Cognition and the Assessment of Interaction Episodes in Jazz Improvisation

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The purpose of this study was to examine the cognitive processes related to interaction episodes in jazz improvisation through the development, testing, and validation of a rubric for assessing interaction in jazz improvisation. Four questions guided this study: (a) is a rubric an effective method for assessing performance achievement at undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels? (b) what is the interjudge reliability of a rubric used to assess interaction in jazz improvisation? (c) which of the rubric criteria maximally differentiate 3 performance achievement levels (i.e., undergraduate, graduate, and professional)? and (d) does a cognitive task ordering of difficulty exist in assessing jazz interaction? The rubric consisted of 3 melodic interaction criteria, 2 harmonic interaction criteria, and 3 rhythmic interaction criteria. A total of 55 expert judges evaluated 55 distinct jazz improvisation performances. The results indicated a statistically significant multivariate analysis of variance effect across all 3 performance achievement levels on each rubric item. The standardized discriminant function coefficients suggested that the 3 performance achievement levels were maximally differentiated by a canonical variate with greater weightings from all 3 melodic interaction criteria (i.e., “Reaction to implied [melodic] musical suggestions,” “Development of melodic musical ideas stemming from motivic interplay,” and “Adaptation to melodic interplay [call and response]”) and 1 rhythmic interaction criterion (i.e., “Coordination of rhythmical pulse [timing and synchronization]”). The results indicated a cognitive ordering of rater task difficulty: melodic interaction, rhythmic interaction, and harmonic interaction. A total of 66.33% of the variability was accounted for by performance achievement level, and interjudge reliability was estimated using Cronbach's alpha (α = .91).

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