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Prof Ian Cross

Prof Ian Cross

Professor of Music & Science

Director, Centre for Music & Science

[Please note that Ian Cross is on research leave this year]

Ian Cross is available for consultancy.

Faculty of Music
11 West Road

Cambridge CB3 9DP
Office Phone: 01223 335185


I am Professor and Director of the Centre for Music and Science (CMS) and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge.  I teach undergraduate and graduate courses for the Faculty of Music and supervise a substantial number of graduate students. Research in the CMS investigates music from many different scientific perspectives, reflected in the wide range of publications by its past and present members.  I am Editor-in-Chief of SAGE's new online Open Access journal with SEMPRE, Music & Science, am on the editorial advisory boards of numerous journals, am a Trustee of the SEMPRE and a Governor of the Music Therapy Charity.  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 (including graduate student supervision) see Ian Cross's page on the CMS website.

Subject groups/Research projects

Music, Science, Technology:

 (Music Cognition)

Ethnomusicology, Popular Music and Sound Studies:

(Biocultural Approaches)*

Colleges, Departments and Institutes

Wolfson College:
Professorial Fellow

Research Interests

I have undertaken research into many different aspects of music: experiments in music cognition have explored the nature of our experience of tonal and rhythmic structures, as well as the mechanisms that shape those experiences; 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 Fritz et al, 2007; Fritz et al, 2010; Fritz et al, 2012); 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, 2008; 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 research projects exploring the dynamics and effects of music as an interactive medium.  The first focuses on the cognitive processes underlying spontaneous interaction in speech and music, with Sarah Hawkins, Cambridge, and Richard Ogden, University of York: for a recent paper with Juan Pablo Robledo, detailing some results, see  The project is being further developed to incorporate motion-capture data, in collaboration with Carlos Cornejo, Daniel Party and their group in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago.

The second project involves exploration of the potential relationships between musical group interaction and the development of the capacity for empathy and prosocial behaviour in children, following up the results of Rabinowitch, Cross, & Burnard (2013).  It has been conducted with Tal-Chen Rabinowitch (now at the University of Haifa) at ILABS, funded by the Templeton Foundation.  Data collection is now complete and preliminary results will be available soon. A workshop, Musics, selves and societies: the roles of music in effecting change in Cambridge in June 2018 brought together researchers from across the globe to explore the evidence for music's potential to achieve individual and social change and assess how that evidence might be used to inform public policy.

A rather more applied project is exploring 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); a bid for large-scale funding to develop it in the context of a wider region in West Africa is in process.  The project involves a number of participants, and is led by Lauren Stewart (Goldsmiths College) and Katie Rose Sanfilippo (also Goldsmiths), with Vivette Glover and Victoria Cornelius (Imperial College London) and myself and Paul Ramchandani (University of Cambridge) as UK Co-Investigators, and Bonnie McConnell (Australian National University) as the international Co-I.  The project website at is now live and contains the latest updates, and a project video is now on YouTube.

A further research project is funded by the Wiener-Anspach Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust.  It is being conducted with Dr Arild Stenberg in collaboration with Professor Régine Kolinsky at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and 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, and we are following up these results with the participation of teachers and students at the Conservatoire royale de Bruxelles and the Royal College of Music, London.

Research Supervision

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

Key Publications

Selected publications since 2011:

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


Hallam, S., Cross, I.  & Thaut, M. (Eds.) (2016) Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, (2nd edition). Oxford, Oxford University Press

Peer-reviewed papers

Cross, I. (2021, in press) 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). To appear in Behavioral & Brain Sciences.

Yu, Christine Guo, Blackwell, Alan F., & Cross, Ian (2021) Perception of Rhythmic Agency for Conversational Labelling.  Human Computer Interaction. []

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. [PubMed]

Rabinowitch, T-C. & Cross, I. (2019). Joint rhythmic tapping elicits distinct emotions depending on tap timing and prior musical training.  Emotion, 19(5):808-817. [PubMed]

Bravo, F., Cross, I., Hawkins, S., Gonzalez, N., Docampo, J., Bruno, C., & Stamatakis, E. (2017). Neural Mechanisms underlying Valence Inferences to Sound: the Role of the right Angular Gyrus. Neuropsychologia [abstract]

Knight, S., Spiro, N., & Cross, I. (2017). Look, listen and learn: Exploring effects of passive entrainment on social judgements of observed others. Psychology of Music, 45(1), 99-115. [abstract]

Bravo, F., Cross, I., Stamatakis, E. A., & Rohrmeier, M. (2017). Sensory cortical response to uncertainty and low salience during recognition of affective cues in musical intervals. PLOS ONE, 12(4), e0175991.

Woolhouse, M., Tidhar, D., and Cross, I. (2016) Effects on interpersonal memory of dancing in time with others.  Frontiers in Psychology, 7(167), 1-8.[NCBI]

Woolhouse, M., Cross, I. & Horton, T. (2016) Perception of non-adjacent tonic key relationships. Psychology of Music, 44(4), 802-815.[abstract]

Blake, E. & Cross, I. (2015) The acoustic and auditory contexts of human behaviour. Current Anthropology 56 (1), 81-103.[abstract]

Cross, I. (2014). Music and communication in music psychology. Psychology of Music, 42(6), 809-819.[abstract]

Rohrmeier, M. A., & Cross, I. (2014). Modelling unsupervised online-learning of artificial grammars: Linking implicit and statistical learning. Consciousness & Cognition, 27c, 155-167.

Cross, I. (2013).  "Does not compute?": music as real-time communicative interaction. AI & Society, 28(4), 415-430.

Rohrmeier, M. & Cross, I. (2013). Artificial grammar learning of melody is constrained by melodic inconsistency: Narmour's principles affect melodic learning. PLosONE, 8(7), e66174.

Rabinowitch, T-C, Cross, I. & Burnard, P. (2013).  Long-term musical group interaction has a positive influence on empathy in children. Psychology of Music, 41(4), 484-498.

Cross, I. (2012). Cognitive science and the cultural nature of music. Topics in Cognitive Science, 4(4), 668-677.

Cross, I. (2012).  Music, cultures and meanings: music as communication. Empirical Musicology Review, 7(1-2), 95-97.

Fritz, C., Blackwell, A. F., Cross, I., Moore, B.C.J. & Woodhouse, J. (2012). Exploring violin sound quality: investigating English timbre descriptors and correlating acoustical modifications with perceptual properties. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131 (1), 783-794.

Cross, I. (2011). The meanings of musical meanings: Comment on Towards a neural basis of processing musical semantics, by Stefan Koelsch. Physics of Life Reviews, 8, 116-119.

Chapters in books

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.

Cross, I (2016). The nature of music  and its evolution.  In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.)  Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 3-17), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. & Tolbert, E (2016). Music and meaning. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.)  Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 33-46), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Stainsby, T. & Cross, I (2016). The perception of pitch. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.)  Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 63-79), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Hallam, S., Cross, I & Thaut, M. (2016). Where now?. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, and M. Thaut (Eds.)  Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology, 2nd Edn, (pp 905-913), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. (2015). Music, speech and meaning in interaction. In Christian Maeder & Mark Reybrouck (Eds.). Music, Analysis, Experience. New Perspectives in Musical Semiotics. (pp19-30), Leuven: Leuven University Press. ISBN 978 94 6270 044 4

Cross, I. & Morley, I. (2013). Muzyka a ewolucja. Natura dowodów naukowych. In Marcin Bogucki, Adrian Foltyn, Piotr Podlipniak, Piotr Przbysz, Hanny Winiszewski (Eds.), Neuroestetyka Muzyki (pp 296-306), Poznan, Poznanskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk.

Hawkins, S., Cross, I., & Ogden, R. (2013). Communicative interaction in spontaneous music and speech. In M. Orwin, C. Howes & R. Kempson (Eds.), Language, music, and interaction (pp285-329), London: College Publications.

Cross, I., Fitch, W. T., Aboitiz, F., Iriki, A., Jarvis, E. D., Lewis, J., Liebal, K., Merker, B., Stout, D., and Trehub, S. E. (2013). Culture and evolution.  In Michael Arbib (Ed.) Language, music and the brain, (pp541-562), Strüngmann Forum Reports, Vol. 10, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Rabinowitch, T-C, Cross, I. & Burnard, P. (2012). Between Consciousnesses: Embodied Musical Intersubjectivity. In M. Reason & D. Reynolds (Eds.), Kinesthetic Empathy in Creative and Cultural Practices, (pp109-120), Bristol, Intellect Press.

Cross, I. (2012).  Music as an emergent exaptation.  In N. Bannan (Ed.) Music, language and human evolution (pp263-276), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I., Laurence, F. & Rabinowitch, T-C. (2012) Empathy and creativity in group musical practices; towards a concept of empathic creativity. In G. MacPherson and G. Welch (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Music Education, (pp337-353). Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cross, I. (2012).  Music and biocultural evolution.  Rewritten chapter for second edition of M. Clayton, R. Middleton, T. Herbert (Eds.) The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction (pp17-27), London, Routledge.

Cross, I. (2012). Music as social and cognitive process. In Rebuschat, P., Rohrmeier, M., Hawkins, J. & Cross, I. (Eds.) Language and music as cognitive systems, (pp315-328). Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Phillips, M. & Cross, I. (2011). About musical time: effects of age, enjoyment, and musical training on retrospective estimate of elapsed duration during music listening. In Vatakis, A., Esposito, A., Giagkou, M., Cummins, F., & Papadelis, G (Eds.) Multidisciplinary Aspects of Time and Time Perception, Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 6789 LNAI, pp125-136, Heidelberg, Springer.