I have found several references to map a key to a psychological feeling or psyche archetype. Is there an industry standard for musical scoring?


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From what I have read, before equal temperament, the key qualities were much more distinct. I know they were sometimes associated with different moods (such as the dark C minor Beethoven is so famous for using), but I don't know if those associations have continued in the era of equal temperament.

One thing I did learn from my composition professor is that modulating to a key with more sharps increases the tension in the music because one is moving in the direction of the dominant. Modulating towards more flats (or fewer sharps) relaxes the music because it moves in the direction of the subdominant. This is not related to a specific mood or psychological state, but could be used to evoke feelings.


(Expansion of my comment).

This is one of those questions where there's a fairly straightforward answer - 'no'! There is no recognised, generally-applicable association between particular keys and particular emotional scopes.

There are various reasons why, on a certain instrument, tuned in a given temperament, in a certain musical context, a certain key might be said to have certain characteristics. But not in such a way that you can isolate keys and come up with any meaningful direct correlation between keys and feelings.

It is true that many learned musicians do speak of associations between keys and emotions, but I believe that they are misleading themselves - I think that it's all too easy, when experiencing a powerful emotional pull from one key and then experiencing a different emotion from another, to fall into the trap of thinking that there's something of that emotion associated with those keys in an absolute way.

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    I don't think they're necessarily misleading themselves (though they may well be) but it's just that such responses are very, very subjective. Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 22:15
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    @Bob I guess I meant misleading themselves into making the leap from the subjective to the objective - leading to enumerations such as those here, glorious though they are! Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 22:20

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