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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000299.txt from 2003/06

From: Dan Leeson <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Keys and their character-AAAAAHHHHHHH!
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 15:04:45 -0400

Bill Semple wrote:
> Why is it that you are in such a minority on issues such as this? You remind
> me of that New Yorker ad where everyone is buried inb the Philadelphia
> Inquirer while the lone observer frantically points to the sky, which is
> beginning to fall.
> What is your basis regarding music? That it is a purely scientific,
> mathematical exercise, requiring scientific proof to accept certain notions
> or descriptions about sound? You ask for facts. What kind of facts? Much of
> our world is developed on concensus and convention, including many of our
> laws, that do not spring apriori from someone's awareness of metaphysics,
> but from experiment and experience. By dispensing with some of the
> conclusions reached here as pure balderdash, you dispense with the basic
> process by which we think, and I suggest, we came up with music in the first
> place.

Since you ask, Bill, music like many other art forms, have elements to
it that are not explainable. But also arising in music (like painting
to some degree, too), are scientific statements that attempt explain
emotional phenomena. One of these is key selection. (Another is sound
character, but let's not go into that.)

You and many others presume that the choice of a key signature is based
on a scientific fact; i.e., bright keys (whatever that means) are
derived from key signatures with a lot of sharps, somber keys (whatever
that means) are derived from key signatures with a lot of flats. And
the more sharps the brighter, the more flats, the more somber. You
don't find such statement until the early part of the 19th century.
Nowhere, for example, does Mozart make any statement that would allow
any reasonable person to believe that he thought that way. Maybe he
did, but you can't document such a belief on his part.

Shostakovich wrote a trio for piano, violin, and cello in E major which
is, purportedly, a bright key. Yet the subject matter of the trio is
grotestquely horrible. It's death, murder, torture, etc. Now I don't
give this example as proof of the pudding, but just to point out that
well-known compositions in certain keys have emotional content that are
exactly the opposite of what the key signature is supposed to convey.

Since it is asserted that key signatures have emotional content, it is
perfectly appropriate to inquire from where such an assertion is
derived. There must be some way to establish that statement as true, and
if that cannot be done, the only conclusion that can be reached is that
any emotional character in a particular piece derives from the mind of
the listener; i.e., it's a false statement since it is person-dependent.

Music is enough of an emotional issue and tugs on our heart strings in
uncertain ways, that the assignment of those emotions to scientific
phenomema without proof, does not serve the art of music at all.

I've tried to answer your question reasonably. I hope that any response
you chose to give will be equally reasonable.

Dan Leeson
> William T. Semple
> Office: 202-364-2466
> Home: 540-364-4823
> Cell: 540-903-6645

**Dan Leeson **
** **

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