How to create with and against Nietzsche a music box for blackness that is no longer a prelude to a deeper – more powerful – perhaps more evil – and more mysterious music, but the music itself: a non-music or a music utopia.


10 Nov , 2019  

A) Nietzsche and the music

Nietzsche’s work Die Geburt der Tragödie deals in depth with music. The book explains that the tragedy originated in the dithyrambos, where lyric poetry was danced and entered into the drama in which music was given the task of tuning the soul into the tragedy through the creation of harmony. The famous distinction between Dionysus and Apollo is constitutive for Nietzsche’s understanding of music. For Nietzsche, the Apollonian forms (dream images and appearances) are to be understood as symptoms of an underlying substrate, the Dionysian chaos (chaotic primordial cause). Apollo is the god of principium individuationis who defines the boundaries of the individual; he stands for the measure and the beautiful form in the Hellenic sense. Dionysus, on the other hand, is the god of intoxication and music, who destroys everything that has supposedly taken form. The Apollonian is associated with moderation and coercion, the Dionysian with excess (intoxication and superabundance; stream of life force that suddenly expresses itself). The former is concerned with the joys and beauty of appearances, the latter confronts us with terror and intoxication, with suffering and contradiction. The Apollonian celebrates the artist and the hero, while the Dionysian celebrates the dissolution of the individual in nature. The former stages the gallery of phenomena, images and illusions, the latter insists on the creation and destruction of phenomena. This is the common representation of Dionysus and Apollo.

Apollo and Dionysus are neither antipodes – they do not figure thesis and antithesis – nor can they be used for the Kantian distinction between thing itself and appearance. The relation between the two figures is certainly not dialectical either, otherwise the Dionysian would be abolished in a higher form. It is more about the relationship between being and becoming. The Dionysian is identified by the late Nietzsche with the Heraclitic becoming, and thus he says yes to war and opposition. The distinction is not a dualism, but an ontology of becoming, i.e. the process of creation and destruction in a powerful unity that precedes and transcends individuals, a unity that ultimately also explains how subjects and objects are articulated through a series of illusions, through the Apollonian. In the early work The Birth of Tragedy, Dionysus embodies the original mysterious unity. This consists of pre-individual forces and processes that drive natural becoming. Real is not identity and being, but becoming and difference, the differential forces that drive becoming.

Apollo and Dionysus, before becoming figures characterizing human artefacts such as music, are natural forces that break immanently out of nature itself, energies that directly express nature’s artistic impulses without the need for the mediation of the human artist. For Nietzsche, nature itself is an artist by forming and dissolving individuals, and art imitates nature, not by representing it, but by repeating the artistic impulses of nature. With regard to the immediate artistic being of nature, each artist is to be understood only as an imitator.

The Dionysian is not without its complement, the Apollonian, to have, because the One (original unity) has only in appearance an appearance. At every moment, the interpretation of the One into multiplicity becomes one, or, to put it another way, the separation between One and multiplicity coincides in artistic appearance. The will that here stands for the One, “gives birth to appearances in every smallest moment: which, as the non-reality, is also the non-existent, the non-existent, but the becoming, “1 The One expresses in its being a permanent becoming, but Nietzsche speaks in relation to the original unity in later years of the end of the One, because it translates itself into the other, namely appearances, into the organized multiplicity and the diversity of interpretation, although it knows that it makes diversity identical, which in itself is not identical. Nietzsche writes: “All unity is only unity as an organization and as an interplay…, thus a domination structure that means one, but is not one… “2 In Nietzsche’s linguistically oriented interpretation, then, the multiplicity is consequently united under the dominant perspective and under the dominant viewpoint of language.

B) Nietzsche and Deleuze

Deleuze thinks Nietzsche differently in the sense of a materialism of immanence. There is no duality or union to be reported here, only variations and differences of the univoken intensity. Deleuze’s becoming is located on the level of (open) totality and at the same time the continuous being is an immanence of everything, i.e. the one does not appear finite, but moves in the infinite undulations of the earth. The One always means One-All. Deleuze’s univocity is not completely differentiated from being, on the contrary, the unity of the One is expressed for Deleuze in all multiblen permutations of being. Deleuze’s univocal being is populated by infinite multiplicities. Or, to put it another way, every determined and finite event is relativized, and even the relative becoming is still relativized. The relative permutations or relative deterritorializations are based on absolute deterritorialization, virtual-real eternity.

Deleuze proposes against dialectics the entanglement of virtualization and actualization, and this could be related to the Nietzschean distinction (and unity) of the Dionysian and the Apollonian. For Deleuze, virtuality is not everything possible, but what is possible, was possible or will be possible in a specific time-space.3 The virtual/actual interconnections coexist by oscillating, in other words, a game of differences unwinds here. Deleuze inscribes the concept of differentiation into the difference between differentiation – difference as a determination of the idea or the virtual – and differentiation – actualization of an idea, whereby this is by no means a process of copying, but rather the scattering of virtual singularities (in their differential) on an plane of immanence, the virtual, dynamic field of forces, affects, passions and drives. The late Nietzsche speaks analogously of difference, power, tension and energies.

For Deleuze, the current is clear-broken, while the virtual is clear-dark; the latter holds the Dionysian idea. Deleuze also refers the virtual or the Dionysian to the musical or at least to sonic examples, such as the waterfall of the windmill or the sea near Leibniz. In Leibniz’s work, the clear emerges from the darkness, and he suspects Dionysus at the tip of the balance of perception – think of the sound of the sea, which is clear because differential relationships and singularities are captured, and at the same time dark because it is not yet differentiated, not yet differentiated. Or think of the water mill: on the one hand, its noise is part of the whole because it is no longer perceived, on the other hand, it is itself a whole that emerges from the rhythmic rattling of the mill wheel and the noise of the water. The Dionysian is the realm of the virtual, the fuzzy, the formless, and the flow of energies and forces that differentiate and actualize themselves in the Apollonian, but whose clarity still bears the traces of the Dionysian.

Nietzsche seems to offer an artistic creation that takes place in a double-folded process. While the erupting artistic energies (Apollo and Dionysus) find an image in the Apollonian fold (dream images), the Dionysian fold is characterized by the destruction of these images. The relationship between the folds eliminates the question which comes first, because the forces always contain and influence each other. The two opposing forces are thus brought into resonance by Nietzsche, whereby he prevents the subject from reaching fullness from becoming to being. The artist never arrives as an identical subject, because his being is repeatedly crushed in the struggle between Apollo and Dionysus. That is why Nietzsche does not speak of the artist, for he always comes too late as an imitator of the natural process that is realized in an end product, namely always after the event: the non-artist is one who imitates the process in his works of art. The artist’s ego is a fiction in the sense of modern aesthetics.4

Although the relationship between the two folds seems to be determined by a model/copy relationship, this relationship is not purely mimetic, but is characterized by the simulacrum, insofar as the passage between Apollo and Dionysus, between form and formlessness, is a simultaneous, continuous, and reversible process.5 Art cannot therefore actualize the immediate, but must point to the immediate. For Schopenhauer, this is the function of music. In Nietzsche’s case, the question of updating cannot be answered immediately. In the beginning, the Dionysian artist (music; unity of harmony, rhythm and logos) must have identified himself with the primary unity, the suffering of existence, its pain and contradictions. The Dionysian is pre-dominant in The Birth of Tragedy, whereby the pessimism

the affirmation and productivism of Socratic dialectic. If the music has delivered a correct repetition and casting of the world, then it produces another image of this unity as organized music. As an Apollonian dream inspiration, this music appears as a symbolic dream image. Nietzsche uses the analogy of the dream to explain the Apollonian (the artist’s pictorial activity). The reflection of the original pain in the music thus produces a second mirror as a specific symbol. The artist has already left his subjectivity to the Dionysian process. The image that now shows itself to him as identity is a dream scene that embodies the original pain and contradiction and is coupled with an original joy.

C) Nietzsche’s Black Music Hole

Nietzsche tells little about music. He speaks of pre-Dionysian music that concentrates on the waves and beat of rhythm, whose formative power serves in particular to represent apollinic states, while Dionysian music prefers the emotional component of sound, the flow of melody and harmony, but all this remains vague. There are at least two types of music for Nietzsche. One music is of the Dionysian type; here the musician is an embodiment of the original unity, i.e. he produces a copy of that original unity as music. If music cannot be imagined without mimesis, then Nietzsche’s relationship to resonance, distortion and noise must be considered. The other music is apollinic; it is added to the first type in a second mirror as a specific symbol. But the processes are also reversible. Chaos always requires the mediating representation in order to be thought of. For Nietzsche, the force of sound and the power of music are parts of the Dionysian (sound and harmony), although they cannot be heard and understood as music without their simultaneously Apollonian moment, which is identified in rhythm and metre.

The more tonal-harmonic quality of the Dionysian is tied to the more rhythmic-metric quality of the Apollonian. But why is the tone primary? Nietzsche genealogically derives the tone from the cry and intoxication and it always remains ambivalent within two organized time series, the horizontal and the vertical course (polyphony and harmony). It stands in relation and in tension to the preceding and following tone. At this point Nietzsche already knows the joyful sensation of dissonance.

The mimetic relationships of the two types of reflection are open to the simulacrum, which conveys the two types less than plays with them. Here the question arises how the (organized) music is related to the first type and whether it can still be heard as Dionysian music at all. There is no clear answer in Nietzsche as to whether the first type of music is audible, because it does not become clear how Nietzsche places the two types of music in a simulative relationship and how they are in resonance.6

Nietzsche’s relationship to the mimetic is not clear either. Music is always one step away from primary unity. It can only be heard if it makes itself audible as a form, being formed within dynamic models and relationships. For the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of music, the distinction between the unformed and the formed is crucial. Deterritorialization, in turn, brings with it a destructuring of the already articulated music (we are dealing here with de- and reterritorializations of noise) and leads to a state that is still audible, but no longer as organized music; this kind of music is more tied to mimesis and does not require representation. A pure material beyond musical structures generates sounds that become monotonous and non-signifying. Articulated sound is deterritorialized noise that has somehow been reterritorialized, but now the sound is absolutely deterritorialized. It doesn’t belong to any language of meaning, nor is it a song, although it may appear to be so. This is not about bringing the sound back into a framework of what is audible, but about thinking of it as undecidability (between what is audible and what is not). If one cannot theorize the first type of music, it is not because one cannot hear this music, but because it remains the unheard in the audible. Here, music asks for the direct, without updating it. The question of the direct is directed at something unthinkable or undecidable or at something that represents a new type of relation between the two areas between the real and the apparent, the will and the idea, the original and the copy: a problem of resonance and noise.

At this point, the thesis of metamorphosis creeps easily into the simulacrum, which is an immanent developmental principle that is updated by means of the musical term of the developing variation. A motivic germ cell develops into a musical piece through variation and translation. The polyphony is constitutive for this, uniting perspective complexity in the sense of bundling individual perspectives into an overall perspective. The polyphony organizes simultaneously horizontal course (melody) and vertical layering (harmony) by interlacing the two parts. However, this does not have to be harmonious and does not have to end in a single piece; rather, the dissonance and the piece work can have an effect, each already integrated into the event. But in a way this remains a process of reterritorialization.

The musical event is in time and its parameters are constituted by time: rhythm holds the quantized, intensely variable and undulating time; tone and harmony contain a qualitatively constructed time, while dynamics phrases time and condenses it into intensities and arcs of tension in the network of the musical event. The Dionysian music event no longer gives images, but creates transformations that do not allow conclusions about closed works.

Nietzsche also thinks of the event as a unity of art and festival, the latter being assigned three genealogical elements – intoxication, cruelty and sexuality. These three elements of the festival are the basis both for Nietzsche’s early remarks on music and for his later concept of a “physiology of art”. Nietzsche’s inclusion of cruelty to determine artistic activity pays homage to the Dionysian metaphor, which is characterized by the necessary togetherness of creation and the destruction of forms. For Deleuze, cruelty is described as “the being of sensation” as “demons, carriers of signs” that bring us thinking.7 Note how Deleuze’s main work Difference and Repetition begins with the lightning that flashes through the black sky and ends with the drops of the world swelling into a single ocean of excess.

The treatment of opposites, as it attempts to integrate the affirmation of every kind of suffering and negativity, represents an inclusive disjunction. In fact, Nietzsche describes Dionysian music “as the only counterforce against all will to deny life,” thus understanding pessimism as a consequence of the higher power and abundance of life that can afford the luxury of tragedy. Deleuze also often enough invalidates Nietzsche’s image of an all too gloomy pessimist.8 Deleuze likes to turn this image upside down and argues that Nietzsche is ultimately an unprecedented thinker of affirmation. Deleuze cannot erase the many moments of negativity that enrich Nietzsche’s work. Deleuze often focuses too much on Nietzsche’s aspects of creation, as illustrated in the passage of the fifty-eighth aphorism in Joyful Science: “Only as creators can we destroy the world! 9 Dissatisfied with Nietzsche’s implicit goal of destruction, Deleuze reverses the phrase to “destroy to create “10.

The decisive step forward is the non-dialectical negation introduced by Deleuze himself, the difference that operates as a distance between two exclusive paths. This leads to the figure of the exclusive disjunction, the non-relation between the first, second and third terms, insofar as the third, the nomadic term, does not synthesize the other two terms, but radically separates itself from them by striving for a relationship to the outside.11 For us, this outside is the generic black as Laruelle thinks.12

D) Black music

Only in relation to the black as kruptos, which is closed to being, can one understand what Laruelle understands by the black universe. There is a transition from the color black, which one can see, to black as a non-color, which one cannot see, even more so, a transition to a nothing to see, which one can see again. Black is the non-color, the non-existence of a non-universe that precedes the possibility of the universe. According to Laruelle, this idea of the black is a cosmological principle. Black is constitutive for thinking and its limits. Separated from the world of which we form a human, all-too-human image, and from the earth on whose surface we live, there is an indifferent, opaque, black universe. The black, which precedes the light, is the substance of the universe, that which fled from the world before the world was born into the world. But we are always tempted to see the universe as something that is out there, the factory of the universe that you can see and feel, or a color, a purely phenomenological blackness. On the other hand, the black in the non-universe is to be thought of, which was not temporally before the universe, nor will come in some kind of cataclysm. It’s always there, but you can’t see it even though you see it. Black stands for radical infinity, has always been ultra-black. In music, the black is produced in material processes that are always those of negation, clicking, rapping and clonking, in order to obtain a noisy music in which there is nothing to be heard, although one hears it. And only by subtracting from the system of (organized) music can one hear the generic reality of blackness. Alexander Galloway refers at this point to the Haitian Constitution of 1804, which states that regardless of their skin colour, all citizens are called black.13 This pure blackness no longer refers to slavery, to the poor or to the indebted worker. Rather, it is about radical justice. And this blackness even overrides the “black music” as it is defined today in journalism and pop business. Kodwo Eshun writes in his book Heller als die Sonne that the machine music of Underground Resistance is unblack.14 But it is unblack only in relation to the canon of pop music defined by the white journalist and, of course, the moral canon of gospel and R&B defined by the blacks. The generic black, on the other hand, is the condition for a new jukebox that makes the generic black universe sound. Music as and in the black box is oriented towards a future that is completely detached from the past and present. It clearly identifies what was and what is, but only to destroy it when it plays a future that has never been played before. Ultimately, however, the future remains closed to history and the world, even black.15 Generic blackness also denies the endless dynamics between Dionysian and Apollonian.

Nietzsche approaches the idea of blackness without ever reaching it. In his criticism of Wagner, he speaks of the fact that, by interpreting German music as an expression of Dionysian superabundance, he overestimated the German essence, did not understand the source of modern darkening, and lacked a cultural-historical understanding of the origins of modern music.16 A music oriented towards the south is no longer German music, but “the prelude to a deeper, more powerful, perhaps more evil and more mysterious music. “17

This more evil and mysterious music refers to a new black music; it leads to a dangerous music (beyond good or evil) and culminates in an aesthetics of truth that is to be understood as sound that invents a direct sense of the real (noise). Hearing, too, is now directly in the real of music. There is a short circuit of the typical circle “composers create music and listeners interpret music” to announce. There may be a circularity, but in the tension of forces that are musical and audible, the two areas are irreducible to each other at the same time. The relation is a non-relation, it shows the access to the real in music. The non-musical aspect of all music is an a-synthetic relation between two things, a relation without synthesization: unilateral logic, in which two terms are not subordinated to a third term, but to the first term. The two terms and the relation are immanent to the first term, the real, whereby the second term is the clone of the first term. This generates a pure machinism – -non-music-non-stop-. The medium of sound, which no longer belongs to any order of the markings or the staff, remains a prerequisite. The order of the notes is so to speak noisy, namely in quanta, waves and frequencies. Here we understand music first and foremost as quantum physics when we ask about its conditions and the conditions of hearing: it is about that background noise that electronic music according to Deleuze can at least simulate by making audible the inaudible of noise, the swarming of sand on the beach, the waves of the sea, etc.

The noise is to be understood as observer-dependent and observer-independent, whereby the former can be measured via a system. The chaos that lies below or beyond human perceptions remains observer-independent. Chaos is the non-objectifiable nature of the real itself, which science presupposes is

stays. With the musical, the attempt immediately arises to shape the formless chaos, for example by repeating or shifting patterns, the search for rhythm, for temporally extended patterns that possess several parameters in an information-processing system: spatial (distance, motion/speed), temporal (infinite time scales versus finiteness) amplitude (inaudible silence versus sonic warfare), frequency (ultrasonic earthquakes versus infrasonic patterns). 18

Electronic music processes in a non-standard phase space in which periodic sine tones and non-periodic modulations/transformations oscillate to generate a radically inhuman, black music. However, this can also lead to the total, poor acceleration of all operators, up to an almost fatal adrenalization, as we find it in High Frequency Trading, which permanently produces randomness, whereby this ecology of lightning crashes and extremely high rates of change indicates an increasing global variability of price movements and at the same time the loss of the optimal trajectors of the system. The accelerations necessary to decode the codes of music and economy – it can also be decelerations – should not, however, lead to that Baudrillardian hyperreality in which every rejection of the symbolic leads to the radical extinction of the same or to a general trauma.

Black music, following Francois Laruelle, could be understood as the search for traces of the rhythmicity of rhythm as dance in rhythm, as an event of condensation. (Like all European music, Nietzsche underestimated the importance of rhythm.) Tic-Toc- fuck the clock! is the principle. The power of rhythm can be found, for example, in the irregulary Click Music. Black music then works with the click, which is to be understood as inherent stress when it falls on certain metrics. When black musicians listen to the clock, they don’t hear the uniform tic tic, tic tic, but they hear “tic – toc – fuck the clock.” Each beat is put under stress and this repetitive stress is the click clock in the music. Similar effects can also be achieved by what Kodwo Eshun calls “alien artifact updating”.19 The stress effects here are produced by machine rhythms that transform the weightlessness of space into a “zero trauma. Eshun writes: “With X-102, the weightlessness of the usual ambient music becomes chamber/crater techno. Frequencies of shattering distortion, as if you were playing basketball with a wrecking ball on concrete.” 20

The humanization of the universe into something sublime, as brought to life today by the beguilingly lulling ambient, techno and house music, is opposed by the sounding generically black universe. This implies the radical distance from the human and the direct turn to the real. Black music requires a radical ecology of rhythm, which forms a non-musical, unilateral rudiment. The rhythm, the inverse of silence, indicates a place into which the ritornello of the drum penetrates. Black music resists the inscriptions of the value that is the condition for money in all its registers, also resists the semiotic value or the beats and beats of the signifiers who count the tik tik of striking difference as price. It generates the supertrack, is flow in itself or the quantum with which its generators flood the metric of the signifier “ding ding ding ding”.

1 NF, KSA 7, P. 204, 205.

2 NF, KSA 12, P. 104.

3 Ingo Zechner, Deleuze: The Song of Becoming. Munich 2003, p.103.

4Cf. Christoph Cox, Nietzsche, Dionysus, and the Ontology of Music. (Retrieved on 12.10.2016).

5Cf. Zafer Aracagök, Atopological Trilogy. Deleuze and Guattari. Brooklyn, New York 2015, p. 21ff.

6 See Aracagök, Atopological Trilogy. Deleuze and Guattari, 25.f.

7Gilles Deleuze, difference and repetition. Munich 1972, p.27.

8Cf. Andrew Culp, Dark Deleuze. Minneapolis 2016, p.9.

9FW, KSA 3, P. 422.

10Gilles Deleuze, The Lonely Island. Frankfurt/M. 2003, p. 186.

11Andrew Culp, Dark Deleuze. Minneapolis 2016, p. 20.

12Cf. Alexander Galloway, Laruelle. Against The Digital. Minneapolis, London 2014, p. 133ff.

13Galloway, Laruelle. Against The Digital, p. 145.

14Kodwo Eshun, brighter than the sun. Adventure in Sonic Fiction. Berlin 1999, p. 153.

15François Laruelle, Struggle and Utopia at the End Times of Philosophy. Minneapolis 2012, p. 18.

16JGB, KSA 5, S.


18Cf. Inigo Wilkins, Irreversible Noise. London 2016.

19Kodwo Eshun, brighter than the sun. Adventure in Sonic Fiction, Berlin 1999, p. 156.

20Eshun, Brighter than the sun. Adventure in Sonic Fiction, p.157.

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Ich, Achim Szepanski (Wohnort: Deutschland), verarbeite zum Betrieb dieser Website personenbezogene Daten nur im technisch unbedingt notwendigen Umfang. Alle Details dazu in meiner Datenschutzerklärung.