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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

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

Musical Expectations.  MIT Press.

Miracles and Mud. American Masters Series. Naxos Records, 2007.

Prof. Berger in the News

April 15, 2013
Music Critic Mark Swed considers the engulfing nature of the Bing Concert Hall and the premier of "...
February 2, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 2012
August 15, 2010
UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, August 15-27, 2010
December 14, 2009
New York Times, December 14, 2009
March 5, 2009
Times of London, March 5, 2009
January 22, 2008
Denver Post, January 22, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 2010
Stanford Magazine, September/October, 2004
Stanford Daily, January 10, 2007
Stanford Daily, February 22, 2008
The New York Times, April 15, 2013

Audio and Video

Leading Matters,

[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

Weekend America on American Public Media

January 12, 2012


  • Audio Processing
  • Audio Restoration
  • Music and the Brain
  • Music Cognition
  • Music Composition
  • Music Theory
  • Neural Net Modeling
  • Signal Processing
  • Sonification

Contact information

CCRMA Knoll, Rm 303

650.723.4971, ext. 301

Music Department Profile

Personal Site


M.F.A., California Institute of the Arts
D.M.A., Stanford University