Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Fuss About F# Major

There is a current discussion raging on the Music Theory Society's on-line talk list-serve about music in the key of F# major.  Initially I thought it was a joke:  Surely everyone with a Ph.D. in Music Theory knows the Beethoven Sonata Op. 78!  To my surprise, and probably everyone else's, a long thread of posts continues to unravel.

Ravel furnishes an excellent starting point for me to make the case I try to make, namely that it is a matter not so much of tonality per se as of instrumental resonance.

Every time I try to point out the difference, however, the terminology is sent back to me skewed away from sound and into concepts specifcying tonal function.  Only one poster mentioned the irresistibly beautiful major third (F# - A#) of that key.

The more involved I become in instrumental sound the less I care about terminology, certainly not about the kind that assumes that theoretical function predominates over sound.

I simply don't believe it!  When I go to play the music I am even more convinced that these notions are not only irrelevant but also destructive of the urge to simply listen, to simply hear, to accept sound as the subject not the wallpaper.