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Oddball Music Theory Question #2920018 12/05/19 05:46 AM
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HarmonySmurf Offline OP
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Hello everyone and thanks in advance for any insight you can provide.

I was noodling the melody for Beethoven's Ode to Joy tonight. It sounded right to me when played in D major. I looked up a choral performance of it on Youtube and it said it was in D minor. Strange to me so I tried it in D minor and it sounded pretty off the mark. I even tried playing F and F# on time with the performance and the F# still sounded correct to me. I then looked up the sheet music and the mystery deepened. It said D minor in the title but the key signature showed F# and C# like it was actually in D major.

Is there some sort of history of this song being changed at one point or some music theory that isn't making sense to my novice understanding? Is this a known controversy I never heard about? Is there a problem with my aural training?

Thanks again for any clarification you can provide,
Kelly


6 years learning the ukulele and started playing toy piano in late July 2019
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Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920051 12/05/19 07:22 AM
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Presumably Beethoven's 9th is in D minor?

Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920096 12/05/19 09:17 AM
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The theme itself is in D major and so is the section where it appears, but the overall symphony is in D minor, though it ends in D major. The last movementwhich is very long has multiple sections in different tonalities, D major, Minor, G major and minor, B flat Major ...

Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920098 12/05/19 09:19 AM
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Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is "in D minor" but because of the nature of symphonies, not every measure, every phrase is D minor. The Ode to Joy portion is often arranged out of context for other musicians/instrumentation. When you see that sheet music, it would have the major key signature, but when people quote the source, "D minor" is still in the title.

Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: mostlystrings] #2920115 12/05/19 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by mostlystrings
Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is "in D minor" but because of the nature of symphonies, not every measure, every phrase is D minor. The Ode to Joy portion is often arranged out of context for other musicians/instrumentation. When you see that sheet music, it would have the major key signature, but when people quote the source, "D minor" is still in the title.



thumb you can look at full score here,
https://www.alfred.com/ode-to-joy/p/00-19585/

Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920124 12/05/19 10:17 AM
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Tonal symphonies (and sonatas etc) are titled with the keys that are used in the first movement, even if the finale doesn't end with the same key. And most certainly, the inner movements don't use the same key.

The classic ones are the "darkness to light" symphonies, like Beethoven's 5th and 9th, both of which start with movements in the tonic minor and end with jubilant exultation with finales in the tonic major.

And then there're works with progressive tonality, like Mahler's 'Resurrection' Symphony which start in C minor and ends in E flat major. At least, those keys are related, but Mahler's 9th begins in D major but ends in unrelated D flat major......and generally, its key is not referred to when the work is mentioned in polite company (or even rude company).

We just call it "Mahler's Symphony No.9" grin.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920128 12/05/19 10:22 AM
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HarmonySmurf Offline OP
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thanks for the explanation folks!


6 years learning the ukulele and started playing toy piano in late July 2019
Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920279 12/05/19 06:11 PM
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Finishing a minor piece with the major key was quite usual in baroque period. There are numerous cases with Bach. With the classic period, it started to change toward a greater stability, though there are as usual exceptions. Most pieces of Beethoven in minor mode key end in the same minor key in the last movement. There are exceptions and when that is the case the entire last movement is in a major key. That would be so for his opus 90 and opus 111 sonatas. The 5th is in C minor but the last movement starts and ends in C major.

The 9th is one of the relatively rare cases where the last movement starts in D minor for nearly a 100 bars and goes through various keys and ending in D major. I wont go into the interpretation of what this means, there are plenty of excellent books on that subject.

Later in the last part of XIXth century and early 20th century the tonal framework changed completely, so pieces that start one part and end another part in different tonalities are frequent; pieces using bi-tonality starting in one key and ending in a completely different one as well, not speaking of those where the tonal center does not really exists.

Re: Oddball Music Theory Question [Re: HarmonySmurf] #2920583 12/07/19 08:39 AM
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Everyone here has answered your question really well. I would only add that Beethoven was one of the first to use this switch to major very symbolically. This has to do with Sonata Form, the form used in the first movement of symphonies, sonatas, string quartets and other larger works. If the main key of the first movement is minor, then the movement typically begins with a first theme or group of themes in the main key, say C minor, then a second contrasting theme or group of themes in the relative major, E flat. The tension between these two keys, the fact that we moved away from our "home" key, and our need to return there drive the whole movement forward. Then comes a development section, where the music searches nervously for the right key, desperate to find "home", and then, when home is finally found, we come to the recapitulation section: the first theme comes back, and the second also returns, this time cast in the "right" key (in this case C minor). However, to restate what was first heard as major in a minor key carries overtones of tragedy, and composers often preferred to conclude their first movements on a more positive note, staying in the home key, (here C), but using its major form for the second theme and everything that follows it. There are exceptions: Mozart's A minor piano sonata chooses the "tragic" recapitulation in A minor, and so it is unusually dark. (Second theme in exposition, second theme in recapitulation).

Beethoven, however, started thinking bigger: he strove to find an emotional form not only within each movement, but in the overall journey from the first to the fourth (or the third, in piano sonatas). The fifth symphony ("Fate") is a brilliant example: the first movement is in C minor. We have what we expect: a first theme in C minor, a second theme in E flat major, the development, first theme back in C minor, second theme back in C major- the more "positive" alternative, but right at the moment where the movement should logically end, we get an angry outburst that takes us back in C minor, as if saying- no, not yet. Not so fast. The fight with fate is not over. C minor takes over and wins the end of the movement. It is at this moment that we know that this piece can't be over: Beethoven's genius of driving form forward. The narrative is extended. Only in the last movement, after a longer journey through different emotions and after a chilling transition, does C major finally arrive, and it is such a triumphant, powerful moment after all the struggle that had preceded it. Man has overcome his tragic fate. The victory is real, but only because we have fought so much for it.

The ninth extends this idea even further, and as Sidokar pointed out, here D minor persists even in the fourth movement before giving way to an explosion of D major, of "Freude", Joy, that only the choir, the symbol of humanity united, could fulfill. It is an unbelievable journey, that's why it's such a crime to take the fourth movement out of context. Also like Sidokar said, much excellent material has been written about the interpretation of this work, and I apologize that I tried to poorly sum it up the way I understood it. I hope this helps!


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
Arthur Schnabel


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