Deleuze reads Messiaen

Durations and birdsong becoming philosophy


  • Jonas Lundblad



Gilles Deleuze, Olivier Messiaen, aesthetics, modernist music, musical time, rhythm, music and philosophy, Pierre Boulez, birdsong, ecology, colour, painting


Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s celebrated work A Thousand Plateaus contains one of the most noteworthy philosophical employments of music from the twentieth century. Previous research has reconstructed how Deleuze imported musical concepts from Pierre Boulez into his thought, but analogous influences from Olivier Messiaen have been affirmed rather than investigated in detail. This article reconstructs the philosopher’s reception of Messiaen’s ideas on rhythm, a natural basis for music, birdsong and a colouristic dimension to sound. Working on the premise that a Boulezian modernism shaped Deleuze’s general appreciation of music, the study takes off from the composer’s portrayal of how themes in Wagner overturn prevalent structures and establish new modes of expression. Messiaen’s role in A Thousand Plateaus and other Deleuzian writings confirms the centrality of this outlook, connected to rhizomatic ideals of continuous transition in all musical parameters. At the same time, Deleuze’s reading of texts by and about the composer highlights ecological dimensions beyond Boulez’s historiography of modernism. Despite scant attention to Messiaen’s actual compositions, the philosopher’s theoretical framework offers original perspectives on a virtual creativity at the heart of musical renderings of birdsong. The composer left a noteworthy imprint on Deleuze’s affirmation of a certain artistic autonomy as a precondition for the power of music to render time and spaces audible.


Jonas Lundblad

Jonas Lundblad is a musicologist and organ recitalist. His research typically seeks out intersections between aesthetics and historical musicology in Swedish, German or French art music since 1800. Early German Romantic aesthetics, especially Friedrich Schleiermacher, is a focal area from a background in theological research. Olivier Messiaen is another central interest, both in performance and scholarship. Jonas has been a research fellow and teacher in the Department of Musicology at Uppsala University since 2014. He currently serves as editor for a multi-volumed history of church music in Sweden and himself authors a monograph on developments throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Previous edited volumes include Lutheran Music Culture: Ideals and Practices (De Gruyter, 2021).

Jonas draws on his dual competence as a recording artist. An ongoing series of CDs document previously largely unknown aspects of Swedish organ music. Recordings of Messiaen’s organ works, set in their historical contexts with other repertoire, are due to appear from 2023.




Referera så här

Lundblad, J. (2022). Deleuze reads Messiaen: Durations and birdsong becoming philosophy. Svensk Tidskrift för Musikforskning / Swedish Journal of Music Research, 104, 77–107.