Mark Applebaum

Mark Applebaum (b. 1967, Chicago) is the Leland & Edith Smith Professor of Composition at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at San Diego where he studied with Brian Ferneyhough, Joji Yuasa, Rand Steiger, and Roger Reynolds. He received his baccelaureate, magna cum laude, from Carleton College where he studied composition with Phillip Rhodes, completed a senior thesis that took him to Mexico City to interview Conlon Nancarrow, and received the 1989 Sigred & Erling Larsen Award in the Creative and Performing Arts. At Stanford, Applebaum also serves as the founding director of [sic]—the Stanford Improvisation Collective.

The UK premiere of Applebaum’s Medium, performed by the Vocal Constructivists at V22 Summer Club

Many of his pieces are characterized by challenges to the conventional boundaries of musical ontology: works for three conductors and no players, a concerto for florist and orchestra, pieces for instruments made of junk, notational specifications that appear on the faces of custom wristwatches, works for an invented sign language choreographed to sound, amplified Dadaist rituals, and a 72-foot long graphic score displayed in a museum and accompanied by no instructions for its interpretation. Aphasia, for solo hand gestures, has been performed more than 300 times by over 60 players in 20 countries.

Aphasia, performed by the composer.

Applebaum’s solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, operatic, and electroacoustic work has been performed throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia. He has been featured composer at festivals all over the world, and received numerous commissions from organizations and artists including Betty Freeman, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Kronos Quartet, loadbang, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, I.C.E., Zeitgeist, MANUFACTURE (Tokyo), the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, the Sound Collectors (Australia), the American Composers Forum, and Chamber Music America. He has engaged in intermedia collaborations, including That Brainwave Chick (with neural artist Paras Kaul), Archittetura Redux (with filmmaker Iara Lee, Caipirinha Productions), Concerto for Florist and Ensemble (with florist James DelPrince), The Bible without God (with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company), Aphoristic Fragment (with animator Anna Chupa), Interactive Sound Pavilion (with architect David Perkes), Spring Migration (with choreographer Brittany Brown), and projects with the laptop DJ ensembles Digital Cutup Lounge (Hong Kong) and Tricky OL (Japan). Engagement with the visual arts is represented by his behemoth graphic score, The Metaphysics of Notation, which has been exhibited in many museums and galleries.

There’s No Sound in my Head, a documentary film on Applebaum’s Metaphysics of Notation.

Since 1990 Applebaum has built electroacoustic instruments out of junk, hardware, and found objects for use as both compositional and improvisational tools. The Mouseketier is a musical Frankenstein consisting of threaded rods, nails, combs, doorstops, springs, squeaky wheels, ratchets, a toilet tank flotation bulb, and other unlikely objects, which are plucked, scratched, bowed, and modified by a battery of live electronics. Applebaum has written pop songs with Swedish songwriters Johan Becker and Fredrik Thomander. He is also active as a jazz pianist. He has concertized from Sumatra to the Czech Republic, performing solo recitals at the Oxford Jazz Festival, the American Cathedral in Paris, and a concert in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso sponsored by the American Embassy. In 1999 the Mark Applebaum Trio performed in the first Mississippi arts event broadcast live over the World Wide Web. Under the moniker The Idiom Idiots, Applebaum has given jazz/baroque mashup recitals with virtuoso keyboardist Mahan Esfahani. He performs regularly with his father, composer Bob Applebaum, in the Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo.

Applebaum serves on the board of Other Minds and as a trustee of Carleton College. He resides in California with his wife and daughter. Additional information and announcements of upcoming performances may be found at