Joel Avon Chadabe was born on December 12, 1938 in the Bronx and grew up in the Throgs Neck neighborhood. His father Solon was a lawyer. His mother, Sylvia (Cohen) Chadabe, was a housewife.
Joel attended the private Bentley School in Manhattan and studied classical piano. His parents hoped he would become a lawyer, but instead he studied music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1959. At Yale, he studied with the composer Elliott Carter and, after obtaining a master’s degree in 1962, he continued his studies with Mr. Carter in Italy. He was in Rome when he heard about an unusual job posting at SUNY Albany.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Benjamin, and a sister, Susan Strzemien.
As he got older, Mr. Chadabe became passionate about the environment, and in 2006 he started the Ear to the Earth music festival, which performed electronic music on the theme of nature. At the festival in New York this year, one composition featured the rustling of pine beetles and another a soundscape of the city’s pigeons.
Mr. Chadabe retired from SUNY Albany in the late 1990s, but continued to teach electronic music courses at New York University’s Manhattan School of Music and Bennington College, where he has taught as an adjunct since the 1970s.
Until well into his 1970s, Mr. Chadabe remained fascinated by the possibilities of electronic music, the potential of which he believed was only just understood.
“Electronics opened up an amazing world of sound and more than just an amazing world of sound, an amazing way of understanding sound,” he said in 2013. “We’re just starting to get a good idea of how sound works and how we do it can transform. “