Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music
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Torbjørn Eftestøl: A Differential Play of Forces

A philosophical study of transcendental empiricism in musical contexts.

Field of study: Performance Practice.


The dissertation is a philosophical study of transcendental empiricism in musical contexts. It presents a reading of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s philosophical apparatus and explores how music can be thought of as functioning in the operation Deleuze terms ‘transcendental empiricism’.

Central to transcendental empiricism is the idea of an encounter with intensive difference and the consequent experience of intensive and virtual forces. The study sets out to explore this idea in three interwoven steps.

  1. A develoment of transcendental empiricism as a philosophical framework, applying the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari more or less as a whole.
  2. A discussion of music as a way to encounter intensive forces in the context of this philosophical apparatus.
  3. An exploration of transcendental empiricism in the thinking and poietics of three composers of the twentieth century: Arnold Schönberg, Olivier Messiaen and Giacinto Scelsi.

he study develops three ‘images of thought’ corresponding, respectively, to the composers’ expressed theoretical ideas, setting out to identify central concepts from Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy in each composer’s thinking.

First, Schönberg is found to be occupied with music as expressive of the so-called Idea, and Eftestøl reads this in light of Deleuze’s conception of the Idea as a virtual multiplicity in an intensive space.

Second, Eftestøl reads Messiaen’s ideas about music and dazzlement in light of Deleuze’s concepts of microperception and time as a virtual force.

Third, Scelsi is found to be concerned with the tone-monad, which Eftestøl conceptualizes as a field of intensive forces in the Deleuzian sense.

The very different ideas found in the study of each composer are suggested as driving forces in their respective musical thinking; nevertheless, despite their differences, each of them is read as occupied with music as an experimental site of transcendental empiricism. The dissertation thus aims to contribute to the philosophy of music by presenting a constellation between transcendental empiricism and ideas about music.

The dissertation is titled "A Differential Play of Forces. Transcendental Empiricism and Music":

Published: Oct 18, 2016 — Last updated: Mar 9, 2023