Environmental Philosophy

Volume 2, Issue 2, Fall 2005

Ted Toadvine
Pages 61-71

Gestalts and Refrains
On the Musical Structure of Nature

Western philosophy and culture have often posited a structural homology between music and nature. In a contemporary version of this association, deep ecologist Arne Naess proposes that the basic units of reality are hierarchically nested gestalts of a fundamentally relational character. I argue that Naess’s gestalt model fails to account for non-holistic or non-sensical experiences and for creative change in nature. I then suggest the concept of the “refrain” developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari as the basis for an alternative musical model of nature that avoids these limitations.