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#2064546 - 04/14/13 03:24 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: mermilylumpkin]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3754
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin
I hadn't heard of the idea before outside of it being parodied in the movie "This Is Spinal Tap" when Nigel Tufnel is talking about the Mozart and Bach "Mach" piece he wrote in A minor, "the saddest of all keys."


D minor, not A minor.

(source: memory. smile )

-J
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Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#2064553 - 04/14/13 03:39 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
dolce sfogato Offline
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Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2630
Loc: Netherlands
minor not sounding sad: Beethoven op.13 3rd mov.
major not sounding glad: Brahms op.118/2

only 2 of a zillion times that modes don't indicate joy or sorrow.
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#2064554 - 04/14/13 03:41 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
Thrill Science Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 513
Loc: California
A lot of Jewish music is in "minor keys" and isn't sad. For example: Hava Nagila (הבה נגילה).

(Although some people would call this the "Phrygian dominant" scale.)
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#2064746 - 04/15/13 12:47 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
beet31425 Online   content
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Loc: Bay Area, CA
While there are plenty of sad major key pieces (and vice-versa), the fact remains that if you ask most people to compare a major triad with a minor triad, they will say that the major chord sounds "happier" and the minor chord "sadder".

Last week I was just talking to a scientist who studies music and the brain, who confirmed for me that this phenomenon is universal, including among tribes in New Guinea with very little Western contact.

The fact that a half step difference in one note produces a universally acknowledged emotional association remains a deep mystery to me.



-Jason
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#2064794 - 04/15/13 05:07 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
synergy543 Offline
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Registered: 05/28/11
Posts: 102
After seeing this post, I ran across this link which made me sad.


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#2064802 - 04/15/13 06:16 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: beet31425]
currawong Offline
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Originally Posted By: beet31425
Last week I was just talking to a scientist who studies music and the brain, who confirmed for me that this phenomenon is universal, including among tribes in New Guinea with very little Western contact.
As I said earlier in this (old) thread, I'd be very interested to see the actual research methodology which shows this to be so. When you consider that even in the history of western music over the last 1000 years this does not seem to have been universally so, I would be very surprised if it were so for all cultures everywhere, at all times.
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#2064937 - 04/15/13 11:24 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: currawong]
beet31425 Online   content
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3754
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: currawong
When you consider that even in the history of western music over the last 1000 years this does not seem to have been universally so...

This statement seems to be talking about full pieces and their overall emotional content. For what it's worth, I'm talking about a much simpler phenomenon: describing a single major or minor triad, out of context.

-J
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#2065021 - 04/15/13 02:30 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
synergy543 Offline
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Registered: 05/28/11
Posts: 102
I wonder if it could have to do with the fact that a major third is the fifth partial of the overtone series whereas a minor third is the nineteenth? Thus, a major third 'feels' more harmonious, and we feel resolution. smile
A minor third on the other hand, being much more distant, feels less resolute. frown

Harmonic Series




Edited by synergy543 (04/15/13 02:37 PM)

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#2065043 - 04/15/13 03:35 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: beet31425]
mermilylumpkin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/13
Posts: 121
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin
I hadn't heard of the idea before outside of it being parodied in the movie "This Is Spinal Tap" when Nigel Tufnel is talking about the Mozart and Bach "Mach" piece he wrote in A minor, "the saddest of all keys."


D minor, not A minor.

(source: memory. smile )

-J


Haha, thanks. Wouldn't want to mix up the saddest of all the keys.

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#2065590 - 04/16/13 02:34 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: mermilylumpkin]
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 520
Loc: So.Cal.USA
Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin
Originally Posted By: beet31425
Originally Posted By: mermilylumpkin
I hadn't heard of the idea before outside of it being parodied in the movie "This Is Spinal Tap" when Nigel Tufnel is talking about the Mozart and Bach "Mach" piece he wrote in A minor, "the saddest of all keys."


D minor, not A minor.

(source: memory. smile )

-J


Haha, thanks. Wouldn't want to mix up the saddest of all the keys.


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#2066346 - 04/18/13 02:48 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: Mirior]
Lelax Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/12
Posts: 41
Thoughtful comment indeed. I'm always impressed when causality is invoked early in the explanation. TY for posting.

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#2066851 - 04/19/13 01:40 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
willimek Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 3
Major and Minor - the Strebetendenz-Theory

If you want to answer the question, why major sounds happy and minor sounds sad, there is the problem, that some minor chords don't sound sad. The solution of this problem is the Strebetendenz-Theory. It says, that music is not able to transmit emotions directly. Music can just convey processes of will, but the music listener fills this processes of will with emotions. Similary, when you watch a dramatic film in television, the film cannot transmit emotions directly, but processes of will. The spectator perceives the processes of will dyed with emotions - identifying with the protagonist. When you listen music you identify too, but with an anonymous will now.

If you perceive a major chord, you normally identify with the will "Yes, I want to...". If you perceive a minor chord, you identify normally with the will "I don't want anymore...". If you play the minor chord softly, you connect the will "I don't want anymore..." with a feeling of sadness. If you play the minor chord loudly, you connect the same will with a feeling of rage. You distinguish in the same way as you would distinguish, if someone would say the words "I don't want anymore..." the first time softly and the second time loudly.

This operations of will in the music were unknown until the Strebetendenz-Theory discovered them. And therefore many previous researches in psycholgy of music failed. If you want more information about music and emotions and get the answer, why music touches us emotionally, you can download the essay "Vibrating Molecules and the Secret of their Feelings" for free. You can get it on the link:
http://www.willimekmusic.homepage.t-online.de/homepage/Striving/Striving.doc

Enjoy reading

Bernd Willimek

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#2067260 - 04/19/13 05:35 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
peterws Offline
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Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3543
Loc: Northern England.
Well, you won`t find a more depressive (or expressive) song than Schubert`s Impromtu in fsharp major. Why this is, I don`t know. A testimony to his genius - and sadness in is latter days maybe . . .
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#2067267 - 04/19/13 05:44 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: peterws]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3754
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: peterws
Well, you won`t find a more depressive (or expressive) song than Schubert`s Impromtu in fsharp major. Why this is, I don`t know. A testimony to his genius - and sadness in is latter days maybe . . .


Gb major: please!! smile

Yes, that is a sad major-key piece, and there are many others. (I'm of the opinion that almost *every* major-key piece, especially if it's slow, is sad.)

-J
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#2067276 - 04/19/13 05:59 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: beet31425]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: beet31425
(I'm of the opinion that almost *every* major-key piece, especially if it's slow, is sad.)

What is not sad, then?
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Polyphonist

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#2067306 - 04/19/13 07:36 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: Polyphonist]
Bosendorff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 274
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
What is not sad, then?


Dvorak's Slavonic Dance #7 is super joyful and energetic.

And of course, it's written in C minor. cool

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#2067308 - 04/19/13 07:48 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
I was referring to beet's claim that almost all pieces in major keys are sad.
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Polyphonist

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#2067311 - 04/19/13 08:04 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
Bosendorff Offline
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Registered: 08/11/12
Posts: 274
Of course. One can also view major key as usually sad and minor key as usually happy and energetic.

After all, in a major triad, let's say C, you have a major third C-E, but also a minor third E-G. And the opposite/reverse in a minor triad. grin

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#2067428 - 04/20/13 02:40 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: Polyphonist]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3754
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: beet31425
(I'm of the opinion that almost *every* major-key piece, especially if it's slow, is sad.)

What is not sad, then?


Maybe I just think everything's sad, then. smile Or, at least, heavily nostalgia-induced.

Proust said something about music being inherently sad, because it's duration-based, i.e. a given piece exists for a finite amount of time, and so, encoded in its very essence is a sense of its ending, of its mortality, of all of our mortality. Maybe that's too much, but I like the sentiment. Music is a transitory thing compared to a painting or a sculpture.

It takes a certain energy to get out of that sad/nostalgic aura for me. Bach's C# major prelude (Book I) sounds genuinely happy. So does the D major prelude. But Eb major? E major? No: anything sufficiently slow sounds sad to me.


-J
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Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#2067433 - 04/20/13 02:54 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
How about the middle movement of Beethoven's Op 14 No 1? grin
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Polyphonist

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#2067436 - 04/20/13 03:00 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: Polyphonist]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3754
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
How about the middle movement of Beethoven's Op 14 No 1? grin
I'm not quite sure what to make of that movement (even though I've played it). It has a certain dignity, a certain reservation. I certainly wouldn't call it "happy". Maybe vaguely sad, or lonely. Anyway, it's in a minor key.

The opening themes of the first and last movements of 14/1 demonstrate my "energy required for non-sadness" theory. The last movement's main theme sounds somewhat happy; the first movement's main theme not even close (to my ears).

-J
_________________________
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#2067810 - 04/20/13 10:30 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Check this out: "Happy" Billy Jean (Michael Jackson).

It would actually make a really uplifting piece. wink

How do we 'hear' happiness and sadness in music? There's research suggesting that it's built into us; they let people in indigenous environments listen to Canadian/American pop music and they were able to hear the feelings in the songs based on the melody. (Also the major/minor key system is NOT built into their cultures... they may use pentatonics, rhythms, etc..)

Our perception of happy/sad runs deeper than culture. wink

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#2067823 - 04/20/13 11:39 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: Bluoh]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5921
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Bluoh
How do we 'hear' happiness and sadness in music? There's research suggesting that it's built into us; they let people in indigenous environments listen to Canadian/American pop music and they were able to hear the feelings in the songs based on the melody.
I'd still be interested to see the methodology of such research. For example, for a start, how do you find people who haven't already been exposed to western music? How can you tell it's the major/minor component that they recognise as happy/sad and not things like tempo, instrumentation, vocal quality and rhythm? I'm not sure I could tell the feelings in many pop songs if I couldn't hear the words. And sometimes not even then...
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#2067896 - 04/21/13 07:22 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: currawong]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7793
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Bluoh
How do we 'hear' happiness and sadness in music? There's research suggesting that it's built into us; they let people in indigenous environments listen to Canadian/American pop music and they were able to hear the feelings in the songs based on the melody.
I'd still be interested to see the methodology of such research. For example, for a start, how do you find people who haven't already been exposed to western music? How can you tell it's the major/minor component that they recognise as happy/sad and not things like tempo, instrumentation, vocal quality and rhythm? I'm not sure I could tell the feelings in many pop songs if I couldn't hear the words. And sometimes not even then...


I'm with you...this all sounds a little too pat.

So I did a little googling and turned up what appears to be a major and fairly recent (2010) reference for all kinds of studies involving music and emotion - Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications . It looks very interesting, but also vast and intimidating. It may be one to get from the library...

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#2068130 - 04/21/13 04:37 PM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: currawong]
Bluoh Offline
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Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: currawong
I'd still be interested to see the methodology of such research. For example, for a start, how do you find people who haven't already been exposed to western music? How can you tell it's the major/minor component that they recognise as happy/sad and not things like tempo, instrumentation, vocal quality and rhythm?

They found indigenous peoples in Africa, Tibet, etc. where the music in their cultures don't consist of major/minor tonality.
I believe everything works together; check out the 'major keyed' version Billy Jean and Bad Romance on Youtube... it sounds completely different, and I'd even say Billy Jean sounds upbeat and optimistic. It's just a key change, but it sounds totally different (they used the original tracks and modified the tones). (link in my last post)

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#2068561 - 04/22/13 10:25 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
Brad Hoehne Offline
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Registered: 04/22/11
Posts: 368
Loc: Ohio
@wouter79, despite the lovely music you reference being rhythmic and uptempo, there is still a twinge of sadness in it to my ear. I have a difficult time >not< hearing these songs, whose words I do not understand, as having some element of pain, loss, deep history, or tragedy. I suspect, even if I knew the words and discovered them to my surprise to be about "happy" things, that that happiness would be tinted with an ironic, perhaps sinister, perhaps tragic, perhaps lonely, undertone. Indeed this is one of the strangely evocative things about a lot of folk music. The minor key places a "happy" thing in the context of an overall tragic life or indifferent god or universe.



So I'm not sure they are good examples of "happy sounding" minor key music. Am I alone in this?


Edited by Brad Hoehne (04/22/13 10:28 AM)
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#2134318 - 08/17/13 11:28 AM Re: Why do minor keyed works sound sad? [Re: pianoloverus]
willimek Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 3
In addition to my last post, I am announcing that the English translation of our work "Musik und Emotionen - Studien zur Strebetendenz-Theorie" is now published:
Music and Emotions - Research on the Theory of Musical Equilibration
You can get it free at the link:
http://www.willimekmusic.de/music-and-emotions.pdf
Bernd Willimek

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