Imogen Morgan

Durham University
St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh
Future Leader, Cathedral Music Trust

Presenter Profile

Imogen is the Assistant Master of the Music at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, a position she has held since August 2021. In this role, she accompanies the choir for their daily services, helps train the choristers, and assists with the Cathedral’s outreach and recruitment projects. She has also broadcasted as a soloist and accompanist live on BBC Radio 3 and recorded for Delphian Records. Imogen is a prize-winning Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and was a finalist in the 2020 Northern Ireland International Organ Competition. Imogen released her first solo album, ‘The Organ Works of Robin Milford’, with Priory Records in 2023 to critical acclaim; an album which included several premiere recordings. She is increasingly in demand as a solo recitalist; recent concerts include St Giles’, Glasgow, and Wells Cathedrals, Leeds Town Hall, and St Paul’s Cathedral as part of the Orgelbüchlein Project. Alongside her duties at St Mary’s, Imogen is a founding member of the Cathedral Music Trust’s Future Leaders, Events Officer for the Society of Women Organists, and teaches organ at St Mary’s Music School. Imogen is a postgraduate research student at Durham University specialising in the intersection of music psychology and theology, having completed her undergraduate degree with First Class Honours and had two papers published in the University’s peer-reviewed Music and Science Journal. While an undergraduate, she was the Senior Organ Scholar of Durham Cathedral and University College, the latter with whom she recorded Duruflé’s Requiem for Priory Records.

I Heard a Voice from Heaven:

The impact of religious melodic themes in instrumental music on the visual mental imagery experienced by a listener

While music listening is ultimately subjective, there can be topical convergence in the visual mental images (VMI) experienced by listeners within the same underlying culture (Margulis, 2017; Margulis et al. 2022, Morgan, 2020). Music is a central part of many religious practices but there have been no studies investigating the impact of listening to religious music on listeners’ VMI. We investigated if the use of a religious melody could trigger religious VMI, and if the frequency of these images changed if contextual information about the religious nature of the music was provided. Participants listened to 4 organ and 4 orchestral extracts. Half were based on a religious melody (hymn tune or plainsong), each of which had a matched non-religious extract. Participants (N = 55, Mage = 46.22 years) heard these 60-second excerpts and wrote down any VMI that occurred. Participant religiosity was also collected via the Religious Orientation Test. Half of the participants received general contextual information which notified participants of any religious melodies the extract used (when applicable). Written responses showed clear topical convergence for religious imagery in response to extracts that used a religious melody. A positive relationship was found between the use of a religious melody and religious VMI frequency. The frequency of religious VMI was not correlated with participant religiosity or recognition of the religious melody. While the group given contextual information did, on average, report more religious VMI, this relationship was not statistically significant. These results suggest that music which uses a religious melody can trigger religious VMI independent of the listener’s religiosity or recognition of the melody used. This has practical implications for the use of music in worship and new compositions, and for further research into how musical features and cultural associations interactively shape music-evoked VMI.

References: Margulis, E. H. (2017). An Exploratory Study of Narrative Experiences of Music. Music Perception, 35(2), 235-248. Margulis et al. (2022). Narratives imagined in response to instrumental music reveal culture-bounded intersubjectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(4). Morgan, I. (2020). Music Communication: Exploring the Relationship Between Native Language, Emotion and Visual Mental Imagery in Shared Group Experiences. Durham Undergraduate Research in Music and Science 3, 88-94.

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