I once read a book (pdf) from imslp or forgottenbooks that was about composition (or harmony), and it had a list of every possible modulation and its emotional association. For example, Up a perfect fifth: uplifting, heraldic and magnificent. Of course it used much more poetic and verbose language. Is anyone familiar with this book? I've forgotten what it was called.

  • 2
    Did it also mention that D minor is the saddest key? – Tim Apr 1 '20 at 6:25
  • It could have been from Renaissance (madrigals have been expressing emotions and affects)- – Albrecht Hügli Apr 1 '20 at 7:19
  • @Tim Quite possibly! Which book are you referring to? – minusatwelfth Apr 1 '20 at 13:47
  • @Tim that's actually only true in Indonesian Folk music, isn't it? And I think the records of this are lost – they used to be engraved in a giant monolith, but that was crushed by a dwarf. – leftaroundabout Apr 1 '20 at 16:52

I'd look up under the doctrine of the affections in music.


Below you have the literature and bibliography of this theme.

The book you are looking for could be the one cited of Mattheson or Mersenne.

Mattheson: Capellmeister

In der Capellmeister by Mattheson look for “Affecten” and “Modulation”.

Also search for L.c. Mizler (quoted by Mattheson) and Fux (Gradus ad Parnassum)


As you say the Book was in English you might google searching for music, affects, keys, modulation and you’ll find articles or books (secondary literature) mentioning the original book you are looking for. Maybe if you read the title or the name of the author you will recognize it.

E.g. like this:


Edit 2.

Have you seen this link:

How did baroque composers relate to human emotions?

the book you're looking for may be an English translation of Mattheson's Capellmeister:


Mattheson (English)

  • 1
    Maybe imslp.org/wiki/… – Brian THOMAS Apr 1 '20 at 12:01
  • Yes, Brian, that’s the book that is mentioned in the link above. – Albrecht Hügli Apr 1 '20 at 12:05
  • i don't think it was that book unfortunately as it was definitely in english. However it may have the same general ideas – minusatwelfth Apr 1 '20 at 12:56
  • I've looked through your link, it doesn't seem to correlate each intervallic modulation with some emotion. I don't understand german though so maybe I'm missing something – minusatwelfth Apr 1 '20 at 13:00
  • I can’t know which works have been translated in English ... I thought Fux and Mattheson or Mizler might be. – Albrecht Hügli Apr 1 '20 at 16:18

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