Tonality in Music
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines tonality in music as
'... the principle of organising musical compositions around a central note, the tonic...'
In Western classical music, tonal music means music that is in a major or minor key. In each case, the tonal centre is the first note of the major or minor scale that music is based on.
Music in a major key is generally thought to sound 'happy'. It is more positive and up-lifting.
In a major key, the distance between the second and third notes of the scale is a whole tone (two half steps).
A Major key could be used to help describe:
Victory, Triumph, Happiness, Joy, Hope etc.
Music in a minor key is generally thought to sound 'sad' or 'dark'. It is more melancholic.
In a minor key, the distance between the second and third notes of the scale is a semi-tone (one half step).
A Minor key could be used to help describe:
Sadness, loneliness, fear, horror, danger etc.
Atonal music is music that has no sense of key. The music has no logical sense of coming to rest in a 'home' key.
Atonal music was explored by composers such as Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Anton Webern at the start of the 20th Century.