Short Biography


I grew up in the relatively small town of Idaho Falls, in Idaho. I studied lots of math, science, and French in high school, and learned to play piano and cello. I made the smart decision to switch from last-chair cellist to first (and only) bass in orchestra, due to lack of bassists, and thus got to play bass in many pit orchestras for musical theatre productions, symphonies, and jazz combos. I spent a lot of time trying to learn about computer science without quite the right resources, but I played chess and learned about old-fashioned AI as well as neural networks and backpropogation, read James Gleick's book Chaos, and became interested in the complexity of the world and how math and computing could make sense of it.

Undergrad: Montana

I attended Montana State University in Bozeman as an undergraduate, where I tried several sciences but finally settled on Mathematics as a major. I graduated with High Honors with a B.S. in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, and a minor in Computer Science. I also studied music history, theory, and composition. During my sophomore year I spent a semester abroad, at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Lyon, France.

Software Engineering: Oregon

After Montana State, I worked at an ill-fated startup computer security startup in Bend, Oregon during the dot-com bubble of 2000. After that company fell apart I worked for a pharmaceutical software startup for several years, learning about software engineering and machine learning, and deciding what to study in graduate school.

I met the late Steve Larson on a music theory mailing list and he introduced me to the book Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies by Doug Hofstadter and his students, and thanks to Steve's encouragement I decided to attend IU to work with Doug on Musicat, a successor to Steve's Seek Well project.

Grad School: Indiana

brainMy time at Indiana was very fruitful, especially due to the many intelligent, creative people I met through the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition and the Jacobs School of Music, such as Matthew Hurley and Alexandre Linhares. I was especially fortunate that Christopher Raphael joined IU to form the Music Informatics program just after I arrived; working with Chris and his students complemented my music cognition research nicely. Another stroke of good luck was being awarded a lucrative two-year NSF SGER grant for my research through the CreativeIT program. I also was thrilled to spend another semester in France -- this time in Paris -- while Doug was there on sabattical.

I took a few small excursions into the "real world" while at IU as well: I did a summer internship at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, and another at Google Research in Mountain View, CA, both on music-related projects. I've also done some summer consulting work on audio software projects and developed some iOS applications for iPhone and iPad for my company AiMusic, LLC.

When I introduced myself in grad school, I would often say that I'm studying computer science, cognitive science, and in particular that I'm building computer models of music cognition. But one time Doug heard me say this, and interrupted, and said "Eric, you're a musician -- you should start by telling people that." It was both surprising and nice to hear -- I'm fascinated by creativity, machine learning, consciousness, and trying to simulate human cogntiion with machines, but it's true that music has been a pervasive passion of mine, and a domain I know deeply both as a music lover and an acadmic, so I feel lucky that I've been able to combine music with my interests in computing and cognition!

SF Bay Area: YouTube and Google Research

I graduated in December, 2012 with my Ph.D., and moved to San Francisco, California to start a full-time job at Google. I worked for 3.5 years at the YouTube office on music-related projects. In July 2016 I switched to the Machine Perception team at Google Research in Mountain View, working on audio and video understanding.

Seattle Area: Microsoft, Zillow Group

In 2017 an exciting opportunity came up at Microsoft, so in September I moved to Bellevue, Washington and started at Microsoft, where I worked for two years as a Principal Applied Scientist, leading a team of applied/data scientists.

In 2019 I moved to Zillow Group (Seattle) to work on the recommendation system team as a Principal Machine Learning Engineer.