Creativity and flow in musical composition: an empirical investigation

Raymond MacDonald, Charles Byrne, Lana Carlton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    154 Citations (Scopus)


    Although an extensive literature exists on creativity and music, there is a lack of published research investigating possible links between musical creativity and Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow or optimal experience. This article examines a group composition task to study the relationships between creativity, flow and the quality of the compositions produced. First-year university students (n = 45) worked on a group composition task during three meetings. Each time the students met, they completed a detailed questionnaire that assessed aspects of each student's experience of the group compositional process using an 'experience sampling form' based on Csikszentmihalyi's previous work. Completed compositions were recorded and rated for quality and creativity by the participants and by a group of music education specialists (n= 24). Results indicated a number of ways in which the specialists' assessments of quality related to the students' assessments of creativity and flow. The study provides an example of a research method that can be used to further our understanding of the processes and outcomes of group music composition tasks. The discussion also considers a number of important ways that the concept of flow can be utilized within a music education context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)292-306
    Number of pages14
    JournalPsychology of Music
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


    • musical composition
    • assessment
    • collaboration
    • optimal experience
    • educational psychology


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