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an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 16, Winter 2018/2019, ISSN 1552-5112


Lines, Sounds and Colors of Flight: Deleuze, Guattari and ‘kalamezhuthu pattu



Cybil K. Vinodan







Regarding eastern (Indian) music, Deleuze and Guattari suggest, “to the transcendent, organizational plane of Western music based on sound forms and their development, we (should) oppose the immanent plane of consistency of eastern music, composed of speeds and slownesses, movement and rest” (1987:266). Further, “the ‘refrains’ of Indian music are quite unlike those of the concert tradition - but like those of Celtic dance music, or flamenco or jazz - in that they do not organize the territoriality of a music event in the name of the laws of harmony, or of a composer’s Subjective authority, or in the name of a posited divine order (Classicism) or a ‘People’ (Romanticism)” (Deleuze and Guattari:1987:338-9).

 According to Jeremy Gilbert, these forms of music (e.g. Kalamezhuthu pattu) contain within themselves deliberately open spaces for the insertion of ‘cutting edges’: the machinic interventions of the performers and their instruments are enabled (Gilbert: 2004:133). By contrast, Western concert assemblages limit the movement and expression of performers and audience to the will of the composer. Opening onto a plane of consistency which might be the meditative bliss of yoga or the multiple body without organs of the dance (Deleuze and Guattari: 1987: 149-66), such music is outside the continent of classical Western soundscapes. Jeremy Gilbert adds here that, such forms of music, while unique themselves, nonetheless share a common objective in process with that of a beat-matched DJ mix (Gilbert: 2004: 132).


Deleuze and Guattari who borrow the concepts of striated and smooth spaces in music from Boulez, argue that music is itself the becoming audible of the inaudible or expressing those sounds which are universally present but not available to the senses. For them every expression, sensation, image, colour and language has a sound of its own which becomes audible through music. “The pictorial is the musical, and it is this reversibility of the senses composing amongst themselves (the act of listening composes with the vision which itself composes with the tactile) that characterizes the haptic vision. The composition of sounds that are music becomes a composition of the senses; in the act of listening, it is the sight and touch that are at play” (Bidima: 2004:179).


Music essentially conveys a desire for marking a territory which through repetition deterritorializes or vice versa. The essential autonomy of music is derived from a sonic model with claims to a non-representational plane of consistency wherein “the sound block…no longer has a point of origin” and is an ”immanent sound plane, which is always given along with that to which it gives rise” (Deleuze and Guattari:1987:296,267). They call it the refrain, or “the block of content proper to music” (Deleuze and Guattari:1987:299) It is a refrain that brings the source of music to a point of beginning every time it wants to repeat itself; “music takes up the refrain, lays hold of it as a content in a form of expression” and the refrain is also “a means of preventing music, warding it off, or forgoing it,” (Deleuze and Guattari:1987:300) acting like a tune that sticks in your head that can be easily whistled or hummed.


Music therefore enters as both deterritorialization and reterritorialization in becoming a people. “Deterritorialization is primary - stratification is secondary” writes Ian Buchanan (2004:14) and then goes on to quote from Deleuze “reterritorialization must not be confused with a return to a primitive or older territoriality: it necessarily implies a set of artifices by which one element, itself deterritorialized, serves as a new territoriality for another, which has lost its territoriality as well” (Deleuze and Guattari:1987:174). Moreover, “……it is not the objective of music to stake out a territory, to create an enclave shut off from the outside but, on the contrary, to affect as do the colours of a coral fish and birdsong, to deploy attributes intended to attract and not to repel” (Deleuze and Guattari:1987:316-17).



Kalamezhuthu pattu or songs of Thottam pattu (translated as a thought, feeling, giving life to something, invocation and popularly understood as festival in a bhagavathy, kali, devi or a goddess temple in parts of Kerala) is sung for inducing possession as a means of deification and also healing of devotees’ supplication. Basic to the performance of the ritual is a kalam or a plot earmarked from the plain ground where an image is drawn in colours, along with singing songs of thottam deified (translated in verbal form as thottuka).  The songs and the music are but a movement which deterritorializes the audience into an assemblage of listeners and then reterritorializes them in the form of cosmic beings especially through a possession of the oracle. It is thought that the bardic singer who performs the ritual, creates a ritual milieu by a seasonal refrain indicated to him by a series of events, understood as historic aprioris of which he creates assemblages in the form of songs.





an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

 Volume 16, Winter 2018/2019, ISSN 1552-5112





Bidima, Jean Godfrey (2004) Music and the Socio-Historica Real, in Buchanan, Ian (ed) Deleuze and Music, Edinburgh University Press.

Buchanan, Ian (2004) Introduction in Deleuze and Music, Edinburgh University Press.

Deleuze and Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus, trans. B.Massumi, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

Gilbert, Jeremy (2004) Becoming Music in Buchanan, Ian (ed) Deleuze and Music, Edinburgh University Press.

Mukherji D P (1945) Indian Music: An Introduction, Kutub Publishers, Bombay.