Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /home/ampsocie/public_html/include/database.php on line 29

Warning: session_start(): Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /home/ampsocie/public_html/include/database.php:29) in /home/ampsocie/public_html/include/session.php on line 55

Warning: session_start(): Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent (output started at /home/ampsocie/public_html/include/database.php:29) in /home/ampsocie/public_html/include/session.php on line 55

Warning: session_regenerate_id(): Cannot regenerate session id - headers already sent in /home/ampsocie/public_html/include/session.php on line 56
AMPS: Past Seminar Series

Past Seminar Series

Select the that year you would like to see

2011 Seminar Series

The origins of music: Grooming, flirting, playing or babbling?
Speaker : Prof Richard Parncutt
Date :2nd Feb


Streaming Audio of Seminar:

Definitions of music always depend on historic and cultural context. But some things we can say for sure. First, music’s main function is social: it can coordinate group behaviors. Second, music is emotional - it is particularly good at evoking pleasure and spirituality. Third, aspects of melodic, rhythmic and formal structure that are linked to physical properties of the human body are almost universal.

How did music begin? Different researchers have proposed that music began because it promoted group survival ("grooming"), mate selection (flirting), or cognitive skill acquisition (playing) in ancient humans or primates. I will argue that we do not know enough about ancient environments and behaviors to evaluate such theories satisfactorily. Instead, I will present leading current theories of the origins of music and evaluate them according to how well they predict music's apparently universal social functions, emotional qualities, and structural features.

Perhaps the central mystery of music is that it evokes strong emotions without being clearly adaptive. We can survive (or reproduce) without music, but not without food (or sex). Another mystery is the universal association of music with spirituality - the experientially grounded belief in virtual agents. Organisms are constantly guessing the causes of environmental events. The emergence of reflective awareness during the prehistorical “cultural explosion” (some 50,000-100,000 years ago) enabled early humans to wonder about their ultimate origins. But why do gods and spirits generally have personal qualities, and why are they associated with music?

Ellen Dissanayake suggested that music is based on motherese. A universal form of sonic-gestural communication between mothers and infants, motherese emerged between 1 and 2 million years ago as brain size increased and the gestation period shortened. As infants became increasingly fragile, mother-infant communication became increasingly important for survival. I will extend the theory in three ways. First, the origin of the music-spirituality link may be the mother as unconsciously perceived by the prelinguistic child. Second, the origin of the emotionally laden sound/movement vocabulary of motherese may be prenatal: learned associations between sound/movement patterns within the mother’s body and hormonally shared emotion. Third, the transformation from the sonic-emotional vocabulary of motherese to that of music may be divided into motherese, play, and ritual. This theory can predict all major universal features of music, and is less speculative than competing theories in the sense that the underlying pre- and postnatal behaviors can be observed here and now.

Further reading: Parncutt, R. (2009-2010). Prenatal and infant conditioning, the mother schema, and the origins of music and religion. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue on Music and Evolution (Ed. O. Vitouch & O. Ladinig), 119-150.

Richard Parncutt is a musicologist specialising in the psychology of music, and Professor of Systematic Musicology at the University of Graz, Austria. His publications address musical structure (pitch, consonance, harmony, tonality, tension, rhythm, meter, accent), music performance (psychology, piano, applications), the origins of tonality and of music, and musicological interdisciplinarity. He holds qualifications in music and physics from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from the University of New England, Australia. He was guest researcher with Ernst Terhardt (Munich), Johan Sundberg (Stockholm), Annabel Cohen (Halifax, Canada), Al Bregman (Montreal), and John Sloboda (Keele, England). He is or was a board member of all leading music psychology journals, founding academic editor of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies, founder of the series Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology and director of the Conference on Applied Interculturality Research.

The role of music in the community – social and therapeutic possibilities for action
Speaker : Professor Brynjulf Stige, Head of GAMUT (the Grieg Academy Music
Date :31st Mar


** New addition of Audio and video of this lecture:

In this presentation Professor Stige will present a model of participatory process that draws upon the possibilities afforded by community engagement in music. The social and therapeutic possibilities for action are something humans have “always” known and acted upon. The idea that music can help has been cultivated over millennia in a range of cultural contexts. Consequently, the specific ways of understanding how and why music has this potential have varied over time and place. Professor Stige will elaborate on the specific ways that music can be used to mobilize resources in the service of health, wellbeing, and development through critical awareness, appraising affordances, as well as bonding and bridging. Key values in using music in the service of communities will be explained, in particular freedom, equality, respect and solidarity. Examples of international practice will be offered to consolidate theory with practice.

Speaker: Professor Brynjulf Stige is head of GAMUT, the Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre at UniHealth in Bergen, Norway. He is a renowned theorist at the forefront of a new perspective labelled Community Music Therapy that embraces sociological perspectives on the ways that musical participation enhances health. Professor Stige’s contributions have established a focus on wellbeing and health promotion within the music therapy discipline that have countered a conventionally pathological emphasis, with publications such as Culture Centred Music Therapy (2002), Where Music Helps (2010) and Invitation to Community Music Therapy (forthcoming). He has published and presented internationally and is co-editor of .

An investigation of the relationships between pitch perception and sound recognition
Speaker : Mr David Marco
Date :28th Apr


David Marcos a final year PhD student from the School of Behavioural Science at the University of Melbourne. His research area is in music cognition with a focus in pitch perception and musical chord recognition.

This research investigates the effects of familiarity and training on the perception of concurrent pitches and dissonance in musical sounds. Musicians varying in levels of exposure and training were asked to rate musical chords using subjective scales of perceived dissonance and familiarity. Stimuli comprised musical chords played on different instruments, both real (Western & non-Western instruments) and synthesised.

Familiarity ratings for individual chords were shown to fluctuate between listeners. Subsequently, when asked to match the pitches heard in a chord, performance accuracy was shown to be mediated by participants' ratings of familiarity. Furthermore, for trials when pitch matching performance was shown to be poor, stimuli were rated as highly dissonant. This effect was hypothesised to be caused by listeners’ familiarity and preference for particular sounds they are frequently exposed to. It is suggested that a stored representation of a sound aids in future processing of that sound, thereby reducing pitch ambiguity and subsequently, perceived dissonance.

New Music Theory and the Brain
Speaker : Dr Neil McLachlan
Date :26th May


Presentation audio and slides can be found here:

This talk will outline the implications for music theory and practice of new models of the auditory pathways, and the experimental data that support them. The existing literature on the perception of pitch and consonance will be critically reviewed and a new framework for understanding music perception and cognition will be introduced. In particular, the Object-Attribute model of auditory perception predicts that a musical timbre must be recognized before it's pitch(es) can be processed. This in turn predicts that pitch perception and consonance will improve with training for more familiar stimuli. In other words, brain plasticity results in perceptual systems that are optimized for processing the music that an individual actively engages with. The implications of the model will then be explored for tonal music theory and for more recent music practices such as cross-cultural, atonal, electro-acoustic and computer music composition and for music learning.

Associate Professor Neil McLachlan has professional experience in music performance and composition, acoustic design, electronic and aerospace engineering and in music and auditory neuroscience. He is the inventor of the World's first harmonic bells and percussion ensembles, and the designer of an internationally awarded music reproduction system. To inform these design projects he collaborated with Dr Sarah Wilson to develop the first end to end neurocognitive model of the brain's auditory pathways, and is currently implementing this model with engineers at the Victorian Life-Sciences Supercomputing Facility.

The Wood and the Trees: Changing thinking in relation to music making
Speaker : Dr Susan West
Date :30th Jun


For bookings, please contact

Lectopia Recording

The literature recognises that there can be a disjunct between notions of our innate musicality and the reality of everyday music making in society. Some do (that is, make music!), and are deemed good enough to do, and some don't because they believe they are NOT good enough to do. This problem can be particularly obvious in relation to singing. At the same time, solutions to the problem of the lack of adult singing as part of normal human life may involve the same sort of activities that caused the disjunct in the first place. It's as if we can't always see the wood for the trees. How can we think about music making, in particular singing, in order to find a way around this problem?

Dr West is Convener and Senior Lecturer in Music Education at the School of Music, Australian National University. She trained in music performance at the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music and the Victorian College of the Arts and obtained a post-graduate degree in music education from the Kodaly Institute of Hungary. S he played Principal Piccolo with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra in 1980 and then Associate Principal and Principal Flute with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1981-1985. During this time she was also a member of the Australian Wind Virtuosi, touring nationally and internationally.

She was invited to the Canberra School of Music in 1984 to help establish the Music Education Program. Recognizing a need for different and more successful forms of music education, she continued her studies, first at Charles Sturt University and later with the Institute for Music and Health, New York. She developed the innovative approach to music education ‘The Music Outreach Principle’ a therapeutic approach that affects the musical lives of over 10,000 adults and children in the ACT.

Dr. West’s work has attracted both national and international interest. She not only works as a music educator but composes and arranges for children, instrumental groups, and for film. Her work is being documented in a range of short films from Ronin Films, Australia. She has been recognized through various awards, including a National Children’s Week Award, a National Women’s Day Award and a citation for Teaching Excellence from the Carrick Institute. Most recently the Hand-in-Hand Outreach Program was recognized for its excellence as a community outreach program through a national awards program run by the Music Council of Australia.

Attrition in graduate music programs: The influence of environmental and motivational factors.
Speaker : Dr Patricia Adelaida González-Moreno, Professor of Music Educat
Date :28th Jul


Despite the increasing number of students in music education graduate programs, attrition rates suggest a lack of success in retaining students and assisting them to the completion of their degree. Although past research studies suggest several external factors as the main causes of this phenomenon, little is known about the value system that music and music education graduate students hold in relation to their academic career and how that might determine their persistence and continuation as researchers and practitioners. Students are influenced by their expectancies for success (competence beliefs) and their subjective valuing of participating in a particular activity (Expectancy- Value Theory). These two components interact with external factors, such as the school environment, family, society and peers, and other internal factors. Based on the Expectancy-Value Theory, the aim of this study was to examine students’ competence beliefs and values, as well as their complex interaction with the social system, their actions and possible outcomes (e.g., getting a degree and pursuing a career as a researcher). Data collection included online questionnaires sent to students from three graduate programs in Mexico, as well as observations of environmental factors which have enhanced or undermined students’ motivational beliefs. Preliminary results have shown gender differences; female students hold higher values to graduate school while male students hold higher expectations for success. Factors affecting positively included career development, income increase, academic achievement as a job requirement, and interest in research. Factors affecting negatively included economic impact, lack of time, insufficient support but high expectations from faculty, distance and lack of communication from advisors. Based on results, strategies are formulated to improve retention rates of graduate music programs and to foster successful development of graduate students as future researchers.

Patricia González is Professor of Music Education at the Autonomous University of Chihuahua and graduate advisor in the Doctorate inb Music Education: A Multidisciplinary Perspective offered by the University of Granada. In 2009, she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Since 2007, she has collaborated in the first international mapping exercise to examine students’ motivation to music as compared to other school subjects, led by Prof Gary E. McPherson (University of Melbourne). She has been invited as a lecturer in the graduate program at the National School of Music (Autonomous University of Mexico), has offered music teacher education courses at the National Institute of Fine Arts, and presented papers at various national and international music and arts education conferences.

Music performance anxiety in adolescents.
Speaker : Dr Margaret Osborne
Date :25th Aug


Use this address to access the audio-visual recording of the seminar:

In this talk Margaret will review her PhD research which explored the conceptualisation, phenomenology, assessment and treatment of music performance anxiety (MPA) in young musicians. The initial studies investigated the reliability and validity of a new measure, the Music Performance Anxiety Inventory for Adolescents (MPAI-A), which was developed for use as a screening tool for MPA and an outcome measure for MPA interventions. To gain insight into the development of MPA in young musicians, students were asked to describe their worst music performance experience. These results provided compelling reasons to address MPA early and highlighted negative cognitions and performance exposure as important elements to address in reducing MPA in young musicians. The effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioural treatment program for MPA found a significant post-intervention reduction in self-reported MPA. This study represented an important first step in extending empirically supported interventions for child and adolescent anxiety disorders to music students with distressing performance anxiety. Margaret will also briefly discuss future research which will investigate the effectiveness of performance psychologytechniques in the high school environment to boost student resilience and maximise performance potential.

Dr Margaret Osborne is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working in the Music, Mind and Wellbeing initiative at the University of Melbourne. She graduated with a PhD from the University of Sydney in 2008, in which she investigated the phenomenology and treatment of music performance anxiety in adolescents. Her current research investigates the personal, social and cultural factorsthat impact on music engagement in education; the development of resilient young performers; and the use of music to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing. As a registered psychologist, Margaret works in private practice assisting performers and sports people of all ages to overcome debilitating performance anxiety and optimise their performance.

“Old dog, new tricks” Investigating theimpact of group singing on people over 70 years of age
Speaker : Prof Jane Davidson, University of Western Australia.
Date :27th Sep


Use this address to access the audio-recording of the seminar:


In 2000, I was privileged to report on work from Montreal which used group singing as a tool to establish new patterns of behaviour for individuals relying on the services of a soup kitchen - all participants were homeless men with habits of drug and alcohol abuse. The powerful and often complex stories and experiences captured in the study led to further research on the broader impact of singing across a wide range of people: members of a church choir, children, people lacking in confidence about their capacity to sing.

In 2006 I moved to Perth, Western Australia, and within a year had established a singing group for older people living alone and in receipt of home-help care. Now, some six years on, I have six groups running. Over the years, we have explored the social and musical dynamics of the groups and have attempted to capture process and outcomes in a range of qualitative methods and quantitative measures. In this presentation, I shall assess thepast, present and future prospects for this work in terms of psychological,social and physical impact.


Jane Davidson is the Callaway/Tunley Chair of Music and Director of the Callaway Centre at the University of Western Australia. She is Leader of the Performance Program for the Australian Research Council’s $24.25 million Centre of Excellence for the History of the Emotions (Europe 1100-1800). Jane has published extensively and given many keynote talks at international conferences. Her research relates to music performance studies and includes perspectives from social sciences as well as reflective performance practice and musicology. As applied to music education, Jane has investigated musical learning and engagement across the lifespan. She is a classically trained singer who has worked in opera and recital work and has more than 20 years of experience as an opera director.

Are young people really interested in playing music?
Speaker : Robert Ely
Date :27th Oct


Use this URL to access the presentation slides and audio:

What are young people really interested in? Are young people interested in playing music and ‘musicking’? In contrast to traditional approaches to these questions - using ethnographies, questionnaires and/or interviews - Robert Ely, Mary Ainley and Jon Pearce have developed the My Interest Now for Engagement tool (MINE), developed from iFISH software (Pearce, 2008). MINE uses an interactive and playful environment to facilitate student reporting and commenting upon their interests as well as indicating experiential, cognitive and affective dimensions of their involvement in a wide range of interest content. The interactive nature of the tool allows students to explore and select from a large pool of 60 potential interests using interactive sliders that represent five dimensions of experience; indoor-outdoor, creative-practical, technological-natural, solitary-social and serious-fun. Manipulation of sliders animates and re-orders graphical representations of the 60 potential interests in an on-line and real-time environment. Each individual is able to select up to 11 different interests on two separate occasions. In contrast to self-reported surveys or interviews, this process allows for triggering of new interests, as well as reporting existing interests. Data analysis of the processes and content of the MINE tool is derived from analysis of 1584 interests responses generated by 260 students, 12 to 15 years of age enrolled in two low SES (socio-economic status) government secondary schools in suburban Melbourne. Very few students selected any of the four potential interests relating to musical experiences: ‘playing a musical instrument’ (7 selections), ‘listening to music’ (25 selections), ‘singing’ (17 selections) and ‘song-writing’ (9 selections). Music related responses were 4% of the total. Robert will outline in detail the patterns of experiential, cognitive and affective responses relating to the students musical experiences. In addition an outline of the overall pattern of all interest responses for the cohort will be presented, describing what the students are interested in.

The MINE tool is designed to gather insight into content and dimensions of student’s interests using the authentic voice of the students themselves. This insight may be of interest to those who wish to design targeted learning and engagement strategies for music teachers and students in low SES schools.


Robert B W Ely is currently researching his PhD in Psychology and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne and has previously been the Director of Music and performing arts in ‘difficult’ schools and juvenile detention centres in Victoria, outback NSW and the UK for over ten years. Robert is passionate about allowing all young people to be treated with respect as they learn, and feels that understanding both the content and level of interest in individuals is one of the keys to effective engagement in learning. Robert’s previous Masters research established a relationship between high intrinsic motivation and high achievement in students with challenging behaviour.

Robert currently works in over 80 schools around Victoria, presenting interactive historical music ‘incursions’ and sings, plays woodwind, hurdy-gurdy and strings in medieval, renaissance and restoration groups around the Australia.