Study aims to learn why the world sings

The University of Prince Edward Island has received $2.5 million for a seven-year, international, multidisciplinary study of singing.

The University of Prince Edward Island has received a $2.5 million federal grant for a seven-year, international, multidisciplinary study of singing.

'We're going to come to much deeper, richer understandings.'— Prof. June Countryman

The study will bring together more than 70 researchers in Europe and Asia, as well as Canada and the United States, bridging disciplines and cultures.

UPEI music professor June Countryman is one of the 70 people taking part in the Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing, or AIRS, study. Countryman sees singing as innate, and will focus her attention on why some people, such as boys, don't sing more.

"We don't have the answer yet," Countryman told CBC News Friday.

"Being able to look at it from the point of view of music cognition, and neuroscience, and cultural anthropology, all of these different fields, I think we're going to come to much deeper, richer understandings."

Other researchers will look at such questions as the nature of singing, how to teach it better, and its health benefits.

UPEI psychology professor Annabel Cohen is leading the project. She said when she got the news that the $2.5 million grant had come in, she was shocked.

"I actually went to the mirror to see what happiness looked like. I felt very, very excited and thrilled. I couldn't believe it," said Cohen.

The grant was awarded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Its website describes it as the federal agency that promotes and supports university-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences.

The idea for AIRS came from a one-day conference at UPEI last spring, which highlighted research on singing across Canada. The first meeting of musical minds across the world will be held at UPEI this summer through video-conferencing.