In the field of music cognition, mental imagery—that is, quasi-perceptual experience in the absence of the corresponding external sensory input—has mainly been studied with a focus on auditory imagery. Recent research shows, however, that other modalities such as visual mental imagery (i.e., seeing images in one’s mind’s eye) form an integral part of the experience of music listening, too. In this presentation, I will give an overview of new empirical studies on music-induced visual mental imagery, addressing some fundamental questions such as its content, function, relation to emotion, and neurophysiological correlates. The main argument is that music listening is a multimodal phenomenon which navigates other sensory modalities and provides a fruitful model to investigate the routes from perception to imagination.
Mats B. Küssner is a Lecturer in the Department of Musicology and Media Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. His research focuses on multimodal perception and mental imagery of music, emotional responses to music, and performance science. Before moving to Berlin, he was Peter Sowerby Research Associate in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music. Mats completed his PhD in Music within the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice at King’s College London, investigating embodied cross-modal mappings of sound and music. He is principal editor of the volume ‘Music and Mental Imagery’ (Routledge, 2022), has co-edited two special issues—one on Music, Emotion, and Visual Imagery (Psychomusicology, 2019) and one on Music and Shape (Empirical Musicology Review, 2013)—and is currently lead editor of a special collection on Music and Mental Imagery to be published in Music & Science in 2023. His work has received numerous awards, including the Aubrey Hickman Award of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE) and the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.