The relative distance of notes in a musical scale to their neighboringnotes creates a particular atmosphere, and may awaken the emotions. Based on the intent to refrain from prematurely “awakening” the children‘s emotions, in Waldorf Early Childhood Education we often make use of a musical scale that does not include semi-tones, such as the pentatonic scale, which is played on the five black sequential keys of the piano.
The composition of melodies in this scale does not enable the use of half tones, and we can achieve an atmosphere of drowsy simplicity with relative ease, especially if we play and sing in a compatible mood.
But how can we enable the characteristic cultural expression using a musical scale that does not include
semi-tones? The scales that are commonplace in the Arabic culture include intervals that are smaller than even the smallest intervals of Western scales, such as quarter tones and tones even smaller than these? Is it possible that this would constitute a distortion or lack of open-ness toward the Arabic culture itself, and perhaps represent a lack of attentiveness and mutual respect?
What, then, is the relationship between the world of the emotions and the senses and these tiny musical intervals, intervals that the westerner can barely hear, and may perhaps even experience as bothersome - while someone from an Eastern culture may experience true pleasure when he hears them, and will immediately identify depths of feeling and expression? As western musicians we might understand this nuance if we make a note of the emotional state that is activated when one stays on the 7th level of the major scale, without playing the expected conclusion - the 8th note. For example, if we play the notes from C major to B as a melody, and then pause before we reach our destination- the higher C that repeats at the end of the scale.It is not necessary to define the destination in advance in order to intuitively know that one has not arrived at the “correct” place.
The proximity between the 7th and 8th level is what causes us to feel an attraction to the 8th note – an octave above the 1st note. The smaller the musical interval becomes, the stronger we yearn to arrive “home”. We may understand this feeling as a yearning or wish for something that we have not necessarily heard before. Now - we may perhaps be able to imagine the emotional state that is expressed in intervals that are even smaller than half tones. I have personally experienced this as a strong and at times even a passionate yearning.