gg laboratory @ Imperial College London

The human brain and the pentatonic scale.

Posted on | July 31, 2009 | 2 Comments

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

This is just beautiful: how the brain anticipates the [[pentatonic scale]]. I would pay to know if it is hard-wired (my bet is: it is). Musically gifted people can play almost any instrument, as long as they get how to produce a tone. Bobby McFerrin, here, plays “a crowd”. Technically, he started with 1,2,3 of the MAJOR pentatonic scale (C, D, E) and then let the audience fill 4,5 and 6. And the audience does. Now, to know whether this is somehow hard-wired you would have to do the same experiment to someone who has never heard pentatonic-based music before but this is pretty much impossible as this is way more diffuse than heptatonic music.

In the following video Howard Goodall says more about the universality of pentantonic scale.