Previous Seminars

Workshop: Music as Social Innovation Showcase Event

Date: 25 January 2019

Time: 11am – 1pm

Location: Erskine Music and Media Studio, Bargarran Shopping Centre, Bargarran Road, Erskine, PA8 6BS

Short talks, discussion and a live performance by service users based on the project workshops.  Music as Social Innovation is a new collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Limelight Music, whose work primarily centres on creating employment opportunities through music for disabled musicians. This current partnership provides access to innovative music activities for disadvantaged groups to create a catalyst for change. The project is also focused on assessing the social impact of this work and is funded by the Scottish Government Social Innovation Fund.

For further information about the project please see our website


Title: The Spur of the Moment: A Live Exploration of Jazz Improvisation

Speakers: Steve Torrance & Frank Schumann

Date/Time: Wednesday 7th November 2018, 16:30 – 18:00

Location: Lecture Room B, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh. EH8 9DF


Improvisation is ubiquitous in life. It deserves, we suggest, to occupy a more central role in cognitive science. In the current paper, we take the case of jazz improvisation as a rich model domain from which to explore the nature of improvisation and expertise more generally. We explore the activity of the jazz improviser against the theoretical backdrop of Dreyfus’s account of expertise as well as of enactivist and 4E accounts of cognition and action. We argue that enactivist and 4E accounts provide a rich source of insights on improvisation that go beyond Dreyfus’s notion of skilled coping, for example, through the central enactivist notion of sense-making. At the same time, however, we see improvisation also as suggesting an extension of enactivist theory. We see expert improvisers, in music and in life, as walking on a path of open-ended expansion of their mindful experiential relation with their doing. At the heart of an improviser’s expertise (and of day-to-day living), we propose, lies a form of higher-level inner sense-making that spontaneously creates novel forms of agentive goal-directedness in the moment. Our account thus supplants Dreyfus’s idea of the ego-less absorbed expert by that of a mindful (i.e. present in the moment) improviser enacting spontaneous expressions of herself, in music or in life.

Speaker: Daniela Sammler

Date/Time: Wednesday 16th May 2018, 2.30-3.30pm

Location: Lecture Room B, Alison House

Title: Musical Action Planning in Expert Pianists


Over the past 20 years, research on the neurocognition of music has gained a lot of insights into how the brain perceives music. Yet, our knowledge about the neural mechanisms of music production remains sparse. One aspect that has been studied particularly well in perception is musical syntax, i.e. the processing of harmonic rules in the auditory signal. The present talk will demonstrate that the notion of syntax not only applies to the auditory modality but transfers – in trained musicians – to a “grammar of musical action”. I will present a series of neuroimaging experiments that show (i) that the performance of musicians is guided by their music-syntactic knowledge – irrespective of sounds, (ii) that syntax takes priority over the selection of finger movements during piano performance, (iii) that training style (classical vs. Jazz) has an impact on syntactic motor planning, and (iv) that syntax perception and production in music overlap partly – but not fully – in the musician’s brain. Altogether, these results show how strongly musicians rely on syntax as a scaffolding that facilitates their performance and enables them to achieve the motoric proficiency that is required on stage.

Speaker: Matt Peacock

Date/Time: Wednesday 31st January 2018, 2-4pm

Location: St Cecilia’s Hall, Niddry Street, Edinburgh

Title: Can the arts change the world? An overview of arts and social action globally with a focus on arts and homelessness


Reid School of Music graduate (1995) Matt Peacock MBA will discuss how arts projects can make a difference to the lives of people facing homelessness and other disadvantages, from Japan to Rwanda. This workshop will cover: why projects exist and how they work; working in this field as a career and social arts leadership; core values of arts participation with vulnerable adults; setting aims, measuring impacts, fundraising, building a strategic plan, advocacy, planning a project and exit planning.


Matt is a former homeless support working, opera critic, Clore Leadership Fellow and Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund recipient. He is one of 30 social activists profiled in Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s book Britain’s Everyday Heroes; was one of the Evening Standard’s Most Influential Londoners in 2013 and a Southbank Centre 2016 ‘Change Maker’. He is a Trustee of the arts and kindness charity People United and was awarded an MBE for services to music and homelessness in 2011 by the Queen.

All Welcome!

This is an ECA Alumni Micro-Residency Workshop

Speaker: Dr Guro Gravem Johansen

Date/Time: Tuesday 5th December 2017, 4pm

Location: Lecture Room A, Alison House

Title: Challenging epistemic culture in music education: What research on jazz, improvisation and popular music can teach us about teaching and learning music.


Understandings of teaching and learning rest on our understandings of what it is that we teach or learn. Much of research in music education in the Western world is situated within Western classical music, often with the implicit assumption that this specific music tradition carries universal features. Thus, the norms, values, procedures, and social configurations of teaching and learning have, only to a limited degree, been contextualized in music education research. Instead, such features have often remained tacit and taken-for-granted, rendering the knowledge culture associated with Western classical music in a hegemonic position by its claim of universality. Recently, research on teaching and learning in jazz, improvisation, and popular music has, by showing differences in cultural values and conventions between genres, challenged this hegemony and provided new understandings of teaching and learning. However, when we identify features of genre-specific knowledge cultures, we may still run the risk of presenting these as given and untouchable, and thereby creating new ‘universals’ and epistemic hegemonies.

Drawing on different theoretical frameworks such as the German-Nordic Musikdidaktik tradition and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, Johansen will in this lecture discuss dimensions of the problem area outlined above through three examples from her own research: instrumental practising on improvisation; a development project at the Norwegian Academy of Music on exploring practising across genres; and a study on children learning jazz improvisation from the beginning phases of learning to play an instrument.


Guro Gravem Johansen is a jazz vocalist and Associate Professor of Music Education at the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH, Oslo), where she teaches courses in music education, jazz teaching methods, jazz aural training, and jazz vocal ensemble, as well as supervising postgraduate students. She holds a PhD on instrumental practising on improvisation. Johansen’s research interests are the teaching and learning of jazz improvisation, music perception and improvisation, and music and gender, and she has published several research articles and textbook chapters in the field. Currently, she is engaged as project leader for development projects in Centre for Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE), at NMH. In these projects teachers and students explore approaches to instrumental practicing and improvisation, respectively, across musical genre. Johansen is further an active member of the International Society of Music Education (ISME), and represents Norway in the INA Council (ISME National Affiliation). As jazz vocalist she contributes on several Norwegian CD recordings, such as with Søyr, Østerdalsmusikk, Elin Rosseland, and her own jazz quartet Crazy Moon.


Speaker: Dr Georgia Pike

Date/Time: Thursday 4th May 2017, 4pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House

Title: Sharing Their Voiceless Song: music outreach with non-verbal children living with disabilities, within a citywide music program designed to enhance individual and community potential.


This seminar will outline the philosophy, practice and research of the Music Engagement Program, convened by Georgia Pike at the Australian National University, and provide detail about the implementation and outcomes of one of the Program’s projects at a specialist school for children living with disabilities.
The Music Engagement Program is housed within Australia’s premier research-intensive university, funded by the local Australian Capital Territory Government. It therefore has a dual role: to provide free teacher training, resources, outreach, events and on-the-ground support for schools and communities across the Canberra region; and develop research outcomes of relevance to the University’s national and international audiences. Nonetheless the aim of the program is strongly focused on practical, real-world interventions: specifically, to provide a model of cheap, effective, self-sustaining music making that encourages empathy and establishes meaningful links between disparate elements of the community.  While having a small staff comprising two full-time academics and one full-time administrative position, the program reached approximately 10,000 children in 2016. 
In one longitudinal project, Georgia Pike has been working intensively with Cranleigh School, a primary school for children with disabilities. The project is now in its third year, and involves weekly interactive music sessions facilitated collaboratively with students and teachers.  The seminar will explore the narrative of non-verbal children at Cranleigh School who are finding a ‘voice’ through interacting musically with their teachers and families.  The issues are discussed from the perspective of the teachers and parents who are learning to ‘hear’ what the children are expressing through the music making sessions, as well as that of the individual children as they develop their ability to communicate and to give outwardly to those they care about.  New ways to communicate develop in different ways for each child, including physical and gestural communication, and in some cases vocalisation and eventual singing. An interdisciplinary qualitative approach was used to explore the narratives of each child, including photographs, film, stories from parents and teachers, and reflections from researcher-participants.  The narratives emerging from each non-verbal child indicates vibrant inner lives beginning to find expression in the outside world.  
Georgia Pike is the Convenor of the Music Engagement Program at the Australian National University.  Her association with music and wellbeing programs date from her early childhood, and after a year in New York studying voice under the tutelage of Claire Alexander (former voice coach to Frank Sinatra) and studying music outreach for wellbeing at the Institute of Music and Health, she completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Law and Classics at the ANU, followed by a Graduate Diploma of Education through Monash University. Her doctoral thesis, also at ANU and submitted mid-2016, involved a transdisciplinary approach to framing the problems of music education, to promote re-engagement and reform in the school system and community.   Georgia’s research is practice led and historically informed, focussing on the reduction and prevention of performance anxiety and disengagement in music making.  She engages in collaborative research with teenagers, individuals with disabilities, and young performers in order to use their skills and abilities for the wellbeing of the community.  She is also currently exploring the application of the Program in migrant English centres and multi-lingual schools.  Most recently, the Governor General of Australia presented Georgia with a Children’s Week Award in 2016 for her work at Cranleigh School for children with disabilities.

Speaker: Dr Laurel Parsons

Date/Time: Wednesday 3rd May 2017, 4pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House

Title: Do Our Teaching Practices Enable or Disable Musicianship? Learning from the Experiences of Post-Secondary Music Students with Dyslexia


Post-secondary music students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities are what some special education researchers call “twice-exceptional”: gifted in one respect, but impaired in another. For these students, musicianship tests such as sight-singing or melodic transcription that demand rapid processing of music notation may pose an overwhelming challenge—one that can have a profound impact on their sense of identity as musicians. For instructors, the experiences of these students provide an opportunity to reflect on whether our pedagogical practices are enabling or disabling their skills development. More fundamentally, what messages do we send through these practices about what “musicianship” is, and what it means to “be a musician,” not just inside our institutional bubbles, but in the world? Participants are invited to bring a small mirror.


Dr. Laurel Parsons is a music theorist and award-winning instructor based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her teaching appointments have included the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, Queen’s University, and the University of Oregon. She began tutoring university opera majors with dyslexia and other learning differences in 2008, and collaborated on an interdisciplinary research project at the University of British Columbia exploring the experiences of opera students with learning disabilities. Her article “Dyslexia and Post-Secondary Aural Skills Instruction” is published in Music Theory Online (2015). Dr. Parsons is also co-editor, with Brenda Ravenscroft, of Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers (Oxford University Press, 2016), a four-volume multi-author collection providing detailed studies of compositions by women from Hildegard to the present.

Speaker: Prof David Hargreaves

Date/Time: Wednesday 8th March 2017, 5.10pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House

Title: The Psychology of Musical Development – 30 Years On


I shall reflect upon some of the changes that have taken place since the publication of my book The Developmental Psychology of Music (CUP, 1986), which has recently been completely rethought and reworked by Alexandra Lamont and I (Hargreaves and Lamont, 2017). I will review some of the changes that have taken place in music itself, and in the ways in which people engage with it; in developmental psychology and education more generally; and in music psychology. I will then go on to identify 10 theoretical models of musical development, and outline 5 key theoretical issues on which they might be assessed. Three approaches seem to have particular potential for success in the future, namely social cognitive models which focus on the self and identity; approaches based on music theory; and neuroscientific research. What might this field look like 30 more years on in 2047, the year of my 99th birthday?


David Hargreaves is Professor of Education and Froebel Research Fellow, and has previously held posts in the Schools of Psychology and Education at the Universities of Leicester, Durham and the Open University. He is also Visiting Professor of Research in Music Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Adjunct Professor at Curtin University, Perth, Australia. He is a Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He was Editor of Psychology of Music 1989-96, Chair of the Research Commission of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) 1994-6, and is currently on the editorial boards of 10 journals in psychology, music and education. In recent years he has spoken about his research at conferences and meetings in various countries on all 5 continents. He has been keynote speaker at the Annual Conference of the BPS, and gave a TEDX 2011 Warwick.  He has appeared on BBC TV and radio as a jazz pianist and composer, and is organist in the East Cambridgeshire Methodist church circuit. In 2004 he was awarded an honorary D.Phil, Doctor Honoris Causa, by the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts in the University of Gothenburg, Sweden in recognition of his ‘most important contribution towards the creation of a research department of music education’ in the School of Music and Music Education in that University.

Speaker: Dr Alistair Isaac

Date/Time: Friday 2nd December, 4pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House

Title: Musical Practice as a Philosophy Experiment: The Case of Timbre


Timbre is that quality of a sound which distinguishes it other than its pitch and volume.  Philosophers and psychologists have tried to determine (i) which timbre categories we can perceive; and (ii) how these categories relate to each other.  I argue that practices of music composition (especially but not exclusively those of electronic music) implicitly endorse philosophical / psychological theories about timbre perception.  As such, the “success” of these compositions (in achieving the desired musical effect on the audience) can be understood as a kind of natural experiment, providing evidence about the particular theories of timbre perception they presuppose.


Alistair Isaac received his PhD from Stanford in 2010, and has been a lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh since 2013, following postdoctoral fellowships at Michigan and Penn.  His research is primarily in the Philosophy of Psychology, and he is especially interested in how the science of perception can inform philosophical questions about the phenomenology and epistemology of perceptual experience.  His interest in auditory experience dates to a previous life composing electronic music, and his current research aims to combine considerations from music synthesis and composition with those from the philosophy and psychophysics of sound.

Speaker: Ewa Wanat

Date/Time: Friday 11th November 2016, 4pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House

Title: The role of tapping in improving connected speech comprehension of a non-native variety of English


Comprehension of Glaswegian English is known to present difficulties for speakers of other varieties of English (Adank et al., 2009; Smith et al., 2014). In connected speech, weak syllables get particularly reduced, which increases the chances of miscomprehension even further. This study investigates whether connected speech comprehension in speakers of a non-native variety of English can be improved if subjects are involved in performing a tapping task while listening to rhythmic speech. Tapping, or engaging in motor a synchronised motor task while listening to an external stimulus can be a means to entrainment with speech (Lidji et al 2011). Here, so called ‘attending rhythms’, (internal oscillations), (Large & Jones 1999) are coupled with an external speech stimulus, and they create an expectation as to what happens next (Jones and Boltz 1989).

The experiment conducted for the present study seeks to answer the question whether entrainment can lead to a better speech comprehension. The experiment had three phases: pre-test, exposure and post-test. One male Glaswegian English speaker provided the stimuli. The subjects were 60 speakers of Canadian English living in Montreal, who were divided into two groups – experimental and control group. The task was identical for everyone except for the experimental group being asked to tap to the beat the perceived in speech and the control group to listen to the speech only. The stimuli for all three phases were designed so that they followed the rhythmic pattern of 2x weak – 1x strong – 2x weak – 1x strong – 2x weak – 1x strong syllable, e.g.: So I came for a show of a friend. In pre- and post-test, the participants were asked to fill in gaps in those sentences with the words they heard. The gaps were the target weak syllables, e.g. So I came _ _ show _ _ friend. The target words were function words and the sentences were designed so that they could be filled in by either of the semantically possible pairs (e.g. So I came for/from a/her/the show of/with the/ her/a friend.). The function words/reduced morphemes used in this study were determiners (a vs her vs the), prepositions (for vs from, of vs with, in vs on), and the participle ending – ing vs –en in such words as take, give, eat (e.g. taking vs taken). The results of the experiment showed a trend for improvement from pre- to post-test in both groups, and no difference between the groups, i.e. training involving tapping did not improve listeners’ comprehension more than control training involving click identification. However, musical ability had a positive effect on the listeners comprehension of function words and it was also weakly linked to improvement in comprehension from pre- to post- test. As well as this, the results showed that those subjects who tapped more regularly in the tapping condition, tended to have higher comprehension scores.


Speaker: Professor Bob Ladd

Date/Time: Friday 18th November 2016, 4 pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House

Title: Singing in tone languages: From mystery to research question(s)


Singing in tone languages, a perennial source of mystery to speakers of non-tonal languages, has been the subject of a good deal of research since the turn of the century.  This research shows that the solution to respecting both the linguistic (tonal) and musical functions of pitch crucially involves text-setting constraints.  Specifically, in most of the dozen or more Asian and African tone languages where the question has been studied, the most important principle in maintaining the intelligibility of song texts seems to be the avoidance of what we might (hijacking a term from music theory) call “contrary motion”: musical pitch movement up or down from one syllable to the next should not be the opposite of the linguistically specified pitch direction.  I will review some of the empirical evidence for the basic constraint from recent research, and will discuss differences between languages and musical genres in such things as how strictly the constraint is observed. I will also briefly consider two more general issues: (1) how tonal text-setting might be incorporated into a general theory that includes traditional European metrics, and (2) what (if anything) the avoidance of contrary motion tells us about the phonological essence of tonal contrasts.

Title: Communicative Musicality and Musical Meaning in Early Childhood

Date: 29th June 2016

Time: 2pm to 5pm

Location: First Floor Meeting Room, The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities
Hope Park Square, Edinburgh EH8 9NW. UKTel: +44 (0)131 650 4671
The event comprised of short presentations by the following people: 
Lori A. Custodero, Associate Professor and Program Director, Music and Music Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, USA (Developing instrumental skill through shared musical experiences with friends and family)
Claudia Cali‘, Ed. D. Music and Music Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, USA (Musical bonding in middle childhood families)
Claudia Gluschankof, Early Childhood Studies, Faculty of Education, Levinsky College of Education, Tel Aviv, Israel (Preschool children’s choreographies in free play, sharing the pulse and expressive gestures)
Meryl Sole, Lecturer, College: Arts & Sciences, Dept: Division of Performing Arts, University of Newhaven, Newhaven, USA (Toddlers’ songs, remembered and created with parents and recalled in the crib)
Ana Almeida, Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh (Playing with the beat: embodied musical experiences in early childhood)
Colwyn Trevarthen, Professor (Emeritus) of Child Psychology and Psychobiology, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh (Musical companionship and story-telling from infancy)

The presentations were followed by a free discussion, which welcoming contributions from all present, about development of music creativity and skills from toddlers to ten-year-olds, and co-constructions of musical narrations in families and peer groups, and with teachers.

Speakers: Thursa Sanderson OBE and Clare Johnston

Title: Drake Music Scotland

Date: 10th May 2016

Time: 14:00 – 16:00

Location: Atrium, Alison House, Reid School of Music

In this seminar, Drake Music Scotland gave a fascinating insight into their work with disabled musicians, including the use of Figurenotes, an alternative notation system that uses colour to make it more accessible. The event was jointly hosted by Disability Research Scotland and the IMHSD.

From left to right: George Low, Thursa Sanderson and Clare Johnston

From left to right: George Low, Thursa Sanderson and Clare Johnston

Speaker: Dr Donald Glowinski

Title: Automatic behavioural analysis of expressive performance movements

Date: Monday 7th March

Time: 13.15-14.00

Location: Lecture Room B, Alison House, Reid School of Music

Dr Donald Glowinski (Neuroscience of Emotion and Affective Dynamics Lab, University of Geneva) studies the behavioural and brain bases of human interaction in musical contexts.  He was research fellow at Casa Paganini – InfoMus Intl Research Centre, University of Genoa from 2009 to 2013, and was a contributing developer on the EyesWeb open platform which supports the design and development of real-time multimodal systems and interfaces.

Speaker: Prof Stefan Koelsch, Bergen University, Norway

Title: The Psychology of Music: a state of the art overview

Date: 9th February 2016

Time: 5.15pm

Location: Room F21, Department of Psychology

This talk introduced basic concepts of musical syntax (e.g. with regard to the processing of local and non-local dependencies), musical meaning (or “musical semantics”) and associations between musical syntax and musical meaning on the one hand, as well as emotion and action on the other. Neurophysiological data, obtained with EEG or fMRI were also presented.

Speaker: Matt Peacock, Streetwise Opera

Title: Streetwise Opera – using music to improve well being and social inclusion for people who have experienced homelessness

Date: 11th February 2016

Time: 5.15pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House, Music

An alumnus of Music at the University of Edinburgh, Matt Peacock founded Streetwise Opera in 2002, a charity that uses music to help people who have experienced homelessness make positive changes in their lives. Streetwise runs an award-winning music programme in five cities across England every week with more than five hundred people each year. The company’s opera productions seek to be of equal artistic and social merit, focusing on the achievements of the performers not their needs; every production has received four- and five-star reviews in the national press. Streetwise’s international programme, With One Voice, seeks to help build the capacity of the international arts and homelessness sector through exchanges between projects across different countries. Matt is a former homeless support worker, opera critic, Clore Leadership Fellow, and Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund recipient. He is one of thirty social activists profiled in Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s book Britain’s Everyday Heroes and was one of the Evening Standard’s Most Influential Londoners in 2013. He was awarded an MBE for services to music and homelessness in 2011 by the Queen and is a Trustee of the arts and kindness charity, People United.

Speaker: Prof Angela Fawcett, Professor Emeritus, Swansea University, UK

Title: Procedural learning, dyslexia and music

Date: 2nd February 2016

Time: 4pm

Location: Atrium, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh


In this talk I shall outline our specific procedural learning deficit (Nicolson and Fawcett, 2007) theory of dyslexia, at the neural systems level.  We propose that dyslexic children and adults have specific difficulty in procedural learning, that is learning how to do things, but their declarative learning or memory for facts is unimpaired. These problems show up most strongly in literacy, where automaticity in phonological skills is a key requirement and the framework can explain co-morbidity in the developmental disorders in terms of the areas affected.  We have identified a key problem with consolidation of skills, and here I shall explore the potential role of music and rhythm in addressing some of these issues.


Angela Fawcett is a leading international researcher into dyslexia, with a range of theoretical and applied contributions. Her approach is broad and interdisciplinary ranging from child and cognitive development to educational screening and intervention, and developmental cognitive neuroscience. Following experience of dyslexia in her family, Angela was a mature entrant to academia, and has a BA and PhD in Psychology from the University of Sheffield.  Her research into dyslexia with Professor Rod Nicolson has influenced both theory and practice, and produced 3 major theories of dyslexia. She has published 8 normed tests, which are the best selling screening tests for dyslexia, and have been translated into many languages.  Angela has written 1 co-authored book, 4 edited books, over 100 refereed articles and book contributions, together with over 250 conference presentations, including keynote speeches at many international conferences on dyslexia. Angela is Vice President of the British Dyslexia Association, former editor of Dyslexia: an International Journal of Research and Practice, and chaired the 2004 British Dyslexia Association International Conference.  She is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the International Academy for research in learning difficulties, and a Chartered Scientist. Angela was formerly chair of the Centre for Child Research at Swansea University and is currently academic advisor to the Dyslexia association of Singapore.

Title: Improvisation in music and life: Towards an interdisciplinary account

Speaker: Dr Adam Linson, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Date: 6th May 2015

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


In this talk, I aim to give a general account of improvisational interaction that integrates biological, psychological, social and cultural perspectives. To this end, I draw on theories of ecological psychology, situated activity and distributed cognition, in part, to address the roles of perception, action and attention. I will also offer some preliminary indications as to how my account aligns with hierarchical predictive processing models. In contrast to prevailing views of improvisation, my approach is flexible enough to span multiple levels of explanation, to extend across diverse musical traditions and everyday scenarios, and to address the complexity of real-world practices.


Adam Linson is currently a Research Associate at the University of Oxford, Faculty of Music. He has published on a range of topics including the ecological psychology of improvisation, the philosophy of art and artificial intelligence, and the historiography of music technology. He is also active internationally as a double bassist, improvisor, and composer, who performs acoustically and with live electronics, solo and in a wide variety of ensembles, and can be heard on several critically acclaimed albums.

Title: Just Do It! What musical expertise does to the brain

Speaker: Prof. Peter Vuust, Royal Academy of Music & Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

Date: 28th April 2015

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


Developing musical expertise is an extremely demanding task, which involves a lot of practice. This results in very specialized auditory and motor skills determining the way the human brain perceives and processes music. The present presentation focuses on differences in brain structure and function between musicians playing different styles of music such as jazz and rock music as compared to musically untrained people, with a specific emphasis on brain responses to unexpected musical events.


Professor Peter Vuust, Ph.D. holds joint appointments at the Danish Royal Academy of Music and the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital where he is the Director of the Center for Music in the Brain. He obtained his doctoral degree from the Medical Faculty of Aarhus University, in addition to his various M.Sc. in mathematics, French and music. He has published highly cited articles on music in the brain, as well as the monograph “Polyrhythm and –meter in modern jazz; a study of Miles Davis’ Quintet from the 1960s”. In addition, Prof Vuust is a jazz bassist and composer; leading the Peter Vuust Quartet with Alex Riel, Lars Jansson and Ove Ingemarsson of which the sixth record “September Song” has recently been released and was nominated for a Danish Music Award. He has also been a sideman on over 85 recordings and is the recipient of the 2009 Jazz Society of Aarhus’ “Gaffel”-prize as well as a Center of Excellence grant from the Danish National Research Foundation.

Title: “I feel good!” The relationship between body-movement, pleasure and groove

Speaker: Dr Maria Witek, Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University, Denmark

Date: 23rd April 2015

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


What is it about groove that makes us want to move? And why does it feel so good? The pleasurable effect of music is rarely more apparent than in a dance club. A growing body of research demonstrates that listening to music activates brain areas involved in the regulation of biological rewards, such as food and sex. However, the role of body-movement in pleasurable responses to groove-based music, such as funk, hip-hop and electronic dance music, has been neglected. The first part of this paper presents results from a study of the relationship between body-movement, pleasure and groove. A combination of empirical methods, such as subjective ratings, neuro-imaging and motion-capture, showed that the degree of syncopation in funk drum-breaks was related to movement induction and pleasure in a number of ways. In the second part, I will explore the link between syncopation, body-movement and pleasure in groove theoretically, using embodied, ecological and phenomenological approaches. It will be proposed that through a distributed cognitive process, body, mind and music extend into each other in groove. The ‘open spaces’ afforded by syncopation invite the body to ‘fill in’, both physically and metaphorically, and pleasure results from the enactment of the beat. In this way, the participatory nature of groove is not just physical, social and cultural, but also structural. As few can resist the urge to tap their feet, bop their heads or get up and dance when they listen to groove-based music, these insights are a timely addition to affective and embodied theories of music.


Maria A. G. Witek is a postdoctoral researcher with the Music in the Brain Group at the Aarhus University Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience in Denmark. She holds degrees in musicology from Oslo University and music psychology from Sheffield University, and completed her doctorate in music as a Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford in 2013. Her research addresses the psychology, phenomenology and cognitive neuroscience of rhythm, body-movement and groove in music. She has won a number of awards, most recently the Adam Krims Memorial Prize from the Society for Music Analysis.

Title: I’d like to teach the world to Skoog

Speaker: Dr Ben Schogler, Edinburgh

Date: 20th April 2015

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


For many people the barrier to making music is the instrument itself, knowing ‘how’ and being able ‘to’ play an instrument are essential. These barriers can be even more fundamental for those with disabilities. Originally developed at the IMHSD in partnership with local authorities across Scotland Skoog is an instrument designed to overcome barriers to music making. David Skulina and Ben Schogler, and their small team of creative-developers, have spent the last 4 years demonstrating their ‘music for everyone’ concept (in the shape of Skoog 1.0) in the world of education. Tested, honed and developed internationally, Skoog 2 is the evolved result: a nifty, wireless, thing of beauty that we can all, indeed, play. Ben will give an overview of their journey so far, and demonstrate the new Skoog in a hands on session.


Psychologist, Musician & Creative Director at Skoogmusic, Ben creates fun new things at Skoogmusic, supporting novel ways of engaging young people in making music, and promoting the benefits of active music making for all.

 Twitter:@skoogmusic  Email: Web:

Title: Singing, Self and Community

Speaker: Prof. Jane Davidson, University of Melbourne

Date: 17th March 2015

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


This paper explores responses to community singing activity by examining the rich web of individual and cultural factors that interact as the singer becomes part of an ’emotional community’. It draws on theory from psychology and cultural history and uses data from longitudinal studies with choral singers.


Jane Davidson is Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and Professor of Creative and Performing Arts at The University of Melbourne. She has published extensively on performance, music and its uses.

Title: Music in Mind? An Experience Sampling Study of What and When, Towards an Understanding of Why

Speaker: Dr. Freya Bailes, University of Hull

Date: 16th March 2015

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


Imagining music in the course of everyday life is commonplace, and recent studies have begun to reveal what we imagine, and to ask why. However, research methods that rely on retrospective reports are not sensitive to the transience of imagined musical experience. In 2007, Bailes used experience-sampling methods instead; to understand the prevalence and nature of imagined music episodes among music students. The current study extends this research to a larger and broader sample of the general public (N = 47, 1415 episodes), to determine what people imagine, when, and why. Respondents were contacted by SMS six times a day, for the period of a week. On contact, they filled out an experience sampling form surveying current location, activity, mood, and details of any musical experience, heard or imagined. Open questions elicited reasons for imagining particular music, and probed the nature of the experience. Specific hypotheses linking musical imagery to thought incursions and mood regulation were tested. A positive relationship between the frequency of imagining music and transliminality was found, as well as mood congruence between heard and imagined music episodes. Suggestions are made for further research into the potential influence of chronobiology, arousal, and attention on everyday musical imagery.

Title: Social-Cognitive Foundations of Interpersonal Coordination in Musical Ensembles

Speaker: Prof. Peter Keller, The MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Date: 17th June 2014

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


Musical ensemble performance is a social art form in which multiple individuals coordinate their actions in order to communicate aesthetic goals. Achieving these goals requires specialized cognitive-motor ensemble skills that facilitate precise yet flexible interpersonal coordination in real time. This lecture will address the influence of social-psychological factors, including aspects of personality, upon the operation of these cognitive-motor ensemble skills.

Title: Improving Access to Musical Activity for Young People: An overview of a youth music project

Speaker: Dr Zack Moir, Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh

Date: 28th January 2014

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


Unlike in many extracurricular pursuits, young people often have a great deal of autonomy in the way in which they engage with musical activity.  Many young people are involved in music making activities such as playing in bands or making demo recordings, however, such activities are often self-directed, self-funded and fueled principally by the enthusiasm and autodidacticism of participants.  Whilst a number of public and private support mechanisms for professional musicians/bands exist, there is a distinct lack of support for young people in the early stages of their musical development and careers who want to get involved in musical activity at a professional level.  The project discussed in this presentation strives to foster and develop musicianship skills and a comprehension of the professional and commercial environments in which working musicians exist, so that young players can increase their access to (and participation in) musical activity and improve their potential for learning and progression.

This presentation will begin by considering what is meant by ‘access to musical activity’, by way of contextualising this work.  It will continue by giving an overview of the aforementioned youth music project which gives young people an opportunity to work with music industry mentors (professional musicians, composers and producers), over a six month period in order to write, record, produce, publicise and sell their own music.  Two case studies will be presented in order to exemplify some of the ways in which this project has increased and improved access to musical activity for young people.  Firstly, links between geographical isolation and access to musical activity will be explored by focusing on interviews with two participants who believe geographical isolation has had a negative impact on their music making potential.  Secondly, connections between disability and access to musical activity will be discussed, focusing specifically on the experiences of a quartet of disabled musicians from Drake Music Scotland who participated in this project recently.

Title: Is All Hearing Cochlear?

Speaker: Dr Neil Todd, Psychology Department, University of Manchester

Date: 28th October 2013

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


In this talk I will articulate a theory for the existence of an accessory auditory system, analogous to the accessory olfactory system. Supporting data for the existence of such a system can be found in the comparative neuroanatomy, comparative physiology and behavioural neurobiology of species within the vertebrate phyla. Support can also be found in the clinical neurophysiology of the vestibular system.  From the behavioural perspective I will present examples from acoustic field studies of vocal behaviour in key illustrative species, including the common frog (Rana temporaria), the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)* (Todd 2007) and the Siamang gibbon (Hylobates syndactylus) (Todd and Merker 2004). From the clinical neurophysiological perspective I will present some data, which is indicative that the human ear has conserved a frog-like sensitivity to seismic energy (Todd et al 2008a). I will also review some more recent work showing that vestibular receptors contribute to auditory evoked potentials of cortical origin (Todd et al 2008b; 2013). The existence of an accessory auditory system could have played a role in the origin of music and dance in human evolution, and may account for some pathophysiology hitherto unexplained.


Title: Auditory working memory and long-term memory in humans

Speaker: Dr. Katrin Schulze, UCL Institute of Child Health

Date: 13th July 2012

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Did music precede language in human evolution? Empirical tests

Speaker: Keelin Murray, Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit (LEC), University of Edinburgh

Date: 26th June 2012

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Music, Imagination, and Philosophical Aesthetics

Speaker: Dr Margaret Moore

Date: 15th June 2012

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: The effect of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy on the relationship between lyrics and tunes: An fMRI-adaptation study with songs

Speaker: Dr Irene Alonso

Date: 24th April 2012

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


Listening to, learning and remembering songs constitutes a fascinating high-level cognitive process that engages both language and music networks. However, there is a longstanding debate on whether tunes and lyrics are processed independently or in an integrated fashion. Overlap between both elements has been supported in many studies (Serafine, Crowder & Repp, 1984; Crowder, Serafine, & Repp, 1990; Baur, Uttner, Ilmberger, Fesl, & Mai, 2000; Peynircioglu, Rabinovitz, & Thompson, 2008; Thaut, Demartin, & Sanes, 2008). On the other hand, neuropsychological studies with clinical populations such as unilateral temporal lobe patients or Alzheimer disease patients have revealed dissociated recognition impairments for verbal and musical features of songs (Samson & Zatorre, 1991, 1992; Hebert & Peretz, 2001; Baird & Samson, 2009) suggesting music and language to be independent domains. In this talk I will address this issue by presenting an fMRI-adaptation study with healthy participants and temporal lobe epilepsy patients, and will argue that lyrics and tunes are different but very tightly connected components of songs, the integration of which might be disrupted in certain clinical populations.

Title: Brain Mechanisms of Expertise in Watching Dance and Audiovisual Integration of Drumming

Speaker: Prof. Frank Pollick, University of Glasgow

Date: 15th December 2011

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Understanding and Fostering Children’s Creativity

Speaker: Dr Eva Vass, University of Bath

Date: 1st February 2011

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: The Musical Experiences of Cochlear Implant Users

Speaker: Zack A. Moir

Date: 9th November 2010

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh


Title: Phonetics of suprasegmental contrasts in Dinka speech and song

Speaker: Prof. Bob Ladd, University of Edinburgh

Date: 2nd November 2010

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: An Overview of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Education Programme

Speaker: Lucy Perry, Education Director, Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Date: 20th May 2010

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Speaker: Dr Peter Keller, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany

Date: 14th December 2009

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: The Minor Third in Human Culture and Human Development

Speaker: Dr. Jeremy Day-O’Connell, visiting Fulbright Scholar from Knox College, USA

Date: 21st October 2009

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: What does auditory cortex do?

Speaker: Prof. Timothy D. Griffiths, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University

Date: 8th September 2009

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Can songs support second language learning?

Speaker: Karen Ludke, PhD student in Music, IMHSD, University of Ediburgh

Date: 3rd December 2008

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Beat fusion in the brain of a drummer: Effects of musical expertise on perceived audiovisual synchrony and congruence

Speakers: Dr Frank Pollick and Dr Karin Petrini, Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow

Date: 28th October 2008

Location: Dugald Stewart Building, Edinburgh


Title: Movement and Prosody in British Sign Language: About Real Elephants and Fake Squirrels

Speaker: Dr. Martine Verheul, Centre for Perception, Movement, and Action Research, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh

Date: 30th September 2008

Location: Dugald Stewart Building, Edinburgh

Title: Music and Intuition: Improvisation, invention and polyphonic consciousness

Speaker: Peter Cudmore, PhD Student in English Literature and Philosophy

Date: 8th May 2008

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Music and Poetry at the Crossroads: Baudelaire, Debussy and ‘Recueillement’

Speaker: Dr David Evans, Lecturer in French, University of St Andrews

Date: 12th April 2008

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh

Title: Text-setting tied in Trefoil Knots

Speaker: Dr. Rosalia Rodriguez-Vazquez, Lecturer in the Department of English, French and German, University of Vigo, Spain

Date: 27th November 2007

Location: Alison House, Edinburgh