Why Sing?  The Evolution of Singing

We are delighted to announce Why Sing? — three conferences in 2017/18 which explore the evolution, and the physical, psychological and social benefits of singing from the Stone Age to the present day. Starting with The Evolution of Singing this spring, we will progress to The Power of Singing: Religion, Revolution and Tribalism on 24 November 2017 and to Singing Together: Wellbeing and Learning, a two-day conference in spring 2018.

The Evolution of Singing took place on Friday 28 April 2017 in the beautiful Church of the Order of St John, Clerkenwell.

Speakers included:

  • Dr Evangelos Himonides, Reader in Technology, Education, and Music at UCL Institute of Education, on the vocal instrument, its function, properties, needs and uniqueness as we understand it today.
  • Prof Steven Mithen, author of The Singing Neanderthals, on how modern humans benefit from their musical Stone Age past.
  • Dr Katie Overy, Music Psychologist and Cognitive Neuroscientist at the University of Edinburgh, on the neural basis of singing and the power of shared musical experiences.
  • Prof Michael Trimble, Behavioural Neurologist at UCL Institute of Neurology, on the differences between the human brain and the brains of our nearest living ancestors to try to understand the changes which may have been important for the development of singing.
  • Dr Edward Wickham, Fellow and Director of Music, St Catharine's College, Cambridge; specialist in Medieval and Renaissance music.

Musicians: The Clerks, the innovative early music vocal ensemble led by Edward Wickham, performed, illustrated lectures and joined in discussions.

We are grateful to the Order of St John for their collaboration and support.

This event had live subtitles delivered by Stagetext.

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"The closer to uncertainty and death you are, the more important music becomes."

- Lt Col Bob Meldrum - Music, Poetry and the Trauma of War, LSO St Luke's, 2 November 2014


  • To bring together the worlds of science and the arts
  • To advance understanding of the value of music and other art forms to the mind, brain and body

CLICK HERE for videos and transcripts from our conferences on:

  • Worlds in Collision: Music and the Trauma of War
  • The Beethoven Question: Can Art Make Life Worth Living?
  • Why Music? Is Music Different from the Other Arts?

The Musical Brain ®
Registered Charity Number: 1159843