2014 CMS Summit Overview

We invite your participation in the CMS Summit on Music Science and Society May 16-17, 2014, in Seattle, Washington.  The question of "Why (study) music?" comes up for us in many circumstances, and this Summit provides the opportunity of performers, educators, composers, and scholars of music to engage in discussion of the scientific bases of the human need for musical engagement and music studies--in higher education, in communities, in schools.

A pervasive question for musicians of every specialization is this one that emerges in various professional venues and social settings of every sort: “Why (study) music?”  It rises out of a veritable blitz of misinformation and uncertainties that have been circulating over the last decade under the guise of "brain research in music" and "wellness through music", and depends upon the research of anthropologists, neurologists, psychologists, and sociologists in clarifying the considerable benefits of music in human life.  The 2014 Summit on  Music Science and Society provides a venue for thoughtful examination of ideas at this critical juncture in the musical education of specialists and amateurs, and children/youth and adult learners.

The aim of this Summit is the development of research-based understandings of what humanly transpires in the processes of performing (and participating) in music, within deep listening experiences and the expressive practices of performing and composing-improvising, and within all experiences that call upon the integral and holistic involvements of the ear, the brain, and the body in musicking acts. CMS members will meet with currently active experts in order to make sense of recent scientific work, and to clarify the nature of professional efforts in the education in music of university students (and by extension, their lifelong musical involvement as well as active service in the musical engagement of others). A broad spectrum of issues—from cognitive to neuromusical to sociomusical perspectives—will form the basis for the articulation of a contemporary rationale for the formal study of music (as well as less formal musical participation in community settings), while also revealing the research basis for understanding the relationships between music and meaningful constructs such as joy, solace, social cohesion, and spirituality.

Plenary sessions by the following keynote presenters will set the course for dialogues:

cross ian

Ian Cross - Cambridge University, psychologist with specializations in music as social and cognitive process, and music and biocultural evolution


friedson steven

Steven Friedson - University of North Texas; anthropologist and ethnomusicologist, expert on music and trance, author of Dancing Prophets and Remains of Ritual


trainor laurel

Laurel Trainor - McMaster University, specialist on plasticity of the brain, maturation, and the musical experience


More concerning the faculty will be found here.

As key players in this Summit, they will provide the substance of thinking through matters of music and neuroscience, cognitive and social processes, emotion and meaning, and ritual, religion, health, and altered states of consciousness. A set of readings is available online for pre-Summit reading in order to prompt active dialogue and discussion.

This fifth CMS Summit goes into gear in the late afternoon on a Friday and runs all day on Saturday (so as to allow travel to the Pacific Northwest to transpire on Friday with return home on Sunday); it is weekend-only event. A blend will be offered of plenary lectures, small-group dialogue sessions, and large-group summative discussions on articulating participation in/study of music in schools and communities—all of this directly linked to compelling scientific and social-scientific research that can undergird our efforts. In order to address the relevance of neuromusical and sociomusical research to practice, discussion will encompass the responsibilities of faculty in tertiary institutions for articulating the significant role that musical study plays in ensuring that lives are full and meaningful (and ways to do so). Dialogue and discussion will give way to clarifying the importance of preserving and continuing strong tertiary-level music programs that graduate performers, educators, community activists, scholars, and composers. Attention will be given to pathways which undergraduate music majors can choose in learning the musical knowledge and skills that will lead to their own work in making musical engagement happen in local places where people gather—from work to worship, in schools, after-school, and pre-school programs, in libraries, museums, and shopping malls, in eldercare, hospitals, and hospices. We believe that these is important work that educated musicians can do, and the scientific study of why music (and why study music) will underscore and offer further validation for this work.

Registration Fees

Register and attend the Summit by clicking the link to the left or visit this page. The pre-registration deadline is Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

CMS Members: $100 CMS Student/Retired Members: $40
Non-Members: $150 Non-Member Student/Retired: $90



After April 15, 2014, a $25 late fee will be added.


Preliminary Reading Materials

The following pre-Summit readings are provided in order to prompt active dialogue and discussion during the event:

Cognitive Science and the Cultural Nature of Music
Ian Cross

Dancing Prophets: Musical Experience in Tumbuka Healing
Steven M. Friedson

Long-term Musical Group Interaction Has a Positive Influence on Empathy in Children
Tal-Chen Rabinowitch, Ian Cross & Pamela Burnard

Music as a Communicative Medium
Ian Cross & Ghofur Eliot Woodruff

Music as a Social and Cognitive Process
Ian Cross

Music Acquisition: Effects of Enculturation and Formal Training on Development
Erin E. Hannon & Laurel J. Trainor

Music Training Leads to the Development of Timbre-specific Gamma Band Activity
Antoine J. Shahin, Larry E. Roberts, Wilkin Chau, Laurel J. Trainor, & Lee M. Millera

Remains of Ritual: Northern Gods in a Southern Land
Steven M. Friedson