@The Pentacle Queen,
Can you give me a bit more on how emotionalism and rationality were perceived differently to how they are today?
The best way to study these matters is go straight to the sources. In the Baroque period, for example, the relationship between reason and emotions is addressed most directly in Descartes's Passions of the Soul
, an attempt to organize the many emotional and psychological states into a system of categories. In this sense, reason was seen not as the antithesis to emotions but as a tool to help us better understand them. Musically, the signal contribution of this systemization was to give musicians a concrete foundation from which to explore how the basic emotional states could best be embodied in notes. This musical-philosophical project was so widespread that it had a name: the Affectenlehre
, or the "Doctrine of the Affections." Descartes's most prominent counterpart in music was Johann Mattheson, a music theorist who purported to show how different genres (primarily dance forms such as the minuet, the gavotte, the bourrée, the gigue, etc.), owing to their individual formal characteristics (the continuous upbeat that defines the gavotte vs. the linear melodies that characterize the bourrée) were thus analogies of Descartes's basic categories of emotions.* Quite contrary to 20th century aesthetics, Baroque musicians like Mattheson viewed structure and form as direct translations of the emotions rather than as a means of deflecting attention away from emotions. This also explains the conventions of opera seria
, which as I mentioned above are characterized by discreet musical units (arias) in which characters momentarily step out of the drama to express a single, unified emotion. The psychological states of characters in opera seria
are just as tidily organized as Descartes's systemization. When opera seria
gave way to opera buffa
in the 18th century, the goal was not to counteract these emotions with "clarity" and "balance" (as modernists wanted to believe) but, on the contrary, to make these psychological states even messier (therefore truer to life) and to integrate them into the actual plot and dramatic structure of the opera. That is why conflicting emotions can be found within a single aria in a typical Mozart opera, and why the story does not "freeze" but is still unfolding even when characters seem to be delivering soliloquies or "asides" in the middle of the action.
* My favorite line from Mattheson's Der volkommene Capellmeister
: "The loures
, or slow and dotted gigues, by contrast, exhibit a proud
character, which makes them very popular in Spain."