Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Key Of The Grave

Melancholy womanliness, quaint creature, wild passions: these are descriptions of musical keys, made by an 18th century German poet named Christian Schubart. ("...student of theology" and "he led a dissolute life"? Rock on, Herr Schubart!)

My favorite description is for "F# minor"
"A gloomy key: it tugs at passion as a dog biting a dress. Resentment and discontent are its language."
A lot of blues music is in the key of E Major. So how does Schubart, who lived in an era and culture far removed from the blues, describe that key? Quite accurately, actually:
"Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major."
It makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Real blues music is not about despair and hopelessness. When you wake up one morning and find your money gone, you may cry for a few hours or even a few days but then, let out "noisy shouts of joy" you must. (Wonder if that's my accountant on the phone?)


Anonymous said...

And here I thought blues were for the most part in the minor scales?

km said...


Not necessarily so. Blues music can be heard in both minor and major pentatonic (i.e. five notes) scales.

But the so-called "blues scale" is indeed a minor scale. Perhaps you are referring to that scale. It contains not 5 but 6 notes. (The sixth note is what is commonly called the "blue note". It's a flat or a sharp note.)

OK, too much theory, not enough blues :)

shom said...

My day today started out in F Major, changed over time to Ab Minor, fretted a lot over G Minor and right now it is: F# Major. E Major seems too far away for me right now.

km said...

Shom: Considering that it's already Thursday, E Major can't be *that* far away :)