The Creative Dimension of the Music Listening Experience
The main purpose of this study was to develop and articulate a theory of creative music listening. The creative dimension of music listening was examined through an analysis of pertinent literature mainly from the fields of cognition, philosophy, and creativity. Support was also found in the writings of composers who have discussed music and music making, and from theorists who take a cognitive approach to music theory.
The primary argument against the creativity of music listening involves the lack of an observable product. Therefore, cognition literature portraying perception as constructive and mental imagery as the product of constructive activity was reviewed, as was creativity literature acknowledging intangible mental representations as products of creativity. Another key issue was the extent to which listeners can exercise control in perception, making choices which affect or even determine the organization and form of percepts. Thus, care was taken to gather support for the notion that the listener can strategically control music perception.
The theory was developed in three stages, first, identifying music listening as “making,” with a dynamic mental model as its product. Then the mental model was identified as music, with the result that music listening can be considered a form of music making. Finally, consistent with the criteria for creative production as portrayed in the creativity literature, listening was described as a potentially creative form of music making. A model was then proposed, based on previous models of creative thinking, and showing the relationships between enabling skills and conditions, divergent and convergent modes of thinking, and identifiable stages in the creative music listening process. Suggestions and recommendations were made for empirical investigation of creative listening, building on the theoretical framework provided by the current findings.