Hiller, Lejaren

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Lejaren Hiller


Born: February 23, 1924

Died: January 26, 1994 Buffalo, New York

Country: New York City, U.S.A.

Studies: Princeton University (B.A.1944, M.A.1946, Ph.D. 1947), University of Illinois (M.M.1958)

Teachers: Milton Babbitt

Lejaren Hiller was born in New York City on 23 February 1924. His father was a well-known artist-photographer who combined art and science by illustrating the history of surgery. He composed a graduation march for his high school graduation in 1941. While he was in high school, he learned to play the piano, clarinet and saxophone and expressed an interest in both chemistry and music. He studied chemistry at Princeton University receiving in 1944, a BA, a MA in 1946, and in 1947 a PhD. His thesis was entitled “The Chemical Structure of Cellulose and Starch”. In 1958, he earned a M.Mus at the University of Illinois, Urbana, IL.

In 1947, he continued his work in cellulose chemistry as a research chemist at DuPont in Waynesboro, VA. In the meantime, he pursued an interest in music by composing many chamber pieces. In 1952, he joined the Department of Chemistry at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He became Assistant Professor in the School of Music at the university In 1958. The next year, he founded and directed the Electronic Music Studio. In 1961, he was promoted to Associate Professor at School of Music, and three years later, he became Professor. In 1968, he became the Frederick B. Slee Professor of Composition at the State University of New York, Buffalo. NY. He served as Adjunct Professor of Science at SUNY in 1970 and in 1980, he was appointed Birge-Cary Professor of Music.

At DuPont, he received patents including one for the dye that is used to color acrylic fibers such as Orlon. His early work on the chemistry of polymers with Fred Wall at the University of Illinois introduced him to the Illiac computer, with which he did Monte Carlo calculations of polymer conformations. He collaborated with Leonard Isaacson, a graduate student, also associated with the Wall group, to teach the Illiac to compose music. Using a modified Monte Carlo technique to select the notes and other aspects of the music, they applied increasingly complex rules to define what constituted acceptable music. He wrote a freshman chemistry textbook with Rolfe H. Herber of Rutgers University in 1960.

He married Elizabeth Hasley on 18 April 1945 in Elkton, Md. They had two children, a daughter, Amanda, and a son David. He died on January 26, 1994 at Buffalo[1][2]

Works for Percussion

Computer Music - Multiple Percussion; with Tape - Hiller/O'Connor
Machine Music - Multiple Percussion; Piano; with Tape
Three Rituals for Two Percussion and Lights - Percussion Duo


  1. Wamser, C. A.; Wamser, C. C. “Lejaren A. Hiller, Jr.: A Memorial Tribute to a Chemist-Composer” J. Chem. Educ. 1996, 73, 601-7.
  2. Memorial Tribute Online (Access March 21, 2013)