Music Expert - Jonathan Berger

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Jonathan Berger
The Denning Family Provostial Professor, Department of Music, Co-Director of Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SiCa), Co-Director of Stanford’s Art Initiative, William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball University Fellow in Undergraduate Education


Jonathan Berger integrates science and the human experience and explores effective ways of using sound to convey information—what does a cancer cell or a golf swing sound like? And why does a song make us cry?  

Berger teaches composition and music theory and cognition at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).  He is a composer and researcher, with over 60 publications in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology. His research includes studies in music cognition, snal processing and statistical methods for automatic music recognition, classification and transcription, sonification and audio restoration. 

Berger's recent research into auditory hallucinations has resulted in Visitations, a pair of one-act operas that premiered at Stanford's Bing Concert Hall in April 2013.   

Berger compositions range from vocal and chamber to electroacoustic constructions. His works can be heard on the Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, Centaur, Neuma, CRI, and IMA labels and his scholarly work has been published by MIT Press, the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, the Journal of Music Theory, and Leonardo.  Among his awards and commissions are three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, prizes from ASCAP, commissions from WDR, and prizes from the Bourges Festival.  Berger’s millennium sound installation, Echoes of Light and Time, was heard by over 2 million visitors and received international praise. His current commissions include Tears in Your Hand for piano trio, a violin concerto and his fourth string quartet.

In addition to composition, he is actively involved in research on signal processing and music cognition. His work on denoising (together with CCRMA PhD Charles Nichols and Yale Professor Ronald Coifman) produced a transcription and reconstruction of the historic 1889 cylinder recording of Johannes Brahms playing the piano. This work was featured on NPR’s Performance Today and in the New York Times and will soon appear on a CD-ROM by Yamaha. He is also founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology.

Berger has collaborated with a range of scientists, such as those in Stanford’s Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, to investigate the effects of music on the brain.  In addition, he has overseen the details for the annual SiCa Center for Arts, Science and Technology’s Symposium on Music, Rhythm, and the Brain since it was founded in 2006.  His research interests also include neural net modeling of musical expectations, computational models of generative procedures, feature detection in digital audio using adapted local trigonometric bases and wavelet packets, development of a unified representation of sound and analytical structure in music.


Key Works

  • Musical Expectations.  MIT Press.
  • Miracles and Mud. American Masters Series. Naxos Records, 2007.
  • Tears in Your Hand. Commissioned by the Gryphon Trio, Premiered at Stanford University, January 7, 2007.
  • Jiyeh. Performed for A Concert of Music on Ecology and the Environment, organized by CCRMA, November 9, 2006 at the Imaging Environment conference, Stanford University


Prof. Berger in the News


Audio and Video

  • [Broadcast] Today’s generation prefers sound of digital music, just as previous generations preferred the sounds of vinyl
    ABC 7 News at 9 PM on KOFY-TV CH 20, March 5, 2009
  • The Sound of Cancer, and Golf
    Weekend America on American Public Media, January 12, 2008
  • Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
    Leading Matters,