Love's Old Song Will Be New: Deleuze, Busby Berkeley and Becoming-Music

Steven Pustay


This article argues that Busby Berkeley’s unique musical spectacles invert the cinematic taxonomy found in Deleuze’s twin volumes on Cinema through the process of ‘becoming-music.’ By taking up a form that I term ‘visual-music,’ in which musical properties are incorporated within the image, Berkeley’s work problematizes Deleuze’s philosophy of cinematic sound and benefits instead from the conceptions of the musical refrain and rhythm located in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.

Breaking away from traditional Deleuzian readings of cinema, I demonstrate, through a close textual analysis of Berkeley’s use of both the aural and visual refrain, that Berkeley’s images become ‘visual-music’ in order to deterritorialize (i.e. reconfigure our understanding of) the sound rather than the image. Using the ‘Shadow Waltz’ from Gold Diggers of 1933 as an example, I argue that a Berkeley musical number resituates the music’s territory of soft romanticism to reveal the sexuality inherent in the sonic forms of popular music.



Deleuze; Busby Berkeley; becoming-music; deterritorialization; sound-image relationships; Musicals

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