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

nancygarniez at tonalrefraction.com nancygarniez at tonalrefraction.com
Tue Oct 6 07:57:55 PDT 2009

Dear Charles:
Thanks for your expressed perhaps uncharitable skepticism. I find the discussion overly simplistic. Could it be, as this exchange makes it seem, that the almost unearthly fleeting tinges of minor that emanate from Mozart melodies in major (and vice versa) are not apparent to the theoretical ear? 

An example comes readily to mind, one that caused me grief as a child of twelve learning the Mozart Sonata in G--his only Piano Sonata in that key. At the time the piece unsettled me greatly and has intrigued me increasingly over the years. The pickup D B is potentially minor. Not resolving those tones downward to the logical G makes their modal ambiguity even more poignant. In a way the piece is all about the clash between G and F#, which turns into F natural in the slow movement--an event my child ear found shocking. Is it a rush to clarity that causes us to miss such modal drama?

Nancy Garniez

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles J. Smith [mailto:cjsmith at buffalo.edu]
Sent: Monday, October 5, 2009 06:03 PM
To: 'Discussion SMT'
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Pieces contrary to the minor/major = sad/non-sad stereotype

In the midst of administrative travails in recent weeks, I've been watching this thread...with perhaps more skepticism that was entirely charitable. If I had more time, I would like to encourage and participate in a more general discussion of mode and affect, historical and present, in the light of all that supposed sophistication that we lay claim to as scholars and serious thinkers about and in music. But, alas, no... 

Instead a simple amazed observation...that no one has mentioned the slow movement of Ravel's G major Piano Concerto. Even though I have profound Nelson-Goodman–encouraged suspicions about the meaningfulness of saying that a piece of music is sad...surely no major-mode movement is sadder than this one.

Best wishes to all,

Prof. Charles J. Smith
Associate Professor of Music Theory & Chair of the Department
Music Department, 220 Baird Hall, University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Chair's Office:716-645-2764
Private Line: 716-645-0639
Office Fax:716-645-3824

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