Jon Appleton brought a lot to electroacoustic music. As well as realizing tape pieces, he has pioneered live computer music, hitting the road in the seventies with the Synclavier, the first digital synthesizer, which he had designed in close collaboration with Sydney Alonso. His activity extends beyond traditional categories. He has worked with instruments, dance (especially the Pilobolus Company), poetry, jazz (he made a record with Don Cherry and he got Oscar Peterson to play the Synclavier). He likes to tell stories in his music, and he is a superb narrator. But he did not only compose. He organized the first international competition of electronic music. He had close encounters with various musical communities, from Sweden to Japan and Tonga. Thanks to his action, a number of Russian musicians could visit various music institutions in the USA: he organized in 1994 the American debut of the Turkina sisters, who already played on two pianos for Rachmaninoff and Katchaturian… before the World War II! Jon has written and edited texts about music: his articles are lucid, eloquent and clear. His graduate course in composition attracts to Dartmouth bright students from all over the world: his teaching respects their differences.
In his music as well as in his talk, Jon Appleton is clear and illuminating. We first met in the middle of the night — yet the sun was up in the sky! I should explain, though, that this was midsummer in Sweden, the season when it never gets dark, during a memorable meeting on music and technology with participants such as Pierre Schaeffer…, Max Mathews, Gottfried Michael Koenig, R Murray Schafer, Lars-Gunnar Bodin. Jon spoke about music, technology, education and imagination: what he said was both original, sensible and sensitive. Right away I knew that he could count on me. Even though we live on different sides of the Atlantic, Jon is a close friend, helpful in many ways. He also helped several composers, in the South of France as well as in Russia and other places. Jon is lively, open, direct and positive. He understands people and cares about them. He is fun!
Jon’s music is very diverse — his rich personality gets through in several ways. I am especially fond of his tape pieces, which display imagination, craft, humor, tenderness. Thanks to digital recording, we can now hear them without the old surface noises and scratches. This disc is a denial to those who claim that tape music is dead: quite the contrary! Jon’s tape music does not have a visual counterpart, yet it is spectacular — a “cinema for the ear,” as François Bayle puts it. Listener, open your ears for an exciting trip, écoute voir!
Jean-Claude Risset, Marseille (France) [viii-96]