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Oct 18

Music, Identity, and Social Bonding: Moving beyond the Lab

October 18 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm EDT

Learn how music can shape our identity and bring us together.

The question of why humans, across cultures and time, engage with music so readily and passionately has perplexed scholars and researchers from multiple fields, given the lack of clear evolutionary benefits conferred by such activities. Recently, several authors at the crossroads of musicology and cognitive science presented compelling, cross-disciplinary evidence that the evolutionary origins of musicality stem primarily from its ability to foster social bonding. One prominent avenue by which music can promote bonding is by aligning the bodily and mental states of those engaged in the same experience, resulting in a group feeling as if they have a shared identity. Playing music together naturally synchronizes our movements and listening to music together can naturally synchronize our emotional states. This synchronization can occur in the music players themselves, such as the members of a jazz band feeding off each other’s rhythm and tempo. And it can occur in the collective way in which an audience responds emotionally to the music — even when the listeners are online and potentially miles apart. Throughout this seminar, we will examine how music can be a vessel for who we are, and the ways in which this expression brings us together. 


  • Ian Anderson, Machine Learning Engineer at Spotify
  • Vijay Iyer, Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, Harvard University
  • Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior, McMaster University
  • Moderated by Matthew Sachs, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Free and open to the public; RSVP required via Eventbrite. Registered attendees will receive an event link shortly before the seminar begins. This event is part of the Seminars in Society and Neuroscience series.

The Center for Science and Society makes every reasonable effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to attend a Center for Science and Society event, please contact us at scienceandsociety@columbia.edu or (212) 853-1612 at least 10 days in advance of the event. For more information, please visit the campus accessibility webpage

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