Deleuze, cinema and electroacoustic music

Université Paris-Sorbonne
5 Rond-Point de Fukuoka - Appt B01 - 33300 Bordeaux

In his reflection about cinema, Deleuze distinguishes between two large kinds of images: the ``movement-image'' (1983) and the ``time-image'' (1985). This marks the separation between: spaces that are dynamically and expressively articulated; and spaces that are contemplated, without rhetorical or dynamic articulation — such spaces ``contain'' existents rather than events. In this latter instance, chronology becomes arbitrary, without any causal logic: rather than having the camera follow a character leaving the room, the shot may continue for some time, leaving the viewer free to explore the spatiality of the room.

The movement-image implies that time is subordinated to, and designated by, movement. More generally, it is governed by causality, action, reaction, interaction - that is to say, by sensori-motor links. On the other side, the time-image implies ``montrage'' rather than ``montage'': instead of being articulated, dynamized, causalized and rhethorized, time is given in itself. Movement becomes subordinated; instead of sensori-motor links, relations internal to the image appear, and imply the necessity for a reading of the image by viewers. To summarize, in the movement-image, space is the primary character because it gives time its form. In the time-image, time is the primary character, and may thus give its form to space.

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I do not mean to make a detailed review of Deleuze's work about cinema, which is much too complex to be accurately summarized in a few paragraph. Instead of lingering on cinema studies and semiotics, we'll thus consider this distinction with an intermedial approach. Brunson (in press) is currently researching narrativity and intermediality in electroacoustic music for his Ph.D. He is particularly interested in how techniques (notably montage techniques) have been taken from cinema and applied to electroacoustic composition, which could thus be analyzed with this in mind. Further than composition techniques, I'd like to propose that aesthetic and formal ideas — and, by extension, reception behaviors - may be found in both media. My approach will thus be a comparative one.

Landy (2012), in his overview of methods of transcription of soundscapes, offers several possibilities, two of which seem to fit exactly our distinction between movement-image and time-image. In the first one, the transcription is chronological, the x-axis being the line of time, the y-axis allowing for polyphony: time is revealed, punctuated, articulated. In the second one, the x and y-axes represent space; there is no representation of chronology, leaving time for the image to be read.

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Battier (2013) underlines the difference, already noted by Schaeffer, between the GRM's early musique concrète and Bayle's acousmatic music: the first privileges movement, montage, to drive time; the second privileges time and duration, to allow for the development of movement by framing it — relations become morphological, spatial, substantial, rather than formal, causal or teleological. According to Thoresen (in press), this distinction relates to the couple character / values: in note-based music, the play with discrete values is the focus of attention; in sound-based music, however, playing with values allows the character to emerge and to live on for some time. A similar distinction is found again, regarding instrumental music, in Beriachvili (2010). In expressionist spaces (espaces expressifs), energy and time are gesture-driven, and matter is a secondary attribute (e.g. Boulez and some of Stockhausen). In impressionist spaces (espaces impressifs), every gesture, every movement, is an attribute of sound matter, and perception becomes a contemplation of musical space, since musical time is unfolding ``without merging with our interiority'' (e.g. Xenakis and Debussy).

These distinctions clearly resemble the one between movement-image and time-image. On the first hand, movement happens in, and structures, time (this does not necessarily imply linearity: there may be, as in movies, ellipses and irregularities). On the other hand, time unfolds in, and structures, space: movement, coexistences and alternations all become characters of space, without any major interest in causality. On the first hand, we may talk about expressive montage, in which the sensori-motor link is still preserved. On the other hand, we may talk about montrage, sound to be ``seen'' rather than experienced empathically.

It is to be noted that although Bayle does not agree with any link between his aesthetic and soundscape composition, and although acousmatic composers, such as Smalley and his students, tend primarily to the flow of energy in their pieces, those pieces may also quite easily be analyzed as abstract soundscapes, or at least as abstract spaces, where energy is impressionist rather than expressionist.

In fact, Smalley (2007) wrote an article about what he called ``space-form'', which corresponds in a lot of ways to the idea of a ``time-image''.

The temporal disposition of, and relations among, sounds serve to articulate and shape spectral and perspectival space, but even though my perception of sound is the product of time, I ultimately sideline time's formative role. So space can be more significant than time, or at least we can profit by starting with the idea that time can be placed at the service of space rather than the reverse. Time becomes space. (p. 38)
However, time still has an important role, because some of the systemic relations at play do not happen only in space but in space through time. This is the ``crystal image'', purest form of the time-image, where ``character cannot be explained only through space. They imply non localized relationships.'' Space is given through time rather than the reverse. Development thus emerges out of the accumulation of spatial forms, movements, relationships, establishing their potential through the unfolding of time as their container.

I'd like to suggest how such theoretical parallels may be of use to us as composers and musicologists. First of all, intermedial approaches may allow us to better understand the making of electroacoustic music, but also its existing aesthetics and forms (e.g. the influence of Deleuze on Bayle, however distorted by Bayle's poetic views, is to be noted).

Furthermore, studying how time and space are articulated in other media, we may find new ways of listening to electroacoustic music, as well as new ways of teaching those listening behaviors through intermedial metaphors - that way, one and the same piece of music could be analyzed through different formal lenses. The figure below results from an analysis of Elizabeth Anderson's Chat Noir (1998) as a time-image. Given the key to the graphics, one could supposedly follow the entire piece with this sole figure.

Lastly, for those of us who also happen to compose electroacoustic music, such listening behaviors and such conceptions of sonic relationships could allow for the emergence or development of explicitly intermedial aesthetics and forms.

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adrian 2015-06-03