The major triad is considered the foundation of tonal music, its privileged position owed to its presence in the harmonic series of acoustics. The minor triad lacks this acoustic foundation, which led to it being treated as less stable, and even pieces in a minor key usually ended on the major form of the same triad.
From the late 18th century onwards, major was paired with joy and minor with sorrow, and composers could play with these associations.
A lecture by Marina Frolova-Walker
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
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- In this lecture course, I'm going to talk about the musical system that has dominated Western music since the 17th century, and this is the system that has gone global, especially in the 20th century, owing to the development of broadcasting media and recording. And so today, in any corner of the world, you will probably hear a pop song, a pop song in the tonal style, which will use chords, so we can say that this system really spread around the globe. We're not going to claim that this is superior to all the other systems, but it is a fascinating system which developed since the 17th century. A few words first of all on tonality, a very complex concept, and difficult to give it a definition, so let's just say, simple, that tonality is a system of relationship between chords. So there will be one chord that is the main one, we call it the tonic, there will be some subordinate ones, and there are further functions, further relationships between chords, so that's what we call tonality. But we haven't yet discovered what the chord is. I will start with one more concept, of a key, so when we say that something is in C major, C is the key. The key unlocks a scale, scale, which you can guess comes from scala, which is a ladder, or steps, and if you've ever played this instrument, you will immediately imagine in your mind what a scale sounds like, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do again. But if you want to get a chord out of this scale, you need to miss out one step, so not just go step by step, but to miss it out, like these people do, for example. ("Heart and Soul" by Frank Loesser and Hoagy Carmichael) - Take it away, John, that's what I'm talking about. (audience applauds) - So you can hear that they have chords, which are based on these thirds, we call them that because they're between steps one and three, so they miss out a step, and these are all chords. And then when the melody comes in, it's actually more stepwise, so they don't miss any steps, so that's a very typical arrangement. Now, I'm saying that the chord is mainly built out of these thirds, intervals of the third, this is just the basic shape, we're not going to go into further complication, but how did people arrive at the idea of a chord? Because these notes, usually three notes, can sound together, and we think of them as a unity, as one thing, as a unit, how did this idea, how was it born? We can't put a date on it, we can't put a name on it, it was a very long process, and it involved several things. It's a mixture of musical practice, so trial and error processes of musicians, it's also helped by the systematic thinking of music theorists, the mathematics and physics of strings and pipes that are used in musical instruments, the notation and printing of music, and even some theological and philosophical ideas, so lots of things to talk about, but we will just have to be very quick with this, because we want to get to our triads. Imagine that we are in the Middle Ages, and people are singing these complex polyphonic chants, or songs, or arrangements, which have several lines. In the process of singing these lines, they come across to what we today would recognize as a chord, but that doesn't mean that they thought about them as chords, because they were borne out of these lines. I'm going to show you a lovely piece by Josquin from the very beginning of the 16th century, and you will see how this music is coming out of melodies, melody after melody emerges. ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ ♪ Integra et casta es Maria ♪ ♪ Integra et casta es Maria ♪ ♪ Inviolata ♪ - So you might hear some of these things as chords, but they wouldn't have thought about them in the same way because we now introduce these metaphors of horizontal and vertical, which they probably didn't have at the time, because we now have the score, so we think that we're moving in time horizontally, and then the chord is a kind of slice of time, it's a vertical slice of time. If we stop the recording at some point, we will hear the chord, but you don't necessarily have to be aware as you're thinking horizontally. So what we're going to look for then, for the moment or the period when the chords were born, we're looking for the period when musicians began to talk explicitly about chords, began to shape their music around successions of chords rather than combinations of melody. It happens mainly between 1500 and 1600, and during that century, so it's a long period, and various things happen, and I will try to explain it very quickly how things come from different sides to the new conceptualization of music. One thing that happens during that century is the new desire for the text to be clear. You were probably hearing the previous piece, and if you don't know the text, you cannot actually guess what the text is, you hear individual syllables, it's all jumbled up. Now, that's absolutely fine if you're singing for God because, obviously, God knows what you're talking about anyway, even if it's in Latin, but if you actually want your parishioners to understand it, and sing with you, especially when we switch to Protestantism, Lutheranism, we switch from Latin to the vernacular, you want them to hear the text, so the music has to, in a way, become simpler and more transparent for this text to be heard. And the same thing happens in Italian madrigals because you now have singing with accompaniment of instruments, and you're very interested in poetry, you want for music to represent what the poetry says, so in order for that text to be heard, you also make it slightly less complicated. At the same time, there are changes in compositional practices. People used to just write one voice, then another voice, then a third voice, they never put them in a score, the score didn't exist, they put them completely separate, they held them in their heads, and they had to make sure that it still sounded very sweet, so that was a difficult thing to do. The more voices you write, the more difficult it becomes, and I remember very well from my own student years how I had to write these five-voice, strict style exercises, and you write one voice, then you write the second voice, make sure that it goes very well with the first one, then you write the third voice, you have to check how it goes with number one and number two, then you write the fourth voice, you have to check every single pair. By the time you get to the fifth voice, you basically run out of options because there are very few notes that you can use in that voice that would sound good, so it becomes more like a chess game. And indeed, this what an Italian composer, Pietro Aaron, complains about in 1523. He says that, "In writing first the top voice, or soprano, "and then the tenor, "a place is often lacking for the bass "when the tenor is finished, "when the bass is finished, "many notes of the alto can find no place," so he complains about the same difficulty. So he says that's why, if you write for six, and more, voices, modern composers consider all the voice parts together, so they're now thinking about them all at once rather than one by one. There was another issue, another change in compositional practice that also had to do with Lutheran chorales, and this is a German Lutheran thinker and composer, Lucas Osiander, writing a few decades later, and he says the tradition is always to put the chorale melodies that would be known to the people in the tenor, and that means it's in the middle, and again, the laity cannot actually hear it very well, can't figure it out, so he says, let's put it at the top so that everyone can hear it, and follow it, and sing it, so that's a new practice, so melody now is very important. And then he says, "We must keep within the boundaries "of the top voice chorale melody and the bass," he mentions the bass as if it is already completely understood that the bass is the next thing that you write, it's the most important thing. This is very important for understanding of the chord, because the bass note will be very, very important. And he gives you a lovely metaphor, it's like keeping between two ditches in a street. I'm not going to ask a question of what was flowing in those ditches, but you can imagine, in the 16th century. So he already gives you a spatial metaphor of how to fit in voices between these two things, and gives you an idea of a kind of vertical dimension. The third thing that I would introduce is the emergence of scores itself. Let's have a look at this lovely example, it's a printed edition from 1603, it's a song by John Dowland, and you have some very strange things going on. If you look at the right-hand side, you can see that there's some music upside-down and some music to the side, and some of it is normal. If you imagine this book being placed on a table and all the singers standing around it, each one can sing their part, so they will sing together, so this is the previous type of practice. But if you look at the left-hand side, you will see that there is also, and I will make it bigger, there is also something else under the first line, the cantus, the top voice, it's the lute, which is notated not as notes, but as tablature, how to play it, which fingers to put on which strings. And you can see that, there, it is very carefully aligned with the voice, so this is where you get the vertical now, you absolutely get it precise, and notation had to change in order to allow that, earlier notation didn't allow you to do that. So that's, again, a new thing, and when you hear it, you can hear the chords already quite clearly. ♪ Sleep, wayward thoughts ♪ ♪ And rest you with my love ♪ ♪ Let not my love be with my love diseased ♪ ♪ Touch not proud hands ♪ ♪ Lest you her anger move ♪ ♪ But pine you with my longings long displeased ♪ - And another thing that I would like to add, I love this idea, of not just compositional practice or some kind of philosophical, Humanistic ideas, or religious ideas influencing this process, but also improvisational practice, playing the guitar. If you think of the guitar, the chords are very easy to understand on the guitar because you tell people what to do with their hands and the chord comes out, you can strum it. So there was this strumming technique, which was called rasgueado, in Spain, and it became very popular during the 1500s, and when you strum it up and down, as you do in flamenco, you really feel that all the notes are together, that it's one unit. Again, in the lute, if you do it on the lute, it doesn't quite give you the same togetherness, it's the guitar. And that style spread at the beginning of the 17th century throughout Europe, Spanish music. You can see the quote, they're again complaining about the guitars, which are banishing the lute altogether. And various guitar techniques, or imitation of guitar techniques, you can find in harpsichord music as well, so they go into keyboard music, and so on. The fascinating thing is this book, which was published in 1596 by a Catalan doctor and musician, Joan Carles Amat, and he presents to us this wheel, and if you look at it closely, this is also in tablature, it shows you 12 chords in the top part and 12 chords in the bottom part, so you actually have 24 chords, and you can guess, I'm going to get ahead of myself, that these are going to be 12 major triads and 12 minor triads. And he says in this book that, look, you have all these, the word triad didn't exist yet, by the way, but these chords, and he says, look, you have all these 24 different colors, and like an artist, like a painter, you can use any of them freely. He doesn't actually tell you that there are rules to do it, the rules haven't yet developed, tonality hasn't yet developed, but he already has this palette for you to use in music. So then, finally, we get to the major triad. To all of you, if you're watching at home or if you're watching this video in the future, and if you have no idea what a major triad sounds like, I will tell you that you do. (Macintosh startup chime) A worrying sound, you might think that my computer has restarted, but this is the Apple chime, which is based on the F sharp major triad, so a major triad is a very familiar sound to all of us. And it comes from the division of the fifth, so imagine the interval of the fifth, between note number one and note number five, you have an interval. I don't know whether I can go and actually show it, and the camera will pick it up? I hope it does. So you have this fifth, (piano music) and you can divide it, you can put a middle note in two ways, like this, (major triad piano music) this is the major triad, or like that, (minor triad piano music) that's the minor triad. The difference between them is that the major triad has the major third, the bigger interval, the wider interval, at the bottom and the smaller one at the top, and the minor one, (minor triad piano music) the other way round. So these are the two types of triad. People started using triads before they had the word. In 1558, the Italian scholar Gioseffo Zarlino already writes this as a fact, that, "In perfect composition, "the third and fifth, "or the octave duplications, "must in fact be present at all times." So actually, triads is something that people begin to like, even without having the word for them. Immediately, theologians jumped on this concept, and decided, well, since there are three notes together, and they sound so good, this must be divine sonority. So you can see, the same Osiander that we already mentioned, says, "For God has also portrayed the Holy Trinity to some extent "in the music, "and that no more than three voices "can be found or contrived "that rightly sound together." So then they started trying to elaborate on this, and saying that the bass note, we sometimes call it the root, the bass note is the representation of God the Father, then the fifth, the top note, is God the Son, and the third, which animates the whole chord, gives it, I don't know, a melodic, lyrical quality, this is the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. And finally, in 1612, we have another German thinker and musician coming up with the word trias harmonica perfecta, the perfect harmonic triad, this is when the word starts being used, comes into circulation. They were already aware that there is something special about the major triad, they're talking about it as this perfect unit, a perfect trinity, and slightly later, 1636, there is a mathematical explanation of why it sounds so perfect. It didn't exist before, but Mersenne publishes his work in which he tried to figure out how a string vibrates, so how a string vibrates, and it turns out that the string vibrates not only as a whole, but also with its halves, and then it gives you an octave higher. So if you take a shorter string which is only half of the long one, it will give you a sound an octave higher, which blends so well, it's consonant with the original fundamental that we even call it the same note. Then if we take the third of a string, it gives us the fifth, then you have some repetitions in the harmonic series of those octaves, and finally, we arrive at the third, and so the four, five, and six give us the major triad. So if you get to these vibrations, you actually have the major triad in every single note that you hear, it's hidden in there, sometimes we can even hear it. There are a lot of visualizations that you can find on the web, I quite like this one, which shows you how the wave works in this, and how you acquire these different harmonics, we call them overtones. (string vibrates) So this is the fundamental, and this is the wave, harmonic number one. (string vibrates) And then you divide it by two, you get two, an octave higher. (string vibrates) Fifth. And here it is, you've got a triad. And then it goes out of tune for us, we can't actually here all these harmonics, but we can continue. So all of those are not relevant to us right now, what is relevant is that four, five, six gave us this perfect major triad. It was felt that this is something really natural. Everything else might be cultural, but the triad is a natural thing, it is there in the actual physics of the strings, in the mathematics of the Universe. Of course, the symbolic association of the triad with nature remained very important throughout the 18th and 19th century in particular, and I would like to play to you my favorite example of this, which is Wagner's prelude to "Das Rheingold," in which he does quite an extraordinary thing. He wants to build his Universe, it's the first opera of the four operas of "The Ring Cycle," huge, monumental piece, and he starts from nothing. It almost sounds like he's trying to do the harmonic series, so he will give you a very low note, then a fifth, and then the triad comes out. And the same chord is held for 4 minutes and 15 seconds, it's an incredibly long time. If you're listening to this in the opera house, it is so amazing, because the orchestration keeps growing bigger and bigger, you sort of have tears coming out of your eyes by the end of it because the intensity of this buildup, on the same chord, is so great. So let's hear just the beginning of it for now. (epic orchestral music) He was so pleased with himself when he discovered this that he immediately felt the desire to mythologize it, to create this story, maybe that was true, but he says that he was stretched out, dead tired on a hard sofa, and he was dozing, and suddenly felt as if he was sinkingin rapidly flowing water:
"Its rushing soon represented itself to me "as the musical sound of the E flat major chord, "which continuously surged forward "in a figured arpeggiation," which means that all the notes are done one by one. "These arpeggios appeared as melodic figurations "of increasing motion, "yet the pure E flat major triad never changed, "and seemed, through its persistence, "to impart infinite significance "to the element in which I was sinking. "Feeling as though the waves were now roaring high above me, "I awoke in sudden terror from my half-sleep." So let's hear now the climax of it, the ending of that passage, and when it suddenly ends, and switches to a different chord, at the same time, you'll have the voices coming in, and you will feel a sense of shock because you're so now used to this harmony, it's become your only thing, and then, suddenly, it's gone, it's a great moment. (epic orchestral music) ♪ Weia, waga, woge ♪ - It's a great moment of change, so now you really feel in your body what a major triad is. But it can sound very different if you put it in a different register, there will still be a major triad, still symbolic of something wonderful and divine, as he does at the beginning of "Lohengrin," which is a slightly earlier opera of Wagner. Here, he puts it in very high strings, and you can barely hear it, it's kind of shining there, it's the celestial symbol of the purity of Lohengrin, who is a knight-savior who comes to do some good things, and then is not properly appreciated, and goes away. This is the moment the "Lohengrin" prelude starts very high up. (delicate strings music) So a very different color, but it's the same chord. Now, we're going to talk about the minor triad, and I've chosen this picture because Beethoven is going to be very important here, and you can his surly head there and stormy clouds outside, symbolizing the minor triad. We're going to come to Beethoven in a moment, but for now, I would like to invite on stage a pianist, Alessio Enea, who is going to illustrate some things for me, and also play at the end. So please, Alessio, can we have you on stage? (audience applauds) So what about the minor triad? The minor triad was always considered together with the major as a kind of lesser one of the two. Well here is a long quote, I will just read you a little bit from it, from Andreas Werckmeister, who worked on organ constructions, this is from his book. So he says that major, yeah, it can be named as the natural mode, you already know why, and the second thing can be named as the less natural mode,so it's always less perfect, as he says:
"Do not establish such a happy harmony as the preceding." What is wrong with the minor triad? It is not, in the harmonic series, anywhere near the beginning, so basically, it is so far down the harmonic series, it's 10, 12, and 15th overtones. By the time we get to them, we cannot really perceive them. We can't perceive them as a unity, also, because they don't come one after another. Even the triad that they make is not related to the fundamental tone, so basically, it is something that musicians liked, and thought it was useful for them in practice, but theoreticians struggled with because it was so much lesser than the major triads, so you have this paradox, contrast between musical practice and musical theory. So in order to theorize the minor triad, they tried to do various things, for example tried to build it down. If you build it down from the same note in the same way as the major triad, kind of inverting the intervals, you will get the minor triad, but it doesn't actually make any acoustic or mathematical sense. So he says that we can name one mode perfect and the other less perfect. This is why, even in the 17th, and even the 18th century, we have some pieces that are written in the minor key, but actually end in the major. We sometimes call it the Picardy third, if you've heard this name, certainly in this country we call it the Picardy third. It seems that this term arose as a joke already in the 18th century, because Picardy was the back of beyond, and only there, they still did this, they still thought that the minor wasn't good enough to end on, and you had to end on the major, so at least that's one of the explanations. So I would ask Alessio to play us an ending from the Bach "Prelude in C Minor," first the beginning, and then the ending, and you will see what happens. (elegant classical music) So that was the beginning, in the minor. (elegant classical music) So you have the lovely major third, and you can explain, oh, it was such a stormy piece, and at the end, a ray of sunshine comes in; yeah, but that's not the reason why it is there, it is part of the practice of ending on a more stable chord. Bach, by the way, insisted, in these preludes and fugues, because he wrote 24, and then another 24, so in every key, so for him, he was insisting on major and minor being kind of equal, because he wrote 12 in the major, 12 in the minor, and yet, at the end, he still uses this idea that major is more perfect, and more stable, and more suitable for endings. Now we're going to talk about major versus minor colors, major versus minor tonalities, and I would like to just make sure that we know what we're talking about. We're not necessarily comparing just one triad with another, because in the minor tonality, you have both major and minor chords, in the major tonality, you also have both major and minor chords, but the main one, the tonic, is either major or minor, it defines the special color that people started associating, and certainly, today, they associate it with joy and sadness, joy for the major, sadness for the minor. So it is a very interesting story of how these things came into being, and when did people decide that major, indeed, was joyful and minor was sad. You can see that in 1713, for example, Johann Mattheson, who was famous by nearly killing Handel in a duel, so we remember him for that as well, but he felt that every single key, whether major or minor, has its own particular color. He didn't actually distinguish between them as joyful and sad, but said that every single of the 24 has its own particular hue. And for example, he says that C major is suited to rejoicing and other occasions where joy is in full scope, but B major, which is only one semitone lower, so it's very close, even, to C major on the keyboard instrument, is offensive, hard, unpleasant, and of a somewhat desperate character. This is something that we cannot quite agree with today, and the reason for that, I think the main reason, is that we have equal temperaments, so all the majors on the modern keyboard will sound the same, mathematically, they're arranged in the same way. In Mattheson's time, they were different, there was a different system of tuning, and some of the keys were just sounding horrible, because some of the intervals were not creating this sweet consonance that we would expect. Some woodwind instruments, for example, couldn't play in particular keys, some string instruments would play better in particular keys when they have a lot of open strings, like in D major, so they loved playing in D major. So you don't yet have a system when a clear distinguishing line between major and minor emotions, so to speak, is established. A few years later, another German, Johann Heinichen, says, "We have heard famous composers "write the saddest and tenderest of music "in D, A, and B flat major, "while in A, E, and C minor, "they write the most powerful and brilliant music. "It remains the case, therefore, "that every single key, without distinction, "is suited to the expression "of many opposing emotional states." So he says, actually, no, there is no such thing as major, joyful, and minor, sad, but because he says that, he specifically chooses the major keys to say that you can write the saddest music in them, and the opposite, so you feel, from that, that there's already a dichotomy established, and he's basically writing as a contrarian, trying to overturn it, so something is already happening at that point. We can certainly hear this in Vivaldi. Vivaldi actually loved minor keys, I think about 40% of his musical works is written in the minor, but when he uses it in program music, so when we actually know what he's talking about in his music, such as in "The Seasons," which have a poetic text, a sonnet, attached to each of them, we can see how major and minor are used in contrast. So in "Winter," for example, you will have cold wind, so you'll have the minor key. (wind whips) (tense Baroque music) So we're freezing and trembling in the minor key. But when we get inside and we can light a fire, it goes to the major (fire crackles) (elegant Baroque music) Even in shorter spans of time, you can have a switch from one to another,and he actually tells us what's happening:
so you have ice, and we feel the chill of the wind, which still manages to get inside our houses, which is what's going to happen this winter as we economize on heating, and then warm wind comes in, and again, it changes into major. (dark Baroque music) (elegant Baroque music) So Vivaldi definitely followed the principle of contrast, and when we go to the "Summer," oppressive heat is in the minor, and again, the pleasant cool is in the major. But then something happens during the 18th century, and the minor key goes out of circulation almost completely, and if we talk about Mozart and Haydn, people have counted this up, we only have between 2% and 7% of works written in the minor key, and they are usually very special, and people remember them, for example Haydn's "Farewell Symphony" is remembered specifically because it is so unusual to have a symphony in the minor key. And I remember very well, when I was a teenager, and was discovering classical music together with my friends, we were convinced that minor was much better than major, because Mozart's "Symphony No. 40" is surely the best symphony, so minor keys were kind of valued more highly precisely because they're so rare. What we're going to do next is, Alessio is going to play to us a Mozart sonata in C minor, the first movement of it. It is, I think, only one of the two sonatas that Mozart wrote in the minor key, he wrote about 16 of them, and only two of them are in the minor. And one of them, the A minor, is connected to the death of his mother, and about this one I don't think we know why it's in the minor, but it certainly was extremely influential and a very special work. But the interesting that happens, before I let him play the whole movement, is how what is in the minor at the start becomes major in the middle. So the first theme, you have the minor triad laid out for you. (minor key piano music) And at some point in the middle, (major key piano music) you'll have it in the major. And on the contrary, I think, the lyrical theme, which will be in the major to start with, will go to the minor, and that's a very sad moment, because it was in the major, and now it's going to the minor. Now, I will let you play, and turn pages. (elegant classical music) (audience applauds) Why was that the case, why was minor so rare? And you can see that from what people said around that time, when Mozart was composing his music. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, said, "The minor mode is not given by nature, "it is discovered only by analogy and inversion," so it's kind of artificial.Kirnberger, 10 years later:
"Music in the minor is appropriate for the expression "of sad, doubtful sentiments, "for hesitation and indecision." Another thinker, Germain de Lacepede, said that minor keys are marked as in paired consonances, which leave the listener dissatisfied and unsettled, and this a serious disincentive to their use, not only do minor keys sound unstable, but they also can destabilize the listener's psyche, which can lead to personal and social problems. So in the galant style of classicism, it's kind of undesirable, and this is why it is rare. This is what you heard, sorry, I should have put that on before that, thank you very much for playing it so beautifully. What happens if you have a very passionately sad and tragic aria which is written in the major, for example like in Gluck's opera "Orfeo ed Euridice," from 1762? It is a very famous case, it is actually in C major, and this is what it sounds like. (elegant strings music) ♪ Che faro senza Euridice ♪ ♪ Dove andro senza il mio ben ♪ ♪ Che faro, dove andro ♪ ♪ Che faro senza il mio ben ♪ ♪ Dove andro senza il mio ben ♪ - That's not because Gluck couldn't write music in the minor, he traditionally would write music associated with the tempest, for example, with a storm in the minor, or with something supernatural, so he writes a big scene for the Furies which is in the minor key, but this, the noble suffering, is portrayed in the major, which means that it was absolutely fine to do that in 1762. But 100 years later, Eduard Hanslick, the famous theorist who wrote on the history of music, took issue with that. He says, "Whenever Orpheus sings 'Che faro senza Euridice,' "he moves thousands to tears, including Rousseau. "But Boye, a contemporary of Gluck," he found, obviously, him writing somewhere, "remarked that one could just as well "set words of opposite meaning "to the same melody, "and perhaps they would be even more faithful "to the melody." So, he says, "We are left quite unconvinced "that the composer can be absolved in this instance, "since music possesses specific tones "for the expression of passion and grief." So something's changed between 1762 and 1854 that it became impossible to write music of high tragedy and passion in the major, and I think the reason for that was Beethoven. And here, I would like you to play the beginning of the famous "Pathetique Sonata," which actually was influenced by the Mozart sonata that we've just heard, but it starts in a very striking way. (dark classical music) We've just arrived at the major key, but at the beginning, from this very striking seven-note chord in very low register. If you can just play it? (minor key piano music) It actually creates problems for our inner ear because the note's positioned so low, so closely we cannot quite hear them separate, it actually challenges our perception to hear them as separate, we are unsettled by that, we feel there's a certain roughness, possibly even ugliness to the sound about this. Beethoven didn't necessarily want to write pretty music, or even beautiful music, he struggled for the sublime, he wanted to discover new colors, so that is a very good example of how he makes minor keys his own. Generally, he wrote about 25% of his pieces in the minor, and it doesn't seem that much, but it's a huge jump from 2% to 7%, which we find with Mozart. And of course, some of his minor key works are the most, again, remembered, such as "The Tempest Sonata," the "Moonlight Sonata," the "Appassionata," all the ones with titles, the most favorite ones, again, are in the minor. Beethoven also does something else, which has become extremely influential, he creates these mighty transitions from minor to major. So when you think of minor as being a repository of dramatic emotions, of all the trials and tribulations, and then, as a result of struggle, you overcome them, and you reach the triumph, which you've worked on, it's well-earned. So at length, he gives you this amazing buildup to the blast of the major key. And the most famous example is from his "5th Symphony," which I'm actually going to play in Liszt's arrangement for the piano just so that you can hear even better what happens, because you have the minor color, then you have a moment of hesitation, where it's not clear where the music is going to go, and then he gradually raises every single minor colored degree of the scale, step of the scale, by a semitone, and turns them into minor, one by one, and then you arrive in this glorious C major. (dark classical music) (triumphant classical music) It really feels like you've earned it, this triumph. So, many composers then imitated that, and another use that you will be very familiar with of major and minor triads is at the beginning of Richard Strauss' tone poem "Also sprach Zarathustra." And what you will hear, a little bit like the beginning of Wagner's opera "Das Rheingold," you have a very low fifth and octave, and then you have a quick change from the major triad to the minor, so actually a dark color, and then it's reversed, from minor to major, and then, again, you have a big, wonderful, glorious cadence moving to a major key. And of course, this is a still from the film in which this music was used extremely effectively by Stanley Kubrick,which is "2001:
A Space Odyssey." (dark orchestral music) (brassy orchestral music) (triumphant orchestral music) That's the music of the sunrise, and I love how, in that still, you can see how big the contrast is between major and minor, the light and dark, it's really threatening at that moment. What else did people do? Can you put major triads and major-minor triads together into one chord? What will happen? Will we get something bittersweet, like if you add a bit of vinegar and a bit of sugar? Well, Scriabin did that in one of his late preludes, you can see, in the last bar, he has both C sharp and C natural. But actually, the effect is not at all what we might expect because all the chords here are so spicy, so strange, they all have one of the notes split, that it gives us an air of mystery rather than any particular emotional color. (mysterious music) Actually, it sounds quite good at the end, after everything that came before. So can you make major any more major by using just major chords? This is a question that Prokofiev asked himself. It's a little bit of a gimmick, because, of course, music can be joyful for all sorts of reasons, but nevertheless, I will ask Alessio to demonstrate what he does in his piece "Juliet the Little Girl," where he uses just the major chord. (playful energetic music) Thank you very much. And a similar thing happens in "The 1st Symphony," he also, in the finale in his "1st Symphony," he decides to do the same thing. (energetic orchestral music) So you can test it, you can test it yourself, all the chords are major, and that's quite hard to do, but even harder to do a minor piece with just the minor chords. He tried to do that as well in the introduction to Alexander Nevsky's "Field of the Dead," it's a very lugubrious introduction, where he tries to stick just to the minor chord, but it's very difficult to do for the reasons I will discuss in he next lecture. Now, for the ending, we're going to hear the composer who was a contemporary of Beethoven, but nevertheless, his attitude to major and minor was quite different here, he was never trying to achieve this rise from the minor to major. He used minor and major in alternation, like light and shade, they're always present in Schubert's music, and he even has some of the pieces which begin in the major and end in the minor, which is quite a rare thing. But basically, with these things, and we're going to play one of the impromptus, I don't know whether you would agree, but if you ended it earlier, it could have ended in the minor, if you continued for a bit longer, it could have ended in the minor, and so on, because every one of the themes actually has two versions, it has minor and major versions, and you keep alternating. This is a lovely piece, this is going to be the finale of our lecture and concert, and I'm again going to turn pages for Alessio. (elegant classical music) (audience applauds) - Thank you very much, Alessio, and as you could hear, everything ended well, and thank you very much your attention. - [Moderator] Marina, thank you so much for a cracking start to your series. We hope you can all join us for Marina's next lecture in the series, on Thursday, the 24th of November, on the dominant seventh chord, and a huge thank you to Alessio for your beautiful performance, thank you all for coming. (audience applauds)