June 2014 - News!

Conferences, Symposiums, Workshops    view all upcoming



  • The final AIRS Student and Early Career Researcher Workshop program (27-29 June 2014 at Ryerson University, Toronto) is now available. link


  • The AIRS Policy & Planning Committee met at Ryerson University at the end of May. The meeting was very productive and successful in terms of progress on the project as a whole, and for planning of the book project. 

P and P Committee Meeting     

  • An AIRS Symposium entitled: "Singing Across the Lifespan: Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing - A Lifespan Megaproject" organized by Laurel Young, Leader of the AIRS Sub-Theme 3.3 Singing and Health) will be presented at the 3rd meeting of the International Association of Music and Medicine (IAMM) 3:30 to 5:00 pm, Wednesday, June 25th, Walter Hall, University of Toronto Faculty of Music. A total of 8 papers that will be presented.   link

  • ​AIRS Sub-theme 1.1 co-leader Prof. Laurel Trainor, based at McMaster University, was quoted in an interview by Sivan Kerer called "Music to a kid's ears: concerts and camps can help develop your child's rhythm."   link

Summer equals freedom — or at least that's the association for most kids this time of year. And with school books tucked away for the season, you'll find that your kids have a lot more free time for other activities.

With Toronto abuzz with outdoor concerts, international music festivals and interactive music camps, summer is the ideal time to introduce your children to the wonderful world of music. And the benefits may be greater than you realize. After years of popular speculation about the relationship between music and intelligence, a study headed by McMaster University professor Laurel Trainor confirms that neurological development is indeed one of the many benefits of early musical exposure.  


  • The work of Psyche Loui, Isabelle Peretz, Frank Russo, Gottfried Schlaug and Steven Brown has been mentioned in a CBC radio program, "The Ballad of Tin Ears." 

Many of us love to sing, but we're not all good at it. Some of us can't even carry a tune and are told not to sing. Tim Falconer dives into neuroscience, psychology -- and music itself -- to find out why he's a bad singer - and if there's anything he can do about it.

Tim Falconer is writing a book about singing for House of Anansi Press. Watch for Bad Singer in 2016.  


  • Prof. Carol Beynon is quoted in a new article about her recent concert with the Amabile boys and men's choirs, "Amabile men sing send-off."   link

The boys and men of London-based Amabile Choirs have a send-off concert Tuesday before tours take them to Halifax and Europe.

"There's a fairly varied program to celebrate our year," conductor Carol Beynon said Monday.  


  • Prof. Patricia Shehan Campbell's recent lecture is mentioned in a Eugene Weekly article about young musicians.   link

With so many American schools cutting back their arts programs, nonprofit organizations play an increasingly larger role in showing young people the beauty of making music. This month offers several kid-oriented music events, beginning with a May 9 lecture at the UO Collier House by University of Washington prof Patricia Shehan Campbell, "Giving Voice to the Children: Their Music and Musical Ideas."

  • Dr. Jennifer Nicol was interviewed in a recent news article, "Therapeutic benefits of music being used to treat Alzheimer's, addiction, and depression" by Adriana Barton in The Globe and Mail.   link

Anyone who has blasted Arcade Fire before a party can attest to music's transformative powers. But music isn't just a mood-booster: Music therapists use pitch, rhythm, melody and lyrics in specific ways, with the explicit intent of affecting cognition or emotion in the person who is hearing them.

Recent Publications

  • June Countryman. (2014). Missteps, flaws and morphings in children’s musical play: Snapshots from school playgrounds. *Research Studies in Music Education, 36*(1), 3-18. DOI: 10.1177/1321103X14528456

    This article draws upon fieldwork from a larger project investigating the nature of children’s self chosen musical play, where it is evident that children’s ubiquitous singing, vocalizing and rhyming occur on a fluid and unselfconscious continuum. Here the author explores instances of musical play that stumble and either morph into something else or are abandoned altogether. Four vignettes of musical play are described, documented during recess observations at several Canadian elementary school playgrounds. Each of the play episodes is analyzed in terms of how the play malfunctions musically and socially, from an adult observer’s viewpoint.  Self-determination theory is employed as a tool for analyzing these apparent gaps in proficiencies. Recognizing children as agentive and
    creative social actors, the author argues for the importance of protecting their free play time at school, where they are uniquely able to practice communicative (including musical) and social skills within a complex and constantly changing social setting. The separation of younger and older children on the playground is identified as one impediment to the apprenticeship learning system through which playground games have long been ‘caught’. Paying attention to children’s self-chosen play reminds us how musical children naturally are. It also offers insights for formal music education practice, illustrating the importance of creating ongoing opportunities for children to a) develop real fluency of rhythmic movement, to b) individually initiate music-making with peers, and to c) practice metacognitive skills. By helping students determine what skills they have and what skills they need to acquire or strengthen in order to solve a musical problem we help students to become more independent music learners.

  • Steven R. Livingstone, Deanna H. Choi, & Frank A. Russo. The influence of vocal training and acting experience on measures of voice quality and emotional genuineness. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 156. DOI:  10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00156 

Vocal training through singing and acting lessons is known to modify acoustic parameters of the voice. While the effects of singing training have been well documented, the role of acting experience on the singing voice remains unclear. In two experiments, we used linear mixed models to examine the relationships between the relative amounts of acting and singing experience on the acoustics and perception of the male singing voice. In Experiment 1, 12 male vocalists were recorded while singing with five different emotions, each with two intensities. Acoustic measures of pitch accuracy, jitter, and harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR) were examined. Decreased pitch accuracy and increased jitter, indicative of a lower "voice quality," were associated with more years of acting experience, while increased pitch accuracy was associated with more years of singing lessons. We hypothesized that the acoustic deviations exhibited by more experienced actors was an intentional technique to increase the genuineness or truthfulness of their emotional expressions. In Experiment 2, listeners rated vocalists' emotional genuineness. Vocalists with more years of acting experience were rated as more genuine than vocalists with less acting experience. No relationship was reported for singing training. Increased genuineness was associated with decreased pitch accuracy, increased jitter, and a higher HNR. These effects may represent a shifting of priorities by male vocalists with acting experience to emphasize emotional genuineness over pitch accuracy or voice quality in their singing performances.

  • Steven Brown, Patrick E. Savage, Albert Min-Shan Ko, Mark Stoneking, Ying-Chin Ko, Jun-Hun Loo & Jean A. Trejaut. Correlations in the population structure of music, genes and language. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences.   link

We present, to our knowledge, the first quantitative evidence that music and genes may have coevolved by demonstrating significant correlations between traditional group-level folk songs and mitochondrial DNA variation among nine indigenous populations of Taiwan. These correlations were of comparable magnitude to those between language and genes for the same populations, although music and language were not significantly correlated with one another. An examination of population structure for genetics showed stronger parallels to music than to language. Overall, the results suggest that music might have a sufficient time-depth to retrace ancient population movements and, additionally, that it might be capturing different aspects of population history than language. Music may therefore have the potential to serve as a novel marker of human migrations to complement genes, language and other markers.

  • Daniel Müllensiefen, Bruno Gingras, Jason Musil, & Lauren Stewart. The Musicality of Non-Musicians: An Index for Assessing Musical Sophistication in the General Population. PLOS One. 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.

  • Mei-Ying Liao & Patricia Shehan Campbell. (2014). An analysis of song-leading by kindergarten teachers in Taiwan and the USA. Music Education Research, 16(2), 144-161. DOI: 10.1080/14613808.2013.851661. 

The purpose of this study was to examine components of the song-leading process used by kindergarten teachers in Taiwan and the United States, including the critical matter of starting pitch. Five public school kindergarten teachers in Taipei, Taiwan, and five public kindergarten teachers in Seattle, USA, were invited to participate in this study on a voluntary basis. They were asked to teach six children's songs at six different times. Non-participant observations were undertaken in order to develop an understanding of how kindergarten teachers led children in singing a song, and to determine teachers' starting pitch. Each teacher was observed for her singing activities with children in 20- to 30- minute sessions. Results revealed that kindergarten teachers utilised similar song-leading techniques and that the teacher's location in Taiwan or the USA appeared to have no impact on these techniques. Most teachers requested, and even demanded, children's focused attention prior to beginning to sing the song. Teachers typically sang the songs at a medium volume, with little variation. There were differentiations, however, as to the provision of metre and the delivery of a signal for bringing into the singing of the song. Reference notes were seldom used, that is, there was little use by teachers of the presentation of a starting pitch in advance of the singing. Few teachers offered feedback to children as to the accuracy and quality of the singing. Finally, results also indicated that regardless of the nationality, the starting pitch of the songs sung by kindergarten teachers was generally dramatically lower than children's natural singing range, extending from G3 to D4. This study calls to mind the importance of providing kindergarten teachers with vocal skills, such that, they learn not only child-appropriate repertoire but also the critical means of teaching songs to children in a thorough-going song-leading process.

  • Yang Yang & Graham Welch. (2014). Contemporary challenges in learning and teaching folk music in a higher education context: a case study of Hua'er music. Music Education Research, 16(2), 193-219. DOI:10.1080/14613808.2013.878324

Literature reviews suggest that traditional approaches in folk music education are not necessarily compatible with the conventions of formal music education. Whilst many recent studies have tended to define these non-classical music learning contexts as 'informal', the practice of folk transmission music appears to be much more complex and fluid in the real world. This case study presents an example of teaching and learning experiences of folk singers in a contemporary society in Western China. In this particular context, 'informal learning' was found to be influenced by 'formal' music practices, whilst a 'formal approach' in a classroom has found to be reversely altered by the 'informal oral tradition' that was recently proposed in Chinese Higher Music Education. Based on qualitative interview data from four musicians, three major findings are reported on current transformations of Hua'er music practices. Pedagogical suggestions were further discussed on a possible dual-input (was termed 'formal' and 'informal' in Jaffurs's study) learning approach, which may contribute to the success of folk music education at college level.



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