- Marko Tomašević
The explanation of why all people "feel" the pentatonic scale
In this video, Bobby McFerrin says he doesn`t understand why all of us "hear" and "know" the pentatonic scale basically from the moment we are born. The answer lies in the HARMONIC SERIES, a physical law,or a phenomenon if you wish.
To put it simply, when you hear a tone being played on the piano for eg.,you are actually hearing more than that one tone. You hear a whole series of tones(higher than the fundamental one),which is preordained and the same for every tone(actually musical instrument,the number of overtones is what gives an instrument its "sound colour") . Most people never notice(d) these higher tones because every next overtone is more quiet than the one lower.
So,what does the phenomenon of harmonic series got to do with the pentatonic scale? Well,that is simple. The pentatonic scale itself is part of the harmonic series! Penta indicates to the number five(5) - pentatonic scale consists of five overtones and is derived directly from the NATURAL PHYSICAL PHENOMENON OF THE HARMONIC SERIES. Maybe not consciously, but all people do feel and hear the harmonic series. That also explains the genesis of the pentatonic.
So,to summarize, when you hear a tone being played on a musical instrument, you are actually hearing a whole "HARMONIC SERIES" of higher tones. The pentatonic scale is directly derived from this PHYSICAL PHENOMENON, and all people can and do hear the harmonic series(although not all are conscious of it!). That is also the reason everyone in this video sings the same next tone even when Bobby doesn`t sing along.
For more research watch this beautiful and easy to understand video of famous conductor Leonard Bernstein explaining the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3HLqCHO08s
The video is a bit long, but its enough to watch half of it. Enjoy!