The performer's perspective on the aesthetic experience

Music can be described from different points of view including the musicologist's historically informed perspective, the music theorist's notation-based relationships between sounds, and also the layman listener's verbalization of an ad hoc intuition. The result of each of these different abstractions can be considered a model of the music. Although these models will differ in complexity and accuracy, each likely captures to a certainty degree important aspects of a musical piece. A much less popular source to arrive at such a model is the performer's perspective. This is somewhat surprising as the artist's model should arguably be the most accurate one – the fine-grained specifics of a musical piece do not even exist unless the performer plays it in a well-defined way resulting from a myriad of decisions over time! However, the neural investigation of the aesthetic experience as it pertains to music is often driven by relating a listener's subjective assessment of a piece or a theoretic aspect of a composition to some neural marker. The performer's perspective, on the other hand, receives considerably less attention in the literature.

To address this discrepancy, this project comprises a series of experiments investigating music performance "from the inside out". It is based on the hypothesis that the neurobiological view on the aesthetic experience of music may benefit from a deeper understanding of the mechanisms by which this complex stimulus is generated. Technically, the performers' knowledge of musical information, temporal statistics, and especially the prediction of social partners' actions are fundamental constituents of successful adaptive behavior in group contexts. We investigate this group-level behavior and its underlying neurophysiology ranging from basic communication and decision-making to higher-level cognition in music performance. We use psychophysiology and group-level EEG to quantify interaction using measures of inter-brain synchronization. Ultimately, based on the description of group behavior in the context of improvised music, we aim to better understand the constituents of the "aesthetic experience in the making".