PERCEPTION OF THE MAJOR/MINOR DISTINCTION: I. HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS


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Abstract

This paper sets a context for research on the major/minor distinction in music. Among the many harmonic distinctions, this one is especially interesting because of its traditional emotional connotation (happy/sad). Although there is a scholarly tradition denying that this connotation is inherent, even for Western listeners, in isolated chords played outside of a proper musical context, Heinlein's (1928) early research supports this connotation in one form or another. Conjectures are discussed as to (a) why music has any emotional connotations in the first place, and (b) why the major harmony, rather than the minor one, has the positive connotation.

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