Originally Posted by robkramble
Thanks for the interesting points.
So, in conclusion, you don't need to give a toss about differentiating key signatures when you're writing instrumental electronic music where "natural" sounding vocals/instruments isn't necessary?
Music is essentially about "moving" people...Manipulating emotion in some way. While theoretically (and I say this tounge-in-cheek) it doesn't make much of a difference what "key" you play in, certain sounds seem to "emote" better depending on their actual pitch.
While some may disagree with me (and this may be an overly academic example), I feel this has to do with a variance of factors beyond pitch (such as the envelope and resonance of a given sound). While the real magic of "electronic" music comes from the apparent mutability of said characteristics, I think it would be accurate to say that most of what we as people understand as emotion in music comes from such factors. An upright bass sounds like an upright bass, and an upright bass (or bass vocal), heard perfectly in a perfect space, balanced perfectly with every other instrument in an orchestra, will be more naturally
moving than any other instrument/sound. An electric guitar, recorded to analog tape at 2x speed and slowed down can sound an awful lot like an electric bass - and yet it still has quite a different effect.
All of this is to say, there are immeasurable effects on how we perceive music. While pitch is probably the most obvious, it is also the most "relative". Most people can't tell if you're playing A440 or A444. However, there is a REAL PHYSICAL DIFFERENCE
, even in electronic music. Every person's ear resonates at a slightly different frequency. They have a varied transient response, and their brain interprets things slightly differently.
It's probably similar to the claim that scratch-made bread tastes differently in different locations in the world, even if made by the exact same person, by the exact same process. The different molecules in the air lend a very slightly different flavor and texture to the finished product. Combine this with memories and emotions, and you have a whole other thing altogether.
Previous posters are very correct when they say that just-tuning systems sound substantially different from equal-tempered systems. Anyone who can't hear a noticeable emotive impact needs to get their ears checked. That isn't to say that equal-tempered systems are useless - in fact, it's to the contrary. But by now I'm rambling.
At any rate, the only real answer is to try and play things in different keys. Try different tunings perhaps. Hell, try modulating your tuning slightly on different instruments at varying points during a song. A perfect 5th here will sound much better vs an equally-tempered 5th, and an equally-tempered augmented 6th might be just what the doctor ordered to get the point across. I would venture (and perhaps hope) to say that there will never be a way to simplify music (correctly) down to its fundamental elements - it is simply too complex (much like the "science" of acoustics). Make your music in whatever way it does it's job (emotes) the best.