Doctrine of the affections

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The doctrine of the affections, also known as the doctrine of affects, doctrine of the passions, theory of the affects, or by the German term Affektenlehre (after the German Affekt; plural Affekte) was a theory in the aesthetics of painting, music, and theatre, widely used in the Baroque era (1600–1750) (Harnoncourt 1983; Harnoncourt 1988). Literary theorists of that age, by contrast, rarely discussed the details of what was called "pathetic composition", taking it for granted that a poet should be required to "wake the soul by tender strokes of art" (Alexander Pope, cited in Rogerson 1953, p. 68). The doctrine was derived from ancient theories of rhetoric and oratory (Buelow 2001). Some pieces or movements of music express one Affekt throughout; however, a skillful composer like Johann Sebastian Bach could express different affects within a movement (Boetticher 2010) .

History and definition[edit]

The doctrine of the affections was an elaborate theory based on the idea that the passions could be represented by their outward visible or audible signs. It drew largely on elements with a long previous history, but first came to general prominence in the mid-seventeenth century amongst the French scholar-critics associated with the Court of Versailles, helping to place it at the centre of artistic activity for all of Europe (Rogerson 1953, p. 70). The term itself, however, was only first devised in the twentieth century by German musicologists Hermann Kretzschmar, Harry Goldschmidt, and Arnold Schering, to describe this aesthetic theory (Buelow 2001; Nagley and Bujić 2002).

René Descartes held that there were six basic affects, which can be combined into numerous intermediate forms (Descartes 1649, p. 94):

  1. Admiration (admiration)
  2. Amour (love)
  3. Haine (hatred)
  4. Désir (desire)
  5. Joie (joy)
  6. Tristesse (sorrow)

Another authority also mentions sadness, anger, and jealousy (Buelow 2001). These were attributed to the physiological effects of humors. Lorenzo Giacomini (1552–1598) in his Orationi e discorsi defined an affection as "a spiritual movement or operation of the mind in which it is attracted or repelled by an object it has come to know as a result of an imbalance in the animal spirits and vapours that flow continually throughout the body" (Giacomini Tebalducci Malespini 1597)[page needed]. Descartes also proposed that the affections were reliant upon humors. Contemporary beliefs were that the humors' consistency or location could be affected by external factors. This allowed for an expectation of contemporary art to have an objective physical effect on its consumer (Seaton 2010, pp. 166–168).

"Affections are not the same as emotions; however, they are a spiritual movement of the mind" (Palisca 1991, p. 3).

A prominent Baroque proponent of the Doctrine of the Affections was Johann Mattheson (Poultney 1996, p. 107).

Examples for affects and corresponding musical figures[edit]

The following table cites instructions from (Mattheson 1739) on how to express affects.

"Since for example joy is an expansion of our soul, thus it follows reasonably and naturally that I could best express this affect by large and expanded intervals" (Mattheson 1981, part 1, chapter 3, section 56).
"Whereas if one knows that sadness is a contraction of these subtle parts of our body,then it is easy to see that the small and smallest intervals are the most suitable for this passion" (Mattheson 1981, part 1, chapter 3, section 57).
"Hope is an elevation of the soul or spirits; but despair is a depression of this: all of which are things which can very naturally be represented with sound, especially when the other circumstances (tempo in particular) contribute their part. And in this way one can form a sensitive concept of all the emotions and compose accordingly" (Mattheson 1981, part 1, chapter 3, section 59).
"Pride, haughtiness, arrogance, and the like, are also usually depicted or expressed with their special colors in notes and sounds, for which purpose the composer usually draws upon a bold, pompous style. He thus has the opportunity to use all sorts of majestic musical figures which require a special seriousness and grandiloquent motion; but he must never permit a musical line that is fleeting and falling, but always ascending" (Mattheson 1981, part 1, chapter 3, section 72).
"Anger, ardor, vengeance, rage, fury, and all other such violent affections, are actually far better at making available all sorts of musical inventions than the gentle and pleasant passions which are handled with much more refinement. Yet it is also not enough with the former if one only rumbles along strongly, makes a lot of noise and boldly rages: notes with many tails will simply not suffice, as many think; but each of these violent qualities requires its own particular characteristics, and, despite forceful expression, must still have a becoming singing quality: as our general principle, which we must not lose sight of, expressly demands" (Mattheson 1981, part 1, chapter 3, section 75).
"That which is to a certain degree placed in opposition to hope and consequently gives rise to a contrasting arrangement of sounds is called fear, dejection, failure, etc. Fright and horror also belong here, which, if one thinks of them rightly and has a good mental picture of their natural character, yield very suitable musical passages corresponding with the condition of the affections" (Mattheson 1981, part 1, chapter 3, section 78).


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  • Boetticher, Jörg-Andreas (2010), Einführung in die Kantaten vom 14. März 2010, Basel: Bachkantaten in der Predigerkirche: Dokumentation zur Aufführung sämtlicher geistlicher Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs in der Basler Predigerkirche, 2004–2012, retrieved 3 June 2014.
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  • Mattheson, Johann. 1739. Der Vollkommene Capellmeister, Das ist Gründliche Anzeige aller derjenigen Sachen, die einer wissen, können, und vollkommen inne haben muß, der einer Capelle mit Ehren und Nutzen vorstehen will. Hamburg: Christian Herold. Facsimile reprint, edited by Margarete Reimann. Documenta musicologica 1. Reihe, Druckschriften-Faksimiles 5. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1954. ISBN 9783761801000. Study edition with the text and notes newly typeset, edited by Friederike Ramm. Kassel, Basel, London, New York, and Prague: Bärenreiter, 1999. Third edition, 2012. ISBN 9783761814130.
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  • Nagley, Judith, and Bojan Bujić (2002). "Affections, Doctrine of". The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866212-9.
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Further reading[edit]

  • Bayreuther, Rainer (2005). "Theorie der musikalischen Affektivität in der Frühen Neuzeit". In Musiktheoretisches Denken und kultureller Kontext, edited by Dörte Schmidt, 69–92. Forum Musikwissenschaft 1. Schliengen: Edition Argus. ISBN 978-3-931264-51-2.
  • Bartel, Dietrich (2003). "Ethical Gestures: Rhetoric in German Baroque Music". The Musical Times 144, no. 1885 (Winter): 15–19.
  • Campe, Rüdiger. Affekt und Ausdruck. Zur Umwandlung der literarischen Rede im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1990).
  • Bartel, Dietrich (2003). "Ethical Gestures: Rhetoric in German Baroque Music". The Musical Times 144, no. 1885 (Winter): 15–19.
  • Clark, Andrew (2013). Making Music Speak. In Speaking of Music: Addressing the Sonorous, edited by Keith M. Chapin and Andrew Clark, 70–85. New York: Fordham University Press. ISBN 978-0-8232-5138-4; ISBN 978-0-8232-5139-1.
  • Eusterschulte, Anne (1999), "'Effetti maravigliosi': Ethos und Affektenlehre in Musiktraktaten des 16. Jahrhunderts", Musiktheorie (in German), 14 (3): 195–212.
  • Fubini, Enrico. 2003. "La musica e il linguaggio degli affetti". In 'Et facciam dolçi canti': Studi in onore di Agostino Ziino in occasione del suo 65° compleanno, 2 vols., edited by Bianca Maria Antolini, Maria Teresa Gialdroni, and Annunziato Pugliese, 2:1467–76. Lucca, Italy: Libreria Musicale Italiana (LIM). ISBN 978-88-7096-321-2.
  • Harriss, Ernest. 1986. "Johann Mattheson and the Affekten-, Figuren-, and Rhetoriklehren". In La musique et le rite sacré et profane, 2 vols., edited by Marc Honegger, Christian Meyer, and Paul Prévost, 517–31. Strasbourg: Association des publications près les Universités de Strasbourg. ISBN 2868201075.
  • Kircher, Athanasius (1650), Musurgia universalis sive ars magna consoni et dissoni in X. libros digesta (in Latin), Rome: Francisci Corbelletti.
  • Koch, Klaus-Peter. 2010. "Das Malen bei Telemann mit Hilfe von Gattungen der Melodien und ihren besondern Abzeichen". In Telemann, der musikalische Maler: Telemann-Kompositionen im Notenarchiv der Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, edited by Carsten Lange and Brit Reipsch, 114–25. Telemann-Konferenzberichte, no. 15. Hildesheim: Georg Olms. ISBN 978-3-487-14336-1.
  • Krones, Hartmut (2002). "Johann Gottfried Herder: Die Affektenlehre und die Musik". In Ideen und Ideale: Johann Gottfried Herder in Ost und West, edited by Peter Andraschke and Helmut Loos, 71–88. Rombach Wissenschaften: Reihe Litterae 103. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach Verlag. ISBN 978-3-79309-343-5.
  • Lachmirowicz, Ewa. 2010. "Technika wyrażania afektów według Francesca Geminianiego i Giuseppe Tartiniego". Muzyka 55 No. 4:219: 21–44.
  • Lippman, Edward A. (ed.). 1986. Musical Aesthetics: A Historical Reader. Volume 1: "From Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century". Aesthetics in Music 4. New York: Pendragon Press, ; ISBN 978-0-918728-41-8
  • Mackensen, Karsten. 2008. "Sinn und System: zur Auflösung der Topik in der Erfahrung bei Johann Mattheson". In Musiktheorie im Kontext, edited by Jan Philipp Sprick, Reinhard Bahr, and Michael von Troschke, 357–72. Berlin: Weidler. ISBN 978-3-89693-515-1.
  • Manika, Jürgen (1989), "Athanasius Kirchers Exemplifizierungen zur Affektenlehre: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Musikpsychologie", Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft (in German), 31 (1): 81–94.
  • Mersenne, Marin (1636), Harmonie universelle, contenant la theorie er la pratique de la musique (in French), Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy.
  • Neu, Ulrike (1995). Harmonik und Affektgestaltung in den Lautenkompositionen von Silvius Leopold Weiss. Europäische Hochschulschriften. Reihe XXXVI, Musikwissenschaft; Publications universitaires européennes. Série XXXVI, Musicologie; European university studies. Series XXXVI, Musicology 141. Frankfurt am Main and New York: P. Lang. ISBN 978-3-631-48382-4.
  • Pečman, Rudolf (2001). "C.Ph.E. Bach und die Affektenlehre: Bemerkungen zur Aufführungspraxis". In Rudolfu Pečmanovi k sedmdesátinám/Rudolf Pečman zu seinem 70. Geburtstag, edited by Peter Macek, 17–22. Musicologica brunensia: Sborník prací Filozofické Fakulty Brněnské Univerzity. H: Řada hudebněvědná, 50–51(36–37).
  • Pontremoli, Alessandro (ed.) (2003). Il volto e gli affetti: Fisiognomica ed espressione nelle arti del Rinascimento. Biblioteca dell'Archivum Romanicum. I: Storia, letteratura, paleografia 311. Florence: Leo S. Olschki. ISBN 978-88-222-5256-2.
  • Pozzi, Egidio (2009). "Il primo Settecento e la Melodielehre di Mattheson, Riepel e Kirnberger". In Storia dei concetti musicali. III: Melodia, stile, suono, edited by Gianmario Borio, 53–70. Rome: Carocci. ISBN 978-88-430-5166-3.
  • Praetorius, Michael (1615–1620), Syntagma Musicum (in German), 3 vols. in 4. Wittenberg: Johannes Richter (vol. 1); Wolfenbüttel: Elias Holwein (vols. 2 & 3).
  • Rathey, Markus (2012). "Johann Mattheson's 'Invention': Models and Influences for Rhythmic Variation in Der vollkommene Capellmeister". Dutch Journal of Music Theory/Tijdschrift voor muziektheorie 17, no. 2 (May): 77–90.
  • Rogerson, Brewster (1953), "The Art of Painting the Passions", Journal of the History of Ideas, 14 (1): 68–94, doi:10.2307/2707496, JSTOR 2707496.
  • Seedorf, Thomas, and Christian Schaper. 2013. Händels Arien: Form, Affekt, Kontext: Bericht über die Symposien der Internationalen Händel-Akademie Karlsruhe 2008 bis 2010. Veröffentlichungen der Internationalen Händel-Akademie Karlsruhe Bd. 10. ISBN 9783890073897.
  • Selfridge-Field, Eleanor. 2013. "Associative Aspects of Perceived Musical Similarity and Their Intersections with Seconda-Prattica Affetti". In À Fresco: Mélanges offerts au professeur Étienne Darbellay, edited by Georges Starobinski and Brenno Boccadoro, 433–52. Bern: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3-0343-1397-1.
  • Siegmund, Bert (ed.). 2003. Gestik und Affekt in der Musik des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts: XXVIII. Internationale Wissenschaftliche Arbeitstagung, Michaelstein, 19. bis 21. Mai 2000: gewidmet dem Gedenken an Günter Fleischhauer. [Michaelstein]: Stiftung Kloster Michaelstein; Dössel: J. Stekovics, ; ISBN 9783895121210 (Stiftung Kloster Michaelstein); ISBN 9783899230345 (J. Stekovics).
  • Siekiera, Anna (2000), "Sulla terminologia musicale del Rinascimento. Le traduzioni dei testi antichi dal Quattrocento alla Camerata de' Bardi", in Nicolodi, F.; Trovato, P. (eds.), Parole della musica vol.III Studi di lessicologia musicale (in Italian), Florence: Olschki, pp. 3–30.
  • Siekiera, Anna (2000), "Tradurre per musica : lessico musicale e teatrale nel cinquecento", Cahiers Accademia (in Italian), vol. 2.[page needed].
  • Stoll, Albrecht D. 1981. Figur und Affekt: zur höfischen Musik und zur bürgerlichen Musiktheorie der Epoche Richelieu, second edition. Frankfurter Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 4. Tutzing: H. Schneider. ISBN 978-3-7952-0197-5.
  • Thieme, Ulrich (1984), Die Affektenlehre im philosophischen und musikalischen Denken des Barock: Vorgeschichte, Ästhetik, Physiologie (in German), Celle: Moeck Verlag, ISBN 3-87549-021-5.Ulrich Thieme
  • Watts, Isaac (1770), The Doctrine of the Passions Explain'd and Improv'd or, a Brief and Comprehensive Scheme of the Natural Affections of Mankind; With an Account of Their Names, Nature, Appearances, Effects, and Different Uses in Human Life; To Which Are Subjoin'd Moral and Divine Rules, corrected and enlarged (5th ed.), London: Printed for J. Buckland, and T. Longman; E. and C. Dilly; and T. Field.
  • Wiegmann, Hermann (1987), "Die Ästhetische Leidenschaft: Texte zur Affektenlehre im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert", Germanistische Texte und Studien (in German), Hildesheim and New York: G. Olms, 27, ISBN 3-487-07840-6.Hermann Wiegmann [de]