The doctrine of affections

Hesketh, K. (2005) The doctrine of affections. [Composition]


For flute, clarinet, two bassoons, two trombones, and two trumpets, duration 12 minutes. This piece was premiered on 14 February 2006 by the Britten Sinfonia, at the West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. "During the Baroque period, a musical theory arose called 'the doctrine of affection' (Affektenlehre). It prescribed certain musical methods and figures for suggesting or portraying individual emotions which were supposed to directly affect the audience during performance. The idea of four specific aria types laid out in the doctrine, namely the aria di portamento, the aria parlante, the aria d'imitazione and the aria d'Agilita are used in this work. These sections generally adhere to the standard forms for such types. For example, in the Baroque aria d'imitazione, coloratura and echo effects were encouraged, often involving the portrayal of natural phenomena (storms bird calls or the hunt). These traits were somewhat freely adapted in this octet; the coloratura in my aria d'imitazione is given to the bassoon however, whilst echo and imitative effects are generally woven into the texture. The arias in the octet are introduced and connceted by 'chorus' movements; as in Classical Greek theatre, they comment on the action, move it forward and bind the whole together. These are the only movements which develop across the place. The arias on the other hand remain, generally, within one affect and are self-contained: Chorus I (fanfara)/[brief pause]/Aria di Portamento/[brief pause]/Chorus 2 (frammenti di fanfara)/Aria di Parlante/Pignos - with pistol shot/[long pause]/Aria d'Imitazione/Aria d'Agilita/Chorus 3. The resulting work seeks to project a form of abstract theatre, a covert drama where, at certain points, a player's physical actions may only be surmised as to context and meaning. They are sometimes majestic, sometimes comic or perhaps even deadly (a pistol shot that occurs in one of the chorus movements may represent a multitude of situations). The Doctrine of Affections was commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia and is dedicated to them." © Kenneth Hesketh. A recorded extract is available on SoundCloud (see the 'Play on SoundCloud' link on the audio tab below).

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