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Dr Neta Spiro

Researcher at Nordoff Robbins

Supervisor at and Member of the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge


MSc, Cognitive Science and Natural Language, University of Edinburgh
PhD, Music Psychology, Co-supervised by Prof Rens Bod, University of Amsterdam & Dr Ian Cross, University of Cambridge

Research Interests
Phrase perception
Perception of music in different population types:
Perception of Music in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Aphasia and Music Therapy
Dementia and Music

Music making is often interactive and the range of types of music making is vast. I explore different aspects of music making, looking in particular at characteristics of interaction and effects of music listening.

I am currently exploring the extent to which music-makers share understanding of their playing and the extent to which audiences’ understanding overlaps with that of the players, the ways players co-adapt during playing, and the effect of different temporal characteristics on social perception. I have also previously examined temporal and dynamic characteristics of solo performance. I have a particular interest in applying theories, approaches and methods from music cognition to other fields and am currently working at Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy exploring interaction in music therapy sessions, as well as exploring the role of music therapy in dementia care, the history of music therapy research and approaches to assessment of music therapy.

My background is in music (BA/Mus, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford) and cognitive science (MSc in Cognitive Science and Natural Languages), and my research has previously explored the relationships between music theory, performance and perception. This work asked questions about the perception and production of ‘motive’ in classical piano performance. This research followed from my PhD project which explored the question: What contributes to the perception of musical phrases in western classical music?

I particularly enjoy working with students and I teach on the Nordoff Robbins MMT course and at the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge. 

Understanding music’s role in our lives demands knowledge of a huge range of disciplines and I am, therefore, keen to collaborate with groups and individuals working in related fields.

Key Publications

  • Spiro, N. and Schober, M.F. (2014). Perspectives on Music and Communication:  An Introduction, Psychology of Music, 42(6), pp. 771-775.
  • Schober, M.F., & Spiro, N. (2014). Jazz improvisers’ shared understanding: A case study.  Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science, 5(808).
  • Tsiris, G., Spiro, N., Pavlicevic, M. (2014). What does the past tell us? A content analysis of the first quarter century of the British Journal of Music Therapy, British Journal of Music Therapy 28(1), pp. 4-24.
  • Spiro, N., Tsiris, G., & Pavlicevic, M. (2014). Music Therapy Models. In B. Thompson & G. Golson (Eds.), Music in the Social and Behavioural Sciences: An Encyclopaedia (pp. 771-773). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Rink J., Spiro, N. and Gold, N. (2011). Motive, gesture, and the analysis of performance. In A. Gritten and E. King (Eds.), Music and Gesture 2 (pp. 267-92). Aldershot: Ashgate. 
  • Spiro, N., Rink J., and Gold, N. (2010). The Form of Performance: Analyzing Pattern Distribution in Select Recordings of Chopin’s Mazurka Op. 24 No. 2, Musicae Scientiae, 14(2), 23-55.
  • Spiro, N. (2010). Dementia and Music Therapy: Observing effects and searching for underlying theories. Aging and Mental Health, 14(8), 891-899.
  • Cross, I., Gill, S., Knight, S., Nash, C., Rabinowitch, T., Slobodian, L., Spiro, N., Woodruff, G., Woolhouse, M. (2008). Commentary on “The Perception and Cognition of Time in Balinese Music” by Andrew Clay McGraw. Empirical Musicology Review, 3(2), 54-57.