Laruelle and Non-Musicology



The Laruellian concept of “superposition” proposes two different treatments of sonic thinking as non-representation (that is, thinking sonically rather than about sound). One illustrates an incommensurability of sound’s closure, hermetically seperated from other material, theories; the other illustrates an incommensurability of the relation and exchange of sound, which is porous enough to permit heterogeneous assemblages without imposing them. While closure includes representation as thinking about sound, permanent exchange tends to confusion as it fuses thinking and sound. This con-fusion reflects the belief of experimental electronic music in its first period (from Russolo through Schaeffer and classic musique concrète) that everything in the world is musical, an unrecognized belief associated with what Jarrod Fowler calls the Principle of Musical Sufficiency.1 Non-musicology by contrast breaks with the idea that everything is musical and develops a science of music as well as a music related to science (e.g., Xenakis’ use of stochastic processes). For Fowler, “the program of Non-musicology is to use musicology to construct alien theories without those theories being yielded by the Principle of Musical Sufficiency: ‘All is not musical, this is our news.’”2


Non-Musicology breaks not only with musical self-sufficiency but also articulates another break that does not so much involve a new subversive immersion of the audience into the conditions of hearing as it leads to the ecological anticause, what Fowler calls a different hearing-in-Rhythm, which is identical with Rhythm insofar as Rhythm is different from metrics and recurrence. What is Rhythm? First, Rhythm is a temporally extended pattern that can be described by information-processing systems through several parameters summarized by Inigo Wilkins: spatial, temporal, amplitude, frequency and superposition.3 While processing systems involve an observer-dependent reality of Rhythm, it is possible to discover the existence of Rhythms that are beyond human sensory perceptual capacities through technology, math, and science. Second, it has to be asked whether or not there is a simple opposition between noise and Rhythm. The answer is no, because we can define Rhythm as the relation of identifiable and unidentifiable processes that allow the incommensurable chaos to pass into an order of difference, a degree or quantity of non-linear and non-rhythmic noise. Rhythm may exist at many degrees of dynamics and magnitude. It may emerge from noise, whereby the simulation of noise through stochastic processes demonstrates that the process of the enfolding of Rhythm and signals offers a large quantity of heterogeneous movements occurring at different time scales and frequencies. But still noise has a larger dynamics and magnitude than Rhythm. Noise is foreclosed to any ontological or epistemological theory.


If Rhythm is distinct from metrics, we enter the field of non-frequency politics, the politics of productive difference, which includes the fact that Rhythm is distinct from metrics and science, and therefore uses science and music as pure material. Here, non-musicians start to reduce discourses of philosophy and science to pure material to achieve – in interaction with hearing-in-rhythm – pulse “rhythmights.” A non-musicological term invented by Fowler, “rhythmight” opens up experimental methods of rhythm production: we can now speak of Rhythm in terms of nonperiodic pulsed or clicked music. We find here a transversal disjunction, heterogeneous temporalities, and spatial components that overlap and coexist in a track; in the invincible evidence of its short signal and contextless reference, the click opens various potentials to move on without giving any noticeable association. Through the concatenation of signs something like indetermination starts to be indicated, whereby failure can become part of music. Failure is not an inscribed meaning in clicks and cuts, but rather a referential that indicates possibilities of previous and emerging sign concatenations. In the nameless “in between,” meaning is constructed with the help of signs that are not what they pretend to be. Through reference to other signs, a momentum of meaning is produced, because a sign like the click realizes différance, suspended presence, while also referring to signs to come. Similarly, the pulse can be understood as an inherent stress that falls on certain metrics or beats. While listening to the clock, one might hear “tick-tock” instead of “tick-tick,” because every other beat is more stressed than the beat before. This repeating stress is the pulse; and in music different sorts of pulses can be overlapped and constructed by grouping beats together in different milieus or patterns. The technique of anti-human music forces a temporal division into such nuanced patterns, which only machines can perform with perfect precision.


Here is another hotspot of non-music in a Laruelian sense. Laruelle claims a dispersive a priori of an autonomous theory (here, transposed to music) related to the foreclosed and indifferent real, posing the question: how can a generic and real but nevertheless transcendental and a priori term of difference be constructed, an a priori of difference that is a matter of an immediate given condition?4 The relation between the different speed of waves and the maxima of intensity or the timeless degree of different waves constitues a dispersion -Rhythm as radical ecology. While Non-musicology imposes a unilateral relationship between Rhythm and hearing, hearing-in-Rhythm cannot affect Rhythm, while Rhythm is foreclosed to hearing-in-Rhythm. For example, the theoretical practice of music remains dependent on sample politics, oscillating between an actual pool of samples and the capacity to create new samples. Samples are nowadays part of the mediapool, regardless of whether they are saved on analog or digital media. Sampling includes the program-controlled, machinic transformation of the musical material with special features, transposing, time-stretching or cut up, etc. Sampling is a technology for access and transformation of media material, by grasping the signals of the media of transmission. Sampling subverts the purposeful transfer from source to destination. Instead of an exact process of mapping the input onto the output, sampling activates a production process, using the signal subtracted from its functional and contextual environment. As condition of that production, it is a sampling-in-the-last-instance. Going from sampling to so-called pulse rhythmights, produced with techniques through immanent and generic methods of percussive flights and differential structures of sound, attends not to being-in-the-world, but being in music. A music that remains radically immanent, rhythmight is constructed from the heterogeneity of Rhythm as incommensurately sampled-in-the-last-instance and binds the methods of Rhythmics to ecological hearing-in-rhythm. The relation between Rhythm and hearing is unilateral: it only goes one way. The unilaterality of Rhythm, which is anticausal, doesn’t imply that music can be reduced to Rhythm, but that, aside from its territorial motives and melodic landscapes, music is in-the-last-instance Rhythm and heard from Rhythm. The exology (the closure of paradigms, knowledge etc.) of hearing, which arises from the indifference of Rhythm, must hallucinate music as metrics, order, and composition by ignoring the radical ecology of Rhythm, which is related to non-music’s objectivity without representation.5 At the same time, rhythmight corresponds to a relative ecology (perception of music) that is permanently infiltrated by the convertibility of money, the processes in which the virtuality of value is actualized as price. At this juncture Non-musicology has to indicate a radical mutation of the radical ecology of Rhythm according to the foreclosed real.


If Non-music or non-standard music is, as Inigo Wilkins says, situated in the “non-standard phase space” between periodic sine tones and non-periodic or non-individual complex transformation and modulation, it might fall within the same theoretical neighbourhood as Dante’s bourdon or Messiaen’s compositional techniques.6 The latter combines listening to the rhythmic singing of each individual bird and the overall Rhythm as an orchestra. On one side, there is no total rhythmic disorder, analogous to the incommensurability of closure, as unrelated tones do not couple with one another; on the other side, the birds are not synchronized to the ticking clock, as though a regular pulse would allow them all to share a common beat. Now, it looks as though non-frequency-politics would be nothing other than a re-invention of Dante’s bourdon; but the ritornello of the birds as accompanied by the noise of the wood is not only a musical sensation. It forces Rhythm via an interaction with hearing-in-Rhythm, in order to find a radical objective music, which includes the refusal of the world, even the refusal to create alternative worlds, yet demands the real as parallel to the world. Rhythmight produces tension and solidification at the same time in hearing-in-Rhythm, while non-musicians become aware of how to subtract Rhythm from the metrum, endlessly mixing and remixing the conditions and relations of rhythmights and at the same time separating fragments from these mixtures in order to use these autonomous theoretical fragments indifferent to the musical structure.


Laruelle would reject Deleuze & Guattari’s treatment of music as the capture of affects and percepts (the relationship between material and forces) and would instead postulate in music an autonomous theoretical order, a non-scientific thought according to the radical immanence of the real – the real, here, understood as foreclosed and indifferent, without mirroring aesthetics or knowledge or being mirrored by science;, the real, which has to be thought as neither a meaning nor a truth but rather as immanently given “without givenness.” The exteriority of the real is being-nothing, which confronts being with nothingness. This demands the real as parallel to the world. By reducing all transcendental thought to pure material, thought can be developed according to the syntax of the real. Instead of a truth, which has its telos in the white silence of a full speaking, in which even the real should be countable, Non-musicology presents an incestuous con-junction of the principles of superposition (immanence of one-in-one) and non-commutativity. Where Deleuze & Guattari distinguish between scientific variables, artistic varieties, and philosophical variations, Laruelle’s Non-philosophy reduces all concepts of philosophy and philosophy itself to pure variables.7 Non-musicology reduces philosophy, science, and musical objects to pure material, by starting to sample the material from within non-musical discourses such as science and philosophy. By cutting off the Principle of Musical Sufficiency, the immersive properties of sound in relation to perception and affect might be also cut off. Non-music instead produces an irreflective processing of variables by variables, a fractal proliferation of models without transcendence.


In his latest works, Laruelle speaks of the non-standard method as a kind of immanent fiction that includes invention, construction, performance, etc. as a non-representative and non-expressive method that uses only abstract and pure thought for non-aesthetics and that doesn’t need to appeal to the parallelism of philosophy and art.8 This demands neither thinking of sound as sonic philosophy nor thinking about sound, but an abstract theory of sound, a radical abstract theory that is absolutely non-worldly and non-perceptual, as Laruelle says. Music is not oriented to a world, nor is it perceptual; rather it focuses on the immanent character of music as such, being in music. Music is radical objectivation without representation or intentionality. Following Laruelle, this semblance of music must be no longer an imitation, a tracing, an emanation or a representation of world or of language, of affect or whatever. Rather there exists a non-world of music for both the musician and the philosopher of music. This non-world still exists in the present and is real, while non-music is always rooted in matter. At this point Non-musicology stops tracing the Rhythmicity of Rhythm in hearing-in-Rhythm through sampling-in-the-last-instance. As a kind of objectivity without representation, Non-musicology begins instead to sample material from science and philosophy, from musical material itself, to construct the immanent generic matrix of non-music, which is no longer overdetermined by the capitalist relation of production and circulation.

1 Jarrod Fowler, “PARAEVENTISMS/SAPRONIHILISM (Duplicate Republication): A Sequence of Non-Musicological Praxis Corresponding to Phases of Non-Musicology,” (accessed June 14, 2013).


3 Inigo Wilkins, “Enemy of Music,” (accessed June 14, 2013).

4 Laruelle, “The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter,” trans. Ray Brassier, Pli 12 (2001): 33-40.


6 See Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XXVIII, 7-19, and Wilkins, “Enemy of Music.”

7 See Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994); François Laruelle, Introduction aux sciences géneriques (Paris: Editions Petra, 2008), p.200.

8 See, for example, Laruelle, Anti-Badiou: On the Introduction of Maoism into Philosophy, trans. Robin Mackay (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

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