Roger Mathew Grant will present a paper titled “The Passions in Print: Musical Taxonomies and the First Death of Affect Theory.”
In the eighteenth century, music was praised for its ability to mirror the human passions—those pre-cognitive feelings we now discuss under the rubric of affect. Treatises on the theory of music during this period often took the form of lengthy taxonomies documenting the connections between formal musical materials (meters, rhythms, harmonies, forms, and so forth) and the different passions that these might be said to elicit. Eighteenth-century music theory used the tools of print—with all of their inherent contradictions—to mediate between musical experience, its creators, and its consumers. But the medium of print, it turns out, was not an especially friendly host to the affects. Interrogating sources from Dubos and Batteux to Sulzer and Goethe, this paper examines the mediating work that aesthetic theory did for the passions within the Enlightenment’s taxonomic project, just before affect theory’s first, eighteenth-century death.
Roger Mathew Grant is Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University. His research focuses on the relationships between eighteenth-century music theory, Enlightenment aesthetics, and early modern science. His journal articles have appeared in Music Theory Spectrum, Eighteenth-Century Music, and the Journal of Music Theory, and his first book, Beating Time and Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era, was published in November (2014) at Oxford University Press. In addition to his academic work, Grant has also collaborated on the creation of new and newly-imagined opera—this past year he assisted Bruce LaBruce with a film production of Pierrot Lunaire, which won a Teddy Award at the Berlinale film festival.