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Analysis of response from musicians and audience during performances: improvisation versus non-improvisation

Talk by Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen, Imperial College UK

2019.07.05 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 20 Aug
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312


The recent re-introduction of improvisation as a professional practice within classical music, allows direct and detailed contemporary comparison between improvised and “standard” approaches to performances of the same composition.

This study takes an interdisciplinary multi-method approach to discovering the contrasting nature and effects of prepared and improvised approaches during live chamber-music concert performances. The improvised performances were found to differ systematically from prepared performances in their timing, dynamic, and timbral features as well as in their effect on the audience

Post-performance critical reflection by the performers characterized distinct mental states underlying the two modes of performance. The amount of overall body movements was reduced in the improvised performances, which showed less uncoordinated movements between performers when compared to the prepared performance. Audience members, who were told only that the two performances would be different, but not how, rated the improvised version as more emotionally compelling and musically convincing than the prepared version. The size of this effect was not affected by whether or not the audience could see the performers, or by levels of musical training.

EEG measurements showed higher levels of Lempel-Ziv complexity (associated with awareness and alertness) in the improvised version in both performers and audience. A high degree of synchronisation of brain activity of performers and audience was also found during the improvised mode of performance.



David Dolan, Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen, Pedro Martinez-Mediano, Miguel Molina-Solana, Hardik Rajpal, Fernando Rosas, John Anthony Sloboda, The improvisational state of mind: a multidisciplinary study of an improvisatory approach to classical music repertoire performance. Front. Psychol., 25 September 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01341

D. Dolan, S. Sloboda, H. J.  Jensen, B. Crütz and E. Feygelson, The improvisatory approach to classical music performance: an empirical investigation into its characteristics and impact. Music Performance Research 6, 1-38 (2013).

 X. Wan, B Cruts and H.J. Jensen,  The causal inference of cortical  neural networks  during  music improvisations.  PLoS ONE DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0112776 December 9, 2014.  arXiv:1402.5956.



About the speaker

Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen

Centre for Complexity Science & Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London
Centre for Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Complexity Science Hub Vienna