Liquid Sadness for Dark Days – Affective Musical Key Characteristics on the Feast of St. Cecilia

Today is the Feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

Here is the second movement (Allegretto) from Beethoven’s 7th in A Minor, which is at once liquid sadness, but because it modulates into A Major, also cautiously optimistic. Every key in music carries its own specific emotional correlation – which I find miraculous in and of itself. Why do certain keys and chords in music elicit specific, consistent emotional responses across humanity? It’s just miraculous.

The key of A Minor is sadness, straight-up. The key of A Major is described by Schubart as, “suitable for declarations of innocent love, hope of seeing one’s beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God.”

Well, yeah. That’s exactly right. That’s the Christian life on this mortal coil in a nutshell, really, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. Hurts so good.

Here is the full list of Schubart’s Affective Key Characteristics, if you’re interested. Some of the descriptions are quite moving.

Saint Cecilia, pray for us.

St. Cecilia, Guido Reni, ARSH 1606, Norton Simon Museum

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