ESR 5 Blog July 2021: Claude Nassar

Reflections On Sound And Music Production

Ever since I can remember the way to go through my daily maths homework in high school was to put on some music. Not any particular type of music, but any kind of rhythmic composition that would take over the space, or rather, transport me to a space where doing maths exercises stops being the soul sucking drill that the mind blunting Lebanese school system intended them to be. By transporting the whole act of doing homework to a different affective space through sound, I was able to work without working.[1]

In  ‘1837: On The Refrain’ from A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari speak of the spatial property of sound (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988); the way sound and its intensities define our territory and establish the limits of our home. The upstairs neighbour’s footsteps as they rush to work every morning, the neighbour next door chopping the ingredients of their dinner, or the neighbour on the other side singing the tunes of their home country, or the deep smudgy noises of the city that establishes the sonic ground upon which the landscape takes shape, in relation to the sounds of our life. Deleuze and Guattari speak of music as an emergent order from within absolute chaos;[2] a rhythm. Every time we think, every time we become conscious we move from absolute chaos to relative order. This movement is accompanied with a movement from pre-conscious relational processes to conscious thought—a slowing down: the more relative, the more ordered thought is, the more conscious it can be, the more controllable it becomes. I’m interested in these embodied spatialities that allow affective movements/changes at higher speeds. The pre-conscious, pre-linguistic ground from which consciousness, significance, thought, and language emerge. Spaces that are grounded in the body, in its material position/conditions and its relations with its human and non-human environment.

In the introduction to Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes Maria Lugonese speaks of a spatiality of resistances and a spatiality of dominations. A spatiality of dominations is mapped by power: “your spot lies at the intersection of all the spatial venues where you may, must, or cannot live or move.” “There is no ‘you’ there except a person spatially and thus relationally conceived through your functionality in terms of power” (Lugonese, 2003). An abstract space where the ‘trueness’ of the abstracted ‘you’ is predetermined in terms of power relations that insures the conceptual separation of resistance and domination, restricting the movement of the dominated ‘you’ while ensuring the expansion of movement of the dominating ‘you’ in compliance with power. According to Lugonese, transgression of this spatiality of dominations—resistance—can be felt with the above thought experiment that allows you to witness the collapse of the abstracted ‘you’ that dominates and is dominated and the embodied you that senses, recognises, and moves through “the spatiality of your everydayness,” that moves with power in spatialities of dominations, or moves against the grain of power in spatialities of resistance.[3]

The transformation/movements of these embodied spatialities through different affective means from architecture, to algorithmic assemblages, to collective artistic practices informs the possible worlds that we can access by modulating the materiality of the body on both the micro and the macro level. From here, artistic practices, modes of being together, and even the intermeshing of digital technologies in between social relations, manifest their political potentiality. Art (blocks of affect) opens a line of interaction with this (pre-signifying) embodied ‘spatiality of your everydayness’ that expands before and beyond consciousness,[4] by allowing you to become more open to the modulation of affects; a modulation of the embodied spatialities from which thought can emerge, changing the landscapes of possibilities accessible to us through the resonance of the state of the body with artistic affects.

Music—both producing music and listening to it—have been helping me develop my understanding of fundamental concepts to my research by working through them, constructing affective spatialities, and dwelling in them. At the same time this process of active embodied exploration is allowing me to theorise embodied ways of thinking and doing research. I plan to expand on the ways sound synthesis and music production is helping me in exploring complex ideas in the coming months as I further familiarise myself with this process. Until then you can check some of my sonic experiments on the following link:

  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1988. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Athlone Press.
  • Lugones, Maria. 2003. Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

[1]                    In the context of school this escape was accompanied with a necessary degree of guilt that goes with any attempt to escape the enclosures of Modernised/Westernised societies.

[2]                    The absolute experience of continuous relationalities in between the organismic body and its social (human and non-human, living and non-living) extensions; the experience of our bodies undisturbed by our deceptively certain/reductive consciousness.

[3]                    This paragraph is part of my active attempt of working through and understanding these concepts.

[4]                    A space that simultaneously shapes history and is shaped by it, yet unfolds outside of it. Or more accurately phrased our embodied experience of the world, our everydayness as Lugonese mentions, or the event as Deleuze theorises, is not external to history as much as history is the everydayness seen from an external position that allows the aggregation of heterogeneous yet interlocked experiences of the world into a monistic whole.

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