My wife was practicing a tune ("Rose Cottage") on her flute, and I was trying to think of a term to describe it. "Cloying" came to mind, but, double-checking the definition, I see that it means not simply "sweet" and "sentimental", but sickeningly so.
Is there a word which conveys the sense of being sweet and sentimental, perhaps approaching maudlin, but without the negative connotation of "cloying".
If you want a tune to reference ("Rose Cottage" is hard to find on the web), think of the tune for "Danny Boy" (or, as I prefer to call it, "British Bottom").
Update: I apologize for not clearly defining the sort of word I was looking for. This is mainly because I sort of expected an obvious choice to pop out right away, either a common word I'd just overlooked, or an arcane musical term that is traditionally assigned to such music. So I hadn't really thought through the criteria I'd use if no "obvious" term appeared.
The characteristics I hoped to capture were, best as I can express, these two:
- A basic "heart-tugging" nature -- not so much in terms of calling up an emotion of sentimentality or passion or "tear jerking", but simply a sort of (alas, indescribable) flutter in your chest. On hearing the tune you tend to stop and listen, and you feel this sort of need to take some deep breaths and let the music calm you.
- (Speaking as a non-music person) There seems to be something about the note progression that contributes to this "hear-tugging" effect. The tunes are simple and, to my uneducated ear, completely lacking in any hint of dissonance. But I suspect that it's more than that, that music theory (which includes the "rules" for note progressions) actually has a term for this.
It's worth noting that "A Gift to be Simple", one of the tunes I place in this category, has a much faster (and somewhat more irregular) tempo than the other two, so I don't think tempo is that much of a factor here.
Finally, I should reiterate that I'm speaking here of the TUNE, not any association that lyrics might have, nor any association with a particular instrument (though a flute has the advantage of producing a very "pure" note, avoiding harmonics which would complicate the note progression).
The answer: I guess I must settle for "mesmerizing" as the word best fitting (albeit still poorly) my (admittedly poorly stated) criteria. The suggestion of the Russian "toska" is maybe better, but it's pretty much unknown in English.
I'll give the bounty to Mari-Lou, though, since she had a lot of good input.
Added: I was reminded today that Gustav Holst's Thaxted has some of this same quality, even though it is of a much different style.