Ode to Jon
You were among the very best of my teachers and mentors. You were a dear friend, too, to me as you were to so many. You were both humble and inspired. You approached music -- that you shared with us -- with both virtuosity and generosity. Here are a couple of stories about that.
I took your electronic music composition class in 1977 in the Bregman studio at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Some of the works of which I am most proud were done at this time and with your tutelage. You revealed the world of Musique Concrete. We your disciples were so excited by your composition Chef d'Oeuvre and others. I loved the idea that any sound -- not only that created by a musical instrument -- could be treated as music.
In one piece I was working on and struggling with -- how to structure it? I had assembled components but the overall framework was eluding me. Your extraordinary insight into the composing process enabled the breakthrough I sought. Reminding me of my jazz background, you observed that jazz standards typically have a "channel" or "chorus" that repeats, separated by a "bridge", all preceded by an "intro" and followed by an "outro". This was my vocabulary and you spoke to me in the language I knew. Suddenly it was clear what to do and the structure of the piece emerged naturally. This is how an inspired and inspiring teacher teaches.
After that semester ended, we remained friends. On one of your national tours, you performed at the Exploratorium in San Francisco where I lived. You arrived with a load of instrument road cases (shown in one of the photos below) containing the components of the prototype Synclavier, a revolutionary digital synthesizer that, later having evolved into a commercial product, was acquired and used by Frank Zappa, Oscar Peterson, Michael Jackson, and many more. As a guest in my SF apartment you unpacked it, set it up, and permitted me to play it for hours. Your visit was unforgettable. And so was your concert at "the Ex" which I recorded. Your audience roared with delight. I have that tape somewhere in my archive.
Also in SF, with several of your adoring former students we went drinking at a local watering hole named AsiaSF where the wait staff were drag queens and transsexuals. You flirted madly with everyone, us and them. All were charmed. And have remained so ever since. And always will be. You will be missed but never forgotten.
Your reverent student,
Eulogy by Scott Wyatt for Jon Appleton
I am at a loss for words at this point as my friend, mentor, and valued colleague, Jon Appleton, passed away on January 30, 2022.
Born in 1939, Jon was an active composer/musician, dedicated and highly influential teacher mainly at Dartmouth College, and a pioneer in electroacoustic music. In 1973, with Sydney Alonso and Cameron Jones, he developed one of the first commercial digital synthesizers, the Synclavier. He established the Bregman Electronic Music Studio at Dartmouth, served briefly as director of Sweden's national center for electronic music, became a founding member of the International Confederation for Electro-Acoustic Music, helped establish the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, lectured at CCRMA at Stanford University, Keio University, and at the University of California Santa Cruz, and did guest artist appearances each year at the Theremin Center at the Moscow Conservatory of Music, among many other achievements.
Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Jean-Claude Risset, Max Mathews, Francois Bayle, Charles Dodge, Emmanuel Ghent, and numerous other luminaries were friends and prominent colleagues in Jon's life. Equally importantly, Jon served as mentor to many young composers of electroacoustic music including yours truly, among many, many others. He encouraged our involvement on both a national and international scale by urging us to play a functional role in organizations promoting and supporting electroacoustic music and the creative process.
He served as a role model for developing our own approach to mentoring students and young composers, as well as our developing a commitment and dedication to the field. His smile was infectious, and the warmth of his manner of speaking genuinely promoted an immediate connection with everyone he met.
He was quick-witted, fun loving, and a great cook! He would enjoy telling folks about a dish we cooked together that he called "chicken with glass," after the glass lid fell on top of our finished dish, shattering glass everywhere. It wasn't a problem as we started the dish all over again, this time with more success.
He always showed genuine interest in our wellbeing and in us as individuals. I am very thankful to have had Jon Appleton in my life over the years, and I am sure many others feel the same. I shall remember Jon with great appreciation and fondness.
I love these!