John Corson's Blog

WRITING & RANTING
for July 7, 2021

MUSIC WRITTEN IN MINOR KEYS

It is hot! I mean the ole Triple-H. Hazy, hot and humid, although the hazy part is minimal. Heat Index is at 100 degrees. I have to stay inside and stand before a fan with the A/C duct open and cranking full time!

This morning, ahead of what could be a half-way decent storm (Tropical Storm Elsa), I went ahead and cut the grass in my front yard this morning. The back yard doesn't need it, but my guess is that I will need a bush hog Saturday following the storm. Saturday, Sunday and all through next week the temps will be above 90 degrees and it is supposed to be humid because a projected "Bermuda High" will be anchored to our southeast about 500 miles away in the Atlantic and when those things anchor, meaning they don't go away in days, sometimes weeks, we are stuck with moist humid air and it gets unbearable.

Well enough of the weather.

Did you see where Joe Biden is going to go community-to-community, and door-to-door to promote everyone getting vaccinated? Don't worry, if he comes to my door (it won't be him personally but someone from, say, Health and Human Services) I will be polite and say, "Thanks, but no thanks." If asked why not? I will still be polite and say, my doctor advises me that since I have a history of getting the flu EVERYTIME I get a flu shot, she doesn't want me to take a chance, lest I get the full-blown Covid-19, have to go on a ventilator and then die. Then, if asked to go ahead and take the chance, I will tell them to get a court order.

The only thing Democrats understand is force. They do not believe that we are smart enough to make correct decisions, or that we can decide what is good for ourselves and our families. They believe the government knows best. On top of that, the government only knows what is best when it is under control of Democrats. After all, they certainly didn't think the government would make any correct decisions when Trump and the Republicans were in control.

Next week, Mark Levin's new book American Marxists will be released. I have already pre-ordered the book from Amazon and can't wait to read more from this conservative pundit, lawyer and analyst as he will take the reader through the history of the growing Communist influence in this country and trace how it has virtually conquered all aspects of our culture from the media and Hollywood, to health care, education and the economy. It will be a good read for sure.

Last night, I sat out on my back deck and downed three Lynchburg Lemonades. The combination of Jack Daniels, Triple Sec, Sweet & Sour mix and Sprite doesn't do much for me. The adverse effects are indigestion and a dry mouth. The upside is that it makes me feel loose and gives me an ever so slight buzz. Also, it is good for my cholesterol. I have already noted a few times in the past how that alcohol has very little effect on my Swedish side and heritage. So I am not out there trying to get more of a buzz on. I was just relaxing and listening to some Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Vaughan Williams. In particular, I was listening to one of his early works, recently discovered and for the first time recorded about 10 years ago entitled: Serenade in a minor. I also listened to the Dark Pastoral for Cello and  Orchestra and the Oboe Concerto in a minor.

Ah! The key of a minor! Isn't that the key for those who are depressed. Doesn't it make one depressed, if he isn't already?

Most of the time, when all else is held constant, music in a major key is judged as happy while minor key music is heard as sad. I say most of the time because it’s not true across the board. Minor music can be happy even if people do not understand the lyrics, such as in Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’. Or try keeping a smile on your face when you hear to ‘Dinner At Eight’ by Rufus Wainwright or ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths, both of which are in major keys.

There are many examples of minor-happy and major-sad pairings in the musical catalogue, but it’s fair to say that these examples are the exceptions rather than the rule. Why is it automatically assumed that songs in a major key are happy and minor key, sad?

 It seems to be mostly the result of cultural conditioning. When we listen to tunes we rely heavily on our memory for the body of music we’ve heard all our life. Constantly touching base with our musical memory back catalogue helps to generate expectations of what might come next in a tune, which is an important source of enjoyment in musical listening. The downside of this over reliance on memory is that our musical reactions are frequently led by stereotypes.

I read that in the western musical tradition major music is played at times of celebration (Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ or ‘Happy Birthday’), jubilation (Brian May’s ‘National Anthem’ on top of Buckingham Palace) and general fun times (‘Celebration’ by Kool And The Gang) whereas minor music is used to mark mourning (Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’), heartache (‘Back To Black’ by Amy Winehouse) and despair (‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash or ‘Gloomy Sunday’ by Billie Holiday).

We are exposed to this repeated pairing of sound and emotional meaning from the time our ears are functioning (around the fifth – sixth month in the womb) so it is no wonder that we leap to emotional assumptions based on experience.

Let’s look at the nuts and bolts of sound. Tempo is obviously important. A simple minor chord (with three notes, also known as a ‘triad’) also uses a middle note that is closer to the tonic as compared to a major triad. Take for example the C triad chord (C, E, and G); in the minor version the middle note is E flat (closer to C) whereas in the major version we hear natural E (further away from C). The tonic (C) is the strongest note and draws more of our attention, so minor chords like this trigger more sensory dissonance, a kind of tension that stems from the clashing of closely spaced frequencies.

Many components make up happy and sad music, including differing tempos, timbres and rhythms, but major-minor tonality is a key clue from which we extract an emotional message. This on–the-spot evaluation is drawn from our reaction to the acoustic structure of major and minor chords but is mostly down to learned associations, both ancient and modern.

As for Vaughan Williams, his minor keyed music doesn't brood along in despairsville. It is thought provoking, analytical and panoramic with its ever-so slight impressionistic or pastoral evocations.

So that is what I needed last night. An alcoholic mind-freeing drink with thought-provoking music that truly got my mind off of the things that do get me down and on to things that stir my imagination and frees me from the mundane, monotonous and mediocrity which is otherwise my life.

Tonight, I think I will listen to the Beethoven 5th Symphony. That was written in c-minor. Yeah, I know the rumor: he wrote it after finding out he was going deaf and so he subtitled the work: The Fate Symphony, but that didn't stick and he went on to compose the greatest of his music after he was stone deaf. Then, I think I will go on to listen to his Seventh Symphony, written in A-Major. It's the second movement that can bring you to despair, but that's alright. I will drink four Lynchburg's before listening to that one!

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Blogging

Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.