The Genesis of a Tune in the Mind: An Interview Study About Novel Involuntary Musical Imagery Repetition

Floridou, Georgia A.; Mencke, Iris; Caprini, Francesco and Müllensiefen, Daniel. 2023. The Genesis of a Tune in the Mind: An Interview Study About Novel Involuntary Musical Imagery Repetition. Music & Science, ISSN 2059-2043 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

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.

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Funding: The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: GAF was funded through the Program “Scholarships Following Individualized Evaluation, 2012–2014” of the Greek State Scholarships Foundation, from resources of the Operational Program “Education and Lifelong Learning” of the European Social Fund and the National Strategic Reference Framework, 2007–2013.

Data Access Statement:

Owing to the sensitive nature of the data, information created or analyzed during the current study is available from the corresponding author (Dr. Georgia A. Floridou, on reasonable request to bona fide researchers.


Composers, creativity, earworms, musical imagery, novel involuntary musical imagery repetition

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3 September 2023Accepted
9 October 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

13 Dec 2023 14:19

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13 Dec 2023 14:19

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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