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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000293.txt from 2003/06

From: "Joseph H. Fasel" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Keys and their character
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 14:17:55 -0400

"Romantic" is perhaps a poor choice of words here, since it was
the Romantics who finally thoroughly committed us to even tempering.
Who needs all those remote keys anyway? Down with nineteenth-century
chromaticism and its putrid spawn, serialism! Give us keys with
character! Let's hear it for mean-tone temperament! ;-) ;-) ;-)

On the other hand, and perhaps in some measure of support of Dan's
position, I vaguely recall reading some time ago that someone's
musicological analysis of the key of D major as Bach's "key of
joy" had been debunked, that the real reason that the joyful
choruses in the cantatas tended to be in D was that the trumpets
were tuned in D. But my memory can be faulty these days. Does
anyone know about this?


On 2003.06.10 08:20 Dan Leeson wrote:
> The idea that each key had its own personality (with A and E being
> bright) and D-flat, G-flat being serious (or whatever), is another
> romantic assertion that doesn't have a leg to stand on. There has never
> been anything put forward (other than opinion) that would allow any
> thinking person to believe such nonsense.
> It is true that, prior to the days of the tempered scale, keys did have
> specific characteristics because untempered tuning produced some weird
> situations, particularly with keyboard instruments, but the idea that E
> major (for example) is a key that produces brighter music (whatever the
> hell that means) than C major is something that was believed and spoken
> of in Victorian ballrooms, and had about as much sense as their sex
> practices.

Joseph H. Fasel, Ph.D. email:
Stockpile-Complex Modeling and Analysis phone: +1 505 667 7158
University of California fax: +1 505 667 2960
Los Alamos National Laboratory post: D-2 MS F609; Los Alamos, NM 87545

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