[Smt-talk] Pieces contrary to the minor/major = sad/non-sad stereotype

Christopher Buchenholz cbuchenholz at yu.edu
Fri Oct 2 08:21:50 PDT 2009

I find it curious that as educators, we shy away from the major=happy,  
minor=sad stereotype, yet when challenged, we are hard-pressed to find  
musical examples that dispel this notion, and the ones we do find are  
questionable, or unremarkable.  It becomes especially difficult when  
we dispense with lyrics;  does music written in major/minor evoke  
happiness or sadness without a textual context?

When discussing major/minor with my students, I try and bring together  
other musical elements that reinforce the happy/sad convention.  For  
example, pieces in major keys tend to be loud, fast, tutti, upbeat,  
rhythmic, etc.  Pieces in minor tend to be slow, soft, fewer  
instruments, etc.  It is relatively simple to find pieces in both  
major and minor that do away with some or all of these statements.

Christopher Buchenholz
Yeshiva University
cbuchenholz at yu.edu

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list