Stuart Saunders Smith

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Stuart Saunders Smith in 2008

Stuart Saunders Smith (born 1948) is an American composer and percussionist.


Stuart Saunders Smith was born in Portland Maine, and began his percussion and composition studies at the age of six with Charles Newcomb. He studied harmony, counterpoint, and arranging at the Berklee School of Music in 1966, and continued his percussion and composition studies at the Hartt College of Music (1967–1972) and the University of Illinois at Urbana (1973–1977). He currently resides in the state of Vermont with his wife Sylvia.


Over a hundred of Smith's nearly 200 works are for percussion instruments with a special emphasis on vibraphone literature. His Links Series of Vibraphone Essays (1974-1994) is considered as groundbreaking music (Welsh). Also Plenty (I-XXXIV) and New England are concert length compositions for vibraphone that extend the intellectual and emotional range of that instrument (Smith). Smith also has composed extensively for drumset, orchestra bells, xylophone, marimba, chimes, and multi-percussion.

Stuart Saunders Smith's percussion-theater music forms the core of that literature with such pieces as Poems I II III, ...And Points North, Tunnels, Clay Singing and twenty-six compositions of that genre (Smith).

Stuart Saunders Smith is widely recorded with well over 80 recordings of individual compositions on such labels as New World Records, Ravello Records, Centaur, Innova, 11 West Records, O.O. Discs, Equilibrium, GAC, and Soundset Recordings.

In addition, anthologies of new music have included his theater music, and music of rhythmic intricacy: Here and There, MacMillan Publishing, NYC; Return and Recall, Assembling Press, NYC; Faces, ASOC, NYC; and Transitions and Leaps, Mark Batty Publications, NYC. Articles on his music have been published regularly throughout the years in such journals as: Perspectives of New Music, Percussive Notes, Interface, and ex tempore.


Smith is the author of several articles on his music and others. These fifteen writings are used in some percussion literature courses as required readings. He is the author of two books: Pathways through Twentieth Century Music, an anthology, Prentice-Hall, co-edited with Dr. Thomas DeLio; Words and Spaces, an anthology, University Publishing, co-authored with Dr. Thomas DeLio. In addition, he is currently writing Composing Thoughts, a book of experimental writings about aesthetics, language, composition, listening, and religion. Part I of this book was published in The Modern Percussion Revolution: Journeys of the Progressive Artist, edited by Kevin Lewis and Gustavo Aguilar (Routledge, 2014).

Stuart Saunders Smith's service works on the behalf of music includes organizing hundreds of concerts of new music, functioning as a lobbyist for the arts for the American Society of University Composers during the Reagan presidency, and as Executive Editor of Percussive Notes, Research Edition from 1982–1984.

Recent concerts included a three-day festival of his percussion-theater music at the University of Maine in the Fall of 2013 and a three-day festival of his vibraphone music by Berndt Thurner in Vienna, Austria in 2014.


His awards and honors include three UMBC Research Grants, The Hartt College Distinguished Alumni Award, East/West Artist Award, three Maryland State Artists Fellowships, the National Endowment for the Arts Composer's Fellowship, Percussive Arts Society Service Award and the Atlantic Center's Master Artist Award.



  • Poems I, II, III for five brake drums and narrator
  • One for Syl for solo vibraphone


  • One for Two for alto saxophone and organ
  • A Gift for Bessie for violin, piano, bassoon, and percussion


  • Here and There for shortwave radio, piano interior (percussion) and any melody instrument or voice
  • Legacy Variations No. 1 for any three sustaining melody instruments
  • Legacy Variations No. 99 for any three sustaining melody instruments
  • Three for Two for violin and viola
  • Two for Four for percussion quartet (orchestra bells, vibraphone, cymbal, large and medium gong, xylophone, marimba, timpani, temple blocks, and various small percussion instruments).


  • Two Makes Three for organ and two percussion


  • Faces for oboe and clarinet
  • Gifts for keyboard and any two melody instruments
  • Links for solo vibraphone


  • Links no. 2 for solo vibraphone
  • Links no. 3 for solo vibraphone


  • Return and Recall / Initiatives and Reactions: Studies in the Concept of Group Composition performance systems for actors, dancers, musicians, mimes, etc.


  • Pinetop for solo piano


  • Flight for flute and piano


  • Blue for trumpet, drum set and double bass


  • Notebook for any instruments in any combination
  • Notebook, Part II for one or two pianos (may be played with *Notebook)


  • Songs I-IX for percussionist-actor (small percussion instruments and various household items from kitchen)


  • Tunnels a solo music-text-theater composition for keyboard, string, or multiple percussion
  • Links No. 4 (Monk) for solo vibraphone


  • Blue Too for solo drum set


  • Aussie Blue for solo piano
  • In Bingham for solo speaker/narrator


  • Links No. 5 (Sitting on the Edge of Nothing) for solo vibraphone with offstage orchestra bells and chimes


  • The Noble Snare for solo snare drum


  • Coming and Going for any three musicians performing shortwave radio and instruments
  • Links No. 6 (Song Interiors) for vibraphone and piano
  • Links No. 7 (New England Night Weave) for solo vibraphone


  • ...And Points North a music-theater work for solo percussionist/narrator (wood block, small Peking opera gong, Tibetan cymbal, glass wind chimes, owl hooter, hawk screamer, pod rattles, Audubon bird call, "found" instruments from the city and the woods)
  • Transitions and Leaps for two or more performers performing any sounds/actions


  • "as if time would heal by its passing for solo marimba
  • Family Portraits: Sylvia (wife) for solo piano
  • Family Portraits: Ivy (grandmother) for solo piano
  • Family Portraits: Earle (father) for solo piano
  • Hawk for solo oboe
  • In Common for flute and vibraphone
  • Links No. 8 (Confessions-Witness to 48 Things) for vibraphone with flute
  • Nightshade for violin or medium voice and two percussionists, each playing orchestra bells (glockenspiel), tam-tam or gong, two cymbals, two triangles


  • Good Night for solo marimba
  • From one to another for amplified forest and musicians
  • Links No. 9 (Mosque) for solo vibraphone
  • Meetings for flute, vibraphone and piano


  • Each Moment and Ending for keyboard percussion quintet
  • Part for flute, piano, and cello
  • Thaw for solo orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • Links No. 10 (Who Are We? Where Are We?) for solo vibraphone


  • Family Portraits: Brenda (first cousin) for solo piano
  • Links No. 11 (Regions I-XXI) for three vibraphones
  • WInd in the Channel for solo tenor recorder


  • Family Portraits: Delbert (great-grandfather) for percussionist/narrator (playing woodblock, logs, and newspaper)
  • Strays for xylophone and tenor recorder or flute


  • Family Portraits: Cubba (grandfather) for trumpet, flute, and five percussion (tom-toms and triangles)
  • Family Portraits: Mom and Dad Together for solo double bass
  • Polka in Treblinka for percussion trio (bass drum, xylophone, snare drum and high hat)
  • Said, Nearly for solo cello


  • Family Portrait: Self (in 14 stations) for solo piano
  • The Night is Never Long for piccolo and xylophone


  • Closing for solo guitar
  • Fences in Three Tragedies for solo piano
  • When Music is Missing, Music Sings for two percussionists playing five "found" instruments each


  • All That is Left orchestra bell (glockenspiel) duet
  • And Sometimes the Ears for solo tenor steel drum
  • Even Song for solo orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • Leaving for solo marimba
  • Many Women for xylophone/narrator
  • Went Forth for xylophone/narrator


  • Books of Flutes for solo flute
  • Bones for percussion, piano, and 3 or 4 melody instruments
  • Endless for two flutes and two vibraphones
  • Sitting in the Crowd for xylophone/narrator
  • The Geography of Streams for percussion trio (xylophone solo with two sets of orchestra bells, two bass drums, claves, and woodblocks)
  • Thinking About Anne Sexton duo for vibraphone and speaking voice


  • And Cold for xylophone/narrator
  • Breath for mezzo-soprano and orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • Family Portraits: Ligeia (daughter) for soprano voice and piano
  • Light Dew for solo double bass
  • Madness for xylophone/narrator
  • Minor for solo violin
  • Pond for xylophone/narrator
  • Sometime Then for xylophone/narrator


  • Asleep in Thorns for guitar and flute
  • Brush for solo drum set
  • Dad's Time Had Come for solo xylophone
  • Dead Reckoning for tenor recorder trio
  • Further Than Now for clarinet and piano
  • Mingus for xylophone/narrator
  • Things That Grow Smaller for flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, and percussion
  • Two Lights for solo drum set


  • Family Portraits: Embden Pond for solo alto flute with two vibraphones
  • Still Slowly for xylophone and piano
  • Willow for solo cello
  • Wounded an antiphonal composition for 3 or 4 xylophones


  • Hearts for solo violin
  • Ground for solo orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • Plenty thirty-four movements for solo vibraphone


  • Clay Singing for solo percussion with spoken text
  • Family Portraits: Erika (daughter) for vibraphone and violin
  • In Hours Like These for soprano voice and orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • A River, Rose for violin and vibraphone
  • When The Body Betrays for tenor voice and double seconds steel drums
  • Winter Taps vibraphone duet with spoken text
  • Women in Meeting flute duet


  • The Authors for solo marimba with spoken text
  • Bethany' for low voice and piano
  • Big Falls, Little Falls' for percussion quartet
  • Castine for marimba with offstage voice
  • Lace orchestra bell (glockenspiel) duet with voice
  • Magdalene for soprano saxophone and two percussion
  • Over for solo orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • Rose for flute with spoken text and movement
  • Still...Alive for voice and guitar
  • A Vietnam Memorial opera for speaking voice and vibraphone


  • Among Us for solo piano
  • Beats for baritone voice and piano
  • Light for two voices
  • Light in Each One for solo alto flute
  • The Lines of Ageing for solo vibraphone
  • The Narrow Path trio for two vibraphones and orchestra bells (glockenspiel)
  • Past for solo tenor voice
  • Quilt for vibraphone and marimba
  • Seven Seasons for contralto voice and vibraphone
  • Angels for percussion trio, three triangles each
  • (as the days get shorter) for solo bass clarinet


  • Mornings for solo vibraphone
  • Apart for 2 orchestra bells and vibraphone


  • The Home of the Brave for percussionist/actor performing on a 2X4, 3 bottles, and 5 metal objects
  • The God Songs for orchestra bells/actor
  • To Freshen the Moment for cello and vibraphone
  • Far Away for solo chimes
  • The Untold Range for 1-5 percussionists and sounds from nature


  • Time Comes Full Circle for cello and violin
  • Thicket for orchestra bells or piano
  • All Too Human for soprano and clarinet
  • Winter, Knee Deep for flute/theater
  • They Looked Like Strangers for solo vibraphone
  • Winter Songs for violin/theater


  • Three Winter Carols for orchestra bells/voice
  • Winter for any winds, strings, keyboard, mallet percussion
  • New England for vibraphone


  • Palm Sunday for piano
  • A Liturgy of the Hours for flute
  • Our Father for soprano
  • Heaven and Earth for organ


  • Blessings for soprano and clarinet
  • A Good Friday for clarinet
  • By Hand for 2 hand drums
  • When All Else Fails for chorus
  • The Lilies of the Field for vibraphone and female voice
  • Across: Lines for orchestra bells, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, chimes, voice
  • The Such Falling for percussion/theater
  • My Friend Gita Said: for marimba/voice


  • Crystal Night for violin and percussion quartet
  • Memory for any soloist
  • The History Lesson for violin, vibraphone, narrator
  • Lazarus for piano or vibraphone/actor/singer
  • Past Regrets for double bass/singer/actor
  • Places, Please for soprano and percussion
  • When We Were Giants for guitar


  • Harbor Bells for 5 bowl gongs and singing voice
  • Re:Verse trans-media work for any two performance artists
  • Wellspring for orchestra bells
  • Echo for 1-8 singers
  • Evening Primrose for vibraphone solo with two drumsets
  • Commune, vibraphone concerto with small chamber ensemble
  • Meadow Sweet for marimba and clarinet
  • Here's the Sun for cello solo
  • Alone for solo vibraphone


  • Smith, Stuart Saunders. Twentieth Century Scores. Prentice-Hall.
  • Smith, Stuart Saunders, and Thomas DeLio (1989). Words and Spaces: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Musical Experiments in Language and Sonic Environments. University Press of America. ISBN 0-8191-7425-4. ISBN 978-0-8191-7425-3.


  • Wind in the Channel, O.O. Disc (Out of Print)
    • 1. Hawk (1991), solo oboe
    • 2. Family Portraits: Brenda (1994), solo piano
    • 3. California Driving (1995), solo voice
    • Return and Recall (1976)
    • 4. Notebook (1980), 2-piano version
    • 5. Wind in the Channel (1994), tenor recorder/voice/percussion
    • 6. Gifts (1974), flute, vibraphone, piano version
    • 7. Pinetop (1976-1977), solo piano
    • 8. In Bingham (1985), solo voice
    • 9. Aussie Blue (1985), solo piano
  • Music/Theater, Centaur (CRC 2633)
    • 1. By Language Embellished: I (1983-1984), solo voice/percussion
  • The Year Begins to Be Ripe, 11 West Records/Smith Publications
    • 1. Poems I, II, III (1970), 5 brake drums, narrator
    • 2. In Hours Like These (2005), soprano, vibraphone
    • 3. Family Portraits: Delbert (1994), percussion/voice
    • 4. Xylophone Poems No. 1: Went Forth (1999), xylophone/voice
    • 5. Thinking About Anne Sexton, vibraphone (2000), narrator
  • The Noble Snare, 11 West Records/Smith Publications
    • 1. The Noble Snare (1988), solo snare drum
  • Breath, 11 West Records/Smith Publications
    • 1. Each Moment An Ending (1993), marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, orchestra bells, chimes
    • 2. Blue Too (1981-1983), solo drumset
    • 3. ...And Points North (1990), percussion/voice
    • 4. Links No. 11 (1994), 3 vibraphones
    • 5. Breath (2001), mezzo-soprano, orchestra bells
    • 6. Polka in Treblinka (1996), xylophone, snare drum, high-hat, bass drum
    • 7. Thaw (1993), orchestra bells
    • 8. Family Portraits: Cubba (1996), trumpet, percussion, flute
  • Withered Leaves - New Birth, Disques Christal (France)
    • 1. Links (1974), vibraphone
    • 2. Links No. 2 (1975), vibraphone
    • 3. Links No. 3 (1975), vibraphone
  • In Common, Equilibrium
    • 1. In Common (1991), flute, vibraphone
  • Book of Horizons, New World Records
    • 1. Fences, In Three Tragedies (1998), solo piano
  • When Still, Soundset Recordings
    • 1. Links No. 2 (1975), vibraphone
    • 2. The Starving Month (2012), vibraphone
  • McCormick Percussion Group, Ravello Records
    • 1. Nightshade (1991), violin, 2 percussion
  • Trio Spectra, GAC (Sweden)
    • 1. Polka in Treblinka (1996), xylophone, snare drum, high-hat, bass drum
  • At Sixty (Selections), 11 West Records/Smith Publications
    • CD#1
      • 1. Women in Meeting (2005), flute duo
      • 2. Polka in Treblinka (1996), xylophone, snare drum, high-hat, bass drum
      • 3. Over (2006), orchestra bells
      • 4. Wounded (2003), xylophone
      • 5. Magdalene (2006), soprano sax, 2 percussion
      • 6. Notebook (1980), any instruments
    • CD#2
      • 1. In Bingham (1985), solo voice
      • 2. Rose (2006), flute/dancer/actor
      • 3. Family Portraits: Embden Pond (2003), alto flute, 2 vibraphones
      • 4. A River, Rose (2005), violin, vibraphone
      • 5. Hearts (2004), violin
      • 6. Good Night (1992), marimba/voice
  • Books of Flutes, 11 West Records/Smith Publications
    • 1. Books of Flutes (2000), solo flute
    • 2. Legacy Variations No. 1 (1972), any three melody instruments
    • 3. Legacy Variations No. 99 (1972), any three melody instruments
    • 4. Family Portraits: Embden Pond (2003), alto flute, 2 vibraphones
  • Crux, Chen Li Music
    • 1. Notebook (1980), any instruments
    • 2. Family Portraits: Ivy, Earle, Sylvia (1991), solo piano
    • 3. Here and There (1972), short-wave radio, piano interior, any melody instruments
    • 4. Strays (1995), tenor recorder and xylophone
  • Strange Paths, Innova
    • 1. They Looked Like Strangers (2010), vibraphone
  • Music for Keyboard Percussions, Ravello
    • 1. Apart (2008), 2 orchestra bells, vibraphone
  • The Isle is Full of Noises, Centaur (CRC 3091)
    • 1. Family Portraits: Embden Pond (2003), alto flute, 2 vibraphones
  • The Links Series of Vibraphone Essays, New World Records
    • The Links Series
      • Links-Links 11, vibraphone
  • A River Rose, New World Records
    • 1. Hearts (2004), violin
    • 2. Three for Two (1972), violin and viola
    • 3. A Gift for Bessie (1971), violin, piano, bassoon, percussion
    • 4. Minor (2001), violin
    • 5. A River Rose (2005), violin, vibraphone
    • 6. I've Been Here Before (2009), violin and piano
  • Hawk - The Saxophone Music of Stuart Saunders Smith, Chen Li Music
    • 1. Notebook (1980), any instruments
    • 2. Magdalene (2006), soprano sax and 2 percussion
    • 3. Husbands and Wives (2008), alto sax duet
    • 4. Hawk (2007), soprano sax solo
    • 5. One for Two (1971), alto sax and organ
  • Plot: Music for Unspecified Instrumentation, Ravello Records
    • 1. Bones (2000), for any musicians and piano
    • 2. Winter (2010-2011), any instruments and voices


External links[edit]