Thursday, 16 September 2010

What all humans share - Bobby McFerrin dances the pentatonic scale

See more such videos from the World Science Festival Notes and Neurons 2009.

Musicians and scientists say our brains are hardwired for certain elements of music. Peter Kim comments, "certain basic rhythmic and pitch elements – belying rich complexities of psychoacoustic phenomena underneath – do indeed seem to be universal. To me, that profound universality says something about what we share as human beings. At the same time, it makes me even more interested in all of the local details. When playing Balinese gamelan, some Western-trained musicians literally turned up their noses because they said the results sounded “out of tune.” Like a pungent flavoring in a foreign food, they discovered something unfamiliar. (I wonder if they would have the same reaction to sambal.) Of course, the underlying pitch systems are related to pentatonic (and heptatonic) pitch collections. And the same thing that disturbed one person has excited other musicians – not simply because it’s exotic, but because it can speak to something deeper in our hearing that we don’t get from other music."

See also ex-rocker now-neurologist Daniel Levitin's This Is Your Brain on Music, (click on brain picture), Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, NYT reviewer Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise on 20th c music , and Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful on jazz. The latter two are not about neural patterns, just riffs on music.

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