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Don Lewis, Digital Music Pioneer, Dies at 81

Don Lewis, Digital Music Pioneer, Dies at 81

Don Lewis, Electronic Music Pioneer, Dies at 81

Don Lewis, the pioneering digital music composer and musician, died Sunday (November 6), his representatives confirmed to Pitchfork. Over a 54-year profession in music, he designed sounds and instrument voices for Hammond, Roland, Yamaha, and ARP, and developed a novel dwell rig that was years forward of its time. He was 81.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Lewis served within the Air Pressure as a Nuclear Weapons Specialist in Denver, Colorado, however would finally transfer to Los Angeles. In 1981 he settled in Pleasanton, in California’s East Bay suburbs. 

Within the mid Nineteen Seventies, he developed the “Reside Digital Orchestra,” a {custom} rig he used to manage a number of synthesizers and sound modules with custom-designed keyboards almost a decade earlier than the introduction of MIDI in 1983. He designed voices for the Yamaha DX7, amongst different synthesizers, and labored immediately with Roland founder Ikutarô Kakehashi creating rhythm items, together with the long-lasting TR-808 drum machine.

Over the course of his profession Lewis gave performances on the Sydney Opera Home, Carnegie Corridor, and the Apollo Theater, and collaborated with the likes of Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, and The Seashore Boys. In 1987, he created the education-focused “Say Sure to Music!” live performance excursions, produced by his spouse Julie.

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His life and profession is profiled in Ned Augustenborg’s 2020 documentary The Ballad of Don Lewis: The Untold Story of a Synthesizer Pioneer. It’s set to make its nationwide broadcast debut on PBS in February 2023 as Don Lewis and the Reside Electrical Orchestra.

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