Eugene Narmour was born in Deming, New Mexico and attended the Eastman School of Music, earning two degrees and a Performer’s Certificate (in 1962-63 he was a member of the Eastman Philharmonia, which toured Europe, Russia, and the Middle East under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State). 1n 1967 he entered the University of Chicago where he worked closely with Leonard Meyer (while conducting the University Orchestra). In 1971 he began a long tenure at the University of Pennsylvania, (where he also conducted the University Orchestra), serving twice as Department Chair, Associate Dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and acting director of the Penn Humanities Forum. He retired in 2007 as Edmund J. Kahn Distinguished Professor Emeritus.
He was twice a Visiting Fellow at Wolfson College Oxford, a Fellow at the Center for Advance Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, a Visiting Lecturer at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and a Visiting Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. He was an Associate Editor of Music Perception, and President of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition.
His major publications to date are Beyond Schenkerism; The Analysis and Cognition of Basic Melodic Structures; and The Analysis and Cognition of Melodic Complexity. He is also co-editor (with Ruth Solie) of Explorations in Music, the Arts, and Ideas.
He has lectured widely in both Europe and the Far East. His twenty-four published articles deal with formalized theories of music cognition; the perception of style, form, and content; the measurement and weighting of hierarchical structuring; the logical evaluation of performance; perceptual rule mapping; aesthetic syntax; algorithmic composition; structural analogues between abstract painting and music; theoretical unity, structural universals, affective structuration, perceptual scales of orchestral combinations, the meaning of the score, and critical analyses. (Some of this work has been translated, into Chinese, Japanese, French, and Spanish.)
Books in progress include The Musical Score and Its Seven Modes of Interpretation; Psychological Principles for Performing Music; A Musical Meditation on Language, Emotion, Evolution, and Aesthetics; Harmonic Implication; Structure, Affect, and Meaning in Orchestration; and a Unified Theory of the I-R Model: Parametric Scales and Their Analogically Isomorphic Structures. .
The Eastman School of Music awarded him an Alumni Achievement Award in 2006. In 2011 he received the SMPC Achievement Award from the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. A festschrift in his honor, Musical Implications: Essays in Honor of Eugene Narmour (eds. L. F. Bernstein & A. Rozin), was published in 2013. “Milestones in Music Cognition” (a conference on the works of Albert S. Bregman, Carol L. Krumhansl, and Eugene Narmour) took place at McGill University in 2014 (selected papers were published in 2015 and 1216 in special issues of Music Perception).
He is married to his high-school sweetheart and has four children and five grandchildren.