Whitehead’s Process, Music’s Reality: Sound and Affect after the Ontological Turn

Ryan Dohoney
Assistant Professor of Musicology, Northwestern University

Alfred_North_Whitehead

In this talk I query the recent turn to ontology in anthropology and in the humanities more broadly. I investigate how both sound and affect figure in this ontological turn and how conceptions of both have been grounded in the thought of Gilles Deleuze. While Deleuze and others have drawn upon Alfred North Whitehead to conceptualize affect and its political promise, I argue that Whitehead has been misread and that he offers a more compositional way of thinking sound and affect through his philosophy. While Deleuze and his interlocutors find affect politically valuable precisely to the degree to which it exceeds subjectivity and engenders processes of “deterritorialization,” I argue that Whitehead offers a way to think of emotion as that which holds us together in fragile yet necessary bonds, with musical experience serving as a primary example of such collectivity.

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