Bobby McFerrin‘s VOCAbularies, his first new recording in eight years, is an astonishing record, . His sunny experiments in the collected human voice are always welcome. When assembling my roster of favorite records for the last year, VOCAbularies started out in jazz, but I’ve moved it into the experimental catch-all category. There it rises close to the top.
I had the lucky privilege of singing in his Voicestra in a one shot performance at The Omega Institute in the late eighties. There were roughly about 200 volunteer singers distributed in the four corners of a large hall, and McFerrin conducted from the center. He told us all something that stuck with me, ‘Don’t worry too much about being in tune because you’ll help each other find it together.’
The Pentatonic is a deep wellspring of possibility built upon a complex evolutionary and cultural integration. I recommend fooling around with the black keys to get the experience of melodic resolution out of which the natural improviser is evoked. Consider too that this five note mode, and its variations, join a singular repertoire of materials that can be traced back through contemporary music, and then farther back through folkloric musics from just about every corner of the world, and, finally, and speculatively, tracked back to what I believe to be its biological origin as a fundamental sonic insight within the emergence of proto-music, or that sound-making precedent to music ‘proper’. Reflect upon what music was before, in whichever culture it was so, it obtained the various instrumentalities we commonly associate with music.
(What was music it was a form of artistry, or entertainment, or, medium for communicating sentiment, or, a form for integrating language, etc.)
(The pentatonic modes are an essential aspect of my RhythmRiver experiential learning concept. One of its programs is called Pentatonic Drift.)