Richard plays Handmade Music in 2007; full video at bottom.

I’m saddened to learn of the death of Richard Lainhart, the New York-based composer and artist who has been inseparable from the experimental electronic scene for many years. I knew Richard to be a gentle and imaginative soul, an inventive technologist, someone capable of dreaming up endless soundscapes and auditory worlds. He was also a great contributor to the CDM community, including playing one of the early installments of Handmade Music at Etsy Labs in Brooklyn. (Photo above; full video at bottom.)

I think it’s fitting to illustrate Richard with a terrific self-portrait on Polaroid, one that illustrates his sense of humor and artistic adventurousness:

A self-portrait by the artist; via the wealth of wonder in Richard’s Flickr account.

Richard’s wife Caroline posted a note with the news, which most of us found via Facebook:

Richard Lainhart February 14, 1953 – December 30, 2011

Dear friends of Richard,
It is with a heavy heart that I that I must tell you Richard Lainhart, composer, musician, technologist, filmmaker, and digital artisan died Friday, December 30, 2011.

On December 17, Richard complained of pains in his side and was admitted to the hospital for tests which showed an intestinal cancer. He was operated on on December 21. After the surgery (which showed the cancer had not spread), there were infectious complications which took his life on December 30.

He struggled valiantly to overcome his infection, but it was not to be. We are all in shock and cannot grasp the idea of his not making music, talking music, teaching, posting and playing.

Caroline Meyers
Richard Lainhart’s wife

Richard leaves behind a massive body of work and digital footprints; I’ve selected some of those below, including music, a wonderful set of images working with digital manipulation and Polaroids via Flickr, and his series on creative sound design tutorials.

Playing Messiaen:

Audiovisual work:

Richard’s most recent album, via Bandcamp:

Most recent SoundCloud contributions, including the winds after Tropical Storm Irene (that sound certainly is part of my sonic memory of 2011)

Sounds of my World – Post-Irene Winds 8-28-11 by rlainhart

200e-Continuum Percussive Study 2 by rlainhart

Sounds of my world – Rainforest V, New York Electronic Art Festival, 7-30-11 by rlainhart

I adore his photographic work:

A bio:

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, author, and filmmaker – a digital artisan who works with sonic and visual data. Since childhood, he’s been interested in natural processes such as waves, flames and clouds, in harmonics and harmony, and in creative interactions with machines, using them as compositional methods to present sounds and images that are as beautiful as he can make them.

Lainhart studied composition and electronic music with Joel Chadabe at the State University of New York at Albany. He has composed music for film, television, CD-ROMs, interactive applications, and the Web. His compositions have been performed in the US, England, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and Japan. Recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, and ExOvo labels. As an active performer, Lainhart has appeared in public approximately 2000 times. Besides performing his own work, he has worked and performed with John Cage, David Tudor, Steve Reich, Phill Niblock, David Berhman, and Jordan Rudess, among many others. He has composed over 100 electronic and acoustic works. In 2008, he was commissioned by the Electronic Music Foundation to contribute a work to New York Soundscape.

Lainhart’s animations and short films have been shown at festivals in the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, and Korea, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. His film “A Haiku Setting” won awards in several categories at the 2002 International Festival of Cinema and Technology in Toronto. In 2009, he was awarded a Film & Media grant by the New York State Council on the Arts for “No Other Time”, full-length intermedia performance designed for a large reverberant space, combining live analog electronics with four-channel playback, and high-definition computer-animated film projection.


“Lainhart crafts sounds in a tonal, musical fashion – sustained tones, drones, melodic fragments – and electronically manipulates them into beautiful tapestries of sound.” (Waterfront Week)

[His] “music reflects the spirit of possibility that once defined electronic music, bringing with it a sense of past, present and future that transcends time, technology and cultural assumptions. The spell- binding music seemed to evoke feelings that can’t quite be named, and suggest music I might rather imagine for myself in silence than trust most composers to compose.” (The Village Voice).

“He’s evolved a singular vision as a composer, performer and engineer of darkly seductive minimalism.” (Peter Marsh, BBC)

And here is Richard’s performance for us at Handmade Music on the Buchla 200e synth and Continuum Fingerboard, from 2007:

Richard’s studio; photo (CC-BY-SA) Richard Lainhart.
  • Eric

    Wow, that was a surprise and a shock. While not familiar with his music, I am always reminded of him when I use the B(uchla) Systems packs from Puremagnetik, which were recorded from his Buchla. It's pleasing to know that he will continue in that way, in a form of immortality.

  • (!)

    Thank you Peter.

    Peace to you Richard. You are loved.

  • bliss

    RIP, Richard. We here loved you. And your music. Goodbye.


  • Bob Bell

    Inspirational guy, RIP brother.

  • Marsha Vdovin

    RIP Richard, your work will live on

  • Thanks for the story. Richard will be missed by many.

  • alxnys

    Sad news. Richard was brilliant, and a great artist.

  • vance

    Thank you Richard for the beautiful music, engaging conversation, expansive ideas and for making me laugh during your demo of the Kyma so many years ago. You left us far too early – But your contributions to the community will continue to resonate…….

  • I just heard the news about Richard.  I met him when he and Brian Maffitt ran the old NYAEUG and Richard was always there to make us laugh and more importantly, expand our creative horizons.  He was one of the best guys in the business and this news just flattens me.  

  • Peter,
    Thank you for such an extensive and beautiful tribute. Your thoughtfulness and care is much appreciated by Richard's family and friends. And by me.
    Caroline Meyers