phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"sour note"

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 02, 2004

In Reply to: "Sour note" posted by R. Berg on March 02, 2004

: : I'm looking for a formal definition for sour note. I can find sour grapes but it was not used in that context.

: : A newspaper article said "the coaches 2 decade career ends on a sour note". This was high school basketball and they lost the coaches last game. No one in the article had sour anything and the coach had great career. I believe the term "sour note" was not used in the right context.
: : Thanks

: A sour note is any unpleasant event. For the coach, losing the last game would qualify.

As R. Berg knows but forgot to mention, "sour note" has its origin in a musical tone which is out of tune, and therefore spoils the sweetness of the music and creates an unpleasant effect. It happens often among the less experienced and less talented soloists or ensembles. It can happen even to experienced professionals. Back when the Saturday afternoon (or Sunday?) broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera were a cultural ritual of radio, I heard a performance of, I think, Carmen, in which a very famous soprano had asked the orchestra to play a certain aria a tone higher than written, so she could show off her high F (F above high C). Unfortunately, on that live broadcast, her voice failed her, and she ended her aria on E-flat, while the orchestra ended it on F. Quite a sour note! SS