Rhetoric and music

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Rhetoric and music.

The connections between rhetoric and music have often been extremely close, notably in the Baroque period. The influence of the principles of rhetoric profoundly affected the basic elements of music. (See also Analysis, §II.)

Interrelationships between music and the spoken arts – artes dicendi (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic) – are at once obvious and unclear. Until fairly late in the history of Western civilization, music was predominantly vocal and thus bound to words. Composers have therefore generally been influenced to some degree by rhetorical doctrines governing the setting of texts to music, and even after the growth of independent instrumental music, rhetorical principles continued for some time to be used not only for vocal music but for instrumental works too. What still remains to be fully explained is how these critical interrelationships often controlled the craft of composition. These developments are unclear partly because modern musicians and scholars are untrained in the rhetorical disciplines, which since the beginning of the 19th century have largely disappeared from most educational and philosophical system. It was only in the early 20th century that music historians rediscovered the importance of rhetoric as the basis of aesthetic and theoretical concepts in earlier music. An entire discipline that had once been the common property of every educated man has had to be rediscovered and reconstructed during the intervening decades, and only now is it beginning to be understood how much Western art music has depended on rhetorical concepts.

I. Up to 1750

II. After 1750



I. Up to 1750

1. Middle Ages and Renaissance.

2. Baroque.

3. Musical figures.

4. Affects.

1. Middle Ages and Renaissance.

All rhetorically related musical concepts originated in the extensive literature on oratory and rhetoric by ancient Greek and Roman writers, principally Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian. Among the enduring and influential legacies of this tradition is a fivefold division of the art of verbal discourse into inventio (finding the argument), dispositio (ordering the argument), elocutio (style), memoria and pronuntiatio(delivery), with the aim of moving (movere), delighting (delectare) and instructing (docere). Quintilian’s requirements for the well-trained orator included ‘knowledge of the principles of music, which have power to excite or assuage the emotions of mankind’. The emphasis of ancient orators on the significant role of music in oratory supported a continuous tradition of musical-rhetorical relations throughout these early periods, but the manner in which music and rhetoric interacted varied according to a number of shifting conditions, among them the accessibility of the ancient rhetorical treatises, the nature of the material conveyed in those treatises, the prevailing goals and functions of music and rhetoric within a given culture, and the various arenas of theory, compositon, performance and notation where one looks for signs of this interaction.

Broadly speaking, medieval rhetoric tended to favour eloquence, which emphasized the technical and structural aspects of form (dispositio) and style (elocutio), whereas Renaissance rhetoric favoured persuasion, which emphasized the orator’s strategies of inventio and delivery in affective speech that moved others to action. The former regards the structure of the argument per se, and reflects both the technical orientation of the Hellenistic courtroom manuals studied during the Middle Ages (Pseudo-Cicero Rhetorica ad Herenium, Cicero’s early De inventione) and the deployment of rhetoric within the fields of grammer, logic and written discourse. The latter regards the affective content and meaning of speech in relation to an audience, and reflects the rediscovery of Quintilian’s complete Institutio oratoria (1416), Cicero’s mature De oratore (1422) and, eventually, Aristotle’s Rhetorica, which advance rhetoric as an oral discourse within an integrated social system based on respect for civic life.

Having lost its oratorical moorings in ancient civic culture, rhetoric exercised an influence during the Middle Ages at once pervasive and diffuse, and points of direct contact between rhetoric and music are consequently difficult to identify. A shared vocabulary of such terms as trope (van Deusen, 1985), colores, clausula, copula, diminutio and variatiomay testify less to a direct influence than to the fact that the topic of tropes and figurae (the rhetorical ornaments of style, or elocutio) were universal and elementary aspects of a medieval education. Similarly, one could argue convincingly, but not conclusively, that the rhetorical practice of argument based on authoritative exempla (auctoritas) is manifested in the musical quotation, allusion and paraphrase found in, for example, plainchant-based polyphony, certain Ars Subtilior works and 15th-century imitation masses (Reynolds, 1995). The well-defined rhetorical techniques of memorization (ars memorandi, Enders, 1990) and delivery (the performance of ‘pictorial scripts’ stored in the memory) are latent in the development of such mnemonic aids as early notation and the ‘Guidonian’ hand (Berger, 1981), were certainly fundamental to the activities of medieval performers, and probably hold clues to the process by which standard melodic, rhythmic and even harmonic figurae could be retained and variously ‘composed’ in the memory. And while medieval theorists dealing with chant repertory evince an ongoing concern with text-music relations such as text underlay, accentuation and syntactical alignment (Harrán, 1986), these were primarily grammatical concerns, and the obscure relationship between medieval grammar and rhetoric makes it difficult to identify a specifically rhetorical strategy in either the theory or the repertory of chant.

As rhetoric and poetry were conjoined in the novae poetriae of scholastic grammarians like Matthew of Vendôme, Geoffrey of Vinsauf and Johannes de Garlandia, rhetorical elements of style embedded in the poetic text were mirrored in the musical settings. The shared concern is a concept of stylistic elegance based not on semantic content and its expression, but on rhetorical figures of ‘sound’ (Stevens, 1992) such as repetition, alliteration, assonance, syllable count, rhyme, metrics and rhythmics. These constitute a kind of verbal music that could be reflected in analogous, though essentially different, gestures of the musical setting such as the alignment of cadence and rhyme, the coordination of tenor repetitions with significant words, and the alignment of matching vowels in polytextual works. It is within this musical-poetic tradition that Machaut was a rhétoriqueur, and the harmonious co-habitation of these two ‘musics’ as described by Machaut’s ‘pupil’ Eustache Deschamps in his Art de dictier (1392) may be found, for example, in the repertories of the medieval lai (Stevens, 1992), Notre Dame organa (Flotzinger, 1975), and the early motet (Pesce, 1986).

The city-states of late 14th- and early 15th-century Italy provided the context for the humanist rediscovery of the practice and texts of ancient civic oratory, but circumstances favourable to the union of humanist rhetoric and music arose only at the turn of the 16th century. To be sure, signs of this union already may be seen in the declamatory passages in late Trecento works, the varietas and affective projection of text in Ciconia’s O rosa bella, and the use of fermata-blocked chords on important words in the works of 15th-century composers like Du Fay. There are widespread instances of ‘text-painting’, musical figurae that project the semantic meaning of the text (Pesce, 1986; Elders, 1981; Reynolds, 1995), but these are all essentially isolated examples, and the written (if not the unwritten) musical culture of 15th-century Italy was shaped primarily by northern composers influenced by late medieval modes of discourse.

The first signs of a significant interaction between music and humanist rhetoric appear during the generation of Josquin, by which time the first published translations of Quintilian and Cicero had been disseminated, and the first humanist rhetoric treatises had begun to appear. With the abandonment of medieval pre-compositional structures, like the formes fixes in the secular chanson and cantus firmus techniques in the motet, composers were free to explore new text-music relationships within the more flexible medium of an entirely original and through-composed musical fabric. A work like Josquin’s motet Ave Maria, virgo serena approaches the later 16th-century ideal of musical oratory, with its word-generated rhythms and melodic phrases, the careful pacing and sequential unfolding of its ‘argument’ through textural varietas and the manipulation of cadential closure and elision, and its overall mood of affective supplication. A heightened sense of rhetorical decorum, the matching of proper style (verba) to content (res), also led to the breakdown of medieval categories of genre and style at this time; surely the unusual gravitas of his chanson text led Josquin to apply motet texture in his setting of Mille regretz. The same rhetorical subjects of decorum and varietas surface in contemporary theoretical works. Tinctoris’s eighth rule of counterpoint in his Liber de arte contrapuncti (1477) reflects both Cicero’s precept and the increasing modal variety to be found in the works of Josquin and his contemporaries: ‘Wherefore, according to the opinion of Tullius [Cicero], as variety in the art of speaking most delights the hearer, so also in music a diversity of harmonies vehemently provokes the souls of listeners into delight …’. When discussing decorum in singing in his Practica musice (1496), Gaffurius urged that a ‘composer of a song should take care that words are set in an appropriate way to music’, and that the mode should be selected to that end. Gaffurius also adopted Quintilian’s division of oratorical delivery (pronuntiatio) into matters of voxand gestus when he advised the singer to avoid bellowing or excessive vibrato, and to refrain from a gaping, distorted mouth and exaggerated movements of the head and hands. Josquin’s pivotal role with respect to word-note relationship was acknowledged in the next generation by northern theorists like Glarean, Coclico and Hermann Finck. In Finck’s view (Practica musica, 1556) Josquin was the composer who showed ‘the true way’ from the veteres to the recentiores, who were distinguished primarily according to their concern with a correct and affective setting of the words.

The decisive bond between music and rhetoric was forged in the decades after about 1525, and by 1560 the concepts and terminology of classical oratory had made strong inroads into the writings of music theorists on both sides of the Alps (Wilson, 1995). On the model of Melanchthon’s adoption of rhetorical doctrines for Protestant scriptural exegesis and instruction in the new Lateinschulen, German theorists wrote music tutors that increasingly aligned rhetorical principles with the craft of musical composition within the new category of musica poetica. Listenius (1537) was the first to introduce this to the traditional Boethian duality of musica theoretica and musica practica, and subsequent works by Heyden (1540), Glarean (1547), Coclico (1552) and Finck (1556) established strong ties between Josquin-style polyphony and Ciceronian precepts of variety and decorum. Heyden and Glarean both invoked the rhetorical power of metaphor as described by Aristotle and Quintilian when they referred to the power of appropriate musical figures (figurae, colores) to place subjects before the mind’s eye (ob oculos ponere), a conceit that was repeated by later northern writers like Quickelberg (1560) and Burmeister (1601) with respect to the music of Lassus, and which surely constituted the theoretical basis for Renaissance ‘text-painting’. In the singing manuals of Coclico and Finck, Quintilian’s division of eloquence into correct speech (recte loquendum) and elegant speech (bene loquendum) was reinterpreted as recte cantandum (observation of correct accentuation, pronunciation and text placement) and bene cantandum (florid singing, or cantus ornatus employing coloraturae). In Dressler’s Praecepta musicae poetica (1563), compositional structure adopted the formal division of an oration into exordium, medium and finis. A German tradition equating the expressive function of musical colores (ornaments) with rhetorical colores (tropes and figures) was extended in the writings of Burmeister, who developed a detailed list of musical-rhetorical figures (Musica autoschediastikē, 1601; Musica poetica, 1606; see Rivera, 1993) that both summarized the Renaissance tradition and laid the foundation of a German theoretical tradition of musical figures for the next two centuries.

Musical-rhetorical relations developed along more radical lines in Italy, where they unfolded in the more rarefied air of the humanist courts and academies, which sustained both a more probing view of the condition of ancient music and a subtle and sustained interaction between music and emerging theories of vernacular poetry. Of first importance was Venice during the second quarter of the 16th century, where Pietro Bembo linked Ciceronian precepts of decorum and varietas to Petrarchan poetics (see Mace, 1969), and composers and theorists in the circle of Willaert came under the direct influence of Bembo’s Ciceronianism (Feldman, 1995). The Venetian context of text-underlay rules outlined by Lanfranco (1533), del Lago (1540), Vicentino (1555), Zarlino (1558) and Stoquerus (c1570) reflects an essentially rhetorical concern with recte loquendum. The composer Rore and the theorists Zarlino and Vicentino stand out as leading exponents of the application of Bembist thought to music as first demonstrated in the Petrarchan madrigals of Willaert’s Musica nova. In his Istitutioni harmoniche (1558), Zarlino borrowed the Ciceronian vocabulary of sonus (euphony and smoothness of speech) and numerus (well-structured speech), and applied them to a Bembist concept of eloquence: stylistic purity and restraint (the avoidance of contrapuntal errors, excessive divisions, chromaticism as a destroyer of modal clarity, indiscreet use of vox and gestus, and harshness) were to temper varietas (such as diversity of melodic movement and consonances, and avoidance of undue repetition) in pursuit of an elevated style characterized by the beauty and gravitas found in Willaert’s music and Petrarch’s poetry. Zarlino’s rapprochement between Franco-Flemish polyphony and the expressive ideals of oratory was particularly influential north of the Alps, where he replaced Gaffurius as the leading theorist of stile antico counterpoint. Drawing on the ancient Greek concepts of modal ethos and the genera, Vicentino proposed in his L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica, (1555) a more radical notion of decorum latent in the sharp contrasts within Petrarchan language. In Vicentino’s extended concept of varietas, the ‘diverse passions’ of vernacular poetry may require that purity and even beauty be sacrificed to modal mixture, chromaticism and ‘every bad step’ and ‘bad consonance’, and the relationship to ancient oratory is explicit: ‘Now [the orator] speaks loudly, now softly, and more slowly, and more rapidly, and with this he moves the listeners very much …. The same ought to be in music’. Vicentino here framed the ideological (and essentially rhetorical) basis of the seconda pratica much as Rore manifested it in his madrigals. Among the next generation of musical humanists, Girolamo Mei had participated, as a disciple of Piero Vettori, in the revival of Cicero’s works on oratory and rhetoric, and had ‘read thirty times if once’ the Rhetoricaof Aristotle. In a letter of 1560 to Vettori, Mei proposed an Aristotelian system of communicative arts (arti fattive) that brought together the mimetic media of music, rhetoric, poetry and the visual arts, a prophetic confluence that was most aptly realized in opera.

2. Baroque.

Not until the Baroque period did rhetoric and oratory furnish so many of the essential rational concepts that lie at the heart of most compositional theory and practice. Beginning in the 17th century, analogies between rhetoric and music permeated every level of musical thought, whether involving definitions of styles, forms, expression and compositional methods, or various questions of performing practice. Baroque music in general aimed for a musical expression of words comparable to impassioned rhetoric or a musica pathetica. The union of music with rhetorical principles is one of the most distinctive characteristics of Baroque musical rationalism and gave shape to the progressive elements in the music theory and aesthetics of the period. Since the preponderantly rhetorical orientation of Baroque music evolved out of the Renaissance preoccupation with the impact of musical styles on the meaning and intelligibility of words (as for example in the theoretical discussions of the Florentine Camerata), nearly all the elements of music that can be considered typically Baroque, whether the music be Italian, German, French or English, are tied, either directly or indirectly, to rhetorical concepts. In 1739, in Der vollkommene Capellmeister, Mattheson laid out a fully organized, rational plan of musical composition borrowed from those sections of rhetorical theory concerned with finding and presenting arguments: inventio, dispositio, decoratio – called elaboratio or elocutio by other writers – and pronuntiatio (see §I, above). Dressler’s structure of exordium, medium and finis was only a simplified version of the more usual sixfold division of the dispositio, which in classical rhetoric as well as in Mattheson consisted of exordium, narratio (statement of facts), divisio or propositio (forecast of main points in a speaker’s favour), confirmatio (affirmative proof), confutatio (refutation or rebuttal) and peroratio or conclusio (conclusion).

While neither Mattheson nor any other Baroque theorist would have applied these rhetorical prescriptions rigidly to every musical composition, it is clear that such concepts not only aided composers to a varying degree but were self-evident to them as routine techniques in the compositional process. Nor was rhetorical structure limited to German music theory. Mersenne, for example, in his Harmonie universelle (1636–7) emphasized that musicians were orators who must compose melodies as if they were orations, including all of the sections, divisions and periods appropriate to an oration. Kircher, writing in Rome, gave the title ‘Musurgia rhetorica’ to one section of his highly influential encyclopedia of the theory and practice of music, Musurgia universalis (1650); in it he also emphasized the analogy between rhetoric and music in the common divisions of the creative process into inventio, dispositio and elocutio.

The vitality of such concepts is evident throughout the Baroque period and later. Just as an orator had first to invent an idea (inventio) before he could develop his oration, so the Baroque composer had to invent a musical idea that was a suitable basis for construction and development. Since each musical idea must express an inherent or sometimes an imposed affective element of the text to which it was joined, composers often required aids to stimulate their musical imagination. Not every poetic text possessed an affective idea suitable for musical invention, but again rhetoric provided the means to assist the ars inveniendi. In Der General-Bass in der Composition (1728), Heinichen extended the analogy with rhetoric to include the loci topici, the standard rhetorical devices available to help the orator uncover topics – that is, ideas – for a formal discourse. The loci topici are rationalized categories of topics from which suitable ideas for invention could be drawn. Quintilian described them as ‘sedes argumentorum’ – sources of argument. On the most elementary level they were symbolized by the well-known questions that he posed for any legal dispute: whether a thing is (an sit), what it is (quid sit) and of what kind it is (quale sit). Heinichen (see Buelow, 1966) employed the locus circumstantiarum, namely the use of a textual antecedent, concomitant or consequent – a preceding recitative, the first (A) section of an aria, and the second (B) section or a subsequent recitative – as sources of musical ideas for aria texts. In Der vollkommene Capellmeister Mattheson criticized Heinichen for limiting himself to only the loci of circumstance and urged the full employment of several other locicommonly used by rhetoricians, such as the locus descriptionis, locus notationis and locus causae materialis. It is not unimportant that both Heinichen and Mattheson were practical theorists with long and distinguished careers as composers, during which they wrote vocal music for the opera house as well as for the church.

3. Musical figures.

The most complex and systematic transformation of rhetorical concepts into musical equivalents originates in the decoratio of rhetorical theory. In oratory every speaker relied on his command of the rules and techniques of the decoratio in order to embellish his ideas with rhetorical imagery and to infuse his speech with passionate language. The means to this end was the broad concept of figures of speech. As was shown above (see §2), as early as Renaissance music, both sacred and secular, there is ample evidence that composers employed various musical-rhetorical means to illustrate or emphasize words and ideas in the text. Indeed the whole musical literature of the madrigal unequivocally depends on this use of musical rhetoric. Some authors (e.g. Palisca) have connected the late 16th-century practice of musical rhetoric to the definition of a musical ‘mannerism’, suggesting that this particular approach to composing may well be the explanation of the obscure term ‘musica reservata’. Of all the late Renaissance composers, Lassus was undoubtedly the greatest musical orator, as was frequently recognized by his contemporaries, and in the first Baroque treatise attempting to codify musical-rhetorical practices, by Burmeister, one of his motets, In me transierunt, was analysed according to its rhetorical structure and its employment of musical figures (see Analysis, fig.1). For more than a century a number of German writers, following Burmeister, also borrowed rhetorical terminology for musical figures, with both Greek and Latin names, but they also invented new musical figures by analogy with rhetoric but unknown to it. In this basically German theory of musical figures there are thus numerous conflicts in terminology and definition among the various writers, and there is clearly no one systematic theory of musical Figures for Baroque and later music, notwithstanding frequent references to such a system by Schweitzer, Kretzschmar, Schering, Bukofzer and others. The most detailed catalogue of musical figures (in Bartel, 1997) lists the different forms, taken from definitions and descriptions of varying degrees of exactness in many 17th- and 18th-century treatises, among the most important of which are J. Burmeister: Musica autoschediastikē (Rostock, 1601), expanded as Musica poetica (Rostock, 1606); J. Lippius: Synopsis musicae nova(Strasbourg, 1612); J. Nucius: Musices practicae (Neisse, 1613); J. Thuringus: Opusculum bipartitum (Berlin, 1624); J.A. Herbst: Musica moderna prattica (Frankfurt, 2/1653) and Musica poetica (Nuremberg, 1643); A. Kircher: Musurgia universalis (Rome, 1650); C. Bernhard: Tractatus compositionis augmentatus (MS, c1657); J.G. Ahle: Musikalisches Frühlings-, Sommer-, Herbst-, und Winter-Gespräche (Mühlhausen, 1695–1701); T.B. Janovka: Clavis ad thesaurum magnae artis musicae (Prague, 1701); J.G. Walther: Praecepta der musicalischen Composition (MS, 1708) and Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732); M.J. Vogt: Conclave thesauri magnae artis musicae (Prague, 1719); J.A. Scheibe: Der critische Musikus (Leipzig, 2/1745); M. Spiess: Tractatus musicus compositorio-practicus (Augsburg, 1745); and J.N. Forkel: Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (Leipzig, 1788–1801).

Attempts by writers such as Brandes, Unger and Schmitz to organize the multitude of musical figures into a few categories have not proved successful. The following list aims only to give the most frequently cited musical figures in an equally arbitrary but somewhat broader group of seven categories: (A) Figures of melodic repetition, (B) Figures based on fugal imitation, (C) Figures formed by dissonance structures, (D) Interval figures, (E) Hypotyposis figures, (F) Sound figures, (G) Figures formed by silence. No effort has been made to enumerate all of the many variant names under which some of these figures appear in the literature, and the indication of a theorist’s name following the figure gives only one of often several sources in which the term is defined and discussed (see Bartel, 1997, for a more complete list of figures and sources).

Many of the musical figures, especially those from the earlier sources such as Burmeister and Bernhard, originated in attempts to explain or justify irregular, if not incorrect, contrapuntal writing. Although proceeding contrary to the rules of counterpoint, such passages were found to be suitable for dramatizing affective expression of the texts. Another large group of figures, the Hypotyposis class, have often been called madrigalisms (see under no.38 above) because they occur so frequently in Italian madrigals of the 16th century and later; word-painting occurs in music as early as medieval plainchant and continues unabated in the music of today. Finally, it should be stressed that while German theorists were almost solely responsible for the terminology of musical figures, this is not to say that similar figurative guidelines were not followed by composers in other countries in the 17th and 18th centuries (see, for example, the detailed analysis in Massenkeil, 1952, of musical figures in the oratorios of Carissimi). What German theorists rationalized was a natural and common element in the craft of every composer. Whether or not composers of other countries made such precise terminological associations between rhetorical figures and musical equivalents cannot be established, but that such musical-rhetorical emphases exist in their music cannot be questioned.

4. Affects.

As a result of its intricate interrelationships with rhetorical doctrines, Baroque music assumed as its primary aesthetic goal the achieving of stylistic unity based on emotional abstractions called the Affects. An affect (‘Affekt’ in German, from the Greek ‘pathos’ and the Latin ‘affectus’) consists of a rationalized emotional state or passion. After 1600 the representation of the Affects became the aesthetic necessity of most Baroque composers, whatever their nationality, and the fundamental basis of numerous treatises. During the Baroque period the composer was obliged, like the orator, to arouse in the listener idealized emotional states – sadness, hate, love, joy, anger, doubt and so on – and every aspect of musical composition reflected this affective purpose. While it was easier to appreciate it in music associated with a text, the aim in instrumental music was the same. It needs to be stressed, however, that to compose music with a stylistic and expressive unity based on an affect was a rational, objective concept, not a compositional practice equatable with 19th-century concerns for spontaneous emotional creativity and equally spontaneous emotional responses on the part of an audience. The Baroque composer planned the affective content of each work, or section or movement of a work, with all the devices of his craft, and he expected the response of his audience to be based on an equally rational insight into the meaning of his music. All the elements of music – scales, rhythm, harmonic structure, tonality, melodic range, forms, instrumental colour and so on – were interpreted affectively. The styles, forms and compositional techniques of Baroque music were therefore always the result of this concept of the Affects.

Since the 19th century, writings on Baroque music have often referred to a so-called theory of the Affects (or ‘Affektenlehre’ in its commoner German equivalent), though in fact no one comprehensive, organized theory of how the Affects were to be achieved in music was ever established in the Baroque period. It has been assumed incorrectly, especially by writers such as Pirro and Schweitzer and those influenced by them, that composers worked with stereotyped musical-rhetorical figures – analogous to Wagnerian leitmotifs – in order to create a predetermined form of tone-painting. Other writers, including Bukofzer, continued to believe that such a stereotyped set of musical figures was an essential aspect of a Baroque theory of Affects. More recent research has clearly shown that a concept of stereotyped musical figures with specific affective connotations never existed in the Baroque composer’s mind or in theoretical explanations. Musical-rhetorical figures were devices meant only to decorate and elaborate on a basic affective representation and to add dramatic musical stress to words and poetic concepts. They functioned in music just as figures of speech function in oratory – as part of the decoratio.

The concept of the Affects was at least partly shaped by the writings of 17th-century philosophers of such diverse national backgrounds as Descartes, Francis Bacon and Leibniz. In an ever-growing stream of natural-philosophical studies in the 17th century, Descartes’ Les passions de l’âme (1649) became perhaps the most decisive in its influence on the art of music. This resulted from the belief that he had discovered a rational, scientific explanation for the physiological nature of the passions and the objective nature of emotion. Nor was music unique, for a similar concern for the Affects dominated all the arts in the 17th century. The attempt to understand the passions lies deeply buried in the history of Western art long before Descartes, however. The connection with the ancient concept of the four temperaments or humours should not be overlooked, and the ancient Greeks wrote at great length about the control of human emotions. They believed that music possessed an ethical force, or ethos, that was bound together with the modes. The Renaissance witnessed a convergence of the Attic philosophy of Ethos, the theory of the temperaments and a developing theory of the Affects, for example in the numerous definitions of the modes according to their affective nature. In later treatises these ideas ultimately became theories of Affects associated with keys, the best known of which was Mattheson’s in his Neu-eröffnete Orchestre (1713).

The association of rhetoric with the concept of the Affects can be found almost continuously in the history of music from at least the end of the 15th century. It is explored in most of the major treatises on Baroque music (see Buelow, 1973–4, for a selective bibliography). By the turn of the 17th century, for example in Caccini’s preface to his Le nuove musiche (1601/2), the musical goal of the singer became the moving of the affects of the soul (‘di muovere l’affetto dell’animo’). The German theorist Michael Praetorius, in Syntagma musicum, iii (1618), warned that a singer must not simply sing but must perform in an artful and graceful manner so as to move the heart of the listener and to move the affects. An Italian theorist, Cesare Crivellati, in Discorsi musicali (1624), devoted a chapter to ‘Come con la musica si possa movere diversi affetti’ (chap.11), and the English writer Charles Butler, in The Principles of Musik (1636), gave the purpose of music as ‘the art of modulating notes in voice or instrument. De wie [which], having a great power over de affections of de minde, by its various Modes produces in de hearers various effects’. Among the many works contributing definitions of the Affects in the 17th century is Kircher’s Musurgia universalis, an encyclopedic work, full of valuable information, where a theory of intervals as related to the Affects was proposed for the first time (see Scharlau, 1969). Of equal value are the several treatises of Werckmeister, who attempted to combine the rationality of mathematics with the rhetorical concepts of the Affects, providing a definition of particular value to an understanding of German late Baroque music.

In 1706 the German writer Johann Neidhardt, in his work on the tuning of a monochord, Beste und leichteste Temperatur des Monochordi, asserted that ‘the goal of music is to make felt all the affects through the simple tones and the rhythms of the notes, like the best orator’, and this remained the aesthetic credo of writers on music for much of the 18th century. Perhaps the most succinct and effective statement regarding the role of the Affects in music was made by Mattheson (in Der vollkommene Capellmeister): ‘everything that occurs without praiseworthy affects [in music] can be considered nothing, does nothing and means nothing’.

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