Topic of the Week-The Meaning of Key Signatures

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The above is an interesting finding of which are your favourite keys according to your horoscope. (Just for fun but you can still find them out.)

A key signature is a musical notation which is a set of sharp or flats symbols placed together on the staff. It’s a common misconception for students : The more the sharps or flats in the key signature, the more difficult to play the piece. What students care about is the numbers of sharps or flats but not the key itself. The importance of a key is to let people know the intended tone colours and emotions of the compostition. You may have your own interpretation of emotions to different keys but in general the keys relate to most people, e.g. major keys relate to happiness and pleasure while minor keys are more like depression and lament.

The following artcle is about affective key characteristic and it’s from Christian Schubart’s Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst (1806).

C major: Completely pure. Its character is: innocence, simplicity, naivety, children’s talk
C minor: Declaration of love and at the same time the lament of unhappy love. All languishing, longing, sighing of the love-sick soul lies in this key
Db major: A leering key, degenerating into grief and rapture. It cannot laugh, but it can smile; it cannot howl, but it can at least grimace its crying.–Consequently only unusual characters and feelings can be brought out in this key
D major: The key of triumph, of Hallelujahs, of war-cries, of victory-rejoicing. Thus, the inviting symphonies, the marches, holiday songs and heaven-rejoicing choruses are set in this key
D minor: Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humors brood
D# minor: Feelings of the anxiety of the soul’s deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depression, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key
Eb major: The key of love, of devotion, of intimate conversation with God
E major: Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major
F major: Complaisance and calm
F minor: Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave
F# major: Triumph over difficulty, free sigh of relief uttered when hurdles are surmounted; echo of a soul which has fiercely struggled and finally conquered lies in all uses of this key
F# minor: A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language
G major: Everything rustic, idyllic and lyrical, every calm and satisfied passion, every tender gratitude for true friendship and faithful love,–in a word every gentle and peaceful emotion of the heart is correctly expressed by this key
G minor: Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike
Ab major: Key of the grave. Death, grave, putrefaction, judgment, eternity lie in its radius
Ab minor: Grumbler, heart squeezed until it suffocates; wailing lament, difficult struggle; in a word, the color of this key is everything struggling with difficulty
A major: This key includes declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one’s state of affairs; hope of seeing one’s beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God
A minor: Pious womanliness and tenderness of character
Bb major: Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world
A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key
Bb minor: A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key.
B major: Strongly colored, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring colors. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere
B minor: This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting one’s fate and of submission to divine dispensation

Translated by Rita Steblin in A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. UMI Research Press (1983).

Another version of emotions of the keys is in Chinese. But in fact the colours of keys stated here are not that scientific and I should have another post about the colours of keys later. Different composers seemed to have various associations of colours to the keys.
C:純白的C大調,最純潔、最初始;
c:純黑的C小調,抗爭、奮鬥;
#C:奶白的升C大調,陽光、純潔;
#c:深褐的升c小調,痛苦、呻吟、
D:純綠的D大調,質樸、自然、天然;
d:墨綠的D小調,思想深刻、沉思;
bE:淡黃的降e大調,光明、明亮;
be:明黃的降e小調,充滿靈感,思維活躍;
E:純黃的E大調,燦爛、光輝;
e:深藍的e小調,憂鬱、悲傷;
F:淡紅的F大調,暖和;
f:深紅的f小調,悲愁哀傷、悲愁;
#F:鮮紅的升F大調,明朗,有魅力;
#f:暗紅的升f小調,寂寞、傷感;
G:大紅的G大調,非常溫暖;
g:海藍的g小調,懷念,思念、傷感;
bA:明黃的降A大調,堅定有力,有氣勢
#g:淡藍的升g小調,輕鬆、歡快、優美
A:金黃的A大調,宏偉、輝煌;
a:純藍的a小調,惆悵、憂傷;
bB:淡粉的降B大調,活潑、輕盈;
bb:棕黃的降b小調,莊嚴、虔誠、懺悔;
B:銀白的B大調,高雅;明麗;
b:暗灰的b小調,悲愴,斷腸、冷峻

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