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Composing a Legacy
Where there's a will, there's a way to make a difference
Years ago Audrey Noall Peterson, MA '61, made a gift in honor of two friends that will literally last forever.
In her will, she designated a portion of her estate to create a fund for music at Stanford. She named the fund in honor of Leland Smith, a longtime music professor at the university, and his wife, Edith, an artist and close friend of Peterson's from college.
Peterson's gift helped bring unparalleled vitality to the music department—even now, a generation later, she's advancing the work of another music professor as he pushes the boundaries of the field.
Friends and Visionaries
The story of Leland and Edith Smith is one of lifelong companionship and artistic innovation. The couple met in 1936 when they were just 11 years old, growing up and riding bicycles together all over their hometown of Oakland, California. Both went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley, staying to earn master's degrees—he in music, she in art. They married and traveled through Europe on mopeds before starting a family, eventually settling in Palo Alto to raise their three children when Leland joined the music faculty at Stanford in 1958.
A pioneering composer and computer programmer, Leland has been widely credited with leading music publishing into the digital age. He cofounded Stanford's legendary Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA)—one of the foremost centers for computer music and related research—and developed the first music typography software of its kind, known as SCORE, which remains the quality standard today.
Leland taught music composition and theory at Stanford for more than 30 years until he retired in 1992. Edith—an early visionary in digital printmaking, as well as a prolific painter and engraver—taught art at colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area and lectured around the world.
Both passed away in recent years, after 65 years of marriage and a lifetime devoted to art and music. But countless future generations of students will benefit from the fund Peterson established in her friends' honor.
Inspiring Future Generations
Today the Leland and Edith Smith Fund for Music supports the work of Mark Applebaum, a Stanford professor who—like Leland and Edith Smith before him—is a true pioneer in his field. A masterful jazz musician, Applebaum is better known for his idiosyncratic experimental compositions—for example, a chamber piece composed of obsessive page turns, an invented sign language choreographed to sound, and a concerto for florist and orchestra. (The symphony is accompanied by a performance artist creating a magnificent flower arrangement.)
Applebaum is also renowned for his handcrafted "sound sculptures," electro-acoustic instruments made of junk, hardware, and other unconventional materials. His 2012 TED talk ("The Mad Scientist of Music") offers a spirited demonstration of one made with combs, doorstops, nails, squeaky wheels, and other unlikely objects that are plucked, scratched, bowed, and modified by a battery of live electronics; the online video has clocked more than 2.5 million views to date.
Often compared with legendary avant-garde musicians Frank Zappa and John Cage, Applebaum has performed and taught all over the world, inspiring legions of students over the years.
In honoring Leland Smith's legacy at Stanford, Audrey Peterson left a lasting one of her own.
Stanford music professor Mark Applebaum is acclaimed worldwide for challenging conventional categories and boundaries of musical expression. "Is it music?" he asks. "I've decided this is the wrong question. The important question is: 'Is it interesting?' " Applebaum is supported by the Leland and Edith Smith Fund for Music.