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Since 1990 Mark Applebaum has built electroacoustic instruments out of junk, hardware, and found objects for use as both compositional and improvisational tools. He is the Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at Stanford, where he served as John Philip Coghlan Fellow and received the 2003 Walter J. Gores Award for excellence in teaching. He received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at San Diego where he studied principally with Brian Ferneyhough.

His solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, operatic, and electroacoustic work has been performed throughout the North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia with notable performances at the Darmstadt summer sessions, ICMC in Beijing and Singapore, the TRANSIT Festival in Belgium, Stockholm New Music, the American Composers Orchestra’s OrchestraTech, the Unyazi Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sonorities in Belfast, Sonic Circuits in Hong Kong, SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles, the Essl Museum in Vienna, the Kennedy Center, at Electronic Music Midwest where served as the 2002 visiting artist, as featured composer at the 2004 University of Michigan Eclectronica Microfestival, and as featured composer at the 61st Festival of Contemporary Music at Louisiana State University.

He has received commissions from Betty Freeman, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Fromm Foundation, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Vienna Modern Festival, Antwerp’s Champ D’Action, Festival ADEvantgarde in Munich, Zeitgeist, MANUFACTURE (Tokyo), the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Jerome Foundation, and the American Composers Forum, among others. In 1997 Applebaum received the American Music Center’s Stephen Albert Award and an artist residency fellowship at the Villa Montalvo artist colony in Northern California.

Applebaum's Mousetrap Music (1996) and The Bible without God (2005), CDs of sound-sculpture improvisations can be heard on the Innova label. Also on Innova is The Janus ReMixes: Exercises in Auto-Plundering, a CD of eleven electronic works whose source material corresponds exclusively to recordings of the eleven acoustic compositions that constitute his Janus Cycle (1992-1996), as well as Intellectual Property, a CD of hybrid acoustic and electronic works. His orchestral music can be heard on the Innova CD Martian Anthropology; solo pieces appear on the Innova CD Disciplines; and chamber works appear on the Innova CDs 56 1/2 ft. and Asylum, and Sock Monkey, and on the Tzadik CD Catfish.

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, a chamber work comprised of obsessive page turns, and a 72-foot long graphic score displayed in a museum and accompanied by no instructions for its interpretation.

Applebaum is also active as a jazz pianist and has concertized from Sumatra to the Czech Republic, most recently performing a solo recital in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso sponsored by the American Embassy. At present he performs with his father, Robert Applebaum of Chicago, in the Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo. Their first recording, The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree, is available on Innova. Applebaum has held professorial positions at Carleton College and Mississippi State University. He subsequently taught classes in Antwerp, Santiago, Singapore, Paris, Amsterdam, and Oxford. In 2000 he joined the faculty at Stanford where he directs [sic]—the Stanford Improvisation Collective

Prof. Applebaum in the News

February 26, 2014
The story notes that Mark Applebaum, associate professor of composition and theory, will open this...
October 31, 2011
Composer Mark Applebaum's cryptic, painfully fastidious, wildly elaborate, and unreasonably...
September 1, 2009
Palo Alto Online, September, 2009
Palo Alto Weekly, May 26, 2009
Stanford Report, April 27, 2005
Stanford Magazine, January February 2012
Christian Science Monitor, February 28, 2003
Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning, May 12, 2005

Audio and Video

Make Magazine podcast, August 20, 2008

Third Coast International Audio Festival (Chicago Public Radio), 2007

Stanford New Student Orientation, September 2005

August 23, 2016

Why is Professor Mark Applebaum both the world's best and worst player of his self-designed "mouseketier?" Why does he come up with unconventional compositions and instruments? Tune in for a funny peek into the mind of a brilliant musician.

October 9, 2014


  • Electroacoustic Instruments
  • Music Composition
  • Improvisational Music
  • New Instrument Construction


B.A., Carleton College, 1989
M.A., University of California at San Diego, 1992
Ph.D., University of California at San Diego, 1996