Affective Musical Key Traits
The affiliation of musical keys with particular emotional or qualitative attribute was pretty widespread previous to the 20th century. It was a part of the shared cultural expertise of those that made, carried out and listened to music. When Mozart or Beethoven or Schubert wrote a chunk in a Ab main, for instance, they have been effectively conscious of this was the ‘key of the grave’ and knew that many of their audiences have been as effectively. We lose part of the that means of their music if we’re unaware of their affective decisions. Though these traits have been, after all, subjective, it was attainable to conceive of every key as distinctive as a result of every key truly sounded distinct inside unequal temperaments. When equal temperament grew to become the dominant tuning after 1917, the aural high quality of each key grew to become the identical, and subsequently these affective traits are principally misplaced to us. (See Piano’s Ivory Cage) Some of the influential descriptions of traits shared in German-speaking cultures within the late 18th and early 19th century was from from Christian Schubart’s Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst (1806):
Fully Pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naïvety, youngsters’s discuss.
Declaration of affection and on the identical time the lament of sad love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies on this key.
A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It can not giggle, however it may smile; it can not howl, however it may at the very least grimace its crying.–Consequently solely uncommon characters and emotions could be introduced out on this key.
Penitential lamentation, intimate dialog with God, the good friend and help-meet of life; sighs of disenchanted friendship and love lie in its radius.
The important thing of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, vacation songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set on this key.
Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.
The important thing of affection, of devotion, of intimate dialog with God.
Emotions of the anxiousness of the soul’s deepest misery, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of probably the most gloomy situation of the soul. Each concern, each hesitation of the shuddering coronary heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts might converse, their speech would approximate this key.
Noisy shouts of pleasure, laughing pleasure and never but full, full delight lies in E Main.
Naïve, womanly harmless declaration of affection, lament with out grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the upcoming hope of resolving within the pure happiness of C main.
Complaisance & Calm.
Deep despair, funereal lament, groans of distress and eager for the grave.
Conquer problem, free sigh of reduction utered when hurdles are surmounted; echo of a soul which has fiercely struggled and eventually conquered lies in all makes use of of this key.
A dismal key: it tugs at ardour as a canine biting a gown. Resentment and discontent are its language.
The whole lot rustic, idyllic and lyrical, each calm and glad ardour, each tender gratitude for true friendship and devoted love,–in a phrase each mild and peaceable emotion of the guts is accurately expressed by this key.
Discontent, uneasiness, fear a few failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of tooth; in a phrase: resentment and dislike.
Key of the grave. Demise, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius.
Grumbler, coronary heart squeezed till it suffocates; wailing lament, tough wrestle; in a phrase, the colour of this secret’s every thing fighting problem.
This key consists of declarations of harmless love, satisfaction with one’s state of affairs; hope of seeing one’s beloved once more when parting; youthful cheerfulness and belief in God.
Pious womanliness and tenderness of character.
Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a greater world.
A quaint creature, typically dressed within the garment of night time. It’s considerably surly and really seldom takes on a nice countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with every thing; preparation for suicide sounds on this key.
Strongly colored, saying wild passions, composed from probably the most obtrusive coulors. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and each burden of the guts lies in its sphere.
That is because it have been the important thing of endurance, of calm awaiting ones’s destiny and of submission to divine dispensation.
Translated by Rita Steblin in A Historical past of Key Traits within the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. UMI Analysis Press (1983).