No Self Can Tell:

The Art of Letting Nothing DO Itself


Dr. Elisabeth Laasonen Belgrano & Dr. Mark D. Price


The research explores 'ornamenting' as a transferable method in inter-disciplinary studies, inter-faith dialogues and artistic/therapeutic practices. Adapting techniques of Renaissance musicology, the processes we have developed de-create and re-create vital connections. It is a communications strategy for times of crisis. Starting with simple sonic relations we extend the method far beyond its traditional musical setting. The practice utilises 'Nothingness' as a component of creativity, providing a novel response to figurations of nothingness as mere negation. Preliminary results suggest its potential as a counter force to nihilism and social dislocation.

The work divides into four areas. 1. Primary research on relationships between sound, meaning, and the sense(s) of self, exploring how sense is made of Otherness via processes akin to musical praxis: consonance, dissonance, 'pure voice' and ornamentation. 2. To apply this new perspective to a range of exile experiences – mourning, social disconnection, ex-communication and aggressive 'Othering'. 3. To investigate the cancelling of normal time-conditions in crisis situations such as trauma, dementia, and mystical experience, relating non-linear temporality to creative practice and healing. 4. To widely disseminate our results and methods as contributions to the methodology of artistic research via journal articles, live workshops and performances, and a book of original, praxical, testable, and teach-able interventions.


Before the Beginning.

Pause here. For the gradient

Of silence is changing.

Pause,  to hear behind all sounds

The slope of silence deepening.

In the green wall of the forest

In the red wall of the city

Behind the wall of no-sound

Is the no-door of The Aleph.

Here, hands pause in reverence.

Here the fingers bow their heads

Into a gentle fist to nod three times upon

The threshold of The Aleph.

There is no door there is no frame.

There is no wall there is no space.

Here is NOTHING which creates

Every distinction to be made.

Lugs of the Spirit! Hear the light falling.

Lugs of the Spirit! Hear darkness falling.

Un-knowing. Knowing nothing.

The holy, silent sweep of no wing.

Black ash falling from a white winter sky

White ash rising to a black summer sky

But there is one season here, forever

Awaiting the songs of un-created birds.

Nothing is separating and connecting

The upper and the lower waters.

Separating and connecting

The Silence of Light and the Silence of Darkness.

Even the simple images

Are too noisy. Even the

Silent wisdom of the Ravens

And the innocence of the Doves

The green walls of Eden

The red walls of Hell

The walls and gates of heaven

Are exiles of the Aleph.

Truly, truly, without doubt

That above is like unto below.

And that below is like unto

That which is above.


(Mark D. Price 2020)



may happen,

Nothing at  all.

What goes on between two words? Between two letters?

Between a hand and a pen? Between a paper and a pen? Between a mind and an act? Between two beings?

Between two bodies?

Between two souls? 

Between time and space?

Between time/space experiences?

Between what is seen and sees?

Look  my dear,

look close

into my eyes, 

NOTE to SELVES on OVER-SPILLING (or thinking/acting-in-abundance)

Something declared and manifested?

A collection presented in white rooms?

Clean and ordered inside un-dusted closets?'




(Laasonen Belgrano exploring live referencing through: Brun 2020)

What can be made of something?

What do one know of the time that will come? 
What are the fragments causing a being to inhale and exhale? 
To go on living? 
To make living happen? 
To exist? 
To continue by telling a story? 
To move into unknown relations with Others?

This project develops two doctoral investigations (Belgrano 2011 and Price 2017). Both dealt with the concept of 'the UNKNOWN' as a developmental force in performance methods as art results/art works. Both challenged academic research traditions. Both re-evaluated artistic practice and questioned the institutional norms of its performance and presentation.

In an interesting case of parallel-processing both projects (unaware of each other’s existence) were boldly curated and met with similarly hard institutional resistances. Both were driven by a maximum openness towards all possible forms of transformation. Both separately explored cross-disciplinary interventions, inter-actions and intra-actions spoken of by Barad (2012) and did so in ways which were openly 'heretical' within academia: not least because of their obviously mystical tendencies. Universities may encourage the referencing of mystics such as Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Simone Weil or Robert Lenkiewicz as 'historical examples' of spiritual re-creation and de-creation, but few institutions have the courage to promote real experimentation with their methods.

By chance or by fate, the separate Belgrano/ Price research projects collided, inter-acted and merged via the Performance Philosophy Network. A riotously productive art-making process ensued. Collaborations rather than confrontations multiplied - despite (or perhaps because of) profound philosophical and theological differences informing the two PhD projects. In terms of 'ideology' the collaborators might be cast as enemies. Dr Belgrano is a committed Christian cleric with interests in early Renaissance music and mysticism, whereas Dr Price self-describes as a 'base materialist and libidinal alchemist'. These axiomatic differences aside, there is a strange and fertile over-lap: a yet-to-be mapped liminal zone between their approaches. From Belgrano's side this productivity takes its bearings from Renaissance musicology, the Christian mystical tradition, and a profound faith in the relation of 'Logos' to 'Incarnation'. Price worked as an assistant to Robert Lenkiewicz for several years, and he approaches the un-mapped territory via the creative practices of Hermeticism, Paganism and Alchemy, each considered as political-materialist arts and points of resistance to 'the judgment of God' (Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze). This makes for unusual dialogues between the researchers, to say the very least.

Like the sea hitting a cliff-face, the online conversation created intricate and powerful new patterns in a manner which is obviously related to Belgrano's work on 'Ornamentation as Methodology' (Belgrano 2018, 2019), via the open-ness to fundamental disagreements about values, and due to our conflicting axioms, the conversation shaped new perspectives. It points towards truly UNKNOWN connections. The traces (results) of poetry, sound, images and survival-narratives are informed by deep trust of the 'Unknown Other' (Lingis, 'Trust', 2004). Belgrano and Price contact each other only at a distance, via computer, allowing unconditional editing of each other's materials. Price writes incessantly but seldom speaks on telephones or any other social media, unless it is to music. It may be that he uses a specific mode of silence as a means of 'haunting' the collaborations. The Belgrano/ Price musical projects develop an aesthetic intimacy (if we define 'aesthetic' as 'embodied knowledge') which is more often embedded in somatic (live) performance.

Their methods are highly syncretic, ranging from phenomenological and hermeneutic approaches, to diffractive arts practice, to textual exegesis and depth-psychology. These are the spokes of the wheel. The hub of the research is the Seventeenth century concept of 'ornamentation'.  This traditionally begins with a music manuscript, which is performed as a research-meditation-through-action. We have reasons to believe it can be applied to any ''text'', and by text we mean any system of signification: we have yet to find limits. This method seems especially relevant to issues of exile and trauma because much like the 'ripening' of trauma, 'what a piece of ornamented music' IS can never be decided in advance. It is a becoming, not a being.

'Ornament' may be a term associated with the frivolous in propositional philosophy, but in music 'ornament' is profound. Pursuing the methods of ornamentation with commitment entails an open-ness to the totally UNKNOWN.  As a method it is commutable between philosophy, empirical science and music. Like alchemy, it is entirely non-doctrinal and experimental. It forces the participants to reflect on some fundamental questions which transect disciplines: What in any encounter causes acts to change direction and transform? What is the significance of touch, proximity, and distance in an encounter? How do parts relate to wholes? How are we to judge if these connections are significant? To what extent does apophenia play a role in the process of ornamenting? Does the methodology of ornamentation share functional aspects of viriological spread, creating new forms from 'basic elements' by the sheer exuberance of its over-spilling and unpredictable mutation? 

The term 'apophenia' is most often deployed as a psychiatric concept for the abnormal heightening of significant connections. Building on Camillo's Memory Theatre and the later phases of Lenkiewicz's work, Price's research (2017) demonstrated several techniques by which it can be induced. It may be a useful corrective to traumatic under-connection. This research aims to explore how such a heightening of sensed connectivity is both necessary and desirable in musical performance, and perhaps (though we can not say in advance) in broader therapeutic interventions. We aim to show how methods of musical ornamentation and 'hyper-connectivity' may contribute to the harmonious development of inter-disciplinary research in general. We aim to find some solutions to the huge problems of socio-historical 'exile' and disconnection which accompany the present pandemic. 


This praxis-led project is not only meant to shed light on artistic music research as a way of making art. It also attempts to open new possibilities for trans-disciplinary explorations in and through theology and creative performance more generally. Techniques for the production of meaningful connections at the level of performance must of course go beyond the subjective realm of the performer and be tested according to the responses of peers, congregation, audience, or community. As such this is not a matter of theory, but empirical practice-led research. Taking a strong hint from the 'hard sciences' it is reasonable to assume that with the aid of inference and inductive reasoning, apophenic techniques of connectivity might be used to connect a variety of fields. The guiding hope is twofold. Firstly, to set aside 'theory' and instead develop a reliable tool-kit for exploring ornamentation as a way of meaning-making. And secondly, to investigate whether such tools might be useful in enriching dialogues between zones which are separated by subject-specialism in the realms of education, therapeutic practice, theology, social science, and how we make meaning in the art of everyday living. 

(Price 2020:Butterflies)