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David R Sears

Doctoral student in Music Research (Music Theory)


Research Interests

  • musical expectations
  • music and emotion
  • psychophysiology of emotion
  • history of theory
  • popular music analysis


McGill University (2008-present)
  • PhD-3 in Music Theory
  • Supervised by Professor Stephen McAdams and Professor William Caplin
  • Tomlinson Fellow
University of Arkansas (2002-2008)
  • BAs Music (emphasis in Theory) and English Literature
  • Summa Cum Laude
  • Undergraduate Thesis Title: Conceptual Synaesthesia: Deconstructing Perceived Boundaries around Music and Literature
  • Research Thesis Title: Processing Surprise in Tonal Melodies

Work experience

Teaching Assistant
  • MUTH 110 Melody and Counterpoint
  • MUTH 111 Elementary Harmony
  • MUTH 210 Tonal Theory and Analysis
  • MUTH 211 Tonal Theory and Analysis II
  • MUMT 250 Music Perception and Cognition


  • Sears, D., M. Ogg, M. Benovoy, G. Zilberstein, and s. McAdams. 2010. "Are Bodily Responses Pre-Musical? Psychophysiological Applications to Music Analysis." In Proceedings of the International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition 11. Peer-reviewed abstract, Seattle, University of Washington.
  • Sears, D. 2008. "Processing Surprise in Tonal Melodies." Inquiry Research Journal, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR: 16-23.

Congress Contributions

  • Sears, D., W. Caplin, and S. McAdams. 2011. "The Perception of Cadential Closure in Mozart's Keyboard Sonatas." Invited paper presented at What is a Cadence? Theoretical and Analytical Perspectives on Cadences in the Classical Repertoire, Academia Belgica, Rome, Italy, January 17-19.
  • Sears, D. 2010. "The Effect of Performance Features and Formal Repetition on Measures of Physiological Arousal." Paper presented at the 3rd Meeting of the Northeastern Music Cognition Group, Boston, MA, October 23.
  • Sears, D, M. Ogg, M. Benovoy, G. Zilberstein, and S. McAdams. 2010. "Are Bodily Responses Pre- Musical? Psychophysiological Applications to Music Analysis." Paper presented at the International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition 11, Seattle, University of Washington, August 23-27.
  • Sears, D. M. Ogg, M. Benovoy, and S. McAdams. 2010. "The Effect of Performance Features on the Psychophysiological Responses of Listeners." Poster presented at the BRAMS Annual Scientific Day, Montreal, QC, April 16.
  • Sears, D., and H. Egermann. 2010. "Psychological Mechanisms and Psychophysiological Measurements." Presentation at the Workshop of Psychophysiological Measurement, CIRMMT, McGill University, Montreal, QC, April 23.
  • Sears, D., A. Conard, and M. Vallieres. 2010. "Musical Materials in Time: Some Theoretical Approaches to Musical Form." Presentation at the Workshop on Structural Analysis of Music, CIRMMT, McGill University, Montreal, QC, March 26.
  • Sears, D. 2008. "Processing Surprise in Tonal Melodies." Confounding Expectation: Music and the Unexpected Outcome. Graduate Student Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.