Why is A-natural a minor key?

In other words, why does the aeolian mode (i.e. the “first” mode, and basis of the standard major scale) begin with the third rather than the first letter of the alphabet when there are no sharps or flats? DuckDuckGo could probably tell me but I’d rather wonder out loud here.

My total guess is that when Western music was being codified, most songs were written in minor keys, and so at that time ionian–not aeolian–was considered the “first” mode.

Some of my music posts have received comments from people who seem rather informed, so maybe someone can fill me in.


“The earlier albums were better”

Today’s the first time I realized that I tend to prefer the earlier albums by musicians/bands, even when I’m introduced to those albums later. (There are a few exceptions.) This is a remarkable pattern and seems to be pretty common among people who listen to music.

Is this pattern explained by something in people’s ears, or by something in the career arcs of musicians?

Can rock be unfixed?

Driving into work yesterday I tuned to the rock station and heard some new releases in which grown men sang about their hurt feelings. It sounded like someone was trying to do rock versions of Backstreet Boys songs, only somehow this was even wussier. Rock music is supposed to have balls if nothing else. How did it get to this state?

White Inferiorism in music education

There’s a common belief that white people’s music (i.e. classical music) is boring because the beat is always on the 1 and the 3, while black people’s music is exciting because the beat is always on the 2 and the 4. I grew up hearing this belief recited in music classes in elementary and high school, and again in black studies classes in college. But it’s a total lie.

Classical music is so expansive and diverse, you can not only find emphasis on all parts of a 4/4 measure, but plenty of works that don’t conform to 4/4 at all, even going back to the Baroque period. So far as I can tell this music has always had an experimental side, with gifted composers pushing boundaries and imagining new rhythms. We need look no further than the most famous composer of all time, Beethoven, for ample demonstrations of this.

Black people’s music is also expansive, and once you look outside 20th century popular music it’s easy to find examples where the beat is on the 1 and the 3. For example, the Senegalese Rhos rhythm (in sabar drumming) isn’t in 4/4 at all, and features passages where the emphasis is continually on the 1, and other passages where the emphasis is all over the place, for instance on the double-dotted quarter (!). The balax that follows the rhythm (a balax is a repeated rhythm of 1 or 2 measures over which dancers and other drummers may perform solos) is in 4/4, with emphasis on…you guessed it, the 1 and the 3.

What about other brown people? East-, South-, and Southeast-Asian styles of music are even more varied than classical or African music, with time signatures and emphasized beats that boggle the Western ear, but also with many songs or long passages that conform to 4/4, with emphasis on the 1st and 3rd beats. American Indian music is well-known for its 4/4 time signatures with emphasis on the 1 and 3. Middle-Eastern music often breaks down the same way.

What about other styles of white music? Italian and Greek, Klezmer and country, heavy metal and folk–all feature plentiful examples of counts that emphasize the 2 and the 4. Somebody should alert the black studies professors and elementary school music teachers so they can stop cryptically spreading what are essentially white-inferiorist messages to young people who don’t know any better.

The universal human knack for creating music is amazing in its intricacy and variation. This doesn’t stop being true for one group of people just because they have white skin.