Stanford music professor Leland Smith dies at 88

Co-founder of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics was known for innovation in computers and music

Leland Smith – a Stanford University professor known for merging and advancing his two worlds of study, music and computers – died at his home in Palo Alto on Dec. 17. He was 88.

He joined the Stanford community as a Department of Music professor in 1958. He also co-founded the university's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, a multi-disciplinary research facility that combines, studies and creates computer technology and music.

A skilled computer programmer, he made many essential contributions to the Center. SCORE, a music notation input program he developed, was the first program of its kind and is considered today's quality standard.

"His vision and his deep knowledge of music notation extended SCORE to computerized music typography, which became, and remains, the benchmark by which all published music is judged," said Professor Emeritus John Chowning, a former graduate student and colleague of Smith's.

Smith was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1925. At a young age, 15 years old, he began studying music with modernist composer Darius Milhaud. He went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of California-Berkeley, where he studied with Roger Sessions, and later attended the Paris Conservatory.

He also served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 and began his teaching career after returning. In 1951, he took over Milhaud's courses at Mills College, then at the University of Chicago and finally at Stanford, where he retired in 1992. He performed with New York City Ballet, Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony.

He was married for 65 years to Edith Smith, an artist and teacher who died in 2011. He is survived by his children, Stefanie, Clement and Teresa.

A memorial gathering will be held at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 2 p.m. The center is at 660 Lomita Drive on the Stanford campus.

Memorial gifts can be made to the Palo Alto Donkey Project, or to the Leland and Edith Smith Fund for Music, by check to "Stanford University, The Leland and Edith Smith Fund for Music" mailed to Stanford University, Development Services, PO Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309-0466, or by calling 866-543-0243 (international 1-650-724-0627).

Elena Kadvany


Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Smith "performed with the New York City Ballet, Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony.."

What instrument?

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