Susan Rogers: From Prince to Neuroscientist

Susan Rogers is an American professor, sound engineer, and record producer best known for her work with Prince, including on his iconic albums Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, Sign o’ the Times, and The Black Album. She also worked as a producer and sound engineer for artists such as  David Byrne, Barenaked Ladies and Tricky.

Rogers is a Professor of Music Production and Engineering at Berklee College of Music. She holds a doctorate of psychology from McGill University, where she studied music cognition and psychoacoustics. Her focus is on auditory memory, the perception of musical signals, and the influence of musical training on auditory development.

In her book ‘This Is What It Sounds Like’, co-written with neuroscientist Ogi Ogas and released in 2022, she distils her lifetime of experience as a producer and professor to present a new theory of listening for everyday music fans, helping readers identify their own musical identity and discover what the music we love says about the people we are.

In 2000, Susan decided to leave the music business to pursue a career in academia. She earned her doctorate in music cognition and psychoacoustics from McGill University in 2010 and is currently the director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory, as well as being an associate professor at Berklee.


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02:27 The role of a record producer

05:36 Susan’s core principle as a producer

06:47 Navigating artistic disagreements

13:28 What’s that dynamic like trying to find that new voice or that new style within the studio?

16:06 The interplay between a song’s instrumentation and its lyrics

21:18 The best record producers of the last 75 years

25:18 Digital versus analogue

32:14 Research on the powers of boredom

34:49 Sampling, legal and compensation structure

40:03 What was it like collaborating with Prince?

49:37 Learning from Prince as an artist and individual

54:54 The relationship between music and the listener’s mind

56:51 Our brain’s natural response to the seven key dimensions of any song

01:01:39 The role of melody in music

Links mentioned: 

This Is What It Sounds Like