Common Chorus

Audience participation for conference speakers ? The common power of the pentatonic scale demonstrated by Bobby McFerrin at the World Science Festival.

After rehearsing just two notes the entire audience is spot on the third – with absolutely no warning of where he’s going next, up or down. And it continues eventually to the tonic / octave via random intervals. Simple but very impressive.

(Don’t know anything about WSF – looks a lot like TED – but got the link via StumbleUpon.)

15 thoughts on “Common Chorus”

  1. I watched this video a few weeks ago on TED. I’m facinated by music and particualy how it affects humans consciously and subconsciously.
    Try this experiment: whilst walking around the supermarket whistle a simple tune, one derived from the pentatonic scale… twimkle twinkle little star, or anything really. Then listen out for a responding whistle, more often than not it will be the same tune that you started . Silly, pointless and childlike, but it always makes me smile .

  2. Hi Marc, experiments are rarely pointless.
    That is of course how meme’s work – by resonating with what is already there. The danger is they simply re-inforce them, but they can just as easily spark something more creative.
    (You know Marvin Minsky’s work ?)

  3. Hello.
    I have never heard of Marvin Minsky but I understand your statement. I often wonder what circumstances cause memes to either re-inforce the static, or, encourage the dynamic ? What is the catalyst? I’m talking about social memes here, I suppose the scientist would be able to give me a precise answer on a biological level. Maybe there’s not much difference? I dunno?
    P.s Still not thought of an Idea for my occupational safety and health dissertation, but organisational decision making is a front runner at the moment.

  4. Hi Marc,

    I would say memes are all “social” – by definition. Communication in the biological level is by “genes” – again, by definition. Biology doesn’t “explain” sociology, it stops at explaining how sociological patterns are supported by (or emerge from) biological meat patterns. (Terry Bisson – Thinking Meat ?)

    (If you are intrested in the musical aspects of cognition, then Minsky is a place to start.)

    (Oh, and hi “Marc” – just associated you with the Marc in the earlier email thread – sorry didn’t notice initially. Organizational Decision-Making – oh yes – but then I’m biased.))

  5. Perhaps I should elaborate … the musical parallels with memetic patterns of social quality … he who pays the piper calls the tune. Riffing out loud …

    Memes resonating with existing “chords”. Do you get more clearly attuned to an existing note, do new harmonies / resonances / beats emerge, do you simply get the screech of out-of-control feedback, or drowning out of one sound with another ? Even in simple systems – anything can happen – most social systems are very complex. Are there “sweet spots” in ways to inject new “sounds” into a dynamic system and get quality results ? (Look at Dave Snowden’s “catalytic attractors” … like the football at the children’s party.)

  6. Hey.
    Thank’s for the link to Dave Snowdon, this could be particulary usefull on my “Groupthink” project.

    I think the infectuous nature of a beat/harmony most definetly encourages static quality and this parallels with what happens in society. When you talk about “sweet spots” I’m thinking about Punk music, and how it contained the most radical dynamic quality of the late 20th centuary, but that too died out.

    I read an article once, about how Theador Adorno hated Jazz music, he thought it contained radical licks and phrases that insulted classical music. He also believed it to be void of beauty and totaly dismissive of the dialectical process; twas very interesting.

    Anyway, I ordered On the Road With Robert Pirsig last night. Cannot wait for it to come.

    Also, have you heard of Shantaram ? it’s a book, but the authour also has a web site with some interesting philosophical views, a friend of mine sent me a link last night: unsure whether i should post links here, but type it into goolge and it will appear, first page.

  7. I’m OK with links Marc … the spam filter kicks in if people load comments with many links.

    Ah, shantaram – cosmosophy – … OK.
    I have passed over this one before. I think you are right to look at the eastern mystic views of these “cosmic” philsophical things, in the interests of research – after all I’m a fan of ZMM too. And the fundamental cosmogeny (where did we come from & why) type questions remain fundamental however you look at it – are you theist BTW ? BUT take care – don’t confuse the seductive attraction of the personal relations with the world that these views give, with more basic metaphysical concepts couched in mystical language. If you find yourself saying to yourself – it’s OK, I’m not really new-age – take a look at Mystic Bourgeoisie for the antidote 😉

    I wasn’t expecting you to get this deep metaphysically in a piece of organizational behaviour reserach 😉 but I can understand how easy it is to get there.

    Interestingly I used Sex Pistols manager Malcolm MaClaren as an example in my MBA Dissertation many years ago. Didn’t have this language then though.

  8. I re-read Shantaram. Yes, I recognize this guy now, heard him interviewed somewhere too – Oz Greg Roberts. I think he does in fact speak a lot of sense (in those seminars), just have to be careful with which are really original / fundamental / pragmatic / truism, and the PR / Marketing packaging in the colourful life story. Much less mystical in content that the overtly new-agey appearances.

  9. Yeah, I take all the new-ageness/ cosmosophy with a large pinch of salt.Everything nowadays is either very Zen or a pod.

    I’m not a theist by the way, I was very much wondering towards blind atheism until i read ZMM and Lila.

    The mystic-bourgeoisielink was quite good for a giggle too. It’s always good to keep abreast with the language they use, you have to remember, this stuff sells in abundance.

    As for my dissertation, well, I only start it next year so I’m still kicking the ideas round in my head; I have to wind myself in sometimes, that’s the key I suppose.

    I hope On the Road with Pirsig is in my letter box when I get home.


  10. Just took a sneak peek of your dissertation.

    Organisational learning and behaviour, most definetly the areas I would like to concentrate my efforts.

    Your methodology is very daunting for me, unfortunately my grasp of stats is very mediocre, but I’m working on it.

  11. Hi Marc,

    It’s very hard to give a compliment electronically without sounding patronising – but I have to say you seem very level headed, and I suspect you may achieve something useful with your research.

    In terms of my dissertation – yes, the actual survey process and analysis is very dense and thorough, part of the process to demonstrate you know what you’re doing for the academic qualification (!) – but I would skip those chapters to get the meat of the discussion.

    Incidentally I started an email discussion with Chris (at Mystic Bourgeoisie) since the mention above … and I may post something further on the “Zen” connections … very interesting.

  12. Sincere thanks.

    I’m just wondering; while I cannot sleep.

    Do you think the “Mystic types” (A.K.A Deepac Chopra) are the rhetorician’s of the 21st centuary: in an unfortunate way i suppose?

    Pre-empting your answer I guess you think they are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing, I rekon that’s my take on them.

    Anyway, just a sleepless thought. Looking forward to hearing further discussions on the saleability of Zen.

  13. Not sure rhetoricians are unfortunate in the 21st (or any other) century – but some mystics are weirder – more incoherent – than others. (Deepak Chopra is not someone I have much time for.) Pirsig re-habilitated rhetoricians IMHO – ie thety are not necessariy the bad guys.

    So, “wolves in sheep’s clothing” is not the metaphor I would use for rhetoricians, any more than I would use for (say) scientists or religious believers (or politiciams). They all have intent as well as a basis for their beliefs (and sayings, and actions). Pragmatism – in the natural langauage sense – always involves some degreee of hypocrisy between short and long term. Trust and intent are hugely important.

    For me the main value in Zen, is in questioning the “presumed” objectivity in our view of the world and causation within it – partly by asking koan-like questions that do not have objective answers. This non-objective stance is reinforced by the focus on individual participation as part of the whole, rather than as some special priviledged postition, though taken to extremes, the latter can have “inhuman” downsides – I prefer an “inclusional” view here.

    “Selling” Zen (selling anything) is usually about making money – to support practical short-term needs – but of course can be perverted if it becomes the main aim – the usual ends & means dilemma (see hypocrisy above).

  14. I’ve never really looked into pragmatism to be honest, but maybe what’s “right” in the short term and what’s right in the long term is not hypocrisy at all; maybe it is the true essence of learning. ( thinking about our present economic climate) , maybe it’s both, depends on your view i suppose.

    reading ZMM and Questioning presumed objectivity in my view of the world most definitly changed my life for the better. I think you are right, Koan-like questions are like fertiliser for the mind, we need more of them.

    On the road with Pirsig has not arrived, I’m getting worried.

  15. Fertilizer for the mind 😉 Shit, what next ?

    Anyway – central point – judging whether difference between short-term and longer term words and actions are “hypocrisy” or not, depends on intent and trust.

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