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D flat major

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28346.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:34 pm Reply with quote


It may have been simply a private joke. On the other hand, was the lady in question Polish? What's Db major in Polish? Does it sound like something else?

Db in French, for example, is Fa bemol, which doesn't sound like anything suggestive to me.

If the language used was Polish, maybe we need a Polish speaker! Just a thought.

28348.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:53 pm Reply with quote

raindancer wrote:

Db in French, for example, is Fa bemol.

I think you'll find it's Re bémol.

B double sharp in German is Hisis, and A double flat is Asas.

28357.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 6:54 pm Reply with quote

He wrote the letter when he was quite young, and I think the lady was Polish - at any rate, her name sounds Polish. I'd have to listen to the tape again to get it accurately (books are a lot easier in this respect).

Yes, I think we need a Polish speaker!

28365.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 7:32 pm Reply with quote

I have contacted a speaker of Polish, and will report when I get an answer.

28377.  Tue Oct 25, 2005 10:41 pm Reply with quote


Re, sorry. D'oh!

28650.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:19 am Reply with quote

I write songs in every tonal key, choosing a song’s key deliberately to portray the mood. To me, E minor is a pensive key, A minor is a wailing key, G major is a hopeful key, D major is a wistful key, Db major is a triumphant key, etc. As far as lyrics go, my songs are often about feelings for people. But then again, maybe not. I have a song [written just before Hurricane Frances in Florida last year] called ‘Clair de Lunatic’ (with a chorus riff stolen from Debussy) that is perhaps about a hurricane, or maybe a lost love. I’m not even sure. Depends what the listener wants to hear.

Killarney Star


28660.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:20 am Reply with quote

Crikey. There's been a lot of research into this kind of thing, and it quite often comes unstuck when subjected to scrutiny (e.g. composers without perfect pitch still thinking their Db major piece sounds triumphant when it is in fact being played to them in their "wistful" key).

That apart, Db as a triumphant key goes very solidly against the run of play - that attribute is usually reserved for D or C major.

Then, of course, there's the key/colour connection, whereby each key is thought of as having its own hue; each composer has his/her own idea about which colour goes with which key. Arthur Bliss wrote a "Colour Symphony", complete with a "colour keyboard" which projected the relevant hues onto a screen as the music developed.

"Chromatic" as applied to music derives, of course, from the word for colour.

28678.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 11:10 am Reply with quote

We pop & folk players just stick it in whatever key suits the singer (or, sometimes, whatever's easiest for the horn section), but then we play so many bum notes in the middle that the purity of the composer's intent is apt to be compromised whatever we do.

28683.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 11:40 am Reply with quote

Gaazy wrote:
Then, of course, there's the key/colour connection, whereby each key is thought of as having its own hue; each composer has his/her own idea about which colour goes with which key.

In my opinion one of the best examples of interpreting music in the form of colour is the very first piece from the original Fantasia film (made in 1940), Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by J. S. Bach. The animators were given complete freedom to create whatever the music made them think of in terms of colour and ornamentation.

28694.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 12:46 pm Reply with quote

I know this isn't Qing Qong, but I couldn't resist pointing out that the Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ by J S Bach was:

1. probably not in D minor;

2. probably not for organ;

3. probably not by J S Bach.

Without going into too much detail, the fugue's exposition and development is too crude for Bach, the figuration known as bariolage is string technique, and the whole thing transposed into G minor would stand very well as a piece for unaccompanied violin. It has been edited and recorded in this form and sounds perfectly idiomatic.

28708.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 6:47 pm Reply with quote


I think C is WHITE!

By the way, I thought there was a touch of Pseud's Corner about that Killarney Star post :)

28710.  Fri Oct 28, 2005 7:07 pm Reply with quote

Do we have any sense of what proportion of the public would be able to detect a difference of tone (in the sense of 'mood') as between a piece played in one key and the same piece played identically but transposed to another key? Not a difference of pitch, you understand - I suppose most people could hear that if you played one immediately after the other - but a difference of character?

28733.  Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:25 am Reply with quote

I'm glad to report that there's an unequivocal answer to this one, and it's this: it depends.

In vocal music, the difference can be marked. For example, if a tenor were to sing, say, Nessun Dorma, two tones lower than the written key, all the brilliance of the final "Vincero" would be lost, and the lower notes (for example the opening repeat of the first two words) would sound flabby. This has nothing to do with actual pitch, though; it is a function of the singer's anatomy and physiology. A tenor's top B or C is brilliant not because it is that particular pitch but because of the obvious effort needed to produce it. That exact pitch sung by even the best soprano in the world (and I do mean the pitch, not the written note) would have no particular brilliance at all, since it lies comfortably in the middle of her range.

As a corollary: if a baritone were to sing Nessun Dorma a couple of notes below the written pitch, we would be back to thrilling brilliance again, because the baritone would be hitting the extreme of his register.

In instrumental music the difference would be more subtle. Most instruments, including all blown, scraped or plucked ones, have their registers too, so much of what I've said about singers would also apply to instruments. The strained high bassoon opening of The Rite of Spring would sound just innocuous taken down a sixth.

Then there's textures - any chordal texture becomes thicker in sound as it's taken downwards (this has to do with conflicts of overtones), so the character of the opening of Finlandia would markedly change if it were tranposed significantly in either direction; lieder transposed down from tenor to bass pitch often need an adjustment in the piano chord voicings for the same reason.

Much of the brilliance of orchestral writing derives from the open strings of the, er, stringed instruments, even when they (the open strings) aren't in use, which is why Weber's Invitation to the Dance, when arrangeed for the orchestra from the piano original in Db major, is transcribed a semitone higher, in D major.

By a complete coincidence, I've just finished arranging Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride for brass ensemble and choir, and doing this has strongly underlined the importance of key and pitch. Normally this piece is played in Bb, so that the trumpets have the tune in a key which suits them exactly. Unfortunately, that key is just about as far away as you can get from the ideal choral key, which is F. In that key, the trumpets can't track the melody without sounding uncomfortably low or unmanageably high; in the unlikely case of this arrangement being performed without the voices, the piece would sound strange indeed.

Pianists often opine that a C major piece, if played in Db, sounds "warmer" or "darker". Most experts believe that this is because of the fingering, requiring different reach, spread and touch.

I could go on, but Mrs Gaazy has just caught me doing this when I should be doing something else.

28736.  Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:53 am Reply with quote

Isn't the difference in character between the keys supposed to be to do with the imperfections inherent in equal temperament (Pythagorean commas, wolf intervals, degradation of consonances, all that stuff)?

I'm just bandying terms about here - I don't really understand any of this. I think what I'm asking is whether one minor third interval (say) C-Eb is not the same as another minor third interval - say F-Ab, and whether this difference is one source of the different key characters.

28737.  Sat Oct 29, 2005 7:08 am Reply with quote

The point about equal temperament is that there is no difference between the same interval in different keys (see post 21884 and ff.).

The differences you mention would certainly have existed under mean-tone tuning.


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