August 2014 - News!

Conferences, Symposiums, Workshops     view all upcoming

  • US AIRS Colleagues: Arts Research Funding Opportunity and Grant Guidelines Webinar September 3, 2014. 

Helping to grow the field of arts research and provide arts practitioners with high-quality, evidence-based resources, the National Endowment for the Arts announces the latest Research: Art Works funding opportunity. LINK This program supports research for projects that investigate the value and/or impact of the arts on individuals and communities. To assist potential applicants, the NEA will hold a grant guidelines webinar on September 3, 2014 at 3:00 PM ET.

To join the September 3 NEA Research: Art Works webinar, please register in advance. LINK You may listen using your computer's speakers or dial-in to 1-877-685-5350 and use participant code: 739587. Attendees will be muted but able to type in questions and comments through a Q & A text box. An archive of the webinar will be available on the NEA's website in the webinar section shortly after the event

The NEA anticipates awarding up to 20 grants in the range of $10,000 to $30,000. The deadline for application submission is October 21, 2014 for projects that can begin as early as May 1, 2015. Eligible organizations are U.S-based organizations that are nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3); units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes. This may include, but is not limited to, colleges and universities.

  • Researchers and other interested people are invited to come to Linköping, Sweden for the First international meeting on Internet & Audiology, which will be held the 3-4 October 2014. This is not a typical conference as there will be no conference fee. Abstracts for short presentations (15 minutes) which present new and innovative research are invited; submission deadline is July 15, 2014  Website

  • The International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC13) was held from August 4-8, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. Presentations by AIRS members and about singing are available here.


  • With the leadership of Lily Chen-Hafteck, Co-Leader of sub-theme 3.1, Singing and Cultural Understanding, an AIRS Symposium and an AIRS Reception took place at at the recent conference of the International Society for Music Education held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in July. Participants in the symposium were (from left to right): Elizabeth Andang'o, Zuraida Bastiao, Lily Chen-Hafteck, Arla Good, Angelita Broock, Yue Xiao, and Jiaxing Xie. Helga Gutmundsdottir, AIRS theme leader for Singing and Education, joined the team for the reception. A one-day workshop for the AIRS Quadcultural Songbook project, directed by Lily Chen-Hafteck, followed the main ISME conference.



  • Congratulations to Ross Dwyer on the arrival of a wonderful little girl named Gabrielle Patricia Dwyer. Mother Lori-Beth and baby are both doing very well. We hear that the little one has quite a set of lungs and all the makings of future singer. For almost 3 years now, the AIRS Collaborators have relied on Ross for his outstanding, conscientious and personal administrative support, and we wish him and his growing family much happiness.

  • AIRS sub-theme 3.3 researcher Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes was welcomed as the future WFMT President at the 14th World Congress of Music Therapy in Krems, Austria. "Über 1000 Musiktherapeuten aus aller Welt in Krems" by Claudia Brandt [English translation: "Over 1,000 music therapists from around the world in Krems"] Read more

Last Saturday was the 14th World Congress of Music Therapy after six days at the IMC FH Krems to a successful end. The originating from 45 countries music therapists used the varied programming intensively discourse, training and acclimatising while enjoying the unique Wachau landscape.

  • Dr. Annabel J. Cohen was interviewed by Aimee Sung for a news article in The Dartmouth about an event on 18 July. "Upcoming Hood Museum event will pair opera with visual art."  Read more

Assyrian reliefs and Schubert, American landscape and Mozart — as unlikely as the combinations are, a Hood Museum event will link art with classical music on Friday. 

"Opera Inspired by Art," a walk-through event, will take the audience through the museum's first-floor gallery. After a curator introduces a piece, executive director of Lebanon-based Opera North Pamela Pantos will elaborate on the connection between visual and vocal art. Finally, Opera North singers will perform the prepared aria. 


The GRAMMY Foundation R Grant Program is seeking applications to help facilitate the support of music preservation and research projects.

With funding generously provided by The Recording AcademyR, the Grant Program awards grants each year to organizations and individuals to support efforts that advance the archiving and preservation of music and the recorded sound heritage of the Americas for future generations, and research projects related to the impact of music on the human condition.

Grant funds have been utilized to preserve private collections as well as materials at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian and numerous colleges and universities. Research projects have studied the links between music and early childhood education, treatments for illnesses and injuries common to musicians, and the impact of music therapy on populations from infants to the elderly. More than $6 million in grants has been awarded to more than 300 recipients.

Recent Publications

  • Eugenia Costa-Giomi & Beatriz Ilari. (2014). Infants' preferential attention to sung and spoken stimuli. Journal of Research in Music Education, 62 (2): 188-194. DOI: 10.1177/0022429414530564     Link 

    Caregivers and early childhood teachers all over the world use singing and speech to elicit and maintain infants’ attention. Research comparing infants’ preferential attention to music and speech is inconclusive regarding their responses to these two types of auditory stimuli, with one study showing a music bias and another one indicating no differential attention. The purpose of this investigation was to study 11-month-old infants’ preferential attention to spoken and sung renditions of an unfamiliar folk song in a foreign language (n = 24). The results of an infant-controlled preference procedure showed no significant differences in attention to the two types of stimuli. The findings challenge infants’ well-documented bias for speech over nonspeech sounds and provide evidence that music, even when performed by an untrained singer, can be as effective as speech in eliciting infants’ attention.

  • Simone Falk, Tamara Rathcke, & Simone Dalla Bella. (2014). When speech sounds like music. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. DOI: 10.1037/a0036858

Repetition can boost memory and perception. However, repeating the same stimulus several times in immediate succession also induces intriguing perceptual transformations and illusions. Here, we investigate the Speech to Song Transformation (S2ST), a massed repetition effect in the auditory modality, which crosses the boundaries between language and music. In the S2ST, a phrase repeated several times shifts to being heard as sung. To better understand this unique cross-domain transformation, we examined the perceptual determinants of the S2ST, in particular the role of acoustics. In 2 Experiments, the effects of 2 pitch properties and 3 rhythmic properties on the probability and speed of occurrence of the transformation were examined. Results showed that both pitch and rhythmic properties are key features fostering the transformation. However, some properties proved to be more conducive to the S2ST than others. Stable tonal targets that allowed for the perception of a musical melody led more often and quickly to the S2ST than scalar intervals. Recurring durational contrasts arising from segmental grouping favoring a metrical interpretation of the stimulus also facilitated the S2ST. This was, however, not the case for a regular beat structure within and across repetitions. In addition, individual perceptual abilities allowed to predict the likelihood of the S2ST. Overall, the study demonstrated that repetition enables listeners to reinterpret specific prosodic features of spoken utterances in terms of musical structures. The findings underline a tight link between language and music, but they also reveal important differences in communicative functions of prosodic structure in the 2 domains.

  • Lucy M. McGarry, Jaime A. Pineda, Frank A. Russo. (2014). The role of the extended MNS in emotional and nonemotional judgments of human song. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience.

In the present study, we examined the involvement of the extended mirror neuron system (MNS)—specifically, areas that have a strong functional connection to the core system itself—during emotional and nonemotional judgments about human song. We presented participants with audiovisual recordings of sung melodic intervals (two-tone sequences) and manipulated emotion and pitch judgments while keeping the stimuli identical. Mu event-related desynchronization (ERD) was measured as an index of MNS activity, and a source localization procedure was performed on the data to isolate the brain sources contributing to this ERD. We found that emotional judgments of human song led to greater amounts of ERD than did pitch distance judgments (nonemotional), as well as control judgments related to the singer’s hair, or pitch distance judgments about a synthetic tone sequence. Our findings support and expand recent research suggesting that the extended MNS is involved to a greater extent during emotional than during nonemotional perception of human action.

  • Sean Hutchins, Pauline Larrouy-Maestri, & Isabelle Peretz. (2014). Singing ability is rooted in vocal-motor control of pitch. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.     Link

The inability to vocally match a pitch can be caused by poor pitch perception or by poor vocal-motor control. Although previous studies have tried to examine the relationship between pitch perception and vocal production, they have failed to control for the timbre of the target to be matched. In the present study, we compare pitch-matching accuracy with an unfamiliar instrument (the slider) and with the voice, designed such that the slider plays back recordings of the participant's own voice. We also measured pitch accuracy in singing a familiar melody ("Happy Birthday") to assess the relationship between single-pitch-matching tasks and melodic singing. Our results showed that participants (all nonmusicians) were significantly better at matching recordings of their own voices with the slider than with their voice, indicating that vocal-motor control is an important limiting factor on singing ability. We also found significant correlations between the ability to sing a melody in tune and vocal pitch matching, but not pitch matching on the slider. Better melodic singers also tended to have higher quality voices (as measured by acoustic variables). These results provide important evidence about the role of vocal-motor control in poor singing ability and demonstrate that single-pitch-matching tasks can be useful in measuring general singing abilities.


  • Partel Lippus & Jaan Ross. (2014). Temporal Variation in Singing as Interplay between Speech and Music in Estonian Songs. In Expressiveness in Music Performance: Empirical Approaches Across Styles and Cultures. Fabian, D., Timmers, R. & Schubert, E. (Eds.). 

Expressiveness in performance is often investigated and understood in terms of expression of emotion and expression of compositional structure. An underlying assumption is that music acts as a medium for conveying emotions to the listener or, alternatively, for inducing them in the listener (Juslin 2009). Musical performance is one of the means of accomplishing this--its expressiveness is related to the evocative power to exert an influence on the listener. Empirical research on performances of works of mostly nineteenth-century European classical composers (e.g. Rink 2002) has been based on the assumption that the functions of the three subjects involved in musical communication--the composer, the performer, and the listener--are different and frequently fulfilled by separate individuals. Simply put, the composer's task is to provide an overall structure to the musical work, while performers fill in the details during the course of actual performance, adding the so-called expressive component to the structure of the work created by the composer. The expressive component is manifested by micro-variations across all basic features of musical sound, including pitch, loudness, duration, and timbre (e.g. Palmer 1997). 

  • Lily Chen-Hafteck. (2014). Educating the Creative Mind Project: Bringin Arts-Based Education to Every Child. In International Yearbook for Research in Arts Education, 2, Larry O ́Farrell, Shifra Schonmann, Ernst Wagner (Eds.). 

Preschool is a critical period in learning and in achieving social justice in education; as such influence can be most crucial for children from underserved populations at this stage while the scholastic achievement between them and other children is still minimal. Young children naturally love the arts, as observed from their engagement in activities such as singing, drawing, dancing and dramatizing. It is therefore vital to provide these children with ample arts experiences that will develop their life-long interest in the arts. Unfortunately, the current budget situation in American public education has led to a decrease in time for the arts in the classroom. Children have to focus on academic subjects such as Language Arts and Math as soon as they start school, without adequate opportunities for expressing themselves and creating through the arts. 

  • Amy Clements-Cortes & Sarah Pearson. (2014). Discovering community music therapy in practice: Case reports from two Ontario hospitals. International Journal of Community Music, 7(1): 93-111.

Music therapy holds a particularly valuable place in providing holistic health care, and medical settings are well suited to a community music therapy (CoMT) model of practice. As medicine continues to shift its focus to become preventative, health-promoting and patient-centred, the presence of live music in hospital environments can contribute to valuable collaborative relationships between members of the community who might not otherwise meet, while impacting and addressing patient wellness as well as patient illness. CoMT is a model music therapists are practicing within to focus on improving quality of life in a variety of domains for patients and families in various healthcare settings. This article explores two distinct community case reports from Ontario, Canada, in which an emerging CoMT practice fostered therapeutic collaborative relationships. Background information is provided on music therapy, performing, interdisciplinary health care and CoMT in context and action.


  • Ann Skingley, Sonia Page, Stephen Clift, Ian Morrison, Simon Coulton, Pauline Treadwell, Trish Vella-Burrows, Isobel Salisbury & Matthew Shipton. (2014). "Singing for Breathing": Participants' perceptions of a group singing programme for people with COPD. Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, 6(1). DOI:10.1080/17533015.2013.840853

Background: Chronic obstructive airways disease (COPD) is a long term respiratory condition with a high prevalence rate and associated with considerable physical and psychological morbidity. This research aims to examine the perceptions of people with COPD taking part in regular group singing, in terms of feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness. Methods: The overall approach was a pre-test, post-test feasibility element and a nested qualitative component. Measures of respiratory function and self-reported quality of life were collected from participants engaged in a 36 week singing programme. Written comments from 97 individuals, reported here, were collected at baseline, mid-point and end-point. Data were analysed using content and thematic analysis. Results: Participants noted limitations due to their respiratory condition but a large number expressed beliefs that singing had led to improvement and this appeared to be incremental over the time of the project. Other comments related to positive effects on physical health more broadly, on psychological wellbeing and on the social support gained through meeting others with COPD. Comments relating to the overall programme and the research itself were overwhelmingly positive. Conclusions: Findings suggest that singing is perceived as both acceptable and beneficial to people with COPD. Evidence from participants served as a useful supplement to the quantitative findings.

  • Daniel Müllensiefen, Bruno Gingras, Jason Musil, & Lauren Stewart. (2014). The Musicality of Non-Musicians: An Index for Assessing Musical Sophistication in the General Population. PLoS ONE 9(6): e101091. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089642 

Musical skills and expertise vary greatly in Western societies. Individuals can differ in their repertoire of musical behaviours as well as in the level of skill they display for any single musical behaviour. The types of musical behaviours we refer to here are broad, ranging from performance on an instrument and listening expertise, to the ability to employ music in functional settings or to communicate about music. In this paper, we first describe the concept of ‘musical sophistication’ which can be used to describe the multi-faceted nature of musical expertise. Next, we develop a novel measurement instrument, the Goldsmiths Musical Sophistication Index (Gold-MSI) to assess self-reported musical skills and behaviours on multiple dimensions in the general population using a large Internet sample (n = 147,636). Thirdly, we report results from several lab studies, demonstrating that the Gold-MSI possesses good psychometric properties, and that self-reported musical sophistication is associated with performance on two listening tasks. Finally, we identify occupation, occupational status, age, gender, and wealth as the main socio-demographic factors associated with musical sophistication. Results are discussed in terms of theoretical accounts of implicit and statistical music learning and with regard to social conditions of sophisticated musical engagement.

  • Michael J. Hove, Céline Marie, Ian C. Bruce & Laurel J. Trainor. Superior time perception for lower musical pitch explains why bass-ranged instruments lay down musical rhythms. PNAS. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402039111     Link 

The auditory environment typically contains several sound sources that overlap in time, and the auditory system parses the complex sound wave into streams or voices that represent the various sound sources. Music is also often polyphonic. Interestingly, the main melody (spectral/pitch information) is most often carried by the highest-pitched voice, and the rhythm (temporal foundation) is most often laid down by the lowest-pitched voice. Previous work using electroencephalography (EEG) demonstrated that the auditory cortex encodes pitch more robustly in the higher of two simultaneous tones or melodies, and modeling work indicated that this high-voice superiority for pitch originates in the sensory periphery. Here, we investigated the neural basis of carrying rhythmic timing information in lower-pitched voices. We presented simultaneous high-pitched and low-pitched tones in an isochronous stream and occasionally presented either the higher or the lower tone 50 ms earlier than expected, while leaving the other tone at the expected time. EEG recordings revealed that mismatch negativity responses were larger for timing deviants of the lower tones, indicating better timing encoding for lower-pitched compared with higher-pitch tones at the level of auditory cortex. A behavioral motor task revealed that tapping synchronization was more influenced by the lower-pitched stream. Results from a biologically plausible model of the auditory periphery suggest that nonlinear cochlear dynamics contribute to the observed effect. The low-voice superiority effect for encoding timing explains the widespread musical practice of carrying rhythm in bass-ranged instruments and complements previously established high-voice superiority effects for pitch and melody.




AIRS staff are working towards providing the results of Project research, so that information and research findings can be shared amongst the researchers and interested individuals.  Please direct any questions or comments regarding the AIRS Web site to the AIRS Information Technology Coordinator. Contact information can be found on our Contact AIRS page.