Susan Rogers: From Prince to Ph.D.

Susan Rogers, Ph.D. Photo from TapeOp ISSUE #117 JAN/FEB 2017

Susan Rogers, Ph.D. Photo from TapeOp ISSUE #117 JAN/FEB 2017


Susan Rogers: Sound Hero

TapeOp recently published a fantastic and expansive interview with the great Susan Rogers, Ph.D. She is perhaps best known as Prince's engineer for many years in the mid 80s, as well as her extensive career as a record producer and mixing engineer with diverse groups including David Byrne, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Rusted Root, Barenaked Ladies, Tricky, Geggy Tah, and Michael Penn. But, what sets her apart as a bonafide Sound Hero (my new designation for people like her) is her work in Music Cognition. Currently, she is focusing her studying on the causes of tinnitus and hyperacusis.

"The mechanisms are just now being understood, but at Berklee I can investigate our musician populations to see if some musicians are at a greater risk than others of developing tinnitus. Will it be the horn players, or the drummers, or the electric guitar players? Will it be the vocalists? Think about it, if you're singing in a choir, you're singing next to a sound source that can get really loud. Really, really loud. Who's at the greatest risk?"

Music Cognition

To hear more of Susan Rogers speaking about the discipline of Music Cognition, check out her video explanation of her work with the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory. To hear her speak about music and auditory science, it is clear the connections are deep and endlessly explorable:

The arts and sciences, I discovered, have way more similarities than I ever realized. It's just that the directionality of it is different. In the arts we imagine a condensed ball of dark matter that contains all of humanity, all of human knowledge, and you explode it into billions and billions of individual expressions of the human condition. Paintings, movies, television shows, books, records, and songs. You've got billions of individual ways of describing what it means to be human. Science is the same exact process, in reverse. We look at all the individuals, then we work our way back and try to describe what is universal. How do people hear? How do they think? How do they pay attention? How do they decide? How do they learn? How do they memorize? How do they grow? That's what science does. So it's the same journey, just in a different direction. You can explore record making with the goals of individual expression, or you can explore auditory science with the goal of what we all have in common.

Here is hoping for a continued stream of excellence from Dr. Rogers in helping us understand everything from a solid groove to the cause of the most puzzling auditory disorders, such as tinnitus and hyperacusis. Clearly, a great background in music creation can lead to a great career in music cognition and hearing science.