Laurel, are you reading? How ’bout you, Tim? (Banks, that is, but Horn can horn in if he wants to. Sorry, really bad pun.) All you other musician types (Bruce, Morris, David, et al), I want your input too.
Take a look at this video (and read the original poster’s thoughts on the subject too). Then come back here and let’s talk.
I’ve seen Bobby McFerrin in concert before. (At the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, with my cousin Lela, who has yet to comment on this blog!) He did this very experiment with us that night, and everyone instinctively responded as this audience does, with a pentatonic scale.
Pentatonic folk tunes about all over the world. Some of our best-known and best-loved hymn tunes fall into this category, such as NEW BRITAIN (“Amazing Grace”) from Scotland by way of Appalachia, WAYFARING STRANGER, also from Appalachia, JESUS LOVES ME, based on a Chinese folk tune, etc.
Shaped-note singing enthusiasts will immediately think of MORNING TRUMPET, BEACH SPRING, and many others such as “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal.” The Celtic tune SLANE (“Be Thou My Vision”) is one of the most deeply-loved hymn tunes we have: also pentatonic.
So, what is it about the pentatonic scale. Why does it resonate so deeply with us? (I’m not using those words figuratively, either.)