Thursday, December 27, 2012

Musical key and mood

Key determines mood? Really?!

It is often argued that with the advent of equal temperament all differences between musical keys disappeared, i.e. C major doesn't sound fundamentally different from Eb major. Yet composers still attribute certain moods to certain musical keys. In part this is probably determined by tradition, and in part it may be influenced by the mechanics of playing an instrument: playing a piece in C major on a piano (using only white keys) is quite a different experience from playing that same piece in C# major (using many black and some white keys) because of the differences between physical location of black and white keys on a piano. Also, bowed instruments will often play an F# differently than a Gb, despite both being the same note on a piano.

So what are these traditional moods associated to certain keys?

This list is based on a list made up by Christian Schubart in his book Ideen Zu Einer Ästhetik Der Tonkunst...
Cmajorcompletely pure key; speaks of innocence, simplicity, naivety, child's talk
Dbmajorkey to bring out unusual feelings; can smile but not laugh; can grimace but not cry
Dmajorkey of triumph, hallelujah, war-cries and victory-rejoicing
Ebmajorkey of love, devotion, intimate conversation with God
Emajornoisy shouts of love, laughing pleasure and not-yet-complete full delight
Fmajorkey of complaisance and calmness
Gbmajorkey of triumph over difficulty, sigh of relief after difficulaties have been overcome
Gmajorkey that is rustic, idyllic and lyrical, calm and satisfied passion, any gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart
Abmajorkey of the grave, death, putrefaction, judgement, eternity
Amajordeclaration of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs, hope of seeing one's beloved one again when departing, youthful cheerness and trust in God
Bbmajorcheerful love, clear conscience, hope, aspiration for a better world
Bmajorstrongly colored, announcing wild passions, anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every emotion of the heart
Cminordeclaration of love with lament of unhappy love, sighing of the lovesick soul
C#minorpenitential lamentation, intimate conversation with God, sighs of disappointed friendship and love
Dminormelancholy, womanliness
Ebminorfeelings of anxiety, the soul's deepest distress, brooding despair, blackest depression, most gloomy condition of the soul
Eminornaive declaration of love, lament without grumbling, sighs accompanied by a few tears, desires to resolve into the pure happiness of C major
Fminordeep depression, funeral lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave
F#minora gloomy key, resentment and discontent, it languishes for the calm of A major or happiness of D major
Gminordiscontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme, bad-tempered gnashing of teeth, dislike
G#minorgrumbling, struggling with difficulty, heart squeezed until it suffocates
Aminorpious womanliness, tenderness of character
Bbminormocking God and the world, discontented with itself and everything, preparation of suicide
Bminorkey of patience, calm awaiting one's fate, submission to divine dispensation, mild lament without breaking out into offensive murmuring or whimpering,

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rutger Kopland's poem XIV

Tribute to Rutger Kopland (1934-2012)

For quite a while I have admired the poem "XIV" by Rutger Kopland. A few days after I had finished making this song from his poem, I heard the news that he had died at the age of 77. I dedicate this song to him. One can sing the poem to the song, but I thought of your mental sanity and in the end made it a song with unsung words.

Ga nu maar liggen liefste in de tuin,
de lege plekken in het hoge gras, ik heb
altijd gewild dat ik dat was, een lege
plek voor iemand, om te blijven

And my very literal English translation which cannot be sung to the song
(translations of poetry should not be attempted by amateurs like me ;) )

Now go lie down, my love, into the garden,
the empty spots in the tall grass, I've
always wanted to be just that, an empty
spot for someone, to stay

Years ago, I commented on Fred Tak's blog that I read the poem as a kind of elegy, and not as a kind of love poem (the traditional interpretation). This interpretation now makes even more sense to me. May my song become an empty spot for him to stay.