Equipe Analyse des pratiques musicales

IRCAM Département Recherche & Développement / UMR 9912 CNRS

With a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance, and a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (music and psychology) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, my Ph.D. work will continue to bridge the disciplines of music and cognitive science.
At IRCAM for a six-month research stay with APM (Oct. 2013-March 2014), the centerpiece for my project will involve studying live collective free improvisational performances with the goal of understanding the individual and group musical and cognitive processes of musicians.  Using videos recordings of these performances, data collected post-playing will include performers’ subjective markings and commentaries regarding temporal changes in flow (using a software program), followed by individual interviews.  The interviews address more detailed issues such as players’ attention to sound, environment, one’s self and others.  External observers—i.e. CFI players, non-CFI players, non-musicians—will also analyze the performances and provide their own markers and commentaries for the videos.  This data will give us insight into how CFI is evaluated by those outside of the immediate performance domain, and provide us with a deeper understanding of music listening across different musical styles and experiences.

Importantly, the study of improvisation offers practical benefits—both pedagogically and clinically.  For example, software engineers and technologists at Carnegie Mellon University enroll in mandatory improvisational acting classes “designed to promote spontaneity, risk taking, storytelling, and teamwork”, with the aim of giving students an advantage in obtaining jobs in the entertainment technology industry.  Likewise, a study by Kim, Wigram & Gold (2008) found that pre-school aged children with autism showed significant improvement in attention and a range of interpersonal skills (such as eye contact duration and turn-taking duration) when engaged in improvisational musical therapy as compared with playing with toys.
As such, the study of CFI not only offers important insight into the musical and cognitive processes of free-playing musicians, but also translates to useful applications in both the educational and clinical domains.

Canonne, C., & Garnier, N. (2012, July).  'Cognition and segmentation in collective free improvisation: An exploratory study.'  Paper presented at the 12th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Thessaloniki, Greece.
Kim, J., Wigram, T., & Gold, C. (2008).  'The effects of improvisational music therapy on joint attention behaviours in autistic children: A randomized controlled study.'  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1758 – 1766.

Sabrina Chang

My research centers around the issues of group interaction and individual processes during collective free improvisational performance (CFI). As a referent-free style of playing, CFI presents an intriguing platform in which to ask: what are the implicit negotiations taking place between performers during CFI? And in an attempt to remain musically ‘free’ during performance, to what extent are musicians managing any tensions between self-control and impulsivity? To gain an understanding of the CFI form, there have been recent efforts to define the segmental structure of the music and its cognitive associations (Canonne & Garnier, 2012). Towards building on this, the goal of my project is twofold: 1) to understand the temporal flow of attention for each individual musician and 2) to understand the intricate interactions taking place between musicians during group performance.

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