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date: 18 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Freely improvised music lacks commonly used mechanisms (e.g., scores, conductors, shared performance practices) that serve to coordinate choices across performers in other musical genres. This chapter analyses problems and solutions of musical coordination in free improvisation through the lens of “path dependence,” an analytic framework used in economics to model situations in which agents perceive a high pay-off to coordinating market choices. Key results in the path-dependence literature are the likelihood of multiple equilibria and “lock-in” to inferior outcomes. The interpersonal skills identified as critical for coordination in free improvisation closely parallel the skills that have been identified by social scientists as essential for high-functioning group behavior in non-musical pursuits. This suggests a pedagogical role for improvisation in enhancing economic and personal well-being with regard to human capital formation and happiness.

Keywords: improvisation, economics, path dependence, coordination, multiple equilibria, human capital, happiness, pedagogy, musical genres, musical choice, group behavior, interpersonal skills

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