Musical Improvisation and Collective Action

The goal of the MICA project is to look at collective action through the lens of musical improvisation, particularly in situations of so-called ”free” improvisation. The project endeavors to understand :

  1. How operational modes vary between the demands of coordination—found in situations of collective action—and the demands of innovation found solely in creative contexts
  2. How the form of the coordination can be used as a support for communication among operators during collective action
  3. How, during an action, the phenomena of low-level coordination (essentially motor) and the phenomena of high-level social cognition (attributions of intentions towards other operators, etc.) that seem necessary to put in place a collective action that is, in itself, simple.

To begin, the team working on the MICA project will collect complete and detail descriptions of collective improvised actions as well as the complex and spontaneous processes of coordination used in this type of action. This will be carried out through several longitudinal ethnographic studies of different improvisational collectives and the “Classe d’Improvisation Générative” at the Paris Conservatory. The crossover study of these various fields makes it possible to observe how the collective modus operandi is modified when the conditions of coordination among musicians changes.

This ethnographic work will create the foundation on which we can raise issues typically investigated on conjoint action, addressing the question of emerging coordination differently from the paradigm of synchronization. The next step is putting in place a series of experimental protocols, found in experimental psychology and social cognition,  with the goal of shedding light on certain fundamental aspects of improvised didactic interaction. We also envisage protocols that make it possible to address this issue in three different time-frames: studying strategies used by agents to coordinate, almost instantaneously, their individual actions with optimal fluidity; the analysis of material, including indications of coordination and resources, is continuously integrated in the performance time permitting communication of complex intentions; highlighting markers of team cognition that have been appropriated after long periods of collaboration.

Finally, the results of the surveys and experiments will be compared with philosophical theories on collective action. The formulation of this theoretical work will lead to either a proposition to revise or amend existing theories which lend themselves best to thin.

Project reference: ANR-17-CE27-0021-01.

Project details

Program type
programme Jeunes chercheurs
March 1, 2018
Aug. 31, 2021
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