The Scream and the Sound of the Flesh

Algorithmic Committee

taken from the book Ultrablack of Music

»Paris changed my life […] A Few days ago, I was re-reading the famous A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari, where at the beginning of the first chapter there is one of my music score. This fact was due to my friendship with Alex Lindenberg, a dear person to me, who at the time knew Deleuze. […] – I also remember Michel Foucault with his biker leather jacket full of zips. He was so elegant, always full of nails and zips.« Sylvano Bussotti

Paysage mélodique avec Artaud is the answer, and dramatization, that the authors of the track – NicoNote and Obsolete Capitalism – provide for the impenetrable enigma of A Thousand Plateaus, the masterpiece of speculative philosophy written in 1980 by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. The authors of Paysage mélodique avec Artaud take on the challenge – »undoing the way language takes power, […] making it stammer in sound waves« – and try to listen to A Thousand Plateaus from a preferential perspective, suggested by the same authors of the philosophical text. Such perspective consists in the famous ‘graphic’ score extracted from Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 by Sylvano Bussotti, written in 1959, which faces the incipit of Rhizome, the first conceptual plateau of A Thousand Plateaus, like a ‘crowned anarchy’. The relation between Rhizome and Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 is visually and conceptually explosive because, from the moment it presents itself to the reader, it exhibits at least four characteristics – iconicity, musicality, formality, esoterism – which are absolutely peculiar if compared to traditional philosophical texts. Gilles Deleuze, during an interview to Libération, later published in Pourparler, explains the formal structure of the book as it follows: »[A Thousand Plateaus] is a book of concepts. Philosophy has always dealt with concepts, and doing philosophy is trying to invent or create concepts. […] A concept, as we see it, should express an event rather than an essence. […] Thus each ring or plateau has to map out a range of circumstances; that’s why each has a date – an imaginary date – and an illustration, an image too.«

A first reading of Sylvano Bussotti’s graphic score as iconic exergue to Rhizome could be that of a way to identify the concept of ‘rhizome’, unfolded in a wider conceptual area termed »range of circumstances«, thus a map. The abstract writing of Piano Piece for David Tudor 4, following Deleuze’s analysis, creates a ‘background’ for the concept but it does not represent it, it inhabits the concept. Beside the written text, it produces a non-linear Binary Machine with an undefined grammar. In other words, the two codes create Rhythm. Bussotti’s score enhances the concept’s movement and, in an oblique way, it complicates its resounding throughout the whole plateau, but – again – it does plastically represent it. How could it represent the rhizome as Image, if all Deleuze’s philosophy aims at the reversal of Platonism? It is necessary to abandon the idea that Bussotti’s graphic score regards the world of essence, that is, that it represents the Idea of Rhizome through a founded, original and therefore carefully selected image. In fact, a Model-Image of the Rhizome that excludes all other hypothetical copies, or other simulacrum-images, would take us straight back to the Platonic dialectic that we, and Deleuze in many of his texts, repeatedly refuted. Piano Piece for David Tudor 4, in the context of A Thousand Plateaus, can be conceived as a polyrhythmic element of composition, within a »conceptual and melodic landscape« that resonates and recalls both the Plane-Rhizome as an open system, and the whole text in form of a plateau as an a-systematic stratification, as well as the initial »meter or cadence« of an iconic seriality that innervates every fiber of the book of »soundsense«. To this end, it might be useful to recall what Samuel Beckett said about James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, to whom A Thousand Plateaus is often compared: »Here form is content and content is form.« Both Deleuze and Guattari’s coherent, hypnotic and labyrinthic writing style, aimed at embodying the concept of rhizome within their own recounting of the event, as well as Bussotti’s writing style, liberated from the imposition of the rule of correspondence between image and sound, notation and execution, demonstrate how it is possible to create an impersonal and anti-authoritative language. In other words, how »to speak without giving orders, without claiming to represent something or someone« and »to be like a foreigner in one’s own language«, tracing »a sort of line of flight for words«.

Thousands of possible executions for a single piano piece and two staggering silences for a single philosophical text. This sentence could summarize the disorienting relationship between Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 and A Thousand Plateaus. For this reason, NicoNote and Obsolete Capitalism, in Paysage mélodique avec Artaud, have worked exclusively on such thunderous absence – Artaud – that accompanies the double correlation A Thousand Plateaus – Bussotti and Bussotti – Deleuze. Paradoxically, on the one hand, Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 by Bussotti in A Thousand Plateaus talks much more than what it sounds. On the other hand, in A Thousand Plateaus is mentioned much less than what it sounds. In the fragment of the interview that Bussotti gave to the Italian documentary director Tiziano Sossi, which the authors of Paysage Mélodique avec Artaud have inserted at the beginning of the track as relation of signification and act of philology, the Florentine composer quotes exactly the paradoxical absence of a commentary to Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 in A Thousand Plateaus as an explicit assertion of his musical writing. Such interpretation of A Thousand Plateaus by Bussotti would presume that the autonomy and impact of his graphic score was so emphasized that it did not need further comments in Deleuze and Guattari’s text. To a certain extent, Bussotti’s statement is true: his picture-writing has such an exceptionally visual, historical and colloquial »character« that it can also be regarded as an »excellent homage« to the Florentine maestro by Deleuze. However, it is also true that Bussotti, although his work should be enumerated among the most baffling and innovative creation since the end of the 50s, is not a musical theorist to whom Deleuze and Guattari turn. In fact, he is not part of the milieu of composers and musicians that provide the conceptual continuum in which A Thousand Plateaus is weaved. Such dialogue, such productive conversation was allowed, in Bussotti’s time, only to Stockhausen, Boulez, Berio, Messiaen and Cage, among others. It was not allowed to Bussotti, whose presence in A Thousand Plateaus remained anchored to the single rhizomatic score of Piano Piece for David Tudor 4. However, as an author he is never mentioned, nor added to the revolutionary conceptual machine of A Thousand Plateaus. Why then did they choose to exclude from Introduction: the Rhizome other graphic scores equally groundbreaking, like lacerations of the Western canon, but more pertinent to the composing plane of A Thousand Plateaus, such as the rhizomatically recombining diagram of Fontana Mix by John Cage (1958)? The visual, conceptual and colloquial impact of the two abstract scores would have been the same. What more does Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 hold, compared to the others? What makes it a magnificent redundancy machine that climbs up every surface, skips all strata and therefore ensures its selection? How can we solve the enigma?

NicoNote and Obsolete Capitalism offer their own interpretation: Antonin Artaud. In Artaud’s pretentious and sulfurous character they search for the two additional colours that Bussotti’s score bears within: the scream and the sound of flesh. The score of Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 that Deleuze and Guattari insert in Introduction: Rhizome comes from Pièces de Chair II published by Ricordi in 1970, during the first world public exhibition in Paris at the Théatre de la Ville on 22 October 1970, ten years after its final draft. In this new version, integrated and updated with respect to the 1960 one, Bussotti has reached a groundbreaking configuration of »total and inguinal art«: it includes the five short compositions for piano, composed between 1958 and 1959, conceived specifically for David Tudor, the virtuous American pianist, John Cage’s favorite performer. The last of the fourteen compositions of Pièce de Chair II is exactly the notation of Piano Pièce for David Tudor 4 – where the Roman number XIV marked on the score comes from. The previous collection of scores of the five compositions for David Tudor, entitled Five piano pieces for David Tudor: extraits de Piéces de chair II, was all of a sudden commissioned by the London publishing house Universal Edition in 1959, on the wake of the scandal caused in Darmstadt by the execution of Bussotti’s abstract and provocative scores (in particular Piano Piece for David Tudor 3). Moreover, the graphic score of Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 was object of careful examination by Stockhausen during his lecture on 29 August 1959, significantly titled »Musik und Graphik IV«. In Darmstadt the echo of protests for John Cage’s conference Composition as Process of the previous year had not faded yet. In the summer of 1959 in a scorching atmosphere, an essay pro-Cage and pro-new musical paradigm entitled John Cage or Liberated Music, was published by the critic Heinz-Klaus Metzger, great supporter of Cage and Bussotti. Bussotti himself recalls the fervor of those years in an interview with the Italian journalist Susanna Persichilli:

»When the executive director of the universal saw my music, he decided to print it immediately, helped by David Tudor who translated what I had written in something more comprehensible. I was stunned by this rushing into things because I hadn’t done anything before. An important publisher was about to print a score contained in a folder that only had Sylvano Bussotti Universal written on the grey front cover: they could have done it for Brahms, but not for a stranger. Additionally, they made me sign 200 copies in front of photographers, so that they could publish the event on newspapers. After that, a firing article titled “The End of Music” was published by Stuckenschmidt, already quite old. The article appeared on the most important German newspaper, which was circulated internationally, with a full-page photograph of the ‘Piano Pieces’ (which was a rarity because photos were reserved to the events of great importance) and the price of the score followed by an exclamation mark. The result was that they went like hot cakes.«

But in that scandal, in the context of that period, there was not only music at stake. To understand why, it is useful to go back to Metzger’s text, John Cage or Liberated Music, where the German music critic and expert, on the wake of Schoenberg and Klee, identifies a political message behind the destruction of the Western musical canon:

»it is a slap in the face of every traditional European aesthetic concept that the performance of Cage’s work is a procedure largely constituted by accidents that are, strictly speaking, accidents of performance that cannot be related conclusively to notation. It is a further slap that during the performance the notations themselves refuse to generate a correlative sensuous appearance that would communicate meaning, since these notations are the results of mere chance operations in the technique of writing and in no way the formulations of a composing subject.«

In the same text, Metzger theorizes, in the music field, the liberation from the leader – from his power games in language and execution – and from the division of artistic highly codified labor:

»Until now, musicians, even those trained to perform chamber music, only knew the law of coerced labor as specified in the musical text and the conductor’s baton, invisible, virtual, reigning also over quartets and quintets. Cage set the musicians free, allowing them to do what they like in his works and giving them – although he is not always thanked for this at performances – the dignity of autonomous musical subjects: to act independently and to understand the significance of their work, just as in an emancipated society everyone will be permitted to realize his work without enforcement, watched only by the clock as a sign that even then morning would be followed by evening.«

Class struggle, following Metzger’s theoretical and ideological perspective, enters the eminent and austere Western classical music halls thanks to the »liberation« promoted by Cage and by his explicit de-hierarchization of the executive musical gesture. This was the beginning of the end of a millenary order. And such »revolution«, according to Metzger, is nothing but the savory anticipation of a future political revolution…

Although John Cage’s and Sylvano Bussotti’s graphic scores echo all these emancipatory perspectives, and the effects of such redundancy qualify and amplify their rupture capacity, they remain two distinct authors with significant differences between them. Although the latter – Bussotti – is deeply affected by the epochal esthetic and musical revolution of the former – Cage, the separation between the two perspectives persists ever since the years in Darmstadt.Bussotti always eluded the ontological impermanence and the oriental spirituality that John Cage finely re-interpreted and presented. In 1959, when he wrote Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 and conceived Pièces de Chair II, Bussotti was already beyond Cage and his artistic trajectory violently deviated towards a universe strongly characterized by eroticism, by visceral substance and by musical theatricality lived as a totalizing artistic process. In fact, Bussotti inserted as exergue of Pièces de Chair II a fragment by Antonin Artaud from his most important writing Position de la chair published in 1925:»Il y a des cris intellectuels, des cris qui proviennent de la finesse des moelles. C’est cela, moi, que j’appelle la Chair.«Here the diapason resounds, a vibration that crosses and connects to the new image of thought that Deleuze and Guattari pursue. Artaud’s 1925 essay, Position de la chair, is a fundamental text for surrealist years, 1924-1926, a period when the French author was co-belligerent with group of Breton. However, in 1927 Artaud would be expelled from the group already, attacked violently by the orthodox advocates of French surrealism due to »ideological disagreements«. From then on, Artaud would become a heretical surrealist – an eternal dissident – and would never enter any other artistic or literary group again. The theoretical text Situation of the Flesh would be reconsidered after his death by important critics and scholars of Artaud, such as Evelyne Grossman in France and Umberto Artioli in Italy. They would deem Situation of the Flesh central for the new perspective of »Theory of the Flesh«, initiated by Artaud with this publication. Such a perspective would meet an end in 1947 with the Theory of the Body without Organs, in Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu. At the centre of the new intensive triangle Thought-Flesh-Life, Artaud writes that »…above all else there is the wholeness of the nerves. A wholeness that includes all of consciousness, and the secret pathways of the mind in the flesh. But what am I in relation to this theory of the Flesh or, more accurately, of existence? I am a man who has lost his life and who is seeking by every means to restore it to its place.«Thus, Bussotti assigns the surrealist Artaud – theorist of the flesh as multiple and occult source of thought – to the helm in his search for a personal intellectual cry, that is, for a vital and corporeal intensity, free, poetic and homoerotic. It is hard not to notice the choice of vocabulary, pieces de chair – pieces of flesh, in French – as complete title of his work, similar to Piano Pieces – in English – as title of Tudor piano cycle. That »chair« recurring both in Artaud’s and Bussotti’s title. Situation of the Flesh and Flesh Pieces, as if Logos and Eros could find in the most profound Body, in the gelatinous hematitic marrow, their final transgressive combination. However, in Bussotti, the flesh refers indeed to the loved, violated, penetrates body of men, but also to the body of the piano-instrument. Whose body, in Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 is opened and violated by the musician through the percussion, in various ways, of its internal strings. Thus, the rhythm of this haptic percussion on the nerve-strings inside the case-body of the piano is similar to the rhythm of the nervous percussion that Artaud claims in Situation of the Flesh when he writes: »With each vibration of my tongue I retrace all the pathways of my thought in my flesh.«

Piano Piece for David Tudor 4 combined with Artaud, inlaid with him, and rhizonomically adorned with the Flesh of the Body, being it of a piano or man, is thus a BwO – acronym of Body without Organs. A surface of inscription on which any pianist, starting from David Tudor, holds in his own hands the limitless solution of the notation, which magically vanishes while he executes it. Thousands possible executions for a single score – and each subsequent musical execution is nothing but a differentiated repetition of the body without organs that refuses any articulation and any construction of meaning. A Body-Egg always regenerated, resurrecting in a pure a-significant productive repetition, in consecutive convergence towards its own future divergence. Then, both in music (Bussotti) or theatre (Artaud) or philosophy (Deleuze and Guattari), »… writing has nothing to do with signifying. It has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come.«And what better maps than the abstraction of Artaud’s schizo experimental and addicted body, of Bussotti’s homoerotic sensual and violated body, of Deleuze and Guattari’s body without organs are summarized, extended and proliferated in that unformed space that generates between Rhizome and Piano Piece for David Tudor 4? This is precisely what Paysage mélodique avec Artaud by NicoNote and Obsolete Capitalism attempts to open, a fructification of three intensities and their continuous molecular connection: Bussotti, Artaud, and Deleuze-Guattari…

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