Expectations – that is the first audible word on this bit from the World Science Festival 2009, and this video, which I have shared with Daily Cup readers a couple of times, continues to amaze me. On this Thanksgiving Day, while you are managing expectations of all kinds, I hope that you’ll spend a few minutes away from the kitchen watching this brief video, which just might provide inspiration for some very interesting conversation around the Thanksgiving table.
The brain manages our expectations in all kinds of surprising ways, as you’ll see:
Clearly Bobby McFerrin is a gifted teacher, a supremely talented musician, and a creative thinker on all fronts. The pentatonic scale that he is teaching to this audience (of scientists presumably, rather than musicians) is a universal building block for folk music around the world. The music we would consider most comfortable to sing is often based on a pentatonic scale – that is, a series of intervals equivalent to the five black notes on the piano. For instance, you could play Amazing grace, how sweet the sound or Sometimes I feel like a motherless child almost entirely on just the black keys. But I would never have guessed that McFerrin could so easily manage their expectations and lead the audience members to unknowingly sing a pentatonic melody. To see the brain process even a simple musical concept like this right in front of my eyes was fascinating. I might have a ready theological inference to make but my brain is on holiday, waiting for a Bobby McFerrin to lead me in song. Suffice to say that I am awed by the continuing revelations through scientific study of how wonderfully we are made. So wonderfully, in fact, that God seems to have made our brains hard-wired for music.
Thanks be to God! And you can thank me later for giving you something really interesting to talk about during your Thanksgiving dinner today. Happy Thanksgiving!