Christian Long

Bobby McFerrin: Hacks Your Brain With Music

In TED Talks on May 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Extra credit reflection by EMMA L.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Bobby McFerrin:  Hacks Your Brain With Music

A few months ago our teacher showed us this video that took place at the World Science Festival and I was reminded of this video when I was talking with one of my friends about how easy it is to predict the next word or note in a typical song.

What fascinated me the most was that Bobby McFerrin did not say anything to the audience before performing his experiment. By establishing the place that each note would be, the audience was able to know what note would be heard on each part of the stage. Bobby McFerrin explains that he demonstrated the pentatonic scale and through his experiment found that no matter where in the world he did this demonstration, the audience reacted the same way. I believe that this experiment is just another way that displays how people can be unified through music.

This allows us to search for new ideas about something we never knew, to let our imagination and emotions blend together with our music together. I also found interesting that McFerrin only sung two notes in the beginning of the video and from then on the audience assumed that he was jumping through notes on a pentatonic scale, whether or not they knew it was the pentatonic scale. The audience adapted quickly remembering which places certain notes were and also knew where he was going with the notes, with the exception of a few “surprises” where McFerrin would jump at two places at once to show the audience’s universal reaction.

The human mind’s ability to adapt and predict so quickly to musical notes is so unique and amazing that I hope other scientists and researchers are finding new ways to use this ability to our advantage.If more artists would integrate universal scales like the pentatonic scale into their music, their songs will probably be more popular among all ethnics of people. What I also liked about this experiment is that were no instruments, tools or technology used but rather he used the audience’s mind to do something based on their expectations.

I believe that there is so much we can learn from the human mind and we underestimate what capabilities it has. This experiment is just one way that demonstrates one of the many unique abilities humans are capable of. I believe that humans, regardless of differences in language can have a method to communicate in a way that all people can understand. If only we can discover and develop this, we will have so many more possibilities of improving the Earth and our species.


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