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Oxford Seminar in the Psychology of Music: Ian Cross (University of Cambridge)

May 26 @ 4:56 pm - 6:26 pm


Ian Cross, Affiliative Interaction in Music and Speech

Please sign up here: https://oxford.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ospom-professor-ian-cross


Most research into language-music relationships has privileged language in the comparisons that it makes between the two domains. Music has generally been explored as though it were a sonic domain made up of complex patterns that can elicit aesthetic or hedonic responses, while studies of language are founded on its capacity to express complex propositions that can reflect states of affairs in the world. While music may resemble language in its combinatorial properties, in comparison with language it lacks the all-important property of compositionality; it thus appears to be a pale analogue of language with limited utility and little relevance outside the realm of entertainment. This view is, however, completely controverted by the fact that across cultures music constitutes a participatory medium for communicative interaction with diverse and significant functions. Participatory music displays features and involves processes that equip it to manage social relations by inducing a sense of mutual affiliation between participants. At least some of those features and processes are present in other modes of human interaction, particularly those genres of speech concerned with establishing or continuing mutual affiliation or attachment, generally termed “phatic”. I suggest that music as an interactive medium intersects so significantly with speech in the phatic register as to be indistinguishable from it. I hypothesise that affiliative communicative interaction need be neither music nor speech, but that these are best construed as culturally-constituted categories of human behaviour; the superordinate and generalisable category into which both fall is that of human affiliative communicative behaviour, which can be claimed in different cultures to be music, speech, or any one of a range of other categories in other possible taxonomies of human communicative behaviour. This paper will survey evidence from ethnomusicology, linguistics and the cognitive sciences of music, and from recent research at Cambridge into spontaneous interaction in speech and music, that lends support to this hypothesis.


Ian Cross is based in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge, where he is Professor and Director of the Centre for Music and Science. His early publications helped set the agenda for the study of music cognition; he has since published widely in the field of music and science, from the psychoacoustics of violins, through the evolutionary roots of musicality, to the effects of group music-making on the development of children’s empathic capacities. The two main strands of his current research involve testing ways of making musical notation easier to read, and the experimental investigation of common processes that underlie interaction in speech and in music. He is Editor-in-Chief of SAGE’s new Open Access journal Music & Science, is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and a classical guitarist.

About the series:

The Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford is pleased to announce a new seminar series – the Oxford Seminar in the Psychology of Music (OSPoM) – convened by Eric Clarke. Enjoying a position at a neglected part of the clock, seminars will start at 4.56pm GMT, and will last for 90 minutes – 45 minutes presentation followed by 45 minutes of discussion. These seminars are open to all.


May 26
4:56 pm - 6:26 pm
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Faculty of Music
01865 (2)76133