Susan Rogers

music cognition
psychology of music
music and the brain

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Susan Rogers holds a doctorate in psychology from McGill University, where she studied music cognition and psychoacoustics under researchers Daniel Levitin and Stephen McAdams. Her research focuses on auditory memory, the perception of musical signals, and the influence of musical training on auditory development. For two decades prior to her science career, Rogers was one of the world's few women known for her work as a record producer, engineer, mixer, and audio electronics technician. Career highlights include years (1983–1988) as staff engineer for recording artist Prince and working with such diverse artists as Barenaked Ladies, David Byrne, Tricky, and Tevin Campbell.

Rogers is the director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory. She is currently writing a book on music listening for W. W. Norton Publishing for release in the fall of 2021.

Career Highlights
  • Recordings as a mixer/engineer with Prince, David Byrne, Barenaked Ladies, Tricky, Paul Westerberg, Geggy Tah, and Michael Penn
  • Recordings include "Purple Rain," "Around the World in a Day," "Parade," and "Sign 'o the Times" by Prince, and Stunt by Barenaked Ladies
  • Produced singles for artists such as Robben Ford, Jeff Black, and Rusted Root
  • Mixed hit singles for Toad the Wet Sprocket and Tevin Campbell; engineered singles for a host of other artists
  • Research interests include auditory memory, music perception and cognition, and psychoacoustics
  • Distinguished Faculty Award, Professional Writing and Music Technology Division at Berklee (2012)
  • Recipient of a Grammy Foundation Research Grant
  • Recipient of a Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship
  • Six-time Grammy nominee and three-time Juno nominee for recordings as an engineerer/mixer/producer
In Their Own Words

"When I was young, I wanted to make records. I started in the business in 1978 as an audio technician, and I was able to eventually work my way into engineering and production. I loved making records, but along the way I began to realize that I might also enjoy working as a scientist. To have a professional music career as an engineer and producer meant traveling all the time. Clients might want to work in New York or L.A. or Nashville or Miami or Texas or Europe, so often I would go on the road with them. It was a very hectic life."

"Record producing is a youth-oriented profession. Most producers are making records that are consumed by younger people. When I was in my mid-40s, I was making records for a college audience, mostly alternative rock, and I had finally reached a point where I was no longer listening to the records that I was making."

"In the late '90s I produced a hit record with Barenaked Ladies. I took my royalty check and quit the music business, and in 2000 enrolled as a freshman at the University of Minnesota. I went to McGill University in Montreal to do my graduate work in music perception and cognition. This branch of psychology explores musical behaviors from the psycho- and neurological perspective, in other words, the what, where, how, when, and why of human musical experience."

"Berklee hired me to teach engineering and production, but also to help implement a more music-centric science program in the Liberal Arts Department. They encouraged me to design courses in music cognition and psychoacoustics."

"To be teaching engineering and production at Berklee is satisfying because these young people are just starting what will probably be extraordinarily exciting careers. They have voracious appetites for popular music and strong desires to express themselves. I am eager to hear what this generation will do in the service of the music industry."

"I hope my students get a map and compass for a life in the arts after studying with me. I can't get them there, but I can show and tell them what it was like to have taken the journey."