Susan Rogers: What the Music You Love Says About You

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. 


George Hammond and Anne W. Smith


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

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