PRISM Alumni: Making the world a better place by combining science and music
What’s your passion and how do you want to make a difference in the world?
Music and science are my two great passions. I think the world would be a better place with more of them both. Music (and I include dance in that) is fundamentally a social activity: throughout history people have danced and played music with each other or for each other. Even listening to music by yourself creates a feeling of familiarity with the artist. I would like to believe that the world would be a better place if more people actively took part in music: whether it be joining a choir or going social dancing. However, as a scientist, I also want to understand how music works to create social cohesion. A social programme should be based on evidence.
Why is inclusion important to you personally?
Inclusion is important to me because I’m human. From a biological perspective, part of what has made humans such an evolutionary success is their social nature. We can accomplish things as groups that would be impossible for any individual. However, this means we have a strong instinctive drive to fit in with others.
I like to start with the assumption that people are not so different. As a species we all have similar needs: food, shelter and social connection. Just like anyone else, I’ve struggled at times to fit in, particularly when moving to a new country.
How do we create a society that does more than accept difference?
We need a shift in how we approach difference. I find it helpful to remember that people, regardless of nationality, age or gender, are always far more similar than they are different. However, life would be boring if we were all the same. Meeting different people is both an opportunity to share something of ourselves, and to learn something new from a different perspective. I think there’s a danger in a multi-cultural society to see difference as a threat, but it doesn’t have to be.
Joshua Bamford grew up in Perth, surrounded by a variety of birds, fish, reptiles, two dogs and his biologist parents. He completed a Bachelor of Music (Honours) and Bachelor of Science at the University of Western Australia, while singing in the WA Opera chorus and working as a circus skills instructor. Since 2014 he has been living as an academic nomad around Europe, completing a Masters of Music Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, with a research internship at the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna in Austria.
He is currently the editor of the Australian Music & Psychology Society Newsletter and sits on the council for the International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology. In 2018 he will commence a DPhil in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford. In his spare time, he conducts choirs and goes swing dancing.