Quantifying Emergent, Dynamic Tonal Coordination in Collaborative Musical Improvisation

AbstractGroups of interacting individuals often coordinate in service of abstract goals, such as the generation of new ideas in group brainstorming sessions. This work examines coordination in a sophisticated paragon domain: improvising jazz musicians, who collectively produce coherent tonal structure (i.e. harmony) in real time performance. How does tonal structure emerge out of musical interactions, and how is this structure constrained by underlying coordination patterns? Dyads of professional jazz pianists were recorded improvising in two conditions of interaction: a `coupled' condition in which they could mutually adapt to one another, and an `overdubbed' condition which precluded mutual adaptation. Using a model of tonal consonance, we find that musicians were better able to harmonize with one another in coupled trials, and this ability increased throughout the course of improvised performance. These results are presented and discussed in terms of their implications for music technology and joint action research more generally.

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