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Imagery and the composition of music: an insight into an original compositional method inspired by mental imagery

Lopez Jorge, M. (2016). Imagery and the composition of music: an insight into an original compositional method inspired by mental imagery. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance)


This thesis presents a body of eight original musical compositions inspired by the phenomenology of mental imagery, together with a written commentary which describes in depth the compositional process undertaken whilst composing them, defines the concept 'mental imagery' as applied to this process. and sets the concept within a broad theoretical framework which addresses cognitive sciences, the philosophy of meaning and perception, and music historiography. The study codifies a new and original methodology for music composition based on the author's personal account of mental imagery and its influence or permeation into his practice as a composer.

The written commentary is structured in two chapters. Chapter One begins with a detailed description of the author's notion of mental imagery, which arose as a natural outcome of his subjective compositional practice. Mental imagery is then compared with ideas, concepts and arguments that address extrinsic elements in music and cross-modal categories in perception. The concept of 'mental imagery' proposed by the author, and therefore the whole compositional process described, is discussed through the lens of the ecological theory of perception and the virtual representation of music, which places mental imagery squarely within contemporary accounts in the field of cognitive sciences and the philosophy of perception.A discussion on the topic of musical meaning follows, addressing arguments that define meaning as a multiform, interdisciplinary concept. Chapter One ends with an insight into music analysis research from the second half of the 20th century, leading to the statement that mental imagery might have been neglected by some music theorists in the recent past. It is argued that this is due to a prevailing epistemological framework that gave priority to formal and technical features of musical material. Chapter Two of this written commentary undertakes a deep and detailed analysis of four of the compositions presented. This analysis gives mental imagery a central role in the descriptive discourse, being sensitive to all the arguments discussed in Chapter One. The analytical style resonates with other accounts such as 'performative analysis' by Nicholas Cook (2002) and 'analog mode of discourse' by John Rahn (1979), and borrows key terms from 'vitality affects' by David Stern (1985).

The whole thesis aims to be a valuable example of compositional process inspired by an original, unique and well-described concept: mental imagery. This compositional process codifies new methods or models for compositional practice that may be disseminated to fellow composers. Moreover, the study could also inform performers, theorists and listeners, who may approach their practice in a different light through reflection on the topic of mental imagery and all the associated processes that are here described.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Lopez Jorge, Manuel Vol 1.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of Lopez Jorge, Manuel Vol 2.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
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