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What is Your Favorite Key Signature?


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Author Topic: What is Your Favorite Key Signature?  (Read 2073 times)
kyjo
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« on: January 13, 2013, 06:20:53 pm »

Kind of a silly topic, I know, but what is your favorite key signature?

Mine in D-flat major. Berlioz called the key "majestic" and it is a generally-held view that D-flat major is the most romantically-flavored of all the major keys. It is a key used often in moments of heightened romantic passion, such as:

-the opening of Tchaikovsky PC 1 and the love theme from Romeo and Juliet
-Variation 18 from Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
-Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia from Khachaturian's Spartacus
-the second movement of Grieg's PC
-the "big tune" from the last movement of Medtner's PC 3

You will notice that Russian composers loved this key! Other notable compositions in this key that I enjoy include Myaskovsky's Symphony no. 25, Khachaturian's PC, Prokofiev's PC 1, Shosty's SQ 12 and Prelude and Fugue no. 15, Rangstrom's Symphony no. 3, Dirk Schafer's Piano Quintet, Debussy's Clair de lune, Chopin's Raindrop Prelude and Minute Waltz, the last movement of Mahler 9, the second movement of Dvorak 9, J. Randolph Jones' Symphony no. 1, Jerzy Gablenz's PC, Gliere's Concerto Waltz in D-flat, Sibelius' Romance and Bowen's Arabesque. Two compositions that are in D-flat major that I'd really like to hear are Erwin Dressel's Symphony in D-flat major and the Symphony no. 1 of the ultra-obscure Polish composer Anastazy Wilhelm Dreszer (1843-1907). If members know of any more compositions in D-flat, please let me know!

My second favorite key is probably D-flat major's minor relative, B-flat minor. Another key the Russians loved Grin

So, what to members think their favorite key signature is?

 Smiley
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Gerard
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 12:18:48 pm »

It must be D minor: Mozart's string quartet K421, Brahms's first concerto, Beethoven's ninth (at least the first movement).

But theoretically, the key in which a piece is written should make no difference: firstly because of equal temperament, secondly because of the way pitches have varied over the years, and thirdly because the notion of key itself has lost its importance since modulations from anywhere to anywhere - and indeed total chromaticism - have become possible and acceptable. As early as in the ending of his eighth symphony Beethoven made it seem a little ridiculous. Ending a work on a common chord is just a tremendous cliché these days; no longer the product of any æsthetic principle or need.

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ahinton
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2013, 12:49:03 pm »

Ending a work on a common chord is just a tremendous cliché these days; no longer the product of any æsthetic principle or need.
Nonsense! Why should it be so? It can be, of course, but that's no guarantee that es muss sein, surely?...
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2013, 12:51:56 pm »

Of the major keys, I like Eb major the best. The greatest symphony ever written, was written in Eb major.

Of the minor keys. F-minor is very silky.

E-major is inherently out of tune and unstable, especially on the piano.
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ahinton
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2013, 01:14:40 pm »

Of the major keys, I like Eb major the best. The greatest symphony ever written, was written in Eb major.
Now there's a tough one - "the greatest symphony ever written"! But let's assume that it was indeed written in that key; was it composed by Elgar, Mahler, Schmidt, Beethoven, Sibelius or whom? (presumably not Shostakovich, for his ninth might be his "ninth" but it's hardly his very best!)...

As to the subject itself, I might just have a think about that should I ever feel impelled to write one...
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JimL
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2013, 05:34:00 pm »

E-major is inherently out of tune and unstable, especially on the piano.
Excuse me?  Due to equal temperament, E Major is just as stable and in tune as any other key, especially on the piano!
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kyjo
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2013, 07:54:48 pm »

But let's assume that it was indeed written in that key; was it composed by Elgar, Mahler, Schmidt, Beethoven, Sibelius or whom?

I am assuming Neil was referring to the Eroica-this symphony single-handedly paved the way for many of the symphonies that were to be written in later years. But who knows, he could have been referring to Mozart 39, Bortkiewicz 2, Bax 4, Berwald 4, Borodin 1, Bruckner 4, Dvorak 3, Enescu 1, Glazunov 8, Gliere 1, Madetoja 2, or Schumann 3 Wink Besides the Mozart, Bruckner and Schumann, I don't think any of these are "great" per se, but most come pretty darn close to it Grin Now the issue arises on what constitutes "great" music......
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kyjo
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2013, 07:58:39 pm »

Of the minor keys. F-minor is very silky.

Interesting you should think of F minor as "silky", Neil! I think of it as a dark, often stormy and passionate key.
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ahinton
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2013, 09:27:03 pm »

Of the minor keys. F-minor is very silky.

Interesting you should think of F minor as "silky", Neil! I think of it as a dark, often stormy and passionate key.
As evidently did Beethoven (op. 95 and others) and Mendelssohn (Op. 80).

That said, the very idea of a "favourite" key-signature is broadly analogous to that of having a "favourite" composer, which says it all, really - but perhaps my "temperament" is "unequal" to further discussion of that topic...
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2013, 08:49:25 am »


That said, the very idea of a "favourite" key-signature is broadly analogous to that of having a "favourite" composer, which says it all, really

I'm not entirely sure it says it all - nor would I agree with your analogy Wink

The concept of key-colour is very well established, and not nearly as random as you suggest. How any keys are there? 24, major and minor.  But how many composers are there, from whom to choose a favourite? Wink

If you're going to the George tomorrow, you could tell me more about it then?
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ahinton
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2013, 09:36:06 am »


That said, the very idea of a "favourite" key-signature is broadly analogous to that of having a "favourite" composer, which says it all, really

I'm not entirely sure it says it all - nor would I agree with your analogy Wink
That's OK; I would no more expect broad agreement on the principles of such a topic as I would expect the majority of listeners to have a favourite key-signature!

The concept of key-colour is very well established, and not nearly as random as you suggest.
Ah, yes - synasthæsia; the two fundamental problems here, however, are that (a) not all listeners and musicians posses - or are conscious of possessing - this faculty and (b) those who do possess it do not all make the same colour/sound relationships.

How any keys are there? 24, major and minor.  But how many composers are there, from whom to choose a favourite? Wink
What you write about here is by definition confined to Western major/minor modes of relatively recent origin, to tonality, to reliance upon the establishment of a pitch system in which A = whatever it does and to a system broadly reliant upon equal temperament in which an octave is divided into 12 equal semitones so, for those four reasons, one could argue that it is universal neither globally nor historically.

Not only that, key-signatures as such relate to particular ways and means of "spelling" with what we might call "conventional" musical notation yet, even within these confines, questions inevitably arise because, as we use only 7 different note names within a 12-semitone notational system, enharmonics apply; what, for example, might you say about two people of whom one claims a favourite key-signature containing six flats when another claims one containing six sharps?

Then there's the question of whether and when to use key-signatures at all, even when writing music that is broadly tonal; for Schönberg not to have used the key-signature of E flat major (and equivalents for the orchestral transposing instruments) in the opening pages of Gurrelieder would have been as absurd as it would have been clumsy, yet what price the D minor one in the first few minutes of his String Quartet in that key? With that in mind, I am bound to question what having a "favourite key-signature" might even mean at all, other than that it would presumably mean different things to different people...

If you're going to the George tomorrow, you could tell me more about it then?
I won't, I'm afraid but, as the above hopefully demonstrates, that doesn't in itself mean that I prefer not to say anything on the subject!
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dyn
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2013, 06:16:09 pm »

i find myself preferring C-sharp major to D-flat major—it feels like a quite different key, & a brighter one (entirely a different "colour"—d-flat major is a pale blue like the edges of the sky, c-sharp major is a more brilliant and intense shade of gold than what i think of as the "golden key" b-flat major)

i also quite like e-flat minor (which is, again, the polar opposite of d-sharp minor—deep purple as opposed to pale green)

with equal temperament there is no acoustic difference between enharmonic keys, so this is, i suppose, a weird psychological phenomenon, probably brought on by years of reading/playing music and enharmonic keys looking quite different on the page

The concept of key-colour is very well established, and not nearly as random as you suggest.
Ah, yes - synasthæsia; the two fundamental problems here, however, are that (a) not all listeners and musicians posses - or are conscious of possessing - this faculty and (b) those who do possess it do not all make the same colour/sound relationships.

indeed. i first became aware of synaesthesia when talking to someone else with the same ability, who described b-flat as red. my immediate reaction was "what? it's not that colour at all! maybe you're thinking of A major" >.>

gradually it became clear to me that not everyone gets colours & textures from keys, and what they do get is entirely individual as well
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2013, 07:24:09 pm »

i find myself preferring C-sharp major to D-flat major—it feels like a quite different key, & a brighter one (entirely a different "colour"—d-flat major is a pale blue like the edges of the sky, c-sharp major is a more brilliant and intense shade of gold than what i think of as the "golden key" b-flat major)


indeed. i first became aware of synaesthesia when talking to someone else with the same ability, who described b-flat as red. my immediate reaction was "what? it's not that colour at all! maybe you're thinking of A major" >.>


A propos of that q, my brother (I mention him by way of not wanting to appear to have thought of this myself!) wrote his PhD on the enharmonic relationships in BORIS GODUNOV.  Musorgsky repeatedly 'respells' music in the score in enharmonic equivalents when the mood changes from negative to positive, or vice-versa.  Clearly he must have done this for some reason...
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kyjo
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2013, 08:11:08 pm »

i find myself preferring C-sharp major to D-flat major—it feels like a quite different key, & a brighter one (entirely a different "colour"—d-flat major is a pale blue like the edges of the sky, c-sharp major is a more brilliant and intense shade of gold than what i think of as the "golden key" b-flat major)

i also quite like e-flat minor (which is, again, the polar opposite of d-sharp minor—deep purple as opposed to pale green)

Well put, dyn! I don't believe the key of C-sharp major has ever been used, though. I think it has something to do just with the sounds of the works "sharp" and "flat"-"sharp" makes you think of something harder and more brilliant, while "flat" makes you think of something softer and more reflective or romantic.

E-flat minor, like B-flat minor and D-flat major, is another key favored almost exclusively by the Russian composers-examples include the sixth symphonies of Prokofiev and Myaskovsky as well as Rachmaninov's Elegie (which I am learning on the piano) and Etude Tableau no. 5, Khachaturian's Toccata, Shostakovich's SQ 15 and Eshpai's Symphony no. 1. Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov has the honor of writing two symphonies in this key (his first and second)! Also Ivanovs' epic Symphony no. 4 Atlantis. Some non-Russian/Soviet pieces in this key include van Gilse's Symphony no. 2 and Rudolf Karel's Renaissance Symphony. But, most famous of all, Stevie Wonder's song Superstition Grin

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JimL
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2013, 12:13:06 am »

...E-flat minor, like B-flat minor and D-flat major, is another key favored almost exclusively by the Russian composers-examples include the sixth symphonies of Prokofiev and Myaskovsky as well as Rachmaninov's Elegie (which I am learning on the piano) and Etude Tableau no. 5, Khachaturian's Toccata, Shostakovich's SQ 15 and Eshpai's Symphony no. 1. Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov has the honor of writing two symphonies in this key (his first and second)! Also Ivanovs' epic Symphony no. 4 Atlantis. Some non-Russian/Soviet pieces in this key include van Gilse's Symphony no. 2 and Rudolf Karel's Renaissance Symphony. But, most famous of all, Stevie Wonder's song Superstition Grin
And Lyapunov: Piano Concerto No. 1.  Also the finale of Balakirev's PC 2, which is in the tonic major.
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