Composer Jerry Hunt was born in Waco on November 30, 1943. He studied piano and composition at what is now the University of North Texas, briefly taught at Southern Methodist University, and worked as a pianist until 1969. He composed music for video and film production companies and served as technical consultant for audio and video instrumentation companies. He also performed regularly at the Kitchen in New York and headlined various New Music festivals throughout the United States and Europe.
Following a childhood interest in black magic and the occult, Hunt read underground magazines from secret societies and at fourteen became an initiate Rosicrucian. After a couple showed up at the family's door in response to ads placed by young Jerry in the local newspaper offering instruction "in the path of the infinite," his parents sent him to Galveston for psychological evaluation, but he was found to be well-adjusted. As an adult Hunt became an atheist but remained fascinated by the occult, especially by the mystical system of alchemy and Tarot and by the Englishman John Dee.
Hunt is best known for his performances, which he called "interrelated electronic, mechanic and social sound-sight interactive transactional systems." He was self-taught, yet was an avid inventor of musical technology, including electronic circuitry, computer software, and cybernetic systems, and was involved in the design of semiconductor integrated circuits. This knowledge allowed him access to the very early digital speech synthesis heard in Transform (Stream) (1977) well in advance of others in the field. His other recordings include "Lattice for pianoforte" (1979), "Fluud" (1989), "Babylon" (1990), and Ground: Five Mechanic Convention Streams (1992). The only available videotape of Jerry Hunt's performance style is Four Video Translations.
Hunt's work has reached a larger audience because of the continuing sale of his compact disks. However, recordings do not capture the power of his live performances, in which his unique personality was most apparent. Many have reported his appearance during performances as shaman-like or reminiscent of an exorcism. Hunt used a variety of electronic equipment, as well as homemade items and props, such as rattles, wands, and bells. His unorthodox performance style prompted one reviewer to say, "Our civilization makes us uncomfortable with this lanky figure from West Texas. Is he following any score? Are the electronics really doing anything? Clearly, this man is playing. Most probably, he is playing with us."
In the 1980s and early 1990s Hunt collaborated on projects with such people as visual artist Maria Blondeel, performance artist Karen Finley, and composer and software designer Joel Ryan. Hunt's work with Karen Finley brought him into conflict with the National Endowment for the Arts, but her production was successfully completed anyway. Satirizing a television talk show, Finley and Hunt began "The Finley/Hunt Report" in 1992 by "discussing off-color subjects in the glib tones and smiley cadences television interviewers use for innocuous chatter."
Hunt lived in Texas his entire life and spent most of his last years in his self-built house on his family ranch. He committed suicide in Canton, Texas, on November 27, 1993, after a long battle with lung cancer and emphysema. Although during his life he was known only to a small group of followers, his music influenced a younger generation of electro-acoustic musicians, such as Gordon Monahan, Samm Bennett, and Laetitia Sonami. Multiple memorial performances honored Hunt after his death. These included a performance at Experimental Intermedia in New York City in March 1994 with Joseph Celli, Karen Finley, and others, and in 1996 a virtual collaboration with Hunt by the composer and vocalist Shelley Hirsch. On October 24, 2002, Rodney Waschka performed "Keeping the Core Pure: In Memory of Jerry Hunt" at North Carolina State University.