I have very little theoretical knowledge, but AFAICT this piece is not in D minor, but in E minor?

Adagio in D minor, by John Murphy from the soundtrack of Sunshine:

An easier version to analyse, still in the same key, would be:

My rudimentary analysis tells me this mainly uses a very straight forward progression of I vi iii V (and a little bit of variation) in Em. But why would it be called "Adagio in D minor" then? I mean, is there something I'm overlooking, from a theoretical POV?

(I assume the most logical answer would be that John Murphy actually first wrote it in D minor on e.g. piano and then transposed it to E minor for piano & orchestra w/o bothering to rename it?)

  • 2
    It's been used in over 30 different situations. Have you found them all to be in key Em?
    – Tim
    Dec 23, 2020 at 12:17
  • Did some research and, at the very least, the movie OST version and the remastered version the composer released are both in E minor. Granted, I have heard several organ pieces played on a North German organ that plays music one whole tone above the notated key, with a claim that Baroque North German tuning put the A above Middle C a whole tone above where we put it today....
    – Dekkadeci
    Dec 23, 2020 at 12:59
  • @Tim I don't know, does that matter? It was written for the movie, and only became an ubiquitious icon afterwards.
    – Creynders
    Dec 23, 2020 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


The last post in this earlier thread discussing precisely the OP's question, https://www.gearslutz.com/board/songwriting/722231-theory-question-adagio-d-film-sunshine.html, contains a post from that thread's OP claiming this:

Official Answer from John Murphy it is in E minor it was written before the film and transposed to E minor as in his words it sounded better for the film as it gave more hope..

Unless we can actually find the interview or post in question, I'd treat this answer with a grain of salt.

Other people on web pages like https://www.reddit.com/r/musictheory/comments/i52rqo/adagio_in_d_minor_john_murphy_but_why_d_minor/ that ask the same question often assume that this answer means that the original, unpublished piece was in D minor and the film version is in E minor.

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