Neurocognitive aspects of musical improvisation and performance

Shama Rahman, Joydeep Bhattacharya



Improvisation is a bedrock of human creativity; it is ubiquitous in musical performance and is considered one of the most abstract and complex aspects of (musical) behaviour. Many scientists still believe that creativity and musical improvisation are too difficult to subject to empirical enquiry. However, musical creativity is an excellent means to study cognitive processes such as pattern formation and recognition, top–down attentional control, expectation, imagery, aesthetics and embodied cognition. Furthermore, musical improvisation is usually an intensely pleasurable experience, whereby the creator finds him- or herself in an optimal relationship between his/her capabilities and actions, similar to a flow-like creative state. In this chapter we present our current neurocognitive understanding of several facets of musical creativity.