Patterns of coordination in simultaneously and sequentially improvising jazz musicians

AbstractIn Joint Action (JA) tasks, group-level structure emerges out of ongoing, mutually constraining interactions between individuals. Here we investigate JA in dyads of improvising jazz pianists. Participants’ musical output is recorded in one of two conditions: a real condition, in which two pianists improvise together as they typically would, and a virtual condition, in which a single pianist improvises along a “ghost partner” – a recording of another pianist taken from a previous real trial. We quantify ways in which the generated music is shaped by mutual coupling of co-improvisers. Musical signatures of coordination patterns are also shown to parallel the subjective experience of improvisers, who preferred playing in trials with bidirectional influence despite not explicitly knowing which condition they had played in. These results illuminate how mutual coupling shapes emergent, group-level structure in the creative, open-ended and fundamentally collaborative domain of expert musical improvisation.

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