Music's Emotional Roller Coaster
We know music has healing qualities. It also has the ability to bring us moments of sheer joy and at the opposite end of the spectrum, the ability to dissolve us in to a teary dribbling mess. Music has seemingly magical powers to connect emotionally with people much more than words alone can seem to do. There isn't really anything voodooish or magical about it. The scientific explanation is that music resonates with us. It throws out to us frequencies and vibrations that effect our own bodily frequencies and vibrations, thus syncing us with what we are hearing. Fast and loud will hype us up, slow and soft will quieten us down, add to that some words and we are now connecting on a couple of different spectrums at the one time. It is a really powerful tool that we don't use enough. The power of music to heal ourselves is something we can all easily access and use. There is one particularly interesting scale (series of notes within an octave) appearing in music that we listen to though, that seems to have woven itself almost subconsciously into our brain. Let's delve into some interesting facts about the pentatonic scale.
*Penta coming from the greek word pente meaning five and tonic meaning tone - The Pentatonic Scale, is a scale consisting of five notes within one octave.
Five Perfectly Unusual Notes
Anyone who had access to a piano or keyboard as a young child will probably remember the magical black notes. It didn't seem to matter which one you played, in or out of sequence, all over the piano...it would still actually sound like real music...not a bum note to be heard, as long as you stuck to the black notes only, it somehow produced a song. These black notes are the pentatonic scale.
|4||Blues Minor, Man Gong||Bb-Db-Eb-Gb-Ab-Bb|
|5||Blues Major, Ritusen||Db-Eb-Gb-Ab-Bb-Db|
For some of you the name Bobby McFerrin, is instantly and only associated with his huge hit song from 1988 - Don't Worry, Be Happy. In this song Bobby sang every part, no instruments used other than his own voice, just a totally overdubbed acapella. There is actually much more to Bobby McFerrin than most people actually realise, he is highly respected within the music industry as somewhat of a musical and vocal genius. Capable of performing multiphonic singing and often performing both the main melody and the accompanying parts of his songs together at the same time (un-dubbed), Bobby is a real voice guru. It's really interesting to see the power of the pentatonic scale which is highlighted in the following video by Bobby at the World Science Festival. I challenge you to watch and see if you can join in and sing along...I bet you can.
Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates The Pentatonics Power
Breaking Down What Just Happened
Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say : It is thought that the pentatonic scale represents an early stage of musical development, because it is found, in different forms, in most of the world’s music. Pentatonic scales may have been used in ancient times to tune the Greek kithara (lyre), native American Indians use this scale as do some early Gregorian chants.
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Chinese Beliefs In The Number Five
- Wood ~ mu ~ Wood feeds Fire ~ Wood parts Earth
- Fire ~ huo ~ Fire creates Earth (ash) ~ Fire melts Metal
- Earth ~ tu ~ Earth bears Metal ~ Earth absorbs Water
- Metal ~ Jin ~ Metal Carries Water (bucket or tap) ~ Metal chops Wood
- Water ~ Shui ~ Water nourishes Wood ~ Water quenches Fire
In the past and still now (to a lesser degree), Chinese people used Wu Xing in all different aspects of daily life. Feng Shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, art, military strategy, and martial arts including tai chi (taijiquan) are all based on or utilise Wu Xing. These five elements are believed to control the changes of the universe. In China there are the Five Virtues of Confucianism, Five Government Ministers, Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism, the Five Basic Colors and of course the Five Musical Notes of the pentatonic scale. These ancient beliefs all come from the Daoism book of changes, known as the I Ching.
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Close Encounters Of A Pentatonic Kind
There you have it, the power of the number five and the pentatonic scale. It certainly goes back a long way. What are your opinions? Could you sing along with the audience in the video, not realising that you even knew what a pentatonic scale was? Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention (for you Sci-Fi movie buffs) that the famous Spielberg classic - Close Encounters Of The Third Kind...the aliens are communicating to us by repeatedly playing an A flat major pentatonic scale ...Is your lucky number now five?