Carsten Nicolai was born in Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany (then Karl-Marx-Stadt, Saxony, East Germany) in 1965. He studied architecture and landscape design before pursuing art. In 1999 he founded Raster-Noton. is a German musician. He uses the stage names Alva Noto, Noto and Aleph-1. He is a member of the music groups Diamond Version with Olaf Bender (Byetone), Signal with Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, Cyclo with Ryoji Ikeda, and Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto with Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Nicolai has performed and created installations in many of the world's most prestigious spaces including the Guggenheim, New York, the SF MoMA, Modern Art Oxford, NTT Tokyo, Tate Modern and Venice Biennale, Italy. As a member (and co-founder) of the Raster-Noton label he was responsible for the acclaimed CD series '20 to 2000' that went on to win the Golden Nica prize at Prix Ars Electronica, 2000.
Carsten Nicolai also works as a visual artist. Using the principles of Cymatics he often visualizes sound. In 2013, Nicolai participated as a visual artist in Noise, an official collateral show of the 55th Venice Biennale of Art, based on Joseph Nechvatal’s book Immersion Into Noise.
Nicolai has recently written an opera, Sparkie: Cage and Beyond, in collaboration with Michael Nyman.