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Feder, S. (1982). The Nostalgia of Charles Ives: An Essay in Affects and Music. Ann. Psychoanal., 10:301-332.

(1982). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 10:301-332

IV Applied Psychoanalysis

The Nostalgia of Charles Ives: An Essay in Affects and Music

Stuart Feder, M.D.

That there is some relation between music and the affective life of man appears to be well-established, although its precise nature has proven to be elusive. This relation has been noted in the earliest writings in the aesthetics of music and continues to engage theoreticians even today. In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Sadie, 1980) it is noted that “… musical aesthetics has been dominated by a single theme: the nature and import of that powerful yet indeterminate emotional impact that music has or is thought to have” (1:121). On a more everyday level, it is common coin that there is some intrinsic association of affect and music, and it is frequently observed in such notions as “music expresses emotions” or “music is the language of the emotions.”

Although this concept reached its musicological apogee during the romantic period when it became linked with the personal expression of individual composers which trenched on the autobiographical, its roots were fixed firmly in the earlier baroque period and in its classical background. A prevalent aesthetic concept of the seventeenth century which provided a bridge between ancient and contemporary theoreticians was the doctrine of the affections (Affektenlehre), which held that composers employ means comparable to those of the classical oratory and rhetoric of Cicero and Aristotle in order to “control and direct the emotions of their audiences” (Sadie, 1980, 1:135). The composer would thus attempt to express in some sense that emotional state (affection) which seemed appropriate to a particular text. The stile rappresentativo which this theoretical perspective gave rise to flourished in the music of the Florentine camerata of the seventeenth century.

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