Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

She Cracked: "How Philosophy Is Useful to . . . Musicians"

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

She Cracked: "How Philosophy Is Useful to . . . Musicians"

Article excerpt

A professor, e.g. one who works in philosophy, lectures to a public that includes to varying degrees mathematicians, musicians (trained in classical or pop music), psychologists, historians, etc. The students, however, instead of putting these other disciplines aside to facilitate their access to the discipline they are supposedly being taught, in fact expect philosophy, for example, to be useful to them in some way, to intersect with their other activities. Philosophy will matter to them, not in terms of the degree to which they possess this kind of knowledge, even the zero degree of initiation, but in terms of their immediate concerns, in other words, the other subjects or material which they already possess to whatever degree. Students attend a lecture looking for something they can use for themselves. In this way, what directly orients the teaching of philosophy is the question of how useful it is to mathematicians, or to musicians, etc., even and especially if this philosophy does not discuss mathematics or music. This kind of teaching has nothing to do with general culture; it is practical and experimental, always outside itself, precisely because the students are led to participate in terms of their own needs and competences. (Deleuze, 2006, pp. 166-167)

Giving courses has been a major part of my life, in which I've been passionately involved. . . . It's like a research laboratory: you give courses on what you're investigating, not on what you know. . . .

A course is kind of Sprechgesang, closer to music than to theatre. Indeed there's nothing in principle to stop courses being a bit like a rock concert. . . . In philosophy, we rejected the principle of "building up knowledge" progressively: there were the same courses for first-year and nth-year students, for students and nonstudents, philosophers and nonphilosophers, young and old, and many different nationalities. There were always young painters and musicians there, filmmakers, architects, who showed great rigor in their thinking. They were long sessions, nobody took in everything, but everyone took what they needed or wanted, what they could use, even if it was far removed from their own discipline. There was a period marked by abrupt interventions, often schizophrenic, from those present, then there was the taping phase, with everyone watching their cassettes, but even then there were interventions from one week to the next in the form of little notes I got, sometimes anonymously.

I never told that audience what they meant to me, what they gave to me. Nothing could have been more unlike a discussion, and philosophy has absolutely nothing to do with discussing things, it's difficult enough just understanding the problem someone's framing and how they're framing it, all you should ever do is explore it, play around with the terms, add something, relate it to something else, never discuss it. It was like an echo chamber, a feedback loop, in which an idea reappeared after going, as it were, through various filters. It was there that I realized how much philosophy needs not only a philosophical understanding, through concepts, but a nonphilosophical understanding, rooted in percepts and affects. You need both. Philosophy has an essential and positive relation to nonphilosophy: it speaks directly to nonphilosophers. Take the most remarkable case, Spinoza: the absolute philosopher, whose Ethics is the foremost book on concepts. But this purest of philosophers also speaks to everyone: anyone can read [philosophy] if they're prepared to be swept up in its wind, its fire. . . . Nonphilosophical understanding isn't inadequate or provisional, it's one of philosophy's two sides, one of its two wings. . . . (Deleuze, 1995, pp. 139-140; emphasis added)

On fire with my desire to be swept up, to sweep up music education, I began reading in the spring of 2002 the writings of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and his collaborations with Félix Guattari. Slowly, oh so slowly, while making my painstaking way through the "Treatise on Nomadology-The War Machine" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987),

There was a silent, imperceptible crack, at the surface, a unique surface Event. …

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