Cognition and Musical improvisation in Individual and Group Context


Cognition and Musical improvisation in Individual and Group Context
The aims of this research are to investigate how improvisatory skills develop in individuals and teams. It focuses upon the effect of musical expertise in different musical genres on the development of improvisatory skills. Multi methods were applied in the research and classified into four phases. The first phase involved a self-case study implementing deliberate self regulated practice based on a planned sequential model; a) sight-reading; b) memorising; and c) improvising; over 8 weeks in a trained classical musician. Additionally, the self-case study used two commissioned musical compositions matched in length, harmony and structure, one in the classical genre the other in jazz. In the 2nd phase, semi-structured interviews were conducted with novice and expert improvisers. The final phases included experiments studying sightreading, memorising and improvising as a duo and observations and interviews relating to ensemble rehearsals and improvisation with cross genre compositions. The findings suggest that learning to improvise is frustrating and anxiety provoking. Seven elements were found to be important in acquiring musical skills and domain knowledge acquisition: physiological adaptation and developing reading music skills; establishing auditory schemata; automaticity; use of memorisation strategies; analytic strategy application; and improvising to a coherent musical structure. The findings also show that sight-reading and improvising share similarities in their characteristics when learning to improvise as a duo. Issues such as communicating to the audience, performance identity and connecting to the context are essential in the duo improvisation performance. The findings indicate that a 'concept of break-points' (Poole, 1983) take place during the latter stage of the ensemble improvisation process where changes occur across all three elements, musical structure, social structure and communicative behavior. (Bastien and Hostager, 2002:21) Factors such as leadership, group member characteristic, resource, information flow, the creative environment and collateral structure can influence the quality of group improvisation performance.
Ph.D dissertation
University of London