Experimental practices of music and philosophy in John Cage and Gilles Deleuze

Campbell, Iain (2015) Experimental practices of music and philosophy in John Cage and Gilles Deleuze. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


In this thesis we construct a critical encounter between the composer John Cage and the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. This encounter circulates through a constellation of problems found across and between mid-twentieth century musical, artistic, and philosophical practices, the central focus for our line of enquiry being the concept of experimentation. We emphasize the production of a method of experimentation through a practice historically situated with regards to the traditions of the respective fields of music and philosophy. However, we argue that these experimental practices are not reducible to their historical traditions, but rather, by adopting what we term a problematic reading, or transcendental critique, with regards to historical givens, they take their historical situation as the site of an experimental departure. We follow Cage through his relation to the history of Western classical music, his contemporaries in the musical avant-garde, and artistic movements surrounding and in some respects stemming from Cage’s work, and Deleuze through his relation to Kant, phenomenology, and structuralism, in order to map the production of a practice of experimentation spanning music, art, and philosophy. Some specific figures we engage with in these respective traditions include Jean-Phillipe Rameau, Pierre Schaeffer, Marcel Duchamp, Pierre Boulez, Robert Morris, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young, Edmund Husserl, Maurice-Merleau-Ponty, Alain Badiou, and Félix Guattari. In so doing we seek to find between these practices points of both conjunction and disjunction which enrich our understanding of Cage’s and Deleuze’s work, and, more widely speaking, of the passage of twentieth century music and philosophy in general. Here we hope to make contributions to the fields of continental philosophy and music theory especially, and to open a point of engagement with the nascent field of sound studies.

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