Inner Voices, Inner Music: The Phenomenology of Auditory Verbal and Musical Hallucinations
A two-day Hearing the Voice workshop               

Holgate Conference Centre
Grey College, Durham University

“Voice-hearing”, or auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs), refers to the experience of hearing a voice or voice-like sound in the absence of an external stimulus. AVHs are reported by individuals with a range of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder; however, they are also routinely experienced by so-called nonpathological populations as well. Similarly, musical hallucinations are anomalous auditory experiences of hearing music in the absence of an external musical stimulus. Musical hallucinations (MHs) have been associated with old age, progressive deafness, tinnitus, dementia, depression, and various psychiatric disorders—although, as with AVHs, they are also routinely found to occur spontaneously in the general population. Although AVHs and MHs can occur independently of one another, their co-occurrence (e.g., in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, or artists such as Robert Schumann and Brian Wilson) is not uncommon.

Hosted by Hearing the Voice, this workshop will be an interdisciplinary investigation into the phenomenology of AVHs and MHs. It will bring together individuals working in various disciplines, including musicology, literary studies, philosophy, psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience. The objectives of the workshop will be to work toward a more refined understanding of the lived experience of AVHs and MHs, to discuss methodological issues involved in their investigation, and to indicate future lines of research.

Confirmed speakers include Ben Alderson-Day (Psychology, Durham University), Chris Chafe (Music, Stanford University), Diana Deutsch (Psychology, UC San Diego), Tuomas Eerola (Music, Durham University), Martyn Evans (Medical Humanities, Durham University), Charles Fernyhough (Psychology, Durham University), James Kennaway (Medical History, Newcastle University), Sukhbinder Kumar (Neuroscience, Newcastle University), Edward Wickham (The Clerks), Victoria Williamson (Medical Humanities, Sheffield University), and Jonathan Berger (Music, Stanford).

Questions to be considered include (but are not limited to):

  • Do AVHs and MHs always, sometimes, or never have the same features of veridical auditory experience?
  • Do these features remain constant in pathological vs. non-pathological contexts?
  • In what ways might more careful and nuanced first-person descriptions of AVHs and MHs guide the discovery of data at the neurophysiological level?
  • Conversely, how, if at all, might neurological findings inform the study of the first-person phenomenology of AVHS and MHs?
  • How might the social and historical context shape the way that AVHs and MHs are experienced and interpreted?
  • What are the therapeutic implications of a broader, contextually-sensitive perspective on AVHs and MHs?

The workshop will have a research-intensive format, structured to allow for maximum discussion and interaction. It will consist of invited presentations, commentaries, and musical performances—supplemented with ample coffee breaks and social time to facilitate further engagement.

For more information, please download the ‘Inner Voices, Inner Music’ workshop programme

Registration: This workshop is aimed at academics with an interest in the latest research into hallucinations and other unusual experiences, musicians and musicologists, as well as clinicians, mental health professionals, and people who have or work with people who have personal experience of auditory verbal or musical hallucinations. Places are limited and registration for the workshop is essential.  In order to register, please complete our online registration form by Friday 5 September 2014.  Registration is free, and includes lunch on both days of the conference, but please note that delegates are responsible for their own travel and/or accommodation costs.  Full details of accommodation and information about how to register can be found here.


laurie mirous · November 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I hear music constantly. Lyrics to songs go on in my head all the time and I have no control over them I was diagnosed bipolar at age 18. Ten years ago my doctor decided to give me a vacation from all drugs. That’s when the music started. I was hearing Old Mcdonald and I was singing along with it. When I told my doctor he put me on Zyprexa. This took the music away. However, the side effects were so bad that I had to stop taking it. I have a new doctor that put me on Clozaril. It seems to help. However my depression has been so bad that he put me on ritalin. That made the songs very intense. I read some things about OCD and musical hallucinations. I wonder if this is OCD or a manifestation of my bipolar.

    mdiclhumanities · November 15, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experiences. Our colleagues in the Hearing the Voice project are currently conducting a study looking at people’s experience of inner music and of musical hallucinations. If you would be interested in participating (it involves simply answering a few questions in an online questionnaire) the link is here

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