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Faculty of Music

Prof Ian  Cross


Emeritus Professor of Music & Science
Principal Investigator, Score Design for Music Reading project


I am Emeritus Professsor of Music & Science, Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, having retired as Director of the Centre for Music and Science (CMS) in 2021. I am presently Principal Investigator for a Leverhulme Trust-funded research project, Score Design for music reading: cognitive and artistic perspectives. I taught undergraduate and graduate courses for the Faculty of Music and supervised a substantial number of graduate students as well as founding the CMS, where research investigates music from many different scientific perspectives as reflected in the wide range of publications by its past and present members (see blogs at I am Editor-in-Chief of SAGE's online Open Access journal with SEMPRE, Music & Science, publishing research across the field of music and science as broadly conceived (e.g., a recent Special Collection of papers arising from experiments conducted on concert performances by the Danish String Quartet integrates physiological, cognitive-behavioural, aesthetic, ethical and logistic perspectives — see the Launch Event in October 2023 at RITMO, Universitetet i Oslo, on Youtube).  I shall be giving a keynote address at the the 12th Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM) in July 2024. I am on the advisory boards of several institutions, journals and research projects, a Trustee of SEMPRE, a Governor of the Music Therapy Charity and Chair of Trustees of KJV Community Choir.  I am also a guitarist, having studied with Tim Walker and holding diplomas from the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music.

For more information see Ian Cross's page on the CMS website.


I have undertaken research into many different aspects of music: my early work explored the nature of our experience of tonal and rhythmic structures (see, e.g., Cross et al., 1983), as well as the mechanisms that shape those experiences; subsequent research investigated our sensitivity to the building blocks of tonal music (see, e.g., Deliège et al., 1996) as well as the ways in which research into music cognition could be related to music analysis (see, e.g., Cross, 1998); a Leverhulme Trust-funded project with Professors Jim Woodhouse and Brian Moore (in the Departments of Engineering and Psychology, respectively) studied the perceptual correlates of violin acoustics (see, e.g., Fritz et al, 2007); and projects in experimental archaeology have investigated the sound-producing potential of lithic artefacts and the possibility of their identification in the archaeological record (see Cross et al, 2002; Blake & Cross, 2015).  I have also written extensively on the relationships between music and processes of evolution (see OUP blog).

I have a number of ongoing and just-completed research projects exploring the dynamics and effects of music as an interactive medium.  One derives from my work on music and evolution, and focuses on the cognitive processes underlying spontaneous interaction in speech and music (with Sarah Hawkins, Cambridge, and Richard Ogden, University of York).  The project has been further developed to incorporate motion-capture data, in collaboration with Carlos Cornejo, Daniel Party (both of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago) and Juan Pablo Robledo (Université de Lorraine), and a paper detailing the results of our most recent experiment is available at:  In a recent talk (Rayson Huang lecture, University of Hong Kong, April 2021) I draw on the results of that and other recent experiments to argue that speech in the phatic register and music as interaction can both be interpreted as manifestations of a superordinate category of affiliative communicative interaction.  A recent paper ( develops these ideas further, suggesting that what we construe as musical events may be better understood as the traces of human interaction mediated by interactive affordances that help achieve affiliative alignment.

A rather more applied project explored the development of a music-based intervention to enhance perinatal mental health in The Gambia.  The project has completed its first iteration and results are very promising (see Sanfilippo et al, 2020).  The project involves a number of participants, and is led by Lauren Stewart (Goldsmiths College) and Katie Rose Sanfilippo (City, University of London), with Vivette Glover and Victoria Cornelius (Imperial College London) and myself and Paul Ramchandani (University of Cambridge) as UK Co-Investigators, with  Bonnie McConnell (Australian National University), Buba Darboe (Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Gambia), and Hassoum Ceessay (National Centre of Arts and Culture, the Gambia) as International Co-Investigators, and Hajara Huma, a Registered Nurse, as the project's Gambian Research Assistant.  The project website at contains the latest updates, and a project video is now on YouTube.

A research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust entitled Score Design for music reading: cognitive and artistic perspectives started in January 2023. It is being conducted by myself as PI with Arild Stenberg as Senior Research Associate, David Duncan as Research Assistant, and a PhD student, Katya Ness.  It emerges from the results of Arild's doctoral research (reported in brief in Stenberg & Cross, 2019) on the effects of small modifications to the standard design of musical scores on sight-reading performance; we found that the introduction of vertically-oriented white spaces across staves could lead to more accurate and fluent sightreading. We are following up these results and aiming to understand more broadly how musicians engage with, use, and modify musical notation, with the participation of teachers and students at the Faculty of Music in Cambridge, at the Conservatoire royale de Bruxelles and at the Royal College of Music, London.


Key publications: 

Publications since 2019:

(for a more complete list and access to preprints of papers and chapters, see my Google Scholar profile)

Cheston, H., Cross, I. & Harrison, P.(2024, in press). Trade-offs in Coordination Strategies for Networked Jazz Performances. In press with Music Perception.

Zhang, X. & Cross, I. (2024, in press). Singers' Realization of Linguistic Tones in Chaozhou Songs. In press with Ethnomusicology.

Reybrouck, M. & Cross, I. (2024, in press). Music listening as an evolutionary achievement: ecosemiotic and biosemiotic claims. To appear in J. Vouoskoski, A. Schiavio  and Y. Kim (Eds) Music and the cognitive humanities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. (2024, in press). Music as formative social action. To appear in N. Thieberger, S. Treloyn, A.Harris & M. Turpin (Eds.) Keeping Time: dialogues on music and archives. Sydney: University of Sydney Press.

Cross, I. (2023). Sharing uncertainty: music in humanistic and scientific understandings.  Musicae Scientiae []

Sanfilippo K. R. M., Glover V., Cornelius V., Amiel Castro R., McConnell B., Darboe B., Huma H. B., Gaye M., Ceesay H., Ramchandani P., Cross I. & Stewart L. (2023) Expressions of Antenatal Symptoms of Common Mental Disorders in The Gambia and the UK. BMJ Open, 13:e066807 []

Cross, I. (2023). Music in the digital age: commodity, community, communion.  AI & Society []

Yu, Christine Guo, Blackwell, Alan F., & Cross, Ian (2023) Perception of Rhythmic Agency for Conversational Labelling.  Human Computer Interaction, 38(1): 25-48. []

Robledo, J. P , Cross, I., Boada-Bayona, L. & Demogeot, N. (2022). Back to basics; a re-evaluation of the role of imprinting in the genesis of Bowlby’s attachment theory. Frontiers in Psychology, 13 []

Cross, I. (2022) Music, speech and affiliative communicative interaction: pitch and rhythm as interactive affordances. PsyArXiv. May 9.

Cross, I. (2022). Music, Memory and Narrative: The Art of Telling in Tale of Tales. Animation, 17(3), 334-346. []

Lillywhite, A., Nijhof, D., Glowinski, D., Giordano, B. L., Camurri, A., Cross, I., & Pollick, F. (2022). A functional magnetic resonance imaging examination of audiovisual observation of a point-light string quartet using intersubject correlation and physical feature analysis. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 16. []

Sanfilippo, K. R., Spiro, N. & Cross, I. (2022). Synthesis: the future of musical care.  In Katie Rose Sanfilippo & Neta Spiro (Eds.) Collaborative Insights (pp146.166). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

MacIntyre, A. D., Lo, H. Y. J., Cross, I., & Scott, S. (2022). Task-irrelevant auditory metre shapes visuomotor sequential learning. Psychological Research []

Dunbar, R. I.M., Robledo del Canto J. P., Tamarit, I., Cross, I. & Smith, E, (2022). Nonverbal Auditory Cues Allow Relationship Quality to be Inferred During Conversations. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 46, 1-18. []

Stewart L., McConnell B., Darboe B., Glover V., Huma H. B., Sanfilippo K. R. M., Cross I., Ceesay H., Ramchandani P. & Cornelius V. (2021).  Social Singing, Culture and Health: Interdisciplinary Insights from the CHIME project for Perinatal Mental Health.  Health Promotion International, 1–8 []

Carlson, E. & Cross, I. (2021).  Reopening the conversation between music psychology and music therapy: a survey of interdisciplinary attitudes.  Music Perception, 39(2): 181-201. []

Cross, I. (2021) Music, attachment and uncertainty: music as communicative interaction.  Commentary on Music as a coevolved system for social bonding (Savage, Loui, Tarr, Schachner, Glowacki, Mithen & Fitch); and Origins of music in credible signalling (Mehr, Krasnow, Bryant & Hagen). Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 44, e6. [ ]

Zhang, X. & Cross, I. (2021). Analysing the Relationships between Tone and Melody in Chaozhou Songs. Journal of New Music Research. [ ]

Cao, E., Blinderman, C. D. and Cross, I. (2021). Reconsidering empathy: an interpersonal approach and participatory arts  in the medical humanities. Journal of  Medical Humanities. []

Robledo, J. P., Hawkins, S., Cornejo, C., Cross, I., Party, D., & Hurtado, E. (2021). Musical improvisation enhances interpersonal coordination in subsequent conversation: Motor and speech evidence. PLOS ONE, 16(4), e0250166. []

Harris, I. & Cross, I. (2021).  Investigating Everyday Musical Interaction During COVID-19: An Experimental Procedure for Collaborative Playlist Engagement. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(1006). []

Cross, I. & Tolbert, E. (2020). Epistemologies.  In T. McAuley, J. Levinson, and N. Nielsen (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Western Music and Philosophy, (pp265-282), Oxford, Oxford University Press. []

Sanfilippo, K. R. M., McConnell, B., Cornelius, V., Darboe, B., Huma, H. B., Gaye, M., Ceesay, M., Ramchandani, P., Cross, I., Glover, V. & Stewart, L. (2020). Community psychosocial music intervention (CHIME) to reduce antenatal common mental disorder symptoms in The Gambia: a feasibility trial. BMJ Open, 10(11), e040287. [paper]

Bravo, F., Cross, I., Hopkins, C., Gonzalez, N., Docampo, J., Bruno, C. & Stamatakis, E.A. (2020), Anterior Cingulate and Medial Prefrontal Cortex Response to Systematically Controlled Tonal Dissonance during Passive Music Listening.  Human Brain Mapping, [].

Sanfilippo, K. R. M., McConnell, B., Cornelius, V., Darboe, B., Huma, H. B., Gaye, M., Ramchandani, P., Ceesay, H., Glover, V., Cross, I. & Stewart, L. (2019). A study protocol for testing the feasibility of a randomised stepped wedge cluster design to investigate a Community Health Intervention through Musical Engagement (CHIME) for perinatal mental health in The Gambia. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 5(1), 124. [paper]

Pavarini, G., Sun, R., Mahmoud, M., Cross, I., Schnall, S., Fischer, A., Deakin, J., et al. (2019). The Role of Oxytocin in the Facial Mimicry of Affiliative vs. Non-Affiliative Emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 109, 104377.

Stenberg, A., & Cross, I. (2019). White spaces, music notation and the facilitation of sight-reading. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 5299. []

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

For a list of doctoral students and topics supervised, please see:
Ian Cross's CMS page