Conference review by Merrick Powell, Macquarie University.

SysMus21, the 14th International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology, was a wonderfully diverse conference encompassing all corners of music science. Well over 100 participants gathered across a hybrid in-person and digital format, which was organised excellently by the student-led committee. Internationally renowned experts, advanced students, and everyone in between gathered to hear talks, see posters, and celebrate the diversity of research under the systematic musicology umbrella. The program and abstracts are available here.  

The in person cohort at SYSMUS 14.

This was this writer’s first SysMus, and regrettably, digital participation and time differences made it difficult to experience the conference in full. Regardless, the many talks, posters, and friendly conversations in the Gather Town bar that I was able to engage in provided a wonderful snapshot of the conference. The conference kicked off with a warm welcome and a brilliant and engaging talk by Peter Vuust on the role of predictive coding and prediction error in musical engagement. Keynotes from Jonna Vuoskoski on the social dimension of music cognition, presenting work on empathy, being moved, and social connection in virtual concerts, and from Nori Jacoby on a large-scale cultural project investigating the mental representation of rhythm across many cultural groups, were fantastic and inspiring ways to start each day. 

Group photo at SYSMUS 14.

Presentations included sessions on data science, well-being, cognition, emotion, and many more, filled with presentations both in-person and virtual. This writer had the pleasure of presenting virtually in the sociology section, discussing morbid curiosity and its contribution to the enjoyment of violently themed music. Presenting virtually here was a great experience and went smoothly. Having a camera on the in-person audience in the room was a great addition, making the presentation feel that little bit more personal. The 12-minute talk flew by, as they often do, and after some great discussion in the 5-minute question time, the session moved to some outstanding in-person sociology presentations. A student of AMPS president Amanda Krause, Kaila Potter, presented an excellent poster in the next session, detailing the influence of rap lyrics on the perceptions of negative personality traits and the criminality of hypothetical rap fans. 

A big congratulations to all of those involved in organising and executing a wonderful SysMus21, especially to everyone at the Center for Music in the Brain (MIB) in Aarhus. Next year, SysMus22 will take place at Ghent University in Belgium. This writer, for one, hopes to attend in person and have an even greater experience exploring more of the wonderful work in systematic musicology (and the social events too!).