Musical improvisation: Multi-scaled spatiotemporal patterns of coordination


When jazz musicians perform their behaviors are not fully prescribed in advance, nonetheless their actions become so tightly coordinated and their decisions so seamlessly intertwined that the musicians behave as a single synergistic unit rather than a collection of individuals. A fundamental aspect of such improvisation is the bodily movement coordination that occurs among performing musicians, with the embodied interaction of musicians both supporting and constraining musical creativity. Here we consider the ability of pairs of piano players to improvise, and demonstrate how the time-evolving patterns of inter-musician movement coordination as revealed by the mathematical tools of non-linear time series analyses can provide a new understanding of what potentiates the novelty of spontaneous musical action. Revealing the sophistication of the previously unexplored dynamics of movement coordination between improvising musicians is an important step towards understanding how creative musical expressions emerge from the spontaneous coordination of multiple musical bodies.

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