Saddest Music of All Time
In a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, we addressed the question of why listeners choose to engage with sad music given that sadness is an emotion people usually try to avoid. 772 participants from all over the world completed an online survey on the topic of sad music. Among other questions, participants were asked to provide examples of their favourite sad music (either instrumental or with lyrics).
Below you can find a YouTube playlist I have prepared, where you can listen to the most-nominated pieces of sad music suggested by our participants.
If you are intrigued by the topic, check also the results of these two previous readers’ polls from Rolling Stone magazine and BBC. Interestingly enough, there is a big overlap between their results and ours, pointing in particular to the “intrinsic sadness” of the following pieces: “Dido’s Lament” from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, “Adagietto” from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, “Gloomy Sunday” written by Rezsô Seress, Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”, and Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”.
Finally, one curious fact:
“Gloomy Sunday” written by Rezsô Seress in 1933 was also known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song”, perhaps for good reason. It was blamed for being connected to more suicides than any other song in history (however, most of these claims remained unsubstantiated). In 1941 the BBC banned Billie Holiday’s version of the song from being broadcast. In the original lyrics of Gloomy Sunday, written by lyricist and poet László Jávor, the singer is asking his dead lover to join him at his planned funeral, alluding to his own suicide.