The Sound Stage of the Mind:Imagined Sounds and Inner Voices

Mentally imagining voices and sounds in the “mind’s ear” is as much a part of experience as visualizing in the “mind’s eye.” The vividness of sounds in the imagination varies between individuals but nearly everyone reports spontaneous sound and being able to conjure sounds intentionally. Imagining vocals and other sound has a role in planning even at very short time scales and this discussion is motivated by investigations of musical performance. Reading ahead or thinking ahead in sound can be a conscious part of playing or singing. When the next part of a passage is in the mind quasi-acoustically, is there something to be said about the presentation itself. Investigations of auditory imagery have shown the existence ofquasi-loudness and quasi-timbre dimensions behaviorally and neuroimaging has shown different patterns of activation for sounds as perceived versus sounds as imagined. Phenomenologists have investigated the acts and objects of imagination itself and some see it constituted of differentiable modes. A very informal survey was circulated to a large number of subjects via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk partly to see if this platform might be useful for obtaining self-reports. If so, it could be one method by which large numbers of “arm chair” introspectors can be tapped for phenomenological agreement. In this initial attempt, inner voice provided a common reference for comparisons of loudness, location, and sound quality.

Chris Chafe is a composer, improvisor and cellist, developing much of his music alongside computer-based research. He is Director of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). At IRCAM (Paris)and The Banff Centre (Alberta), he pursued methods for digital synthesis, music performance and real-time internet collaboration. CCRMA’s SoundWIRE project involves live concertizing with musicians the world over. Online collaboration software including jacktrip and research into latency factors continue to evolve. An active performer either on the net or physically present, his music reaches audiences in dozens of countries and sometimes at novel venues. A simultaneous five-country concert was hosted at the United Nations in 2009. Chafe’s works are available from Centaur Records and various online media. Gallery and museum music installations are into their second decade with “musifications” resulting from collaborations with artists, scientists and MD’s.