sad songs

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

Public Domain

Sad music, ironically, seems to make us happier when we listen to it. The explanation for that could be either scientific or philosophical.

Sad songs make me happy like drinking makes me thirsty. It’s a strange paradox most of us share; nobody enjoys being sad in real life, but boy do we love to listen to a song that makes us miserable. It’s magic, or maybe a better word is “alchemy”: If you take a few inert ingredients (one C major scale, one D#, a 3/8 time signature), then arrange the ingredients in the right order, like Beethoven had in mind, and play dynamically with a flowing tempo that breathes a bit, the final product can tear your heart out.

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