“My Soul Has Been Kissed” – The Power of the Pentatonic Scale

BlogHer Original Post

A video has been traveling around since June 2009. It moves from ear to brain to eyes and then passed along to the next person. I’ve seen all kinds of words to describe it from “Wait, no you really should see this.” to “My soul has been kissed.” There are lessons in science, music, community, shared knowledge and perhaps just a little fun.

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

If you made it to the end of the video you probably have sympathy for the gentleman sitting next to Bobby McFerrin. Professor Lawrence Parsons was asked the question "Larry, what the hell just happened here?" For his answer you can view video four on the session page.

Daniel Levitin was one of the participants of the panel. PRI’s The World Science talks with Daniel about the science cognitive aspect of music.

So is it really just a demonstration of auditory pattern recognition? Maybe. I know that when I watched it multiple thoughts were romping in my head.

When I first viewed the video I was a participant understanding what the next tone would be and I was pleased to find out that I'm not tone deaf. I loved that he demonstrated his point visually and physically.

Mr. McFerrin is a one of those undercover teachers who plants seeds of thought about how to express an idea. He is a conductor and performer so he also knows how to engaging a diverse audience.

I viewed the video a second time with the sound off. Yep, he is "conducting" or instructing the expectations of the audience. Bobby is also teaching what the pentatonic scale. And he conducts class in three minutes. Not to mention instant community building, uniting the group in a shared experience with a bit of pleasure and learning.

When all three come together there is a bit of magic. Music and the brain is one of those long term multifaceted discussion that are taking place in science, psychology and the arts. The Library of Congress hosted a hour long discussion with Michael Kubovy and Judith Shatin of the University of Virginia about the meaning of music beyond the sound properties.

It Takes Every Kind of People

To quote a lyric from a Robert Palmer song, it does take every kind of people. We all get different inspirations from patterns and music patterns are no exception.

Brenda Gael Smith from the Serendipity Patchwork used musical scales as an inspiration for a quilt and an audio composition.

Diana K. Gibson is a painter using DuMond color palette. She poses the question what if you looked at color patterns like a music scale.

In the past, many music lessons were culturally based on traditions. Some music instruction is faith based and others music patterns are a part of survival skills. Much of that environmental music training has been stripped away from us. It is really hard to compete with a generation of kids body linked to cell phones.

At Music Teacher Helper they look at the various ways music instruction can take place. One of those ways may be via video. There is an interview with Kathy Parsons who actually conducts piano classes via video.

So maybe there is hope. What lack of educational funding and the selling of process music stripped from us culturally might be replaced by easier accessibility to music instruction on our terms.

In the meantime, I think I need more observation of this pentatonic scale vibe so I'm going to study up with bit with a classic from Salt and Pepper's Expression. I also need the cognitive inspiration I get from hearing the lyrics.

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer CE. Blogs:Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

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