Departures: Richard Lainhart


Contributed by Ron Goldberg, founder of Periodic Music

Richard Lainhart, an inexhaustible composer, filmmaker and teacher whose works inspired multiple generations of electronic musicians and digital media artists throughout the world, passed away on December 30 near his home in New City, NY. He was 58.

The cause was complications following an emergency surgery, according to his wife Caroline Meyers.

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Lainhart was one of the seminal figures in contemporary American electronic music, composing more than 150 works over the course of nearly four decades. His distinctive sound was characterized by organic textures inspired by natural phenomena, such as clouds, water and fire, typically arranged in minimalist structures and treated with microscopically observed harmonies. These explorations dated to the early 1970s and pre-figured the electronica, ambient, trance and other sound art movements that would eventually celebrate him as an aesthetic figurehead.

Uncommon to the genre, Lainhart was also a prolific performer as well as composer, continually expanding the boundaries of human-machine interaction and expression through a myriad of customized hardware and software technologies, often through their formative stages of development. In recent years, Lainhart returned to the modular, analog synthesizer technologies of his early interests, and became a noted tutor and instructor for a generation of young electronic musicians attracted to the resurgence of these vintage sound producing techniques.

Lainhart's work was performed in the US, England, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Italy and Japan, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, ExOvo, Airglow and Periphery music labels.

Originally from Vestal, NY, Lainhart earned his degree in music from the State University at New York at Albany, where he studied composition and electronic music with composer Joel Chadabe. Besides his own works, he worked and performed with such new music luminaries as John Cage, David Tudor, Steve Reich, Phill Niblock, Rhys Chatham and Jordan Rudess, among many others.

In addition to his music, Lainhart's animations and short films premiered at digital festivals throughout the world. His film A Haiku Setting won several awards at the 2002 International Festival of Cinema and Technology in Toronto. In 2009, he was awarded a grant by the New York State Council on the Arts for No Other Time, a full-length intermedia performance designed for a large reverberant space. In 2010, he was a featured media artist at Netmage in Bologna, Italy, and his year-long timescape film One Year was awarded Best Experimental Film at HDFEST in Portland, OR.

Lainhart is survived by his wife Caroline Meyers, brother Todd, sister Karen Varano and mother Anne.

Jordan Rudess says:
If it was not for Richard Lainhart I would have never been introduced to the Continuum- I would never have played the huge modular synthesizer that he designed for me with Roger Arrick and I would have never played the Lap Steel.

Richard was a giving man and was one of the smartest people I've ever known.

We shared a passion for sound and enjoyed wonderful electronic music improvisations which we brought to live radio, the concert hall and live streaming around the world. We made the the live concert DVD "A Fistful of Patchcords" together, and together with Richard we created videos highlighting instruments and technology made by the leading manufacturers in the world.

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