TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.
For the next few weeks I want to concentrate on talks that focus on the creative arts, music, dance, etc. In today’s Talk, one of the Best of the Web series at TED (http://www.ted.com/talks/bobby_mcferrin_hacks_your_brain_with_music.html), in a 3-min performance from the World Science Festival, musician Bobby McFerrin uses the pentatonic scale to reveal one surprising result of the way our brains are wired. Having been a music teacher earlier in my life, I remember being taught that all children, in all cultures show this interesting phenomena, of using the notes of pentatonic scale in their first songs. (For those of you unfamiliar with the pentatonic scale, think of a scale made up of only 5 notes and those notes being the same as the black keys on a piano). To demonstate, remember being a child and teasing a friend by chanting something like “Johnny’s got a girl friend.” Do you hear a tune that you would have sung that to? Most of you will and it will be made up of the notes of the pentatonic scale. We all seem to be hard wired with this scale. I have no idea why, but find it fascinating.
Remember as you watch this that this was happening at the World Science Festival. The audience were not musicians, but they all seemed naturally to be able to follow Bobby in creating a tune based on the pentatonic scale.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Makes you wonder in what other ways we are hard wired for the creative arts.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments!
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