Abstract Michael Schober july12 2017

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To what extent do collaborating musicians understand what just happened in their live duo performance in the same way as each other? And to what extent do audience members understand the performance in the same way as the performers? A series of recent studies, using new methods to assess shared understanding, suggests that collaborating performers in different genres—improvisers on a jazz standard, free jazz improvisers, and classical chamber musicians—do not fully agree with their partner’s independent characterizations of what occurred, music-analytically, collaboratively or evaluatively. In each case, they can agree with a commenting listener’s characterizations at least as much or even more than they agree with their partner’s. Audience members’ understanding can also diverge from performers’ substantially. In a study of 239 musically experienced listeners to jazz standard improvisations, far fewer listeners agreed with the performers’ judgements than with a commenting listener’s judgements. This evidence suggests that fully shared understanding may not be necessary for improvising together well; disparities of understanding may even make for better collaborative music-making.


Bio: Michael Schober (PhD, Stanford University; ScB, Brown University) is Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research, New York City, and Vice Provost for Research at the New School. His research examines shared understanding (or misunderstanding) and coordinated action, in studies that focus on everyday conversations, standardized interviews, and musical performances and improvisations. He has served as editor of the multidisciplinary journal Discourse Processes; along with his co-editor on the Wiley volume Envisioning the Survey Interview of the Future, Frederick Conrad, he has been awarded the Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research.