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AMPS: History

History of the Australian Music & Psychology Seminar (AMPS) and Australian Music & Psychology Society (AMPS) Inc.

Kate Stevens, August 2002 and June 2010

Nikki Rickard, September 2015

The Early Years (1996 - 1999)


The idea to form a psychology and music interest group came about during the 4th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition at McGill University, Montréal in 1996. At that meeting, there was interest among the delegates for the international conference to be held in Australia at a future time – early in the 21st Century. Logically, the first step was to consider forming a group that could coordinate the organization of such a conference and that may form the basis of a music and psychology society similar in focus to those in Europe (ESCOM), Japan (JSMPC), and the United States (SMPC). The three researchers from Sydney who attended 4th ICMPC – Emery Schubert, Peter Keller (both doctoral students at the time) and Kate Stevens – hurriedly put together a list of researchers we knew to be interested in the area and decided that the idea had promise. There had been a couple of conference sessions dedicated to music and psychology. A symposium, Music and Psychology, had been organised by Chris Childs and held during the 27th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales back in 1992. The symposium included papers by Chris Childs, Jeff Pressing, Catherine Ellis, Danielle Byrne and myself. I convened a symposium on Music Perception and Cognition during the 21st Annual Australian Experimental Psychology Conference at the University of Sydney in 1994. That symposium included a keynote address by Jeff Pressing and papers from Emery Schubert, Sarah Wilson, Peter Huf, Nicholas Oram and Tony Souter (for abstracts, see Australian Journal of Psychology, Vol. 46, 1994 Supplement).

On our return from Montréal, the idea for AMPS developed – we collated an email list of Australian researchers likely to be interested in such a seminar and refined our suitably catchy "AMPS" acronym. AMPS was a marked improvement on the original name: "Cognition and Music Perception in Australia" – to be abbreviated to CAMP-OZ! For the record, the original AMPS email list included Emery Schubert, Peter Keller, Kate Stevens, Andrew Brown, Gary McPherson, Leigh Smith, Jeff Pressing, Gail Huon, Sarah Wilson, John Geake, Denis Burnham, Christine Kitamura, Devin McAuley, Nigel Nettheim, Peter Freeman, Nicholas Oram and Joe Wolfe.

Two other important events brought the Australian Music & Psychology Seminar (AMPS) to life. The first was a visit to Australia by Professor Sandra Trehub from the University of Toronto. Sandra generously agreed to stopover in Sydney and present a seminar at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). With some financial support from Dr Gary McPherson and the UNSW School of Music and Music Education, Professor Trehub presented the inaugural AMPS paper in late 1996. It was entitled Music in Infancy, and drew an audience of 30 staff and students. The second catalyst for AMPS was Dr Bill Thompson’s stint as visiting scholar in the School of Psychology at UNSW in 1997. On study leave from York University, Canada, Bill was enthusiastic about meeting with other researchers working in music and psychology. During the first few months of 1997 we met and discussed our recent research and work in progress. Speakers during this time included Bill, Emery Schubert and Peter Keller. By March 1997 we were meeting fortnightly and that year saw a total of 12 AMPS presentations – seven from local researchers and five papers presented by overseas visitors.

A by-product of AMPS in 1997 was a symposium It’s About Time: Music as a Cognitive Skill held during the 4th Australasian Cognitive Science Conference at the University of Newcastle. Papers were presented by Peter Keller, Jeff Pressing, Devin McAuley and Kate Stevens. The papers are available in the electronic journal Noetica: A Cognitive Science Forum

Special Issue of Australian Journal of Psychology on Music as a Brain and Behavioural System

To highlight the research being conducted in the area of experimental psychology and music to an Australian audience, Jeff Pressing and Kate Stevens edited a special issue of the Australian Journal of Psychology on Music as a Brain and Behavioural System in 1999, Vol. 51, No. 3. The special issue contains eight invited, fully reviewed papers from local and overseas researchers and two book reviews.

AMPS Goes International (from 2000)

After the 5th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC5) in Seoul, South Korea in 1998, Kate Stevens submitted a formal proposal on behalf of AMPS, MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney and the School of Music & Music Education, University of New South Wales for ICMPC7 to be held in Sydney in July 2002. The bid was accepted by the ICMPC Advisory Board and preparations for the Sydney meeting commenced following ICMPC6 in Keele.

The founding members of AMPS volunteered to be members of the ICMPC7 Organising Committee and soon became the core organising and creative team for the conference – Emery Schubert, Peter Keller, Gary McPherson, Denis Burnham, Kate Stevens. Our plans dating from Montréal 1996 started to become reality!

The 7th International Conference on Music Perception & Cognition (ICMPC7) was held in Sydney July 17-21, 2002. ICMPC7 was hosted by AMPS, MARCS Auditory Laboratories and held in the School of Music and Music Education at the University of New South Wales. The conference included four keynote speakers, a tribute to our dear colleague Jeff Pressing, the premiere of a new musical work and ICMPC Fanfare, 12 specialist symposia, and 240 papers and posters representing the diversity of studies in music perception and cognition. A total of 290 registrants travelled to Sydney for ICMPC7 from 25 different countries. ICMPC7 showcased and celebrated the breadth and innovation of research in the Asia-Pacific area and we are pleased that so many colleagues from the region joined us in Sydney.

Full details of the ICMPC7 organising committees, program, abstracts and highlights can be found here. For recent and upcoming ICMPC meetings go to the ICMPC website

APSCOM – Asia-Pacific Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music

The Asia-Pacific Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (APSCOM) was formed in 2000 by Professor Kengo Ohgushi, Professor Suk Won Yi and Dr Kate Stevens to recognize the contribution of the Asia-Pacific region to research into the psychology of music. APSCOM comprises the members of the Japanese Society for Music Perception & Cognition, the Korean Society for Music Perception & Cognition, and the Australian Music & Psychology Society. See here. APSCOM 1 was held jointly with ICMPC7, Sydney, July 17-21, 2002.

Australian Music & Psychology Society (AMPS) Incorporated (from 2002)


In preparing to host ICMPC7, AMPS was incorporated as an association in New South Wales. The Australian Music & Psychology Seminar became the Australian Music & Psychology Society (AMPS) Incorporated on June 13, 2002 [Incorporation No: INC9877787; ABN: 80 592 940 299]. An annual general meeting was held later in 2002 to confirm the AMPS association rules and elect office bearers.

Key Achievements (2002-2009)

  • 2003: Introduced AMPS Graduate Student International Conference Travel Assistance Scheme.
  • Monthly seminars held at UNSW. Click here for a list of these
  • APSCOM 2 held at Ewha Womans University, Seoul, South Korea August 4-6 2005
  • Inaugural International Conference on Music Communication Science (ICoMCS) held as part of HCSNet SummerFest at the University of New South Wales in 2007. Proceedings here
  • APSCOM 3 held jointly with ICMPC10, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, August 25-29, 2008
  • Second International Conference on Music Communication Science (ICoMCS2) held during HCSNet SummerFest at the University of New South Wales in 2009. Proceedings here

AMPS 2010 and Beyond

A new Executive was elected at the beginning of 2010, leading to revitalisation of the AMPS research seminars through increased links with researchers in Melbourne. This included folding in the activities of the Melbourne-based seminar series, Music, Auditory Cognition & Mind (MACAM) with AMPS. As part of this revitalisation, this new AMPS website ( has been unveiled, providing greater scope to link researchers from around Australia and overseas through its increased functionality. This website will also provide a new and more efficient method for maintaining the membership of AMPS, and keeping AMPS members informed of the latest new and upcoming events in the field.

The AMPS membership has grown every year, with 639 individuals listed on the AMPS register, 491 confirmed members in 2015 (192 of whom are students). At the end of 2014, the AMPS website had an average of 475 unique visits each month. The hits are from 25 different countries, with the majority from Australia, USA, China and Germany.

A membership survey was distributed in 2014 to review the needs of AMPS members. Responses indicated that AMPS members found that the society could play a role in keeping them up to date with news, informing them of seminar series and events, helping them to network with other people in the field and helping them to learn. AMPS membership has been free to date, but survey responses also indicated that the majority of members would consider paying for membership should this entitle them to benefits such as discounted conference fees, access to seminar pod/vodcasts or free access to an AMPS publication. Such initiatives have been actively investigated in 2015 with paid membership under consideration in the near future.

A regular and vibrant seminar series has been held every year. AMPS and MMW collaborated to co-host a number of larger events and public lectures from 2012. We have been honoured to have benefitted from the expertise of such a diverse range of international and local speakers at these events. Speakers between 2013-2015 have included Raymond Macdonald (University of Edinburgh), Richard Parncutt (University of Graz), Jane Ginsborg (Royal Northern College of Music), Sam Gosling (University of Texas), Joke Bradt (Drexel University), Adina Morrell (University of Music and Theater Munich), Isabelle Peretz (University of Montreal), Susie O’Neill (Simon Fraser University). AMPS has been fortunate to also present national speakers from across multiple states, including Tony Gould (Monash University), Genevieve Dingle (University of Queensland), Sandra Garrido (University of Melbourne/UWA), Kate Stevens (UWS), Peter Keller (UWS), Bill Thompson (Macquarie University), Emery Schubert (UNSW), Adrian North (Curtin University) and Felicity Baker (University of Queensland/University of Melbourne). Student-led seminars have also featured strongly in the AMPS seminar series, reflecting the valuable role AMPS plays in supporting student research in music psychology.

AMPS Newsletter

In 2015, we saw the introduction of the AMPS newsletter, which will be a regular student-led publication featuring contributions from AMPS members and music psychology news. The passionate Editorial team featured Joshua Bamford, Solange Glasser, James Richmond, and Joanne Ruksenas. The newsletter provides a forum to discuss issues and items of interest to our members, and invites original articles of scholarly research, books and performance reviews, discussion s of current research, and other items relating to music psychology (send to:

AMPS Conferences

In 2013, the inaugural AMPS conference was held in Melbourne. The overarching theme was "Music, Mind & Health", featuring sessions on "Music and Brain", "Redefining Music Excellence", "Music and Community" and "Music and Health". This 4 day event featured the workshop "Indigenous Communities and Music", and keynotes presentations by Glenn Schellenberg (University of Toronto), Bill Thompson (Macquarie University), Klaus Scherer (University of Geneva) and Denise Grocke (University of Melbourne). The program contained 34 oral presentation, two busy poster sessions, a series of panel discussions and two interactive workshops.

The second AMPS conference will be held in Sydney in 2015, titled "The Art and Science of Music", and will be hosted by the MARCS Institute.

Key Achievements (2010-2016)

  • 2013: establishing the AMPS biannual conference
  • steady increase in membership
  • vibrant seminar series with international, national and student speakers
  • partnership with MMW for seminars and events
  • 2015: introduction of AMPS newsletter
  • collaboration with The Music Trust and ANZARME to introduce an annual "Music Trust Award"
  • APSCOM 4 held at the Capital Normal University, Beijing, China, 11-14 July 2011
  • APSCOM 5 held jointly with ICMPC13 at Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, August 4-8 2014