Electronic music pioneer Richard Teitelbaum dies at 80

Richard Teitelbaum, the enduring American avant-garde figure and synthesizer pioneer, has died at the age of 80.

Teitelbaum’s wife, the classical pianist Hiroko Sakurazawa, said he died of a major stroke in Kingston, New York.

The New York City native might have been best known as the cofounder of the improvisatory ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV), formed in 1966 alongside Alvin Curran and pianist Frederic Rzewski. As part of that group, he was the first to transport a Moog modular system to Europe, using it in MEV live performances.

He worked closely with Bob Moog, convincing the synth pioneer to use brainwaves (neural oscillations) as control voltages in the mid ’60s, integrating biofeedback into musical processes. World music was also a key focus for Teitelbaum. After studying with Henry Cowell at Haverford College, he formed a lifelong affinity for traditional Japanese music like gagaku(imperial court music). In 1970, he’d form World Band, an improvising group comprised of western musicians alongside master musicians from India, Asia and the Middle East.

Teitelbaum improvised alongside a host of artists over the years, including Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Bill Frisell and Andrew Cyrille. He also published numerous influential papers on avant-garde music and improvisation. MEV reformed for a tour in 2017 which included an appearance at Big Ears Festival in Tennessee as well as a new album, Symphony No. 106. He served as a music professor at Bard College in upstate New York from 1988 up until the time of his death.

Listen to “Blends.”