Image - Susan Rogers

San Francisco

Susan Rogers: What the Music You Love Says About You

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Why do you fall in love with some music, and not with other music? And why do those you love sometimes fall in love with music you don't?

Susan Rogers, a record-producer–turned–brain-scientist, explains why, taking us on a journey into the science and the soul of music that reveals why your favorite songs move you. Rogers also shares her personal story—she began as an audio tech in Los Angeles, broke through as Prince’s chief engineer for Purple Rain, and then continued to create other number 1 hits to become one of the most successful female record producers ever.

Rogers, currently a professor of cognitive neuroscience, raises musical self-awareness. She explains that we each possess a unique “listener profile” based on our brain’s natural response to the seven key dimensions of a song. Are you someone who prefers lyrics or melody? Do you like music “above the neck” (intellectually stimulating), or “below the neck” (instinctual and rhythmic)? Whether your taste is esoteric or mainstream, Rogers will guide you to recognize your own musical personality and to describe your own unique taste. Like most of us, Rogers is not a musician, but demonstrates how all of us can be musical simply by being active, passionate listeners.

Rogers also will take us behind the scenes of record-making, using her insider status to illuminate the music of Prince, Frank Sinatra, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey and many other artists. She shares records that changed her life, contrasts them with those that appeal to others, and encourages you to think about the records that define your own identity. Join us and then refresh your playlists, deepen your connection to your favorite artists, and change the way you listen to music. 

MLF Organizer
George Hammond and Anne W. Smith

This program has 2 types of tickets available: In-person and online-only. Please pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream event.

Safety Protocols for in-person attendance:

  • We follow best practices laid out by the CDC and state and local guidelines.
  • We strongly recommend vaccination for guests, staff, and volunteers.
  • Masks are strongly encouraged while indoors (if you do not have one and would like one, inquire at our front desk for a complimentary mask).
  • We reserve the right to require different rules for specific events as necessary.

Our LEED Gold-certified building is designed to cool with outside air, using digitally controlled moveable windows and large ceiling fans. We are deploying additional HEPA filters inside to scrub the air. This is all in addition to increased cleaning of surfaces throughout the building.

We welcome donations made during registration to support the production of our online programming.

Copies of This Is What It Sounds Like are available for purchase of in-person tickets online and at the program.

A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums

This program is part of The Commonwealth Club's Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Bernard Osher Foundation

All ticket sales are final and nonrefundable.

Wed, Oct 5 / 6:00 pm PDT

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Taube Family Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

IMAGE - Susan Rogers

Susan Rogers

Director, Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory; Record Producer; Author, This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You

Image - John Boland

In Conversation with John Boland

President Emeritus, KQED; Vice Chair, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors


5:30 p.m. doors open & check-in
6–7 p.m. program
(all times PDT)


$10 members
$30 members with book
$20 nonmembers
$40 nonmembers with book
$5 members
$10 nonmembers
$30 members or nonmembers with book