Music Theory

Music Cognition Symposium


The Eastman/UR/Cornell/Buffalo Music Cognition Symposium is an informal gathering of people interested in music cognition. The symposium meets four times a year (twice in the fall and twice in the spring) on Saturday afternoons, usually at Eastman. The symposium receives funding from the University of Rochester’s Committee for Interdisciplinary Studies (UCIS).

Often, the symposium features invited guests—leading researchers in music cognition from around the United States and beyond. Symposia may also feature presentations of ongoing work by members of the community, and discussions of readings and topics in music cognition. Recent topics have included performance expression, probabilistic modeling, melodic expectation, and music-language connections.

Symposia are open to the public, and all are welcome. To be added to the symposium’s e-mail mailing list, contact David Temperley (

Music Cognition Symposia, 2018-19

Saturday, September 22, 2018
Psychology of Rhythm: Individual Differences and Therapeutic Applications
Guest speaker: Simone Dalla Bella (University of Montreal)
Ciminelli Lounge (Eastman Student Living Center, 100 Gibbs St., Rochester), 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 27, 2018
Guest Speaker: David Huron (Ohio State University)
Ciminelli Lounge (Eastman Student Living Center, 100 Gibbs St., Rochester), 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 13, 2019
Ciminelli Lounge, Eastman Student Living Center, 100 Gibbs St.

Saturday, April 27, 2019
Ciminelli Lounge, Eastman Student Living Center, 100 Gibbs St.
Guest Speakers: Andrew Oxenham (University of Minnesota) and Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (Carnegie-Mellon University)

Music Cognition Symposium Steering Committee

  • University of Rochester: Elizabeth West Marvin and David Temperley (Eastman), Joyce McDonough (Linguistics), Anne Luebke (Biomedical Engineering), Zhiyao Duan (Electrical and Computational Engineering)
  • Cornell University: Carol Krumhansl
  • University at Buffalo: Peter Pfordresher

Visiting speakers to the music cognition symposium from past years

Gavin Bidelman
Roger Chaffin
Elaine Chew
Sarah Creel
Roger Dannenberg
Steven Demorest
Simone Dalla Bella
Mary Farbood
Sid Fels
Jessica Graun
Peter Gregersen
Andrea Halpern
Erin Hannon
David Huron
Sean Hutchins
Petr Janata
Steve Larson

Ed Large
Fred Lerdahl
Dan Levitin
Charles Limb
Justin London
Psyche Loui
Elizabeth Margulis
Steve McAdams
Devin McAuley
Josh McDermott
Laura McPherson
Ken’ichi Miyazaki
Rosemary Mountain
Eugene Narmour
Jean-Jacques Nattiez
Caroline Palmer
Bryan Pardo

Ani Patel
Isabelle Peretz
Dirk-Jan Povel
Bruno Repp
Jean-Claude Risset
Frank Russo
Gottfried Schlaug
Mark Schmuckler
Xavier Serra
John Sloboda
Michael Thaut
Barbara Tillman
Laurel Trainor
Sandra Trehub
Victoria Williamson
Robert Zatorre



Ciminelli Lounge, Eastman Student Living Center, 100 Gibbs St.

2:00-2:15 Introductions
2:15-3:00 Andrew Oxenham (University of Minnesota), “How far does musical training generalize?”
3:00-3:15 Discussion
3:15-3:45 Break with refreshments
3:45-4:30 Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (Carnegie-Mellon University), “Individual differences in attentional control”
4:30-5:00 Discussion


Andrew Oxenham is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota. His areas of research include auditory and speech perception in people with normal hearing, impaired hearing, and cochlear implants. Specific areas of interest include pitch, auditory scene analysis, and context effects. He has published over 200 journal articles and book chapters, and has received awards from the Acoustical Society of America and the National Academy of Sciences. He is the founding co-Director of the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science (CATSS) and the founding Editor in Chief of the journal Trends in Hearing.

Title: How far does musical training generalize?
Abstract: Studies over the past decade have suggested that musical training confers benefits that extend beyond the realm of music, that it may enhance the neural coding and perception of speech in noise, and that it may therefore protect against some of the effects of aging on understanding speech in noisy backgrounds. This talk will explore the possible roots of these benefit in terms of enhanced pitch coding and perception, and will present data that question some of these earlier conclusions. The new results, along with a critical review of the existing literature, suggest that the field is ripe for a large-scale effort to establish the reproducibility of the original seminal studies.

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham is currently the Director of the Carnegie Mellon Neuroscience Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) appointed in 2018, after spending 22 years on the faculty of Boston University. Her work has been recognized by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Whitaker Foundation, and the Vannevar Bush Fellows program. She is a recipient of the Helmholtz-Rayleigh Interdisciplinary Silver Medal from the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and the ASA Mentorship Award. She is a Fellow of both ASA and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers, and is a Lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council. Her research uses behavioral, neuroimaging, and computational methods to understand auditory processing, a topic on which she lectures at conferences and symposia around the world.

Title: Individual differences in attentional control
Abstract: By some reports, musicians have special hearing abilities that generalize to helping them understand speech in noise. Many of the reported perceptual advantages of musicians are related to the ability to listen selectively, such as understanding a talker amidst other sounds. Yet, nonmusicians demonstrate differences in their ability to control selective auditory attention, as well. What contributes to these individual differences? This talk will review the neural mechanisms that support selective auditory attention and will consider how training might influence these mechanisms.