Shared understanding in music making: Case studies in music therapy improvisation

Studies on spoken dialogue have suggested that participation in those dialogues and expertise on the topic under discussion can be important factors in shared understanding.

However, case studies in musical contexts have suggested that fully shared understanding of what happened is not essential for successful music making.

Does this finding seen in classical duos and jazz improvisation generalise to music therapy improvisation? More specifically, to what extent do music therapists and music therapy attendees share privileged understanding relative to observers, and do music therapists share privileged understanding compared with non-experts?

This talk draws upon comments on, and ratings of, four 30-minute sessions, and explores the extent to which participants and experts agree regarding their characterisations of musical experiences, compared with those of observers and non-experts.

About the speaker

Neta Spiro is Research Fellow in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music and an honorary Research Fellow at Imperial College London. Neta’s background is in music (BMus, Oxford University), cognitive science (MSc, Edinburgh University), and music psychology (PhD, Amsterdam University). She was previously Research Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, and at the New School for Social Research, New York, and Head of Research at Nordoff Robbins, London. Neta taught at the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, where she continues as an honorary member.

Two questions underlie her research: What is the potential role of music in peoples’ health and wellbeing, and what is communicated when we make music together? Her research on these questions has been from three perspectives: investigations of people’s reported experiences of music making, effects on people’s judgements, and analysis of interaction in music.

Neta’s current research includes the Health, Economic, and Social impact of the ARTs (HEartS) project, which explores the impact of arts and culture on health and wellbeing from individual, social, and economic perspectives. She is exploring the possible levels of shared understanding across a variety of forms of music making.