Developing a Theoretical Foundation for the Reflexive Interaction Paradigm with Implications for Training Music Skill and Creativity

By Addessi, Anna Rita | Psychomusicology, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Developing a Theoretical Foundation for the Reflexive Interaction Paradigm with Implications for Training Music Skill and Creativity


Addessi, Anna Rita, Psychomusicology


This article introduces the theoretical framework for the reflexive interaction paradigm, which is the basis of the MIROR project (Musical Interaction Relying on Reflexion), a European funded project aimed at developing an educational platform for children's music and dance education. Hie wide-ranging project has led to much activity and many presentations; however, the theory has yet to be presented in a specialized journal, and that is the purpose of the present article. Elere, the theoretical framework will be discussed from a systematic musicological perspective (cf. Leman, 2008).

The elaboration of the reflexive interaction paradigm began some years ago. Pachet (2003) described a system that produces real-time responses that imitate the style of a musician who plays a keyboard, a virtual alter ego, called the Continuator, with which to undertake challenging duets. The idea was to develop a machine that gives the user the perception of interacting with something similar to her/himself. The system was originally conceived for adult musicians. Elowever, an exploratory study with children (Addessi & Pachet, 2005) immediately underlined the potential of these systems for the development of creative musical experiences, bringing a fresh perspective to technological and pedagogical applications. Hie MIROR project represented the first attempt to apply tills paradigm in the field of technology-enhanced learning in music and dance education (Addessi & Volpe, 2011). The aim of tliis article is not to introduce the technical properties of the reflexive musical systems, as already introduced in several papers by Pachet (2003, 2006) and more recently by Pachet, Roy, and Barbieri (2011), but rallier to investigate the human behaviors enacted during the interaction with reflexive machines and the implications for music creativity and learning. From a methodological point of view, we started to elaborate the reflexive interaction paradigm through the observation of children interacting with the reflexive machines. On the basis of these observations, we then developed several hypotheses that have been supported by theoretical discussion based on the scientific literature and on empirical data collected by means of exploratory and controlled experiments with children and adults, in both naturalistic contexts and focus groups.

The article begins with the conceptual and technical background of the interactive reflexive musical systems (IRMS) and then follows a path that explains tire human behaviors involved in reflexive interaction. These highlighted elements will be proposed to support tire hypothesis that reflexive interaction could enhance teaching/learning processes and musical creativity in children, posing some fundamentals for a pedagogical music psychology of reflexive interaction.

The Interactive Reflexive Musical Systems

This section introduces the technical and conceptual definition of tire IRMS referred to in this study. Hie notion of IRMS emerged from experiments, especially with children, in original modes of man-machine interactions, in which the machine imitates the user's musical inputs, allowing the users to manipulate a "sound image" of themselves. The first IRMS prototype, the Continuator, interactively learned and reproduced music in the same style as a human playing a keyboard, as a "stylistic musical mirror": The musical pirrases generated in real time by the system are similar but different from those played by the users (Pachet, 2003).

In a typical session with the Continuator, a user freely plays musical phrases with a (Midi) keyboard, and the system produces an immediate answer, increasingly closer to its musical style. As the session develops, a dialogue takes place between the user and the machine, in which the system and the user reply to each other by repeating and varying the musical ideas. Interactions with the users are analyzed by IRMS to gradually build a model of the user. …

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