While the concept of imagining music is well established, the term auralisation has not been previously used to describe the process. Although auralisation was a key compositional tool for composers throughout history, technological advances have resulted in software which can notate and play back a version of the score. Consequently, there is a strong possibility that auralisation is becoming considerably less important as a composition tool; however, it is still an important compositional technique. This research project aimed to establish the extent to which contemporary composers auralise, and to investigate potential functional relationships between auralisation and musical experience.

Research was carried out through a correlational statistical survey in the form of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was divided into three parts: demographic and general questions, compositional tool questions, and auralisation specific questions. Compositional tools were assessed via six 1-to-5 rating questions, from which the percentage importance of any one tool in a respondent’s compositional process could be calculated. This was distributed online to HE institutions with composition departments throughout the UK.

Auralisation was found to play an important role in the contemporary composition process. Its importance was found, in general, to increase with age, higher educational attainment, use of improvisation and participation in music with an aural tradition. Increased importance in the use of auralisation, the piano, and manuscript paper as compositional tools resulted in the decrease in importance of music notation software (MNS) and sequencing software; however, auralisation was still found to be important by users of MNS packages. Finally, with increased auralisation levels, it was found that auralisation was used in more extra-compositional processes, such as rehearsing and performing compositions.

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