Jonathan Berger is the Denning Family Provostial Professor in Music at Stanford University, where he teaches composition, music theory, and cognition at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).
Jonathan is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2016 winner of the Rome Prize.
He was the founding co-director of the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA, now the Stanford Arts Institute) and founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology
Described as “gripping” by both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, “poignant”, “richly evocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), “taut, and hauntingly beautiful” (NY Times), Jonathan Berger’s recent works deal with both consciousness and conscience. The Kronos Quartet toured recent monodrama, My Lai internationally. Thrice commissioned by The National Endowment for the Arts, Berger’a recent commissions include The Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations, Chamber Music Society, Lincoln Center, and Chamber Music America. Upcoming commissions include an oratorio entitled The Ritual of Breath, and Leonardo, for baritone and chamber orchestra.
In addition to composition, Berger is an active researcher with over 80 publications in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology and has held research grants from DARPA, the Wallenberg Foundation, The National Academy of Sciences, the Keck Foundation, and others.

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • The Elliott Carter Fellow (Rome Prize), American Academy in Rome (2016-2017)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, Guggenheim Foundation (2018)

Program Affiliations

  • Symbolic Systems Program


  • Musical Archeoacoustics, Stanford University, The National Academy of Sciences/Keck Foundation, Museo Nazionale Roma, Palazzo Altemps (1/1/2017 - Present)

    Seeking the interactions between architecture and musical style and performance




    • Jonathan Abel, Consulting Professor, Stanford University
    • Timothy Weaver, Professor, University of Denver
    • Talya Berger, Senior Lecturer, Stanford University
  • Music Engagement Research Initiative, Stanford University

    We seek to increase our understanding of how and why humans engage with music. Our research integrates industrial datasets detailing musical performance, audition, and discovery; imaging studies aimed at determining the neural correlates of music engagement; and performance studies investigating the impact of musical schemas on amateur and expert interpretations of written scores.


    Stanford, CA


    • Blair Kaneshiro, Research Scientist, Stanford University

2022-23 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Characterizing the Relationship Between the COVID-19 Pandemic and U.S. Classical Musicians' Wellbeing. Frontiers in sociology Wang, G., Fram, N. R., Carstensen, L. L., Berger, J. 2022; 7: 848098


    The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the economic and social wellbeing of communities worldwide. Certain groups have been disproportionately impacted by the strain of the pandemic, such as classical musicians. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly harmed the classical music industry, silencing the world's concert halls and theaters. In an industry characterized by instability, a shock as great as COVID-19 may bring negative effects that far outlast the pandemic itself. This study investigates the wellbeing of classical musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. 68 professional classical musicians completed a questionnaire composed of validated measures of future time horizons, emotional experience, social relationships, and life satisfaction. Findings show that feelings of loneliness had a significant negative association with other measures of wellbeing and were significantly mediated by increased social integration and perceived social support from colleagues, friends, and family. These findings help to characterize the present psychological, emotional, and social wellness of classical musicians in the United States, the first step toward mitigating the hazardous impacts of COVID-19 on this vulnerable group's mental health and wellness.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fsoc.2022.848098

    View details for PubMedID 35399192

  • Collaborating in Isolation: Assessing the Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Patterns of Collaborative Behavior Among Working Musicians. Frontiers in psychology Fram, N. R., Goudarzi, V., Terasawa, H., Berger, J. 2021; 12: 674246


    The Covid-19 pandemic severely limited collaboration among musicians in rehearsal and ensemble performance, and demanded radical shifts in collaborative practices. Understanding the nature of these changes in music creators' patterns of collaboration, as well as how musicians shifted prioritizations and adapted their use of the available technologies, can offer invaluable insights into the resilience and importance of different aspects of musical collaboration. In addition, assessing changes in the collaboration networks among music creators can improve the current understanding of genre and style formation and evolution. We used an internet survey distributed to music creators, including performers, composers, producers, and engineers, all active before and during the pandemic, to assess their perceptions of how their music, collaborative practice, and use of technology were impacted by shelter-in-place orders associated with Covid-19, as well as how they adapted over the course of the pandemic. This survey was followed by Zoom interviews with a subset of participants. Along with confirming previous results showing increased reliance on nostalgia for musical inspiration, we found that participants' collaborative behaviors were surprisingly resilient to pandemic-related changes. In addition, participant responses appeared to be driven by a relatively small number of underlying factors, representing approaches to musical collaboration such as musical extroversion or musical introversion, inspiration clusters such as activist musicking, and style or genre clusters.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.674246

    View details for PubMedID 34349700

  • Inter-subject Correlation While Listening to Minimalist Music: A Study of Electrophysiological and Behavioral Responses to Steve Reich's Piano Phase. Frontiers in neuroscience Dauer, T., Nguyen, D. T., Gang, N., Dmochowski, J. P., Berger, J., Kaneshiro, B. 1800; 15: 702067


    Musical minimalism utilizes the temporal manipulation of restricted collections of rhythmic, melodic, and/or harmonic materials. One example, Steve Reich's Piano Phase, offers listeners readily audible formal structure with unpredictable events at the local level. For example, pattern recurrences may generate strong expectations which are violated by small temporal and pitch deviations. A hyper-detailed listening strategy prompted by these minute deviations stands in contrast to the type of listening engagement typically cultivated around functional tonal Western music. Recent research has suggested that the inter-subject correlation (ISC) of electroencephalographic (EEG) responses to natural audio-visual stimuli objectively indexes a state of "engagement," demonstrating the potential of this approach for analyzing music listening. But can ISCs capture engagement with minimalist music, which features less obvious expectation formation and has historically received a wide range of reactions? To approach this question, we collected EEG and continuous behavioral (CB) data while 30 adults listened to an excerpt from Steve Reich's Piano Phase, as well as three controlled manipulations and a popular-music remix of the work. Our analyses reveal that EEG and CB ISC are highest for the remix stimulus and lowest for our most repetitive manipulation, no statistical differences in overall EEG ISC between our most musically meaningful manipulations and Reich's original piece, and evidence that compositional features drove engagement in time-resolved ISC analyses. We also found that aesthetic evaluations corresponded well with overall EEG ISC. Finally we highlight co-occurrences between stimulus events and time-resolved EEG and CB ISC. We offer the CB paradigm as a useful analysis measure and note the value of minimalist compositions as a limit case for the neuroscientific study of music listening. Overall, our participants' neural, continuous behavioral, and question responses showed strong similarities that may help refine our understanding of the type of engagement indexed by ISC for musical stimuli.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fnins.2021.702067

    View details for PubMedID 34955706

  • How Music Can Literally Heal the Heart Chew, E. Scientific American. 2021 ; Scientific American (September 18 2021):
  • Natural music evokes correlated EEG responses reflecting temporal structure and beat. NeuroImage Kaneshiro, B. n., Nguyen, D. T., Norcia, A. M., Dmochowski, J. P., Berger, J. n. 2020: 116559


    The brain activity of multiple subjects has been shown to synchronize during salient moments of natural stimuli, suggesting that correlation of neural responses indexes a brain state operationally termed 'engagement'. While past electroencephalography (EEG) studies have considered both auditory and visual stimuli, the extent to which these results generalize to music-a temporally structured stimulus for which the brain has evolved specialized circuitry-is less understood. Here we investigated neural correlation during natural music listening by recording EEG responses from N=48 adult listeners as they heard real-world musical works, some of which were temporally disrupted through shuffling of short-term segments (measures), reversal, or randomization of phase spectra. We measured correlation between multiple neural responses (inter-subject correlation) and between neural responses and stimulus envelope fluctuations (stimulus-response correlation) in the time and frequency domains. Stimuli retaining basic musical features, such as rhythm and melody, elicited significantly higher behavioral ratings and neural correlation than did phase-scrambled controls. However, while unedited songs were self-reported as most pleasant, time-domain correlations were highest during measure-shuffled versions. Frequency-domain measures of correlation (coherence) peaked at frequencies related to the musical beat, although the magnitudes of these spectral peaks did not explain the observed temporal correlations. Our findings show that natural music evokes significant inter-subject and stimulus-response correlations, and suggest that the neural correlates of musical 'engagement' may be distinct from those of enjoyment.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116559

    View details for PubMedID 31978543

  • A Method for Studying Interactions between Music Performance and Rooms with Real-Time Virtual Acoustics Canfield-Dafilou, E. K., Callery, E. F., Abel, J. S., Berger, J. J., Loughran, R., AngusWhiteoak, J. AUDIO ENGINEERING SOC INC. 2019
  • Characterizing Listener Engagement with Popular Songs Using Large-Scale Music Discovery Data FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY Kaneshiro, B., Ruan, F., Baker, C. W., Berger, J. 2017; 8


    Music discovery in everyday situations has been facilitated in recent years by audio content recognition services such as Shazam. The widespread use of such services has produced a wealth of user data, specifying where and when a global audience takes action to learn more about music playing around them. Here, we analyze a large collection of Shazam queries of popular songs to study the relationship between the timing of queries and corresponding musical content. Our results reveal that the distribution of queries varies over the course of a song, and that salient musical events drive an increase in queries during a song. Furthermore, we find that the distribution of queries at the time of a song's release differs from the distribution following a song's peak and subsequent decline in popularity, possibly reflecting an evolution of user intent over the "life cycle" of a song. Finally, we derive insights into the data size needed to achieve consistent query distributions for individual songs. The combined findings of this study suggest that music discovery behavior, and other facets of the human experience of music, can be studied quantitatively using large-scale industrial data.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00416

    View details for Web of Science ID 000397317600001

    View details for PubMedID 28386241

  • The impact of audiovisual biofeedback on 4D functional and anatomic imaging: Results of a lung cancer pilot study. Radiotherapy and oncology Yang, J., Yamamoto, T., Pollock, S., Berger, J., Diehn, M., Graves, E. E., Loo, B. W., Keall, P. J. 2016; 120 (2): 267-272


    The impact of audiovisual (AV) biofeedback on four dimensional (4D) positron emission tomography (PET) and 4D computed tomography (CT) image quality was investigated in a prospective clinical trial (NCT01172041).4D-PET and 4D-CT images of ten lung cancer patients were acquired with AV biofeedback (AV) and free breathing (FB). The 4D-PET images were analyzed for motion artifacts by comparing 4D to 3D PET for gross tumor volumes (GTVPET) and maximum standardized uptake values (SUVmax). The 4D-CT images were analyzed for artifacts by comparing normalized cross correlation-based scores (NCCS) and quantifying a visual assessment score (VAS). A Wilcoxon signed-ranks test was used for statistical testing.The impact of AV biofeedback varied widely. Overall, the 3D to 4D decrease of GTVPET was 1.2±1.3cm(3) with AV and 0.6±1.8cm(3) for FB. The 4D-PET increase of SUVmax was 1.3±0.9 with AV and 1.3±0.8 for FB. The 4D-CT NCCS were 0.65±0.27 with AV and 0.60±0.32 for FB (p=0.08). The 4D-CT VAS was 0.0±2.7.This study demonstrated a high patient dependence on the use of AV biofeedback to reduce motion artifacts in 4D imaging. None of the hypotheses tested were statistically significant. Future development of AV biofeedback will focus on optimizing the human-computer interface and including patient training sessions for improved comprehension and compliance.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.radonc.2016.05.016

    View details for PubMedID 27256597

  • In Search of a Perceptual Metric for Timbre: Dissimilarity Judgments among Synthetic Sounds with MFCC-Derived Spectral Envelopes JOURNAL OF THE AUDIO ENGINEERING SOCIETY Terasawa, H., Berger, J., Makino, S. 2012; 60 (9): 674-685
  • Commissioning and quality assurance for a respiratory training system based on audiovisual biofeedback. Journal of applied clinical medical physics Cui, G., Gopalan, S., Yamamoto, T., Berger, J., Maxim, P. G., Keall, P. J. 2010; 11 (4): 3262-?


    A respiratory training system based on audiovisual biofeedback has been implemented at our institution. It is intended to improve patients' respiratory regularity during four-dimensional (4D) computed tomography (CT) image acquisition. The purpose is to help eliminate the artifacts in 4D-CT images caused by irregular breathing, as well as improve delivery efficiency during treatment, where respiratory irregularity is a concern. This article describes the commissioning and quality assurance (QA) procedures developed for this peripheral respiratory training system, the Stanford Respiratory Training (START) system. Using the Varian real-time position management system for the respiratory signal input, the START software was commissioned and able to acquire sample respiratory traces, create a patient-specific guiding waveform, and generate audiovisual signals for improving respiratory regularity. Routine QA tests that include hardware maintenance, visual guiding-waveform creation, auditory sounds synchronization, and feedback assessment, have been developed for the START system. The QA procedures developed here for the START system could be easily adapted to other respiratory training systems based on audiovisual biofeedback.

    View details for PubMedID 21081883

  • Analysis of Pitch Perception of Inharmonicity in Pipa Strings Using Response Surface Methodology JOURNAL OF NEW MUSIC RESEARCH Chin, S. H., Berger, J. 2010; 39 (1): 63-73
  • Commissioning and quality assurance for a respiratory training system based on audiovisual biofeedback JOURNAL OF APPLIED CLINICAL MEDICAL PHYSICS Cui, G., Gopalan, S., Yamamoto, T., Berger, J., Maxim, P. G., Keall, P. J. 2010; 11 (4): 42-56
  • Neural dynamics of event segmentation in music: Converging evidence for dissociable ventral and dorsal networks NEURON Sridharan, D., Levitin, D. J., Chafe, C. H., Berger, J., Menon, V. 2007; 55 (3): 521-532


    The real world presents our sensory systems with a continuous stream of undifferentiated information. Segmentation of this stream at event boundaries is necessary for object identification and feature extraction. Here, we investigate the neural dynamics of event segmentation in entire musical symphonies under natural listening conditions. We isolated time-dependent sequences of brain responses in a 10 s window surrounding transitions between movements of symphonic works. A strikingly right-lateralized network of brain regions showed peak response during the movement transitions when, paradoxically, there was no physical stimulus. Model-dependent and model-free analysis techniques provided converging evidence for activity in two distinct functional networks at the movement transition: a ventral fronto-temporal network associated with detecting salient events, followed in time by a dorsal fronto-parietal network associated with maintaining attention and updating working memory. Our study provides direct experimental evidence for dissociable and causally linked ventral and dorsal networks during event segmentation of ecologically valid auditory stimuli.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.07.003

    View details for Web of Science ID 000248711000017

    View details for PubMedID 17678862

  • Melody extraction and musical onset detection via probabilistic models of framewise STFT peak data IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON AUDIO SPEECH AND LANGUAGE PROCESSING Thornburg, H., Leistikow, R. J., Berger, J. 2007; 15 (4): 1257-1272
  • SICIB: An interactive music composition system using body movements COMPUTER MUSIC JOURNAL Morales-Manzanares, R., Morales, E. F., Dannenberg, R., Berger, J. 2001; 25 (2): 25-36