Making a mark The psychology of composition

Jonathan Impett

in Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298457
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Making a mark The psychology of composition

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  • Cognitive Psychology



This article discusses the psychology of composition. Composition is a reflexive, iterative process of inscription. The work, once named as such and externalizable to some degree, passes circularly between inner and outer states. It passes through internal and external representations – mostly partial or compressed, some projected in mental rather than physical space, not all necessarily conscious or observable – and phenomenological experience, real or imagined. At each state-change the work is re-mediated by the composer, whose decision-making process is conditioned by the full complexity of human experience. This entire activity informs the simultaneous development of the composer's understanding of the particular work in its autonomy, of their own creativity, and of music more broadly. While the urge to compose – to invent, structure, and define sound and musical behaviour – may be to some degree innate, modes of conceiving, representing, and realizing are the product of a situated process. Even if some or all of that activity is so well assimilated personally or culturally that it remains hidden from experimental view, it remains a behaviour in respect of an emerging object.

Keywords: music psychology; composition; inscription process; representations; composers

Article.  6120 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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