Keynote speakers

Professor Jane Davidson

Jane Davidson is Professor of Creative and Performing Arts (Music) at The University of Melbourne and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

She was Editor of Psychology of Music (1997-2001), Vice-President of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (2003-2006), and President of the Musicological Society of Australia (2010 and 2011). She was a member of the Research Evaluation Committee for the Excellence in Research in Australia (ERA) in 2009 and 2012.

Her research is broadly in the area of performance studies, with interests in emotion and expression, voice, musical development, and music and wellbeing.

She has worked as an opera singer and music theatre director, and was coordinator of vocal studies at UWA over an eight-year period. She has published and performed extensively and secured a range of research grants in both Australia and overseas.

Title: Musical development across the lifespan: New theory and application


“This paper is focused on Western musical learning contexts. The origins of the work stretch back over 25 years when research collaborations led me to investigate fundamental questions about how and why some young music beginners persist to competency while others cease learning. The investigations revealed that some individuals progress quickly, moving systematically from group to solo lessons, while others achieve only piecemeal experiences, yet still succeed in learning many of the sub-skills involved in music-making. While the nature-nurture debate remained at the heart of these studies, it was evident that pathways to music performance are diverse, with both ad hoc and structured experiences taking place simultaneously and influencing the young learner in highly variable ways. New investigations have begun to transform the developmental psychology of music and the current presentation will explore some of the fine-grain understandings the new models offer.  But, most significantly, the presentation will shift from research focused on children to adult learners. With more than a decade of data from learners who started their musical experiences in late adulthood, my own studies show that as people move into the final stages of their lives they are not only highly motivated to engage with new music activities, but their participation displays surprising openness to challenge. In this context, the presentation explores a social psychological line of enquiry to connect self-identity, motivation and collective opportunity to understand musical development across the lifespan. Practical application of the work is also discussed.”

Professor Dr Sonja Kotz

Professor Sonja A. Kotz is a cognitive and affective neuroscientist, who investigates speech, language, music, and communication and their common ground. More specifically, her research centers on predictive coding and cognitive/affective control in sensorimotor behavior, perception, and higher cognitive functions (see domains above) in healthy and clinical (neurological, psychiatric) populations using behavioral and neuroimaging methods (event-related brain potentials (ERPs), M/EEG-oscillations, and structural/functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)).

She recently joined the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of Maastricht, The Netherlands as an appointed Chair and Professor in Neuropyschology and Translational Cognitive Neuroscience and leads the Neuropsychology section.

She is also a Research Professor in the Department of Neuropsychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany and holds an Honorary Professorship in Experimental Psychology at the University of Leipzig, Germany and an Honorary Chair position in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience at the School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, UK.

Title: On the importance of timing and rhythm in motor and non-motor behavior


“Neural correlates of motor and non-motor behavior such as speech and language as well as their dysfunctions are well documented in neuroscience and neuropsychology respectively. However, while the critical influence of timing and rhythm in motor behaviour is clearly recognized, there is very little evidence on their impact in speech and language research (see Kotz & Schwartze, 2010). This is surprising as rhythm and timing (i) play a crucial role in speech and language learning, (ii) can compensate developmental and acquired speech and language disorders, and (iii) further our understanding of subcortical contributions to linguistic and non-linguistic functions. For example, recent neuroimaging and clinical evidence has confirmed the contributions of classical motor control areas (cerebellum (CE), basal ganglia (BG), supplementary motor area (SMA)) in timing, rhythm, music, and speech perception (Chen et al., 2008; Grahn et al., 2007; Geiser et al., 2009; Kotz et al., 2009; Kotz & Schwartze, 2011). We consider serial order and temporal precision to be the mechanisms that are shared in simple and complex motor behaviour (e.g. Salinas, 2009), but also in higher order cognitive functions such as speech and language (Kotz & Schwartze, 2010; 2015). In my talk I will present behavioral and neuroimaging evidence on the role of timing and rhythm in motor behaviour, language learning, speech comprehension, and the compensation of both motor and speech behaviour in clinical populations and embed this evidence in a cortico-subcortical framework encompassing action-perception coupling.”

Professor Joe Wolfe

Joe Wolfe has a BSc in Physics from the University of Queensland and a PhD in Applied Mathematics from ANU. Last century, he worked in biophysics, specialising in the thermal physics of cellular ultrastructure, working at Cornell, CSIRO and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris as well as at UNSW, where he is now a professor.

At the turn of the century, he and colleague John Smith changed research fields and established a lab using novel measurement technologies to research the basic physics of the voice and musical instruments. Joe has won a number of national and international awards for both his research and his online teaching.

In his spare time, he is sometimes a composer of orchestral and chamber music, which has had concert performances on all continents except Antarctica.

Title: Physics of the voice in speech and singing


“Most human culture and civilisation derives from speech, and huge industries are based on processing, compressing, transmitting, analysing, recognising and synthesising it, often using physical models. However, the inaccessibility of the key elements and the absence of a good animal model means that much about the voice is only partly or imprecisely known. The first part of this talk will introduce the physics of speech, beginning with the mechanisms of oscillation of the vocal folds, which modulate air-flow from the lungs, converting DC power into travelling and standing waves in the vocal and subglottal tracts. The talk then turns to the vocal tract resonances that interact with the vocal fold signal to produce the spectral and some of the temporal features that we recognise as speech sounds or phonemes. The last section will overview some of the UNSW lab’s research on the voice, including vocal fold oscillation, singing registers, resonances of the vocal tract and its surrounding tissues, and some techniques practised by singers and orators.”