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Journal Article

The genesis of a tune in the mind: An interview study about novel involuntary musical imagery repetition


Mencke,  Iris       
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Floridou, G. A., Mencke, I., Caprini, F., & Müllensiefen, D. (2023). The genesis of a tune in the mind: An interview study about novel involuntary musical imagery repetition. Music & Science, 6. doi:10.1177/20592043231202331.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-D194-F
Musical creativity, as a cognitive process, is inherently associated with musical imagery. Several composers have claimed to have composed music based on creative ideas that emerged involuntarily in their minds in the form of musical imagery. Research on musical imagery has been growing steadily, yet studies exploring its link to creativity have been scarce. Furthermore, although reports in the musical imagery literature reveal the existence of novel involuntary musical imagery repetition (IMIR, i.e., music that comes to the mind spontaneously and repeatedly), research to date has focused on familiar IMIR. In a semistructured interview with six composers, we investigated the internal and external experience of the novel IMIR. Based on grounded theory analysis, two descriptive models emerged: the first model indicated that the intramusical features of novel IMIR were described in terms of musical, technical, and linguistic dimensions. The repetition within novel IMIR was related to functional outcomes associated with experience, and there was a sense of familiarity when experiencing novel IMIR. The occurrence of novel IMIR was more likely when individuals reported being in specific mental and physical states. Finally, the emotional valence associated with the novel IMIR was classified as mainly positive. The second model indicated a variety of methods to aid the translation of internal novel IMIR into external musical composition and a range of factors that influence the success of that translation. The findings are discussed in the context of existing literature on creativity, musical imagery, and spontaneous cognition.