Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates Collective Musical Intelligence

Not many people can play the crowd the way Bobby McFerrin does:

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


  1. That was pretty cool. I suggest the Professor try that out with our class. But I'm not sure I understand the scientific insight behind the exercise. Maybe it's demonstrating the mind's ability to register and quickly replicate a different form of information? (In this case musical tones?)

  2. There was prediction happening here as well. But was this prediction the result of heuristics, or some inherent/collective knowledge.

  3. I agree with the post above - What a beautiful way to demonstrate collective knowledge (and thumbs up for the Bobby McFerrin demo)!

    Relating it back to this class, the advent of the internet has certainly made it possible for people to work together in a way which was not possible before. Wikipedia is one example that comes to mind. Another example which we encountered in this class is Sermo, since physicians can use it as a platform to discuss complex medical cases with a group of peers and subject matter experts.

    Imagine, if these existing networks could be complemented with some kind of predictive algorithm, how powerful would the possibilities be! :)

  4. Such an amazing experiment! I am really surprised by the harmony among audience with no advance instruction. The take-away for me from this, based on what learnt in class, is that measure is critical. After measurement is defined, people have exactly the same caliber to discuss and do things, which then turn chaos into harmony. Like this!

  5. This video was cool but I wasn't surprised at all. Bobby McFerrin is a musical genius! I've been a fan for years, his ability to control his voice and create polyphonic effects is amazing.

    In terms of this video, I think his ability to elicit a predictive response from the collective audience is based on the intrinsic knowledge of the pentatonic scale. The scale is universal (plus, I guessing since the audience is there for a world music festival, most of them have experience/knowledge about music). So after McFerrin establishes a few notes with them, he can easily have them go through a major pentatonic pattern. I think it's both an instinctual and learned response that he is capable to utilize.