The unusual musical stylings of Mark Applebaum: 5 examples

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Composer Mark Applebaum is bored by the standard rules of music. In a madcap talk given at TEDxStanford, the associate professor of composition shares how he began thinking far outside the box — as well as outside of the violin and piano — when writing music. But explaining Applebaum’s pieces in words won’t make very much sense. You kind of just have to see it to get it.

Above, watch Applebaum’s “Concerto for Florist,” as performed by the La Jolla Symphony in 2011. Joining the group is florist James Del Prince — whom Applebaum happened to meet on a plane — arranging flowers and tinsel as an integral part of the piece.

Below, four more examples of Applebaum’s work.

Here, Applebaum performs his song “Aphasia,” a composition of hand gestures and movements to music.

Applebaum has even created his own instruments. Watch him play the “Mouseketeer,” crafted from combs, doorstops and other found objects.

For a band of percussionists, Applebaum wrote the absurdist piece “Straitjacket” in 2009, a commission for the Banff Centre for the Roots and Rhizomes Percussion Residency.

Feeling constrained by simply placing notes on a staff, Applebaum set out to compose music using pictographs. For the score “Metaphysics of Notation,” Applebaum’s sketches — which look like a random assortment of dots, loops and lines — were painted on the walls of the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University. Every Friday, musicians would play the pieces. Here, watch part one of a short film about the creation of the work. Part two of the film is below.

To see many, many more of Applebaum’s musical ideas, watch his captivating TEDTalk.

Want more iconoclastic music? Watch Claron McFadden’s glorious reading of John Cage’s legendary “Aria” in her TEDTalk “Singing the Primal Mystery.” And check out Dr. Dr. Aron Kallay’s talk at TEDxUSC, “Classical Pianist with a Twist.