Author Topic: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...  (Read 5649 times)

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Susie

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...I've noticed key signatures seem to be similar to colors in that they can set different moods for a single idea. For instance, like blue sets a depressing mood, red makes a situation angry, and green suggests calmness, keys can do the same.

C = simplicity/happiness
E = party
D = emotional reuniting
F and Eb = closure

I know there's a couple more, but I can't quite think of them right now. I'm sure this has been discovered by countless others, but I thought it was cool.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2013, 05:58:58 PM »
Nope. it's pure imagination. sorry.

there is absolutely no scientific research that backs up any claim to specific keys having or creating specific moods.

play one piece in C or in C#, or in D, and no one will notice the difference.
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Jamie Kowalski

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2013, 06:11:43 PM »
I agree with Michel, but I do think that it could be true for certain specific individuals. It could be a form of synesthesia, for example.

But for the vast majority of people, C major isn't any happier than D major.

BillChandler

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« Last Edit: April 14, 2014, 11:48:58 AM by M.Wiktor »

perpetuo studens

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2013, 07:25:52 PM »
Interesting that this should come up. I wrote but never posted the following a couple of weeks ago (concerned perhaps about exposing my own occasional lapses in sanity  :) )...

I've been going though old posts and ran across the thread on the emotional effects of the various key centers. There's no doubt in my mind that the chart that Michel posted is just silliness (coming, after all from an age that was certain we could predict criminal behavior through the magick of phrenology), but I can't quite shake the idea that different keys might somehow have different effects of some sort.

I'm thinking that different notes do definitely have differing effects on human physiology and perception (this is why we hear them as different pitches). And it makes me wonder if there are other physical and/or psychological responses. If (if!) this is true, then different keys (ie. those based on different pitches) ought to have differing psychoacoustic effects. And then there's always the possibility of super or subconscious effects (try googling the author of the quote in Ron's sig or just read the Wikipedia article on him - fascinating stuff!).

This interests me because I'm wondering if choice of key can/should be a tool in my toolkit that I can ultimately use to my compositional advantage, like rhythm, meter, harmony, etc.. 

And if here's anything to this, what might it mean for atonal music?

Understand that I'm not proposing any hypothesis here, just being curious.

I tried googling psychoacoustics but didn't come up with anything at first glance (the material all got pretty dense and geeky and over my mathematical head pretty quickly). Does anyone here have any knowledge of psychoacoustics? Any other thoughts or musings?

Esoterically,

Jamie
The perceived object...is not a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other and analyzed discretely, but a pattern, that is to say a form, a structure: the element's existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before nor after it, for the parts do not determine the pattern, but the pattern determines the parts: knowledge of the pattern and of its laws, of the set and its structure, could not possibly be derived from discrete knowledge of the elements that compose it.

That means that you can look at a piece of a puzzle for three whole days, you can believe that you know all there is to know about its colouring and its shape, and be no further ahead than when you started. The only thing that counts is the ability to link this piece to other pieces...

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Ron

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2013, 07:50:17 PM »
Recent books I've read on the subject: Daniel Levitin's "This is Your Brain on Music" (Penguin, 2007) and Arthur Benade's "Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics" (Dover Publications, 1990). Both underscore that what we think we hear is a construct of the human brain--something I've argued for in other postings on the forum. There used to be an entire theory of musical keys and colour--which is largely bunk--just something made up by a bored academic tying to discover something where nothing existed. I haven't used a key signature for years, so I don't know what colours my music are supposed to be. If there was anything to it then people would hear a D major chord when they looked at a clear sky (though, in my case, it would have to be a D dim with added min 9th, lurking under an F# min7.) On the other hand, I don't have perfect pitch, so what do I know?
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perpetuo studens

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2013, 08:09:31 PM »
...what we think we hear is a construct of the human brain...

Oh I think it's pretty much a given that if there is a reality, we are not capable of apprehending it. We can't sense infrared or microwaves, for example, and our sight and sense of smell are far less sensitive than lots of other animals'.

So I think all of our experience is a construct of our sensory abilities and our brains. Ie. data + processing = meaning...so which data and how is it processed.

Also: thanks for the book titles. They sound interesting.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2013, 09:16:36 PM by perpetuo studens »
The perceived object...is not a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other and analyzed discretely, but a pattern, that is to say a form, a structure: the element's existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before nor after it, for the parts do not determine the pattern, but the pattern determines the parts: knowledge of the pattern and of its laws, of the set and its structure, could not possibly be derived from discrete knowledge of the elements that compose it.

That means that you can look at a piece of a puzzle for three whole days, you can believe that you know all there is to know about its colouring and its shape, and be no further ahead than when you started. The only thing that counts is the ability to link this piece to other pieces...

Georges Perec - Life: A User's Manual

Susie

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2013, 06:07:06 AM »
I haven't used a key signature for years, so I don't know what colours my music are supposed to be.

Does this mean you use accidentals to suggest a key, or is your music atonal? Either way, this sounds interesting - I'd like to hear one of your pieces (I use Finale and .mus files take all night to download on my computer).

Interesting that this should come up. I wrote but never posted the following a couple of weeks ago (concerned perhaps about exposing my own occasional lapses in sanity  :) )... There's no doubt in my mind that the chart that Michel posted is just silliness (coming, after all from an age that was certain we could predict criminal behavior through the magick of phrenology), but I can't quite shake the idea that different keys might somehow have different effects of some sort.

First of all: I'm the one who posted the chart, and I'm 15, so I think this might just be a lapse in my sanity.

Secondly, I mainly get these ideas from the dramatic music of movies (and the E idea from pop music), so maybe film scorers have a similar idea... if not, and if I decide to score films as a career, I'll probably try to apply this.

Quote
And if here's anything to this, what might it mean for atonal music?

Atonal has kind of a mixture of creepy, mad (insane), and induced into illusion (if you know what I mean). Almost as if you're falling into a bottomless pit lined with those pictures that look like they're moving when they aren't, and there's ghosts and there's this eerie aura around you.
"Whenever I'm certain that I have something all figured out, I deprive myself of the opportunity to learn more..." - perpetuo studens

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 06:41:12 AM »
I haven't used a key signature for years, so I don't know what colours my music are supposed to be.

Does this mean you use accidentals to suggest a key, or is your music atonal? Either way, this sounds interesting - I'd like to hear one of your pieces (I use Finale and .mus files take all night to download on my computer).

I think most of the posted works in the Completed Senior section don't rely on key signatures. Take a look at a few of the pdf scores there to get an idea. That doesn't necessarily mean these pieces are atonal (though some may be), just that they are chromatic enough that having a signature confuses rather than simplifies reading and understanding the music.

Quote
Interesting that this should come up. I wrote but never posted the following a couple of weeks ago (concerned perhaps about exposing my own occasional lapses in sanity  :) )... There's no doubt in my mind that the chart that Michel posted is just silliness (coming, after all from an age that was certain we could predict criminal behavior through the magick of phrenology), but I can't quite shake the idea that different keys might somehow have different effects of some sort.

First of all: I'm the one who posted the chart, and I'm 15, so I think this might just be a lapse in my sanity.

Michel had posted a much more in-depth (and somewhat sillier) chart back in September, and a similar discussion was had about that.

Quote
Secondly, I mainly get these ideas from the dramatic music of movies (and the E idea from pop music), so maybe film scorers have a similar idea... if not, and if I decide to score films as a career, I'll probably try to apply this.

E appears a lot in rock music because it happens to be a very easy key for guitar for many styles.

Quote
Atonal has kind of a mixture of creepy, mad (insane), and induced into illusion (if you know what I mean). Almost as if you're falling into a bottomless pit lined with those pictures that look like they're moving when they aren't, and there's ghosts and there's this eerie aura around you.

That was rather... specific.  ;D

Question for you: how much atonal music are you familiar with?
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 06:46:09 AM by Jamie Kowalski »

Michel.R.E

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 07:53:54 AM »
just to be sure we are on the same page here:  the term "atonal" is pretty much meaningless.

let me give an example.

I am a writer of literature. When asked what it is that I write, I say  that I write "not poetry".
Does that express in any way what it is that I DO write? No, it only expresses what it is I do not do.

Now, here it gets a tiny bit delicate and academic.
By my definition, the definition which I was taught in my years of study, "tonal" music is music that relies upon the hierarchic relationship of the tonic with its dominant and sub-dominant. In other words I - V - IV. most of the music of the "classical" period (around the time of Mozart) was constructed around this three-chord relationship.

Music up until Debussy (Fauré, actually, if we're being very picky) was almost entirely based upon this relationship, including music that expanded tonality to include heavy chromaticism. Most heavily chromatic music (pre-20th century) can be distilled down to some sort of relationship of tonic, dominant and sub-dominant.

What did Fauré, Debussy and Ravel write? Music with a tonal centre, but not "tonal" in the same sense as, say, Mozart's music.

Why do we say that the 20th century in music started in 1894? It started with the first performance of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. This work dispensed entirely with the relationships I-IV-V. It was based upon an artificial mode (one which Debussy himself created). It is the first truly non-tonal work, but it is "modal".  As a mode, it has a form of "tonic". And Debussy created his own inner hierarchy of relationships between key elements within that modality.

Sacre du Printemps is another work that is often referenced as being "atonal". And yes, in the sense that it is not based upon the required relationships of the "three magic chords". But it is music that DOES have harmonic centre. That does move to and from harmonic areas. That DOES create a sense of movement of harmony from departure to destination.

Strawinski created material from which to construct Sacre that was based upon various melodic fragments and harmonic structures (large-ish chords).

All this to say that the term "atonal" is pretty meaningless. Schoenberg coined the term when he was trying to break from the strictures of post romantic chromaticism. But he was so obsessed with the idea of denying the past, that it never dawned on him that he was coining a completely meaningless term to describe the path he was trying to illuminate for future generations of composers.

The difficulty with using the term "atonal" is that music that does not fit into the mould of "classical tonality" is NOT all based upon the same concepts, the same building blocks, the same fundamental structural principles.

The difficulty with replacing the term "atonal" is that there IS so much variety in approaches to creating music in the 20th and 21st centuries that no single term can properly describe it all.

Take my music for example. It has a STRONG tonal centre. But most of the material is based upon my principles of agglomerated triadic structures (polychords - in other words, I stack different triads one on top of another to create my building blocks). because much of the material is clearly based upon the use of those triads, there is an unmistakable sense of "centre". It never denies the push and pull of hierarchic attraction of the material.

Ron's music, chromatic as it is, tends to keep temporary points of "attraction". One listens to his music and can always sense that there is a "home" for the ear, somewhere.

Jamie K's music likewise never denies that it has some pole of attraction, and his harmony also largely has the tendencies of departure and resolution.

Yet none of this music could ever be confused with classical era tonality. It never restricts itself to the relationships I-IV-V. As a matter of fact, most of this music ignores that relationship entirely.

It remains for each of us, as creators, to understand our own creative output enough to be able to describe it. Describe IT, not describe what it is NOT.

And to return to the topic of this thread:
Music that is purely "tonal" is so far removed from our present reality that to insist that any single key could have a fixed emotional or colouristic characteristic is pure balderdash. Even music that is tonally modern, or modernly tonal, would not be able to fit into any sort of paradigm that required fixed qualities be assigned to specific key areas.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 07:59:04 AM by Michel.R.E »
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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2013, 08:29:38 AM »
I haven't used a key signature for years, so I don't know what colours my music are supposed to be.

Does this mean you use accidentals to suggest a key, or is your music atonal? Either way, this sounds interesting - I'd like to hear one of your pieces (I use Finale and .mus files take all night to download on my computer).

First of all: I'm the one who posted the chart, and I'm 15, so I think this might just be a lapse in my sanity.
....
Secondly, I mainly get these ideas from the dramatic music of movies (and the E idea from pop music), so maybe film scorers have a similar idea... if not, and if I decide to score films as a career, I'll probably try to apply this.
.....

Atonal has kind of a mixture of creepy, mad (insane), and induced into illusion (if you know what I mean). Almost as if you're falling into a bottomless pit lined with those pictures that look like they're moving when they aren't, and there's ghosts and there's this eerie aura around you.

.mus files are tiny and should not take any time at all to download. But there are plenty examples of my music here on the forum, though I'd recommend Michel or Jamie K's music as better example of contemporary styles. I'm more of a self-taught wing-nut. Michel described my style pretty well--temporary tonal centres, sliding around. I also avoid major and minor scales as much as possible--they have been worked to death and then beaten and flogged mercilessly long after they should have been buried.

As Jamie pointed out, the key of E is a "natural" one for the guitar. It's the key most novices play in when they first pick up a guitar, though they probably don't realize it. So, if there's any significance attached to that key I'd call it "naivety."

I take it, from your comments about what you call "atonal" music that you don't listen to anything written after, say, 1850 and that everything written since then is "creepy" and "mad?" My wife and I recently watched/listened to the entire ring operas of Wagner and I guess you could call at least some of it creepy and mad--it certainly left me wondering what key we were in at times.

15, eh? Nice to have some young blood around. Are you planning on a career in music?
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Susie

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 09:23:31 AM »
I had always known 'atonal' as being purely chromatic. There was one composer who refused to repeat a note until he had used all twelve, but I forget his name - music similar to that. I haven't listened to any music that is truly atonal, so I wouldn't really know.

I read the topic in your link, Jamie, and I see that all this does only apply to those with perfect pitch. I used to be able to associate keys with colors, but that idea got shot down when I was very young (specifically 3rd grade show-and-tell), and now I don't see it as well.
And while you're still probably laughing at my crazy associations, your comment about your mother and her theory of music and astrology: I am a Gemini, and the key of D really does seem to resonate with me. I dunno. I'm probably just weird. :P

Ron: I meant .mp3 files, sorry.
I do plan on having a career in music! I'm looking into music education, music therapy, and film scoring (I'm leaning toward teaching). If I happen to audition for any competitive TV shows like American Idol or America's Got Talent and win (which is not gonna happen), I'll pursue that.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 09:55:18 AM by Meeposaur »
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Michel.R.E

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 09:32:37 AM »
music can be "purely chromatic" (much of Wagner, Mahler, Strauss is incredibly completely chromatic) yet also be perfectly tonal.

the idea of not repeating any note until all 12 tones have been used is at the source of Schoenberg's 12-tone theories. What eventually evolved into tone-rows/serialism.

and the funniest thing is, even Alban Berg, one of Schoenberg's students, managed to make serialist music that did more than just SOUND tonal...
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Ron

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2013, 10:26:32 AM »
If you are going to pursue a career in music, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to develop basic keyboard skills. Secondly, study as many scores as you can get your grubby fingers on. If you live near a university chances are they should have a music library--or a music section of the library. You can also download a lot of free scores now, especially those that are in the public domain. Read everything, the scores for all kinds of music to see how they did it--even (and maybe especially) music you don't like. At 15 you probably have some pretty strong opinions on some subjects, so you'll have to learn to let go and try to see things from other points of view (that's the old man, former teacher, in me talking there.) Also, listen, listen, listen...and go to as many live performances as you can get to--and watch the musicians while they play. That's enormously instructive. :)
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altasilvapuer

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Re: I don't know if this only applies to people with perfect pitch, but...
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2013, 07:20:51 PM »
If you are going to pursue a career in music, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to develop basic keyboard skills. Secondly, study as many scores as you can get your grubby fingers on. If you live near a university chances are they should have a music library--or a music section of the library. You can also download a lot of free scores now, especially those that are in the public domain. Read everything, the scores for all kinds of music to see how they did it--even (and maybe especially) music you don't like. At 15 you probably have some pretty strong opinions on some subjects, so you'll have to learn to let go and try to see things from other points of view (that's the old man, former teacher, in me talking there.) Also, listen, listen, listen...and go to as many live performances as you can get to--and watch the musicians while they play. That's enormously instructive. :)

As someone who just completed a music education degree (which I consider to be only stage 1 in my career, at best), the advice Ron gave above is absolutely spot on.  A little painfully so, in places, but that's one of the reasons I like this place.  My keyboard skills are mediocre at best, and that's something that I feel has always held me back and made things more difficult.  Work on them now, and stick to it even if your fingers seem ready to break and your ears to go deaf - it's worth it beyond words in the long run.

As for Schoenberg and the particular vein(s) of serialism to which you refer, I think it is extremely important to study, even if you throw it out the window in your own studies.  I'm a big believer that mistakes and dead ends can often be our greatest teachers, if we have the stones to look up and learn from them.  To that end, if you feel a form of music is of great value, it is completely understandable and expected that you will likely study much of it as an example to follow.  But music that you do not find of great value is also of utmost importance, if for no other purpose than as a sign saying "Warning: The bridge is out!"

Read, read, read, listen, listen, listen, and write, write, write.  There's a saying among oboists that you can't even begin learning to make a reed until you have made a "tub-full" of them - most or all assumed to be duds.  Composition is no different, so start now!



And, for the sake of something on-topic, I've always liked the idea of there being some universal truth or nature to given keys, but like Michel and others have intimated, in its usual guises, the idea is little more than snake oil and hogwash.  In his 9th Symphony, Mahler begins the first movement in D (major, I believe?  Don't quote me), and ends in Db.  To nearly all in the audience (those with perfect pitch and attentive ears aside), this will go largely unheard.  To paraphrase something said by the conductor Benjamin Zander on the work, the audience may feel a slight 'oddness' to it, as if one had returned home to find their house sunken by an inch or two.  It's not enough to notice directly by far, and one might (at best) feel that something is slightly amiss but will likely never alight upon the cause.  Differing keys, by themselves, are largely indistinguishable to the average ear.

-Matthew
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 07:27:07 PM by altasilvapuer »
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