Is music hard-wired within us or is our response to music a result of our culture? This is a musical version of the question posed by scientists for many years: “Are we a product of biology or the environment?” Another way we phrase this question is by asking, “Is this the result of nature or nurture?”
I just couldn’t resist sharing this amazing video with you. It comes from the 2009 World Science Festival in New York City. This particular session was called “Notes and Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus.”
The demonstration in the video was conducted by Bobby McFerrin, one of the most talented singers of our time. On stage with him are panelists “Jamshed Bharucha, Provost and Senior Vice President of Tufts University; the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Neurosciences at McGill University, Daniel Levitin; Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield, Lawrence Parsons; and host of WNYC’s music/talk show Soundcheck, John Schaefer.” You may have heard of Daniel Levitin’s book called “This is Your Brain on Music.”
The video is called “The Power of the Pentatonic Scale” and was filmed on June 12, 2009 at the World Science Festival.
I have been a music teacher for more than 30 years. The process of learning to play an instrument, that is, connecting the dots, sticks and lines on a page with physical movements to get a sound from an instrument is immeasurably complex. And that is only to produce a sound.
The speed and ease with which my students over the years have mastered these tasks, absolutely amazes me. I have infinite respect for our innate musical wiring that allows us to be able to communicate so easily in a universal language everyone on the planet understands and that touches the heart so deeply.