Jon Appleton (Jan. 4, 1939 – Jan. 30, 2022)

Dear Dartmouth Music Community,

We write to share the sad news that Professor Emeritus Jon Appleton passed away on Sunday, January 30, in White River Junction, VT. The cause of death was leukemia.

Jon was a member of the Music Department from 1967 until 2009, retiring as the Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music. A composer with broad interests in classical, folk, popular, and film music, he was best known as a pioneer in the field of electro-acoustic music. Jon founded Dartmouth's Bregman Electronic Music Studio in 1967, with support from President John G. Kemeny and Gerald Bregman '54. It was one of the first such studios at an American university, attracting many visiting composers from around the world, and it remains a hub of sonic experimentation today. In 1989, Jon founded the Music Department's Master's Program in Electroacoustic Music (now Digital Musics) with composer David Evan Jones. Close to 100 students have since graduated from the program.

In the 1970s, Jon collaborated with engineers Syd Alonso and Cameron Jones at the Thayer School of Engineering to develop the Synclavier, the first commercially-available digital musical instrument, which was widely used in film soundtracks and pop music albums of the 1980s, including Michael Jackson's Thriller, Paul Simon's Hearts and Bones, and Frank Zappa's Jazz from Hell. Jon released more than 20 albums of electronic music during his career, including Human Music (1970), a collaboration with jazz trumpeter and Dartmouth faculty member Don Cherry. In 2003 Jon was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States.

A longtime resident of Hartford, Vermont, Jon maintained friendships with many of his former students and colleagues. At the time of his death, he was editing his autobiography, titled "Human Music." His manuscripts, papers and recordings are archived at the Rauner Library and the Dartmouth Digital Library Program.