Mule Variations

Repetition in music has a complex relationship with time, which influences how we understand rhythmic repetition. Deleuze’s theories on this were strongly influenced by Messiaen and Boulez, who made a distinction between Chronos and Aion. Chronos is the time of ordered and successive moments, as found in music with normal meters, while Aion is the time of the Universe that pre-exists our numerical clock-like order of time. Aion is the free-floating time beyond the amounts of metric division.

Deleuze and Messiaen both believed that rhythmic music rejects simple numerical repetition and instead puts rhythm in a constant state of variation, producing unequal length chains. Boulez distinguishes between “pulsed time” and “non-pulsed time” to emphasize this difference. The idea of opposition between Chronos and Aion has its origins in Classical Antiquity, where Greek philosophers talked about the period before there was time.

Deleuze’s concept of “variation” is fundamental to his philosophy, which emphasizes that life is constantly in motion and transition. Units and structures in life are the result of this fundamental movement being organized. Music is one of the examples Deleuze uses to illustrate the concept of variation. While traditional western music is based on fixed scales and octaves, Deleuze argues that we must consider these structures to be secondary in relation to the movement of sound itself. The essence of music is the continuous pitch variation, a simple, identity-free movement of difference.

Deleuze and Guattari also identify inherent language variation in A Thousand Plateaus. The fact that language use is not static but dynamic is the very essence of language itself, just like the use of words, which often changes depending on the context.

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