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Thread: It is less respectable to compose in a minor key/dark mood?

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    Default It is less respectable to compose in a minor key/dark mood?

    I've seen a few users on TC express their dislike of minor/dark pieces as being pretentious or too appealing to the masses? Is this just personal frustration or is there something to this?

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    It's a load of nonsense, ignore them. There is nothing wrong with minor keys.

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    Someone here said that? I missed such foolishness while browsing the site.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Minor keys are "the gateway into chromaticism," and thus are responsible for modernism. To many conservatives here, this might be justification for the disdain of minor keys.

    Also, "darkness" is a characteristic of the "life is crap" aesthetic of modernism.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-04-2019 at 12:57.
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Minor keys are "the gateway into chromaticism," and thus are responsible for modernism. To many conservatives here, this might be justification for the disdain of minor keys.

    Also, "darkness" is a characteristic of the "life is crap" aesthetic of modernism.
    That's a load of claptrap. Pieces in a minor key are found at every stage of the Classical repertoire. I've never seen any "conservative" show any disdain for minor keys. In fact, some of the most celebrated works are written in the minor key, from Vivaldi's Winter to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor to Beethoven's Fifth, Haydn's Trauer, Mozart's No. 40 and his Requiem, to Schubert's Impromptu op 90 no. 1, Mendelssohn's violin concerto, Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    I've seen a few users on TC express their dislike of minor/dark pieces as being pretentious or too appealing to the masses? Is this just personal frustration or is there something to this?
    Like David Johnson, I've never heard that opinion expressed on TC. Can you cite any statement to that effect?

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    There was another example from a while ago that I could never find, but here is one I could:

    Philip Glass

    On second thoughts, he's only claiming that it's more susceptible to pretentiousness. With that nuance, is it any more true?
    Last edited by level82rat; Jul-04-2019 at 18:36. Reason: Additional reflection

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    On second thoughts, he's only claiming that it's more susceptible to pretentiousness. With that nuance, is it any more true?
    I've noticed that some on TC whose favorite music is Romantic Era or later tend to prefer the relatively rare works in the minor mode by Haydn and Mozart to the hundreds in the major mode, likely because they hear in them more overt and intense emotional expression. Mozart's C minor and D minor piano concertos are prime examples. Don't see any connection between overt expression and pretentiousness though.

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    I haven't seen people criticizing composers using minor keys, but I have seen threads where people are listing their favorite Mozart or Haydn works, and sometimes if people list several works in minor keys they may be subject to a vague accusation of not really being true Mozart or Haydn fans because they probably only like the (less common) works in minor keys.

    Many (but not all) of my favorite Mozart pieces are minor key works, and I think part of the reason is there are more harmonic possibilities in a minor key compared to a major key.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    I've noticed that some on TC whose favorite music is Romantic Era or later tend to prefer the relatively rare works in the minor mode
    The Baroque era had its fair share of works in minor did it not?

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    The Baroque era had its fair share of works in minor did it not?
    And the Romantic era had plenty of works in a major key, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    The Baroque era had its fair share of works in minor did it not?
    Yes. Much more even distribution between the minor and major modes in every era except the High Classical.

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    I’m interested in works not keys. If I hear a symphony or whatever it’s because I like it, not because it happens to be in a particular key, either major or minor. I never consider works that way, ever. A symphony that starts out in a minor key could have other movements in a major key in the middle. Often within a work there can be a sudden shift from a major to a minor key, or vice versa. Just about all composers have done this in service of the whole. But what I do is think in terms of moods: cheerful, thoughtful, meditative, introspective, lively, adventurous, challenging — and the keys take care of themselves. Minor is not better than major, nor major better than minor, as both are a necessary reflection of the whole. They both have equal value because they are a necessary balance to each other and they convey the mood of the composer if the music is tonally based. Some music is not tonally based and that’s where it can go into ambiguities of feeling and emotion. But in general, I think in terms of moods and works and not whether they are in a major and minor key. I disagree that one is superior over the other for any purpose in music. They have equal value even if it might seem that one is being used more than the other in a particular work.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jul-04-2019 at 23:17.
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    Is it just me, or are there a LOT of rock, heavy-metal songs in minor keys? Thinking back to the '50s and '60s I can cite very few pop tunes that were in the minor. Eleanor Rigby for one. Those Were the Days, too.

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    I’m not sure why people get attached to attacking certain keys. I came across it when I was a musician and I thought it was weird then, too. Regardless, I don’t think you can say minor keys are pretentious. All keys are just ways of organizing tonality. That’s it.

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