By Matthew Robin-Nye and Tricia Toso
There was a word inside a stone.
I tried to pry it clear,
mallet and chisel, pick and gad,
until the stone was dropping blood,
but still I could not hear
the word the stone had said.
I threw it down beside the road
among a thousand stones
and as I turned away it cried
the word aloud within my ear
and the marrow of my bones
heard, and replied.
– Ursula Le Guin
Tricia Toso: Listen to the warble of a stone wall.
The concept, as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari articulate it, is a multiplicity that arises from combinations of discourses, texts, and responses, and is always founded within a problem. While each concept has its own contours and components that constitute it, it also has histories, connections and bridges that connect it to other concepts. As bricolage, it gathers components, shaping and reshaping an event in particular way. The concept seeks to give consistency without losing anything of the infinite (Deleuze and Guattari 1991, 33). The warble is a concept created from our engagement with Deleuze and Guattari, Whitehead, and Cajete that allows us to explore the materialities and polyrhythmic productions of different landscapes. As a concept, the warble brings forth the stories, living and non-living entities, materialities are not immediately perceptible to the senses, the tales of a multitude of pasts and the yet-to-come that are all around us (Tsing et. al., 2017).
Matthew Robin-Nye: Notice what isn't there but is at the same time.
A tone is a sign wave that oscillates with regularity, rhythmically. Two imperfectly matched tones sounding at the same moment produce a polyrhythm in the superimposition of their sign waves and if they are close enough to each other to be imperceptible from one another to the human ear, it is here that we will perceive a single warbling tone. As two tones interweave, they become a unity to the ear- a warble-, but always have an excess or vestige that remains imperceptible - that is, there is always something that we don’t see, hear, or perceive that is integral or fundamental to a land or soundscape.
Rhythm disrupts (is it inherently disruptive? Do rhythms come at different scales?) perception but also reorganizes. This applies to cuts and flows, breaks and continuities, and ontological and physical properties or characteristics. Different orders of rhythms. The warble arises out of dissonance between rhythms and not; announcing disharmony. Like Deleuze and Guattari’s refrain, the warble always exceeds you.
TT: Follow an ant until you can no longer, turn, and find another desire line.
The warble transverses the three ecologies: the mental, social, and environmental, as sites of negotiation and reconstruction (Guattari 2000). They are not distinct scales but formed relationally and transversally. As a concept, the warble seeks the dissident vectors of a landscape; it is to engage in unforgetting silenced stories, to trace the histories of relationings, and begin to listen again to what the earth tells us. It is a tool for a disruption of habitual attention, and potential for developing new relational and creative practices. The warble asks you to be attentive to self, the other, and place, and the relationings all around and within. To remain vigilant to the relationing between things, between the wasp and the orchid, the moss and the rock.
In writing about the Indigenous experience, Gregory A. Cajete writes that it is expressed both collectively through “art, story, ritual, and technology, but also through the more subtle and intimate expressions of individual acts of respect, care, words, and feelings that are continually extended to the land and its many beings.
As we experience the world, so we are also experienced by the world” (2000, 20).
MN: Draw a landscape in plain air: use blue lines to demarcate its ideal form; and blue to demarcate its disastrous ones.
Polyrhythmic landscape production: What landscapes might this replicate? How can different affects layer on top of one another to create a new composition, or new compositional whole? I’m thinking about polyrhythmic productions of landscape as assemblages of stories that can only be told in relation, through multiple modes of address or delivery at the same time. This polyrhythmic production is also a performance; ‘performances’ by, for example, priming a disturbed relational field activated (and repaired) by a collective occupation of space. I’m thinking about reshaping, refining and repairing relations as creative gesture, and about what role an artist plays in these turbulent times. How does the world implicate me in it becoming?
I want to revisit a transformation of world that I have already presented, but was my first noticing of dissonances in perception that started to scaffold some new thinking:
Something about the magnitude of environment crashes in on my senses. Eyes open but unfocused, a feeling that I cannot compute the totality of this place's transformation. I am reminded of my first encounter with a Joshua tree - seemingly on a different planet - where the inverse happened; I had a feeling of being out of body and snapped back into it by the appearance of the truly absurd. Different environments have different sensibilities.
Exhaustion sets in. We all went to sleep; a desire to dream this world into sensibility.
The world warbled as I tried to grapple with incommensurate datum.
TT: Find a dissonance in the soundscape, sing it, and keep it near at hand.
“Staying with the trouble” demands that we engage in continual renegotiations, find comfort with tensions and dissonances, things not to be resolved or made to harmonize, but to be acknowledged and lived within. Our sense of self, the “I”, is found at the crossroads of multiple flows and components. Some in accordance, others in conflict. There is no settlement, but rather an unsettling. A restlessness that constitutes the shifting character of creativity, an “objective immortality” of actual entities.
Self-creating and self-subsisting through decisions; the “great blooming, buzzing confusion” (James 1890, 487) that we call world comes into being through the decisions and determinations of all entities. From the first organisms that journeyed to land in the early Paleozoic age to the stygofauna in New South Wales, the agencies, the decisions of a myriad of entities are part of a world becoming.
We are continuous with everything on earth, co-constituted by the entities we share a world with. As we encounter, we prehend the other through acknowledgement and address, but this exchange is not exclusive to humans. Robin Wall Kimmer describes the relationship between rocks and mosses as
The rocks are beyond slow, beyond strong, and yet yielding to a soft green breath as powerful as a glacier, the mosses wearing away their surfaces, grain by brain bringing them slowly back to sand. There is an ancient conversation going on between mosses and rocks, poetry to be sure. About Light and shadow and the drift of continents … The material and the spiritual live together here (5).
The endurance of things passing through time with intention and deep presence that attracts life is one of becomings and transitions, however quickly or slowing through creative process. As the rock and moss prehend one another, grasp, register, respond or are affected by one another, they are constituted by multiple prehensions. An ontological equality arises from contact and mutual implication. All actual entities are equal as they enter into the same kinds of relations and come into being as they prehend other entities.
MN: Hum a G below A44 for as long as you can. Hum it while you are running out of breath, and beyond.
The warble becomes the first in a step of noticing. Sarah Sharma: relationships to the future are uneven. Ezekiel: the haunting: excess, absence of presence that mutually-constituted other. The spector is not present or visible, but form and shape data and knowledge. (What is the difference between the spectre and the virtual?). "Apparitions are the inheritance". Barad: hauntings are a disorienting experience of time and space. Haunting as seething presence. Interested in social forces that differentiate and hierarchies bodies.
Dissonance in tonality is not itself bad - it is texture, the subjective form of the world prehending itself, drawing towards it the necessary datum to come into being. In polyrhythmicality, life's textures are co-composing towards momentary becoming, as they always have. But, while any becoming maintains its own internal logic and, therefore, perfection, some are more violent than others. Some processes veer drastically from the general idea that has guided them to a certain point. Some of these veering are so dramatic as to be fairly characterized as 'incommensurate'.
A warble, which is a trying towards finding a note, can be an example of the world coming to expression unevenly. The dissonance of datum that it indicates is a fundamental unevenness in the subjective form of the event as it diverges from the subjective form's general idea of itself. What the event though it would be. Something has gone wrong - cohesion has slipped - the subjective form of the event has taken up corrupted datum.
The warble is revealing: it forces the virtual into actual. In the percept of the warble comes new datum, the datum of excess, incommensurability. The warble asks of us: what isn't here? What am I not perceiving that is constituting this landscape? And, once I have taken this incommensurability up, how might I move forward with it?
TT: Watch a ship pass over the foundations of somebody's grandmother's house. Put on your scuba suit and set the table for dinner. Don't serve fish (rude).
I am a problem. A white settler living the unceded lands of Tiohtià:ke tsi ionhwéntsare. It cannot be resolved. The dream of a reconciled world doesn’t account for the historical, the political, the persistent inequalities. Attempt to resolve the problem of I, whether settler, migrant, traveller or tourist is to abide by some logic outside of “I”. It is the stories of nation state, forces of production, of cultural and social structures that give shape to the figure of “I”. But we must ask what lies outside, what have we excluded or discarded? What has remained obscured or forgotten, thus left outside of our construction of “I”?
The problem of “I” is not to be settled, made stable or static, or positioned outside of one’s self, but rather to be lived in, inhabited. As relational subject, locus of identity and agency, the “I” is transversed by flows, of global markets and the currents of the St. Lawrence river. It is shaped by our colonial past, the capriciousness of capitalism, the ecologies and stolen lands in which we live. To inhabit the problem of “I” is to acknowledge and address how one is co-constituted by the circumstances that are beyond our control, and our complicity with the perpetuation of the colonial-capitalist state. It is to both repudiate and be accountable.
Habitating the problem of “I” is a dynamic negotiation between the familiar and unfamiliar, the past and present, a navigation of the visible and imperceptible. New impressions, the potential for different discernments, perception stretched beyond what is in within reach. It is to seek out the “small, partial, wild stories of more-than-human attempts to stay alive” (Tsing et. al. 2017, G6). It is to listen for the whispered tales of a multitude of pasts and be attentive to the landscape haunted by ghosts and the living.
The problem of I becomes a practice of habitating or inhabiting in continuity, and living in relation, of prehending the other. It is a practice that continually asks that you find the potential for creative and ethical relations that are found in the relationing itself. It is to continuously make decisions of how to be in relation within contingent and unsettled circumstances. It is to participate in a politics of responsibility and unforgetting.
MN: Set a timer for one minute. Close your eyes and count to 60. Try and arrive at the same time, but hold your breath for the dissonant moments in between.
Warble and wobble, here, share a phonetic similarity which belies their shared precarity. The warble, an indicator of a flaw, lies latent, waiting for the percept - one who will take up its incommensurability. When I enter into a new landscape, the landscape dances to attention, preaccelerating towards a new subjective form. This new form takes me up, and following Erin Manning, my perception "participates in the quasi chaos of preacceleration. The associated milieu of preacceleration vibrates with the potential of polyrhythmicality" (Relationscapes 92). But then something skips - lands a little unevenly - feels not quite right. The uneven datum doesn't seem to conclude, take form in a way that I am able to perceive. The excess of the event contains not only creative potential for other events, but also an excess that is incommensurate with the data of the current occasion. In other words, this is the feeling of impossibility, awe, discomfort, disquiet.
This unsettling speaks of the ghosts of the land and water, of untimely deaths, extinction of species, the wreckage of modernity. Sorting through the polyrhythms, the weeds of this landscape, what potential for restitution might we find?
Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2010.
Cajete, Gregory Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers, 2000.
Deleuze, Gilles, Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
Deleuze, Gilles, Félix Guattari, and Brian Massumi. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
Harvey, D. The Urbanization of Capital: Studies in the History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanization. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1985.
Harvey, D. “The geopolitics of capitalism” In D. Gregory and J. Urry (Eds) Social Relations and Spatial Structures. London: Palgrave, 1985.
James, William. The Principles of Psychology. London: Dover Publications, 1890.
Kimmer, Robin, W. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Corvallis: Oregon State University, 2003.
King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2012.
Kovach, M., Carriere, J., Montgomery, H., Barrett, M.J., Gilles, C. “Indigenous Presence: Experiencing and Envisioning Indigenous Knowledges within Selected Post-Secondary Sites of Education and Social Work”, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.uregina.ca/socialwork/faculty-staff/FacultySites/MontgomeryMontySite/Indigenous%20Presence.pdf
Littlebear, L. (2018, January 14). Traditional knowledge and humanities: A Perspective by a Black- foot. Contours Journal. Retrieved from https://www.sfu.ca/humanities- institute/contours/i2_p3.html
Manning, Erin. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. The MIT Press, 2009.
Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 2002.
Tsing, Anna; Swanson, Heather; Gan, Elaine; Buband, Nils. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Warr, O., Sherwood, B.L. et al. (2018) Tracing ancient hydrogeological fracture network age and compartmentalisation using noble gases. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Vol. 222: 340-362.
Whitehead, Alfred N. (2010). Adventures of Ideas. New York : Free Press.
Whitehead, Alfred North. (1978). Process and Reality. New York: Free Press.
Whitehead, Alfred North. (1938). Modes of Thought. New York: The Free Press.