explains why he has done this.  I found myself reading two parallel texts the whole time, since there is probably no page which doesn’t have a referential note.  I found the notes so informative and germane to the text that they could easily have been included in the flow of the overall narrative.  Lines of flight are one thing, but authors and editors could make things easier on the eye and the thumb.

*For “war machine”, read “metamorphosis machine”.  Much nicer!


Barrett, G.D.  2016.  After Sound: Toward a Critical Music. London: Bloomsbury

Clark, A. 2003. Natural-born cyborgs: why minds and technologies are made to merge. New York: Oxford University Press

Goehr, L.  2007.  The imaginary museum of musical works: an essay in the philosophy of music. Rev. edn. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press

McLean, A. and G. Wiggins. 2010.  Bricolage Programming in the Creative Arts.  Paper presented at the 22nd Psychology of Programming Interest Group

McLean, A. 2017.  Live Coding. Website accessed online 6 January 2017 (https://medium.com/@yaxupaxo/live-coding-1eb06f0ddf26#.rmfe7f9w5)

O’Sullivan, S. 2006.  Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Small, C.  998. Musicking: the meanings of performing and listening. Hanover; London: University Press of New England

Works quoted by O’Sullivan:

(DR) Deleuze, G. 1994.  Difference and Repetition, Trans. P. Patton.  New York: Columbia University Press

(ATP) Deleuze, G and F. Guattari. 1988.  A Thousand Plateaus, Trans. B. Massumi.  London: Athlone Press

(WP) Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari. 1994.  What is Philosophy?, Trans. H. Tomlinson and G. Burchell.  London: Verso

(RIC)  Richter, G. 1991b.  ‘Notes 1996-1990’ (sic.), Gerhard Richter.  London: Tate Gallery

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(Probably not) the introduction to my thesis

The rhizome is an antigenealogy (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 23).  This thesis is rhizomatic.  It can be read genealogically, but that would be to miss the point.  When we write of hypotheses, methodologies, conclusions and bibliographies, such writing sometimes resembles nothing more than a description of a high-school science experiment.  To engage with this resemblance would be a static reading, isochronous, frozen in time.  A better reading is dynamic, heterochronic and diachronic.  At risk of instant contradiction, this thesis is about entanglements and disentanglements, comings and goings.  That is the nature of the space, real and metaphorical, in which we live.   Endings are coloured by beginnings and beginnings by endings.  There are no monads, only (ever-changing) assemblages.

This thesis is about things which are about cyborg music. The thesis and its putative subject exist in Entangled Network Space.  It starts with this conclusion.  It is about music.  And humans.  And technology.  And philosophy.  And time.  And, and, and.  The constant conjunctions of and, of and, of and.  An assemblage is composed of ands, and the ands come and they go.  And further ands change the ands.  Entangled Network Space is full of voids; andless spaces waiting to be filled by ands and voids which the ands have vacated.  It is a space of possibilities.  It owes its existence to the real and the real owes its existence to it.  It is the immanent, one truly flat ontological space, where being and non-being are equivalent.

The writing has a chronological flow, but it is full of heterochronic wormholes, which may be traversed at the speed of memory or of Google-thought.  They are mental footnotes.  It radiates and is irradiated.  All writing is like this.  It is the New Writing in the Hyperconnected Age.



Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari 2004.  A thousand plateaus : capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Continuum

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Thinking about conferences as places for thinking

Since I shall (with a fair following wind) be submitting my PhD thesis next year at the age of 60, I am immune to many of the pressures faced by senior academics and ECRs alike which Richard Ashcroft describes here. I’m not looking to pursue a career in the groves of academe and so I am lucky enough to follow my nose in terms of future research. But his description of the “conference-as-we-know-it” rings true. Perhaps our time is better spent sailing… or at the cricket!

Show and Tell

In this post, Richard Ashcroft reflects on the shortcomings of academic conferences. 

For a long time, I have been doing my work without going to conferences. Like going to bed early, this is perhaps why I do a lot of reflecting on (academic) life rather than participating in it. In the first half of my academic career I used to go to conferences a lot. But I now have very mixed feelings about them. Here I want to explore some of the reasons why I find conferences problematic.

Let me start by saying why I used to go to so many. In part this was because there was a time when I went to none at all. When I was a graduate student I was fortunate enough to be at a university which was considered a destination for the world’s academics, where famous names and rising stars would come on…

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Retrieving Realism: A Whiteheadian Wager

Re-blogging Matthew Seagall’s piece here. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Whiteheadian position he outlines in this article.

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Ontology supervenient upon epistemology: a question…

Can anyone unpack Quine’s slogan a bit?

“[Quine] holds, quite generally, that we should not postulate entities without having clear identity-criteria for them. (This is the view that he sums up in the slogan “no entity without identity” (1969: 23. Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, New York: Columbia University Press)) in Hylton 2014 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/quine/#QuiEpi

I’m looking for support for the notion that ontology is supervenient upon epistemology. All pointers, one way or the other, welcome.

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