“I need to be busy and engaged. I used to say, when I wake up in the morning, I have to decide who I am. These days, it’s more like I have to decide if I am!”
CURRENT INTERESTS: Author; pianist; UC Berkeley instructor and lecturer
CAREER: Adjunct Professor, Department of Music, UC Berkeley; Professor of Music and Urban Education, AI Lab and Urban Studies, MIT
Along with a ready laugh, Jeanne displays the energy and intellectual engagement of someone half her age. She is as excited as ever about her lifelong subjects of study—music cognition and cognitive science. Jeanne’s life, work, and music are all of a piece.
My work has been interdisciplinary, in music and cognitive behavioral science. People ask, what’s music cognition? My stock answer: It’s the nature of the knowledge that you’re making use of when you know how to make sense of the music all around you.
In the 1940s, I came to the University of California to study with the composer Roger Sessions. I saw that a piece of music was like a living organism, or a complex machine. I began thinking seriously about the nature of musical knowledge. I’ve developed that study since then, as an instructor and in my books, including The Mind Behind the Musical Ear.
These days I teach a course in music cognition at the University of California. I drive myself to campus twice a week. I’m still writing. And I’m still playing chamber music. I arrange to play in order to have some reason to practice. Living immediately across the street from me is a very good violinist. We get together from time to time to play.