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Centre for Music and Science



Louisa Denby is reading for a PhD in the Centre for Music & Science, supervised by Professor Ian Cross. She completed her undergraduate studies in Music at Selwyn College, Cambridge, before undertaking the MMus in Choral Studies, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Theology & Religious Studies.

                Louisa’s thesis considers recent research into cognitive features which have evolved in humans to result in the ‘naturalness’ of religious belief (theory of mind, mental tools for the detection of intentional agency, and so on), in tandem with universal features of music which are ubiquitous in known cultures (e.g. temporal and organisational hierarchy, emergence of emotive engagement via violation of expectation, and teleological thrust), thereby facilitating an examination of the extent to which the human propensity for religion can be said to be manifested in music. It will also work towards beginning to construct an account of the pan-cultural function and significance of music in contexts of ritual and religious worship; these observations will be used as a basis for the argument that music is an optimal means by which the propensity for belief might be expressed. A further goal is to explore the extent to which the ‘naturalness’ of our religious belief, and the phenomena of entrainment and synchrony, which are optimised through participation in (and, to a certain extent, observation of) music-making, are intrinsic to our nature as social beings.

PhD student
 Louisa  Denby

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