affectio

Voice, harpsichord, electronics.

affectio is based on the ‘Definitions of the Emotions’ (Affectuum Defenitiones) from the third part of the “Ethics” of Baruch de Spinoza. This was later developed into the music theatre piece: spinoza, produced by ZT Hollandia.

The sound world of the composition affectio is made up of the voice and harpsichord (a setting of the latin text), paper sounds, wax falling on paper, glass-sine tones , and manipulated samples of fragments of the piece. The intention is that the electronics create a sense of a living organism; an image of the physical . A body of slowly transforming states that constantly move between the material world and the mental world (‘idea’ and ‘extension’). From the high-pitched sine tones of the cerebral cortex to the image of a lung, a heart, breathing paper, blood coursing through the veins; the connection between the rational world of the latin definitions and the visceral experience of emotion as a physically experienced phenomena.

Spinoza wrote the “Ethics” in the final years of his life living in exile in Den Haag in the mid to late 17th century. It is an audacious work and was far too radical to be published in his lifetime as it sets out to define in a geometric form a metaphysics of God, man and the universe without recourse to religious archetypes and accepted moral beliefs. In the third part of the “Ethics” (the other parts concern God, the mind, human bondage and freedom) he sets out to explain emotions as determined in their occurrence as are the laws of motion.

“ Our effects follow from the same necessity and force of nature as the other singular things. ”

He divides these into ‘actions’ and ‘passions’. When the cause of an event lies in our own nature then it is a case of the mind acting. When something happens in us of which the cause is outside our nature then we are passive and being acted upon. What takes place when we are acting or being acted upon is a change in our mental and physical capacities: “an increase or decrease in our power of acting”.

The essence of all things is ‘conatus’ (desire)…

“ Each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in its being ”

An affect is any change in this power for better or for worse. Affects that are actions are changes in this power that have their source in our nature alone, affects that are passions are those changes in this power that originate outside of us.

The complex model of human emotion that he builds up from the primary affects of desire, pleasure (“the transition from a lesser to a greater perfection”) and pain (“the transition from a greater to lesser perfection”) gives a model of emotions as a constant changing flux of states, in a literal sense: movements, that have the net effect of either increasing or decreasing a man’s power of acting.

Affectio forms the first part of The Thing Like Us - CD available from Unsounds.

Thing Like Us CD Cover

definitions of the emotions

  • Desire is the actual essence of man, in so far as it is conceived, as determined to a particular activity by some modification of itself.
  • Pleasure is the transition of a man from a less to a greater perfection.
  • Pain is the transition of a man from a greater to a less perfection.
  • Wonder is the conception of anything, wherein the mind comes to a stand, because the particular concept in question has no connection with other concepts.
  • Contempt is the conception of anything which touches the mind so little, that its presence leads the mind to imagine those qualities which are not in it rather than such as are in it.
  • Love is pleasure, accompanied by the idea of an external cause.
  • Hatred is pain, accompanied by the idea of an external cause.
  • Inclination is pleasure, accompanied by the idea of something which is accidentally a cause of pleasure.
  • Aversion is pain, accompanied by the idea of something which is accidentally a cause of pain.
  • Devotion is love towards one whom we admire.
  • Derision is pleasure arising from our conceiving the presence of a quality, which we despise, in an object which we hate.
  • Hope is an inconsistent pleasure, arising from the idea of something past or future, whereof we to a certain extent doubt the issue.
  • Fear is an inconsistent pain arising from the idea of something past or future, whereof we to a certain extent doubt the issue.
  • Confidence is pleasure arising from the idea of something past or future, wherefrom all cause of doubt has been removed.
  • Despair is pain arising from the idea of something past or future, wherefrom all cause of doubt has been removed.
  • Joy is pleasure accompanied by the idea of something past, which has had an issue beyond our hope.
  • Disappointment is pain accompanied by the idea of something past, which has had an issue contrary to our hope.
  • Pity is pain accompanied by the ida of evil, which has befallen someone else whom we conceive to be like ourselves.
  • Approval is love towards one who has done good to another.
  • Indignation is hatred towards one who has done evil to another.
  • Partiality is thinking too highly of anyone because of the love we bare him.
  • Disparagement is thinking too meanly of anyone, because we hate him.
  • Envy is hatred, in so far as it induces a man to be pained by another’s good fortune, and to rejoice in another’s evil fortune.
  • Sympathy is love, in so far as it induces a man to feel pleasure at another’s good fortune and pain at another’s evil fortune.
  • Self-approval is pleasure arising from a man’s contemplation of himself and his own power of action.
  • Humility is pain arising from a man’s contemplation of his own weakness of body or mind.
  • Repentance is pain accompanied by the idea of some action, which we believe we have performed by the free decision of our mind.
  • Pride is thinking too highly of one’s self from self-love.
  • Self-abasement is thinking too meanly of one’s self by reason of pain.
  • Honour is pleasure accompanied by the idea of some action of our own, which we believe to be praised by others.
  • Shame is pain accompanied by the idea of some action of our own, which we believe to be blamed by others.
  • Regret is the desire or appetite to possess something, kept alive by the remembrance of the said thing, and at the same time constrained by the remembrance of other things which exclude the existence of it.
  • Emulation is the desire of something, engendered in us by our conception that other have the same desire.
  • Thankfulness is the desire or zeal springing from love, whereby we endeavour to benefit him, who with similar feelings of love has conferred a benefit on us.
  • Benevolence is the desire of benefiting one whom we pity.
  • Anger is the desire, whereby through hatred we are induced to injure one whom we hate.
  • Revenge is the desire whereby we are induced, through mutual hatred , to injure one who, with similar feelings, has injured us.
  • Cruelty is the desire whereby a man is impelled to injure one who we love or pity.
  • Timidity is the desire to avoid a greater evil, which we dread, by undergoing a lesser evil.
  • Daring is the desire whereby a man is set on to do something dangerous which his equals fear to attempt.
  • Cowardice is attributed to one, whose desire is checked by the fear of some danger which his equals dare to encounter.
  • Consternation is attributed to one, whose desire of avoiding evil is checked by amazement at the evil which he fears.
  • Courtesy is the desire of acting in a way that should please men, and refraining from that which should displease them.
  • Luxury is excessive desire or even love of living sumptuously.
  • Intemperance is the excessive desire and love of drinking.
  • Avarice is the excessive desire and love of riches.
  • Lust is desire and love in the matter of sexual intercourse.

performance history

  • 8 December 2000; Premiered by Ayelet Harpaz and Zohar Shefi in Korzo theatre, Den Haag.
  • December 2000; further performances in Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum), Middelburg (Centrum Nieuwe Muziek), Utrecht (Kikker), and Tel Aviv.