Monday, August 10, 2009

Bobby McFerrin goes pentatonic

You remember the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" guy from the 80s, Bobby McFerrin. Here he has some fun with an audience... and it's scientific!


Mike Westfall said...

Excellent! I really enjoyed that.
The pentatonic scale is extensively used in Andean music. Also, the black keys on a piano form a pentatonic scale.

zostay said...

That's pretty cool. It would be even more interesting to see his claim that this "works everywhere" substantiated, though. Then, the question to work out is, does it work everywhere because pentatonic scales are common in many cultures (including ours via Jazz)? Or is it because of something God placed within us innately such that music remains a common human "language" after Babel?

James Joyce said...


I once went to a Chick Corea show in Toronto where he divided the audience up into singing five different notes and then proceeded to conduct us while his band improvised.

Susan said...

The pentatonic scale is also used extensively in ancient Chinese music. In fact, Bobby McFerrin's demonstration reminded me of the theme song from one of Jet Li's more well-known kung-fu movies: Once Upon A Time In China. (The melody was supposedly adapted from an ancient piece called "On the General's Orders".)

Susan said...

(Oops, that's "was also used".)

Rachael Starke said...

I love Bobby McFerrin. He's brilliant.

And, Zostay, interestingly, I just checked his website and it turns out he's just finished working on this kind of improvised opera based on none other than the story of the Tower of Babel.

I had a quirky college professor who used to propose all kinds of biblical theories as to why certain things in nature occur, like the fact that all birds sing in a minor key. He argued that the penatonic scale was the scale of "waiting" - not optimistic like major key, nor pessimistic like minor ones. He argued that in heaven we would sing in this scale, but sort of turned inside out - the scale of glorious resolution.