Bobby McFerrin Makes a Keyboard...Out of People


On June 12, 2009, vocalist Bobby McFerrin participated in a panel discussion called "Notes & Neurons: In Search of a Common Chorus" at the World Science Festival. As part of the discussion, he performed an amazing feat -- he trained an audience, in mere seconds, to become a sort of human keyboard. In the video below, McFerrin points to the floor, sings a note, then makes the audience sing it. He steps to one side and sings the next note, and again, the audience sings it. The audience proceeds to sing notes as a sort of gigantic human keyboard/chorus as McFerrin jumps back and forth on stage.

McFerrin then says: "Now, what's interesting to me about that is, regardless of where I am -- anywhere -- every audience gets that. It's just that the pentatonic scale, for some reason...." One of the scientists on the panel raises the question: "Just to phrase the question scientifically, Larry, what the hell just happened here?" Just watch this. It's neat and it's short:

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

For the entire program (including "what this has to do with science"), check out the Notes & Neurons site, which has a five-part video series showing the full discussion. Note: Part Four has the bit with McFerrin's pentatonic scale demonstration and the subsequent discussion.