“HAPPINESS, the Peanuts creator Charles Schulz once claimed, is a sad song,” Laura Barton reminded us at the beginning of the second episode of her current Notes on Music series on Radio 4 (Tuesday, 11.30am), over a soundbed of gloriously lachrymose choral singing from Arvo Part’s Third Symphony.

Barton’s series is a serious look at how music impacts on us, why it works and what it says about us. Singer Arne Brun, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and New Yorker music critic Alex Ross were among those trying to help her explain why we are drawn to melancholia in music.

Ross, describing the descending pattern of notes to be found in Monteverdi’s exquisite Lamento della ninfa argues that it “communicates even before we’ve heard the text this feeling of being caught in sadness, in this depressive state, not being able to get out of it and actually almost relishing the darkness of it. There’s something sensuous about sinking into your own state of desperate longing. There is a kind of pleasure in this melancholy.”

In short, we love this stuff, whether it comes in the form of the blues or gospel or gospel or Hungarian folk song or fado, Portugal’s (pretty successful) attempt at creating the “saddest music in the world”.

Read more: Melanie Reid on a life less vertical

Barton knits this all together with short, sharp, aphoristic flair. Actually, despite the rightness of the guests, I’d be happy if she did all the talking. Not just for her soothing voice but for her burnished phrasing that has its own musicality.

“Sad songs do not make us happy exactly,” she concludes, “but in our times of sorrow they draw us close to one another and to the past and to lands we may not even know. And in that connection, there is consolation. They are a call to life, to nearness, to beauty and a hand to hold.”

All in all, very appropriate listening just before a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of the lockdown.

Listen Out For: At the Foot of the Cross, Radio 2, Friday, 7pm. Dan Walker presents this evening of music and poetry to mark Good Friday.