Neurocognitive Aspects of Musical Improvisation and Performance

Rahman, Shama and Bhattacharya, Joydeep. 2016. Neurocognitive Aspects of Musical Improvisation and Performance. In: Giovanni Emanuele Corazza and Sergio Agnoli, eds. Multidisciplinary Contributions to the Science of Creative Thinking. Singapore: Springer, pp. 261-279. ISBN 978-981-287-617-1 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

What does musical creativity entail? What are the cognitive processes involved? Does it have distinct neurobiological correlates? Many people, hearkening to 19th century Romantic views, believe that artistic creativity is a mystery forever beyond the reach of empirical science. There is a strong belief that musicianship is a special faculty, confined to a tiny elite, and in fact the very word music is derived from the Greek word mousike¯ i.e. of the muses, a divine source. In Plato’s view, musicians are not creative per se, but rather they merely imitate the muses as the latter are the original sources of creative inspiration. This view is no longer accepted as tremendous progress in the field of neuroimaging has convincingly demonstrated that all mental functions, from very mundane to highly complex ones, are represented by specific neural correlates (Gazzaniga 2004). Yet musical creativity still remains a very difficult problem to shed light on for neuroscientists as it is seen to be enormously complex (too many attributes of musical creativity), unpredictable (difficult to predict the onset/offset of musically creative ideas), undefinable (no one single definition exists), and lacking introspection (musicians often cannot explain the process of being creative). Nevertheless, neuroscientific research on musical creativity offers an immense promise to reveal the hidden spatio-temporal intricacies of neuronal dynamics of the creative brain in action, which complement traditional behavioural research methods. In this Chapter, we provide an overview of the current research, albeit at its infancy, on the neurocognitive aspects of musical creativity. First, we provide a brief description of the available neuroimaging techniques to study musical creativity. Next we explain various facets (i.e. stage, type, model) of general creativity. The topic of flow experience, an optimal experience of an intense reward during pursuit of an activity such as music performance, is discussed next. Subsequently, we present the principal findings of neuroimaging research of musical creativity, mainly of musical improvisation. Finally we provide some concluding remarks and introduce a few open questions for future research.

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Book Section

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1 January 2016Published
31 July 2015Accepted

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Date Deposited:

21 Nov 2016 12:44

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29 Apr 2020 16:21


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