Low complexity (Scale) and high complexity (Jazz) experimental paradigms used to study spontaneous musical creativity.

2008-02-27T01:56:10Z (GMT) by Charles J. Limb Allen R. Braun

In the upper portion of the figure, the non-ferromagnetic MIDI piano keyboard that was used during functional MRI scanning is shown. This keyboard had thirty five full-size piano keys which triggered high-quality piano sound samples generated outside of the scanner, which were immediately routed back to the musicians using audiophile quality electrostatic earphone speakers. During scanning, subjects were randomly cued to play either the over-learned control condition or to improvise spontaneously. For Scale's control condition, subjects repeatedly played a one octave ascending and descending C major scale in quarter notes for the duration of the block (ScaleCtrl, upper left). For Scale's improvisation condition, subjects improvised in quarter notes only, selecting all notes from within one octave and from the C major scale notes alone (example shown under ScaleImprov, upper right). For Jazz's control condition, subjects played a novel melody that was memorized prior to scanning (JazzCtrl, lower left). For Jazz's improvisation condition, subjects improvised using the composition's underlying chord structure as the basis for spontaneous creative output (example shown under JazzImprov, lower right). Note that for JazzCtrl and JazzImprov, eighth notes are typically performed with a “swing” feel that is not accurately represented using standard musical notation, in both the control and improvisation conditions. Audio samples of the four musical excerpts shown here are provided in Supporting Information.