Andrew Goldman, Ph.D.

My name is Andrew Goldman. This webpage is a collection of my work and has some information about me. If you would like a copy of any of my publications, please write to me.

Download my CV here.

My Google Scholar page.


I am a music theorist and cognitive scientist. My work principally concerns the science of improvisation. I also work on music and embodied cognition. I received my PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2015 under the supervision of Prof. Ian Cross at the Centre for Music and Science. From there, I worked as a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience for 3 years at Columbia University working with Profs. George Lewis, Paul Sajda, and Daphna Shohamy where I learned to use EEG methods to investigate the neuroscience of both music and dance improvisation. I also worked as an adjunct assistant professor in Columbia's music department. I am currently a Postdoctoral Associate at Western University working with Prof. Jonathan De Souza on the Music, Cognition, and the Brain initiative. In addition to my research, I am also a composer. My original musical, "Science! The Musical", was premiered in Cambridge in 2014 and revived in New York City in 2018 (see below for details on the show). I also write pop songs, and music for children's choirs.


I work on music cognition, that is, how people learn, perceive, make sense of, understand, and produce music. In particular, I am interested in improvisation and embodied cognition. More than half of this work involves thinking of good questions to ask: if we are to use empirical methods to measure things about people's music cognition, we need to know what we are measuring and why. This is rarely obvious, and necessitates engaging with music studies more broadly. I consider this part of my work to be music-theoretical, and thus I identify as a music theorist. I also conduct behavioral and EEG experiments to test the empirical tractability of my theories (i.e., can we design and conduct experiments that are able to support or help falsify the theories), and to find answers to more specific, theory-driven questions.

Links to my published articles are below. If you are unable to access an article (some require subscriptions to academic journals) and would like to read it, please do feel free to contact me (my email address is below).

Peer-Reviewed Journal Publications

Phillips, K., Goldman, A., Jackson, T. (2019). Hand Shape Familiarity Affects Guitarists' Perception of Sonic Congruence. Auditory Perception & Cognition.
Most perception-action coupling studies address piano playing, but other instruments like the guitar afford other ways to investigate the cognitive representations of these relationships. On the guitar, the same sounding chord can be played with different fingerings. We tested whether more familiar fingerings had stronger perception action coupling. "Our findings suggest that guitarists' auditory-motor coupling is heterogenous with respect to their technique, and that perception-action coupling operates at the abstract level of the gesture."

Goldman, A., Thomas, C., and Sajda, P. (2019). Contact Improvisation practice predicts greater mu rhythm desynchronization during action observation. Psychology Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
We tested whether those with more practice engaging in Contact Improvisation showed greater evidence of sympathetic motor activity while observing the experimenter perform various actions. We also compared EEG signals while Contact Improvising compared to performing a choreography. Not all types of dance are the same, and differ in their task demands. We show and explain some relevant differences in the motor system.

Goldman, A. (2019). Live coding helps to distinguish between propositional and embodied improvisation. Journal of New Music Research.
This is a theoretical paper. Not all kinds of improvisation are the same, and we can distinguish between characteristic types of improvisatory processes. Live Coding is a musical practice involving writing algorithms for computers in real time music performance. I use this case to define and explain the relevance of the distinction between propositional and embodied improvisation.

Goldman, A., Jackson, T., and Sajda, P. (2018). Improvisation experience predicts how musicians cateorize musical structures. Psychology of Music.
This project used behavioral and EEG data to show that improvisation experience predicted how musicians categorized musical structures. Specifically, those with more experience improvising perceived different exemplars of similarly functioning harmonies to be more similar to each other compared with harmonies differing across functional categories. Those with less experience improvising showed less difference between these differences.
This video explains it with an animation!

Goldman, A. (2016). Improvisation as a way of knowing. Music Theory Online.
This paper follows from and expands upon my dissertation. It presents a theoretical framework to study improvisation scientifically.

Goldman, A. (2013). Towards a cognitive-scientific research program for improvisation: Theory and an experiment. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 23(4), 210-221.
This paper followed from my Masters thesis. It begins with a critique of definitions of improvisation and develops an approach to ask questions that are more compatible with cognitive scientific theories and methods. It then presents an experiment in which jazz pianists were asked to play under circumstances that systmetically varied their access to procedural knowledge. It uses music analysis to infer differences in cognitive processes while improvising under these different circumstances.

Kim, J. G., Goldman, A. J., & Biederman, I. (2008). Blind or deaf? A matter of aesthetics. Perception, 37(6), 949-950.
I worked on this project as an undergraduate. We surveyed people to ask whether, given the forced choice, they would prefer to be blind or deaf, and asked whether the reason was primarily motivated by aesthetic or practical uses of that sense.

Other Publications

Le Rythme 2019
I contributed an article to the 2019 edition of the journal, Le Rythme, published by FIER . It explores the relationship between theories of embodiment and improvisation through the lens of Dalcroze studies.

PhD Dissertation
This is my PhD dissertation. It presents a theoretical framework to study improvisation scientifically, contextualizes this work in the broader discourse of improvisation studies, and critiques past approaches. It presents original experimental evidence supporting the theories.

The Challenge of Comparing Improvisation Across Domains
This paper documents some of the challenges of comparing improvisatory practices across domains of behavior. It arose from a discussion group I founded with Marc Hannaford at Columbia University called the Comparing Domains of Improvisation Discussion Group.

Book Reviews

I have written published book reviews of some books on music cognition, and associated historical and scientific topics. Check them out below.

Alan Harvey. Music, Evolution, and the Harmony of Souls. Perception.

Marc Leman. The expressive moment: How interaction (with music) shapes human empowerment. Musicae Scientiae.

Alexandra Hui. The Psychophysical Ear: Musical Experiments, Experimental Sounds, 1840-1910. Psychology of Music.

Published Conference Proceedings

Goldman, A. (2012). What does one know when one knows how to improvise. In Proceedings of the 12th ICMPC and the 8th Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences.


I am a composer and songwriter. These days I use these skills mostly to write songs. I have also written a few pieces for children's choir.

Science! The Musical

I wrote a musical about science entitled "Science! The Musical!" that has been staged in the UK and New York City.

Watch the trailer here. You can watch a video of the 2018 production at Columbia University here.

If you would like to stage Science! The Musical at your university (or elsewhere) please get in touch to discuss details with me.

Take the Road

I wrote an album of songs while living in Cambridge as a graduate student. You can download the PDF of the album here.

Children's Choir Music

I used to accompany the King's Junior Voices in Cambridge. I've written a few pieces for them.

Big Dog Little Dog is a piece about two dogs (of different sizes) who are friends.

Evening is a setting of an Emily Dickinson poem.

Morning is also a setting of an Emily Dickinson poem.

Here is a performance of "Big Dog Little Dog" by the King's Junior Voices.