We are delighted to say that the keynote presentations will be given by Professor Peter Keller and James Saunders.

Via livestream: Professor Peter Keller, MARCs Institute, University of Western Sydney, Australia

The psychology and neuroscience of musical ensemble performance

Musical ensemble performance showcases the ability of groups of individuals to pursue shared goals by coordinating their actions with high levels of precision and flexibility. My presentation will address the psychological processes and brain mechanisms that enable such interpersonal coordination. I will give a brief overview of a theoretical framework and empirical approach for investigating factors that determine an individual’s ability to coordinate with others in musical contexts. The empirical strategy entails examining the building blocks of ensemble skills using a range of tasks in order to balance the trade-off between ecological validity and experimental control. Key results will be presented from studies employing basic laboratory paradigms and naturalistic musical tasks, as well as computational modelling, neuroimaging, and brain stimulation techniques.

Composer James SaundersOpen Scores Lab, Bath Spa University, England

Group behaviours as music

In daily life large groups of people regularly co-ordinate their actions, whether they are voting, jostling to leave a building, or selecting a restaurant, and as individuals we read each other’s movements, facial expressions and utterances in order to negotiate our encounters with the people we meet. These behaviours govern our relationships with others and our engagement with the world around us. Equally as musicians we form complex interpersonal relationships both with each other when playing together, and with an audience. Such relationships are often by-products of the necessities and conventions of musical performance, but they also offer opportunities to control musical material and the interaction between players and audiences.


The social behaviour of groups can be used as a means to articulate musical structures and processes, embodying decision-making in live performance and exploring the way choices and actions by individual performers affect the behaviour of the whole group, and the resultant music. Recent work using recorded instructions (Nickel 2016), performance practice training (Sdraulig 2013) and cueing networks (Saunders 2017) suggest approaches to group behaviours that rely on different frameworks to construct relations between performers, including decision-making and heuristics (Gigerenzer et al 2002; Saunders 2015), intergroup conflict (Forsyth 2013), consensus, and community forming (Brown 2001). It explores methods for harnessing specific motivations of players, bringing art and life closer together by ‘mapping the two onto each other by using people as a medium’ (Bishop 2012: 127), facilitating ‘the process of engaging with the world and oneself through play’ (Sicart 2014: 84).