"Man's mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
THE COMMUNICATIVE POWER OF MUSIC
If a picture is worth a thousand words then, music is worth a hundred thousand words. An example of this can be found in a simple comparison of the Pentatonic and diatonic scales. Listening to each will reveal to the sensitive listener the underlying philosophical difference between Eastern and Western cultures.
Another example of this power to communicate can be seen in the basic musical components found in Blues music and their relationship to the people that created it.
The East and the 5 pitch pentatonic scale:
The pitch in a scale that resolves all tension is called the tonic (home).
No pitch leads to any other in the pentatonic scale.
Therefore all 5 pitches of the pentatonic scale can be the tonic (home).
This scale is found in the oriental cultures and most indigenous cultures around the world.
The native North American cedar flute is based off the pentatonic scale as is the clay pipes of the native South Americans.
The pentatonic scale is the perfect BE HERE NOW scale reflecting oriental philosophies.
The scale reflects cycle and sequence but not historical progression.
The West and the 8 (7+1) pitch diatonic scale:
The major scale has a progressive quality that can be experienced by simply moving from the tonic up scale-wise to the next higher tonic.
Tension is created and sustained until reaching the climatic 7th pitch called the leading toneódo re mi fa so la Ti
If the scale is stopped here the listener is catapulted out of the present moment and into the future and hears the return of the tonic even though it has not sounded yet.
This 8-pitch scale is the basis of the music of western culture.
The diatonic major scale reflects the historical / evolutionary perspective of the western world with its progress based tendencies.
Blues and the Dominant 7th chord:
In the music of the western world the dominant 7th chord represents the feeling and tension of being as far away from the tonic (home) as possible.
Once the chord is play it usually demands resolution to the tonic chord.
It is this progressive movement that drives most western music.
Blues is recognized as the only truly original American music.
It is based almost entirely on the sole use of the dominant 7th chord.
The African American slaves who were ripped from their homeland and forced to live in America took the one chord in their captorís music that represented being as far away from home as possible and used it to create a music that reflected their lives.
When a blues song ends it finishes on a dominant 7th chordóit never gets to go home.
Blues adds notes to the Minor Pentatonic scale called blue notes. These notes don't seem to fit. Just like the slaves who were trapped in American culture.