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

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Music’s communicativeness is often associated with its appropriateness for therapy. We investigate one aspect of communication – shared understanding – in the context of music therapy. To what extent do music therapists and music therapy attendees share understanding of what just happened in their music therapy interaction, and do they as participants share privileged understanding relative to observers? From comments and ratings about four 30-minute sessions, observers—but not session participants—agreed more than chance, as did participating and commenting music therapists, but agreement was low. Music therapists did not agree more about music-therapist-authored characterizations than about characterizations by non-experts. Our findings provide little evidence of privileged understanding between participants or that greater expertise leads to greater shared understanding.

This talk is part of the CMS seminar series in the Faculty of Music series.

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