Simon Smith

2016-17 MIT Sounding Series

Simon Smith performs in MIT Killian Hall, 2016. Photo: Lenny Martinez.
Pianist Simon Smith‘s performance of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Etudes at MIT on September 21, 2016. Photo: Lenny Martinez.
Pianist Simon Smith‘s performance of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Etudes at MIT on September 21, 2016. Photo: Lenny Martinez.

Masterful and intrepid Stockhausen concert

About the Performance

After pianist Simon Smith‘s performance of Gyorgy Ligeti’s impossibly virtuosic Etudes, The Scotsman described him as “a phenomenon—nothing daunts him, technically or musically.”  Smith brings his courageous and prodigious musicality to MIT for a rare all-Karlheinz Stockhausen program, featuring career-spanning selections from the seminal German composer’s 19 Klavierstücke (Piano Pieces), composed by Stockhausen over a 50 year period, from 1952-2003.

For this program, Smith has chosen a selection of pieces capturing the evolution of Stockhausen’s creative vision, from his stunning explosion of total serialism in the 1950s to his later expansive, quasi-theatrical work. Smith says, “The first set of four pieces are 1950s modernist classics; the second set (V-X) explores an ever-widening range of pianistic and compositional techniques over more ambitious timescales, and often surprise with their sensuous beauty. The two pieces from the LICHT cycle of operas, XIII and XIV, are again a whole new world, incorporating aspects from all the preceding pieces along with vocal and theatrical elements.”

Simon Smith’s visit to the Institute is part of MIT Sounding, an innovative annual performance series that blurs the boundaries between contemporary and world music. Curated by Evan Ziporyn, Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology, the 2016-17 season of MIT Sounding integrates the avant-garde sounds of ancient instruments and traditional practices with cutting-edge composition and technology to present various visions of a new, evolving music that defies genre. 

The 2016-17 MIT Sounding Performance Series is presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and MIT Music and Theater Arts.

Public Events

Past Events

Composer Forum
September 21, 2016 / 5:00-6:00pm
Lewis Music Library, 14E-109

Free and open to the public

Simon Smith Concert
September 23, 2016 / 8:00pm
MIT Killian Hall, 14W-111
160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA

Free and open to the public
No registration necessary

Program included pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen:

Piano Pieces I-IV
Piano Piece V
Piano Piece VII
Piano Piece VIII
Piano Piece IX
Piano Piece XIV (Birthday Formula)
Piano Piece XIII (Lucifer’s Dream)

Class Visits

“Here, There and Everywhere: The Future of Music in Sound, Space and Place”
MIT Media Lab, Professor Tod Machover
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“Techniques of 20th-Century Composition”
Music and Theater Arts, Associate Professor Keeril Makan
Thursday, September 22, 2016

Collaborators at MIT

Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Professor of Music at MIT and Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST)

Tod Machover, Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media

MIT Music and Theater Arts

Opera of the Future at the MIT Media Lab


Pianist Simon Smith was born in Northumberland, England, in 1983. At St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, he studied piano with Richard Beauchamp and composition with Tom David Wilson. At Cambridge University, he studied composition with Jeremy Thurlow and Giles Swayne. For Delphian Records he has recorded solo music by James MacMillan, Stuart MacRae, Hafliði Hallgrímsson and Thomas Wilson. A two-disc set of the complete piano music of Alfred Schnittke, released in 2013, was acclaimed as “compelling and utterly persuasive” (BBC Music Magazine) and praised for its “extraordinary sensitivity, detail and emotional commitment” (The Independent). He released a disc of piano music by Valentin Silvestrov in November 2015.

Smith also works professionally as an editor and music engraver—computer typesetting scores for composers in preparation for publication. He has produced scores for Boosey & Hawkes of numerous large-scale works by Harrison Birtwistle, James MacMillan and others. In recent years he has concentrated increasingly on the music of Stockhausen. For the Stockhausen-Verlag he has produced new editions of Mantra for two pianos and the ten-player Soloists’ Version of Michaels Reise, with further projects planned. He was invited to take part as synthesizer player in the first performances of this version of Michaels Reise in 25 years at the 2015 Stockhausen Courses Kürten, where he was also awarded first prize for his interpretation of Klavierstück XII.

More at the artist’s website: Simon Smith

In the Media

The Arts Desk: Classical CDs Weekly