I always found it to be an amazing thing that folk music around the world, across time, uses the pentatonic scale. It seems to be part of the human musical DNA. We just know it. We might not know why we know it but it's recognizable, repeatable, and comfortable to most people — from as early as 3 months old. *In the resources at the bottom of the page is an article about a 40,000-year-old Ice Age flute made from a vulture bone that plays the pentatonic scale.
The key word is comfort. When the pentatonic scale is in its home key, there are NO WRONG NOTES. There are no notes that are seeking resolution, they are already resolved, and the resolution is comfortable.
Tension seeks resolution, always. Tension is the question that seeks an answer. When composing, tension is necessary to tell a compelling story. Tension is the unpredictable stuff, the unique variables in any story. No compelling story exists without twists and turns, and the tensions provide the journey toward resolution.
The pentatonic scale is precisely what it sounds like, a five-note scale. Here is a detailed video about the pentatonic scale
Music is patterning, and the brain loves patterns. Whether we understand the patterns consciously or unconsciously, we recognize them, as the video below demonstrates.
As in most things that "feel right" to most people, on an intuitive level, there is a connection to nature at the core. The fact that mothers and infants can be observed using pentatonic inflections in their free playing together 84% of the time indicates that there is something very basic that the pentatonic speaks to in our brains. The pentatonic scale represents the peaceful parts of all stories where there is no uncomfortable tension because there are no wrong notes in its home key. The pentatonic scale is relaxed and settled. There is no gravitational pull in any direction. It is completely in the present moment because there is nothing drawing it away. As a curious person, I appreciate that there is a beautiful tension in never knowing it all. The questions are our reasons for the quests. Fueled by how much there is to learn, and ways to go deeper, there's always more to discover as we go from resolution to tension and back to resolution in a continuous cycle. Here's to all of us and our beautiful cycles of discovery. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.
More on the pentatonic scale:
The Guardian: Ice Age Flute That Can Play The Star Spangled Banner