Author Topic: What if a piece changes key?  (Read 1422 times)

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Offline MFKittyBooy

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What if a piece changes key?
« on: July 13, 2017, 07:00:08 AM »
I have written an Étude that starts in B major and ends in C major, if I write it down, should it be Étude in B major or Étude in C major?

Offline ritter

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2017, 07:06:34 AM »
I have written an Étude that starts in B major and ends in C major, if I write it down, should it be Étude in B major or Étude in C major?
Just "Étude" will do IMO. Not even necessary to give it a number (e.g., "No. 1"), unless you're certain there will be a "No. 2".
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Offline MFKittyBooy

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2017, 07:08:57 AM »
Just "Étude" will do IMO. Not even necessary to give it a number (e.g., "No. 1"), unless you're certain there will be a "No. 2".
Alright, but still, if a piece changes it's key, is it in the key it started in, or the key it ends in?

Offline ritter

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2017, 07:12:21 AM »
Alright, but still, if a piece changes it's key, is it in the key it started in, or the key it ends in?
There's people here much more expert in this than me, but if it starts in a key, and then changes to another, well, it's exactly that, B major at the beginning and C major at the end (in your specific case). So it's neither one nor the other, nor both either.
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Offline Ghost Sonata

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2017, 07:23:13 AM »
The simplest things are complex and that is esp. true re: the key of a given work (though there's always exceptions, eg: popular songs are often straightforward).  The Wiki explanation is as good as anything I've seen:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_(music)
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2017, 07:27:30 AM »
The simplest things are complex and that is esp. true re: the key of a given work (though there's always exceptions, eg: popular songs are often straightforward).  The Wiki explanation is as good as anything I've seen:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_(music)

Ugh, yet another explanation of key as equivalent to scale.

Keys are not scales!  Keys are hierarchies of harmonic relationships, which do not have to rely on a scale.

Alright, but still, if a piece changes it's key, is it in the key it started in, or the key it ends in?

If it's always moving towards the ending key, then I'd say the whole could be judged as being in that key (eg the first song of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen), but just modulating at some point isn't the same.  Best to avoid a key designation.  It's not really necessary anyway.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2017, 07:30:00 AM by Mahlerian »

Offline Ghost Sonata

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2017, 07:34:44 AM »
Ugh, yet another explanation of key as equivalent to scale.

Keys are not scales!  Keys are hierarchies of harmonic relationships, which do not have to rely on a scale.

If it's always moving towards the ending key, then I'd say the whole could be judged as being in that key (eg the first song of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen), but just modulating at some point isn't the same.  Best to avoid a key designation.  It's not really necessary anyway.

Agree, Mahlerian - it's the modern practice in any case.  I thought the Wiki explanation specifically warns against interpreting scale as key  : "Although many musicians confuse key with scale, a scale is an ordered set of notes typically used in a key, while the key is the center of gravity, established by particular chord progressions..."
 
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2017, 07:37:03 AM »
Agree, Mahlerian - it's the modern practice in any case.

True, and I think it's another indication of how tonality is just not the natural language for the average listener anymore.

I thought the Wiki explanation specifically warns against interpreting scale as key  : "Although many musicians confuse key with scale, a scale is an ordered set of notes typically used in a key, while the key is the center of gravity, established by particular chord progressions..."
 

I missed that, sorry.  I was reacting to the first sentence, really, and certainly not to you personally, so I hope you didn't take offense.

Offline Ghost Sonata

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2017, 08:11:45 AM »
Eile macht Weile... ;D No offense taken, Mahlerian, I enjoy and am grateful for your posts! 

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Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2017, 01:23:47 PM »
Alright, but still, if a piece changes it's key, is it in the key it started in, or the key it ends in?

Progressive Tonality is the term for that.  Karl Neilson, among others, is known for it.

"I can not think of a piece of this nature where the composer stated the key, if you think on it one sec, for obvious reasons, lol."

Naming a piece and stating the key is such a common practice bit of business, and embedded in the general consciousness, that causes, imo, any number of amateur and beginning composers to still think in that mode, for both the actual writing and title.  It is a mental reflex, maybe some think your piece sounds more 'official' or legitimate with that old tag on it, but we all know that just ain't so.

Progressive Harmony, shifting key centers without returning to 'home base,' can happen within a movement (your Etude) or within the key schematic of multiple movement works.

Stravinsky's Piano Sonata has no key name, and its three movements are in: 1 C / 2 Ab /3 beginning in and ending in E major.  The first movement C is in the center of its upper and lower major thirds, outlining an augmented triad.
 
Ditto Barber's piano concerto, with its schematic a sequence of descending minor thirds:
1st movement beginning and ending in  E minor,
2nd movement primarily in C# minor (the relative minor -- descending -- from E)
3rd movement "mostly" in Bb minor (polite use of the enharmonic for A#) that again a minor third lower than the second movement.

Call it "Etude," or if you will, Étude :-) It only needs a number if there are others; will get a number if others come later.

P.s. Nitpick, but its the literal truth:
"I've written an Etude.... If I write it down...."
Well, you haven't written anything until, ya know, it is written down [memory and midi or other recordings don't count as 'written' lol].


Best regards
« Last Edit: July 19, 2017, 09:25:41 AM by Monsieur Croche »
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Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2017, 01:28:36 PM »
True, and I think it's another indication of how tonality is just not the natural language for the average listener anymore.

Agreed, also for composers and musicians, of course.  Any and all of the older forms can be used, done, and their names used, and without stating a key.

~ I'm all for personal expression; it just has to express something to me. ~

Offline amw

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2017, 08:44:16 PM »
I can not think of a piece of this nature where the composer stated the key, if you think on it one sec, for obvious reasons, lol.
Gustav Mahler wrote a Symphony No. 2 in C minor (ending in E-flat major), a Symphony No. 4 in G major (ending in E major), a Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor (ending in D major), and a Symphony No. 9 in D major (ending in D-flat major). And although he didn't give a key designation to the Symphony No. 7 I've seen it referred to "Symphony No. 7 in E minor/C major" which is.... dumb but whatever.

Also: Chopin's Fantasy in F minor (ends in A-flat major), Ballade in F major (ends in A minor), Scherzo in B-flat minor (ends in D-flat major). And Schubert's Unfinished Symphony in B minor technically ends in E major because he didn't bother to finish the remaining movements (which presumably would have been in B minor). I guess that kind of answers the OP's question.

Offline Monsieur Croche

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2017, 09:39:49 AM »
Gustav Mahler wrote a Symphony No. 2 in C minor (ending in E-flat major), a Symphony No. 4 in G major (ending in E major), a Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor (ending in D major), and a Symphony No. 9 in D major (ending in D-flat major). And although he didn't give a key designation to the Symphony No. 7 I've seen it referred to "Symphony No. 7 in E minor/C major" which is.... dumb but whatever.

Also: Chopin's Fantasy in F minor (ends in A-flat major), Ballade in F major (ends in A minor), Scherzo in B-flat minor (ends in D-flat major). And Schubert's Unfinished Symphony in B minor technically ends in E major because he didn't bother to finish the remaining movements (which presumably would have been in B minor). I guess that kind of answers the OP's question.

So much for my limited thinking over the rep before firing something off from my typewriting keyboard!

Your very nice and concise list of pieces that are named as being in a key but are in a progressive tonality scheme that does not politely "go home" is rather perfect. 

This 'clearly' means that the answer to the OP's question is:  Name the key in your title -- or don't. :-)
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Offline Crudblud

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2017, 12:03:51 PM »
Say it's in G-sharp minor, that'll really spice things up.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2017, 10:30:46 AM »
What if a piece changes key?

Good.

Carry on  8)
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Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2017, 08:59:49 AM »
Ugh, yet another explanation of key as equivalent to scale.
Keys are not scales!  Keys are hierarchies of harmonic relationships, which do not have to rely on a scale.
If it's always moving towards the ending key, then I'd say the whole could be judged as being in that key (eg the first song of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen), but just modulating at some point isn't the same.  Best to avoid a key designation.  It's not really necessary anyway.

Before throwing away key designation, which after all is a big chunk of composed music anyway, please consider the coloristic qualities that certain keys have for whatever reason, like C major vs. F# minor. The compass and development of instruments have something to do with accumulated mental associations of keys that can be very different from person to person. In a wider context, our culture has not abandoned tonality. It is still ominpresent. Even if you want to get away from key relations, tonic and dominant are still fundamental acoustic properties. 

With regard to a piece like Chopin's 2nd Ballade, one can say that the key designation is ambiguous given the equal importance given to F major and A minor. In fact, they contrast in every way. The F major part is tranquil (most of the time) and the A minor is turbulent. But consider that inside each section the tonality is clear, with some modulation but nothing really far out. Chopin liked third relationships but never abandoned tonic and dominant.

Of course this is a large topic but on the whole in tonal music, the key center is what usually determines its designation. I find it a very valuable piece of information about the piece.
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2017, 01:35:26 PM »
In a wider context, our culture has not abandoned tonality. It is still ominpresent. Even if you want to get away from key relations, tonic and dominant are still fundamental acoustic properties.

Our culture hasn't had much to do with tonality for over a century now.  Popular music uses diatonic scales and triads, but not tonality, the specific system of hierarchical relations using functional harmony.  In practice, popular music is really closer to modality than tonality, as functional successions, when they do occur, are not given special preference, closure is effected through melodic means rather than harmonic ones, and harmonic closure does not depend on perfect cadences.

Based on the number of times I see people designating songs with a minorish feel as being "in" a major key, just focusing on vi, I think that many people don't even hear centricity anymore, much less think in terms of tonality. (A study of this would probably yield interesting results; I think that those who have early and lasting contact with the common practice tradition would likely perceive harmony in a different way from those whose contact is limited or non-existent.)

Obviously the overtone series is a fundamental acoustic property, but the idea that music that doesn't rely on V-I progressions or triads is somehow in contradiction to the properties of notes is risible.

With regard to a piece like Chopin's 2nd Ballade, one can say that the key designation is ambiguous given the equal importance given to F major and A minor. In fact, they contrast in every way. The F major part is tranquil (most of the time) and the A minor is turbulent. But consider that inside each section the tonality is clear, with some modulation but nothing really far out. Chopin liked third relationships but never abandoned tonic and dominant.

Of course.  Chopin's music, being tonal, is based on tonality.

Of course this is a large topic but on the whole in tonal music, the key center is what usually determines its designation. I find it a very valuable piece of information about the piece.

Yes, if the piece has a single clear tonal center.  Beethoven's Sixth Symphony in F major has a single clear center.  Mahler's Fifth Symphony has multiple successive centers, which is why the composer said that it should not be given a designation (and the publisher ignored him anyway).
« Last Edit: July 24, 2017, 02:00:26 PM by Mahlerian »

Offline opaquer

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2017, 09:21:43 PM »
Correct, I come from certian genres of "popular music" as a kid, namely Rock, metal and jazz. I know from first-hand experience, not only of consuming it but also playing and composing it. "popular music" breaks all and every "rule" of tonality. It is modal and often chromatically modal (like metal). Pop music tends to shy away from traditional chord functions even.

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2017, 05:21:48 AM »
Correct, I come from certian genres of "popular music" as a kid, namely Rock, metal and jazz. I know from first-hand experience, not only of consuming it but also playing and composing it. "popular music" breaks all and every "rule" of tonality. It is modal and often chromatically modal (like metal). Pop music tends to shy away from traditional chord functions even.

Naturally, I don't mean that as a value judgement (as I'm sure you know).  Some people may think that "tonal" is an inherently positive term and anything outside of it negative, but in my mind it's an entirely neutral one.

In much popular music, closure isn't even all that important.

Offline opaquer

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Re: What if a piece changes key?
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2017, 01:10:00 AM »
Naturally, I don't mean that as a value judgement (as I'm sure you know).  Some people may think that "tonal" is an inherently positive term and anything outside of it negative, but in my mind it's an entirely neutral one.

In much popular music, closure isn't even all that important.

Agreed.

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