On the Sensorial of Imagination

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Coessens, Kathleen
Tomlinson, Vanessa
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Coessens, Kathleen

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The senses appear on the boundary between the inside and the outside of human experience. They are like an open door through which light, impres-sions, and air enter, are exchanged, and merge with the light, impressions, and air that were there before, exchanging inner and outer. While perception and sensoriality appear to be experiences that happen in real time, the sensorial can and most of the time does inhabit imagination in very precise ways. Sensorial imagination is related to human experience, to sensorial remembrance, and is based on sensorial knowledge. It happens in the present, is sustained by the sensorial knowledge of the past, and projects itself by way of sensorially driven expectations towards the future. Our sensorial imagination leads our interpret-ations, expectations, and actions. Offering background information as well as projecting expectation, it is an important cue for understanding the world, for creating synaesthetic associations, and for making connections between our experience and knowledge and those of others. Sensorial imagination has for a long time been linked mainly to vis-ual imagination. The word imagination even contains a visual reference to “image.” However, not all our experiences are related to the visual. Just start to think about everyday experiences like the wind, water, a dark country path, a hidden heap of rubbish: all these experiences are sensorial in different modal-ities: haptic, olfactive, auditory, motoric. In the context of art, and specifically music, this multi-sensory presence—involving a synaesthetic approach—is of uttermost importance. A musician sees a score, hears the music, has a haptic and motoric sense of how to interact with both, and can anticipate this in an imaginary multi-sensorial mode.

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Sensorial Aesthetics in Music Practices

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© Universitaire Pers Leuven/Leuven University Press, 2019. This material has been published as Coessens, K. & Tomlinson, V. (2019), On the Sensorial of Imagination, in K. Coessens (Ed.) Sensorial Aesthetics in Music Practices (pp. 169-181).

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Performing Arts and Creative Writing


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Coessens, K; Tomlinson, V, On the Sensorial of Imagination, Sensorial Aesthetics in Music Practices, 2019, pp. 169-181