Richard Barrett (born 7 November 1959, Swansea, Wales) is a British composer.
Barrett began to study music seriously only after graduating in genetics and microbiology at University College London in 1980 (Warnaby 2001). From then until 1983 he took private lessons with Peter Wiegold. There followed fruitful encounters at the 1984 Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik with Brian Ferneyhough and Hans-Joachim Hespos. In the 1980s he became associated with the so-called New Complexity group of British composers because of the intricate notation of his scores. However, alongside notated composition, he is equally active in free improvisation, most often in the electronic duo FURT with Paul Obermayer, formed in 1986, and a voice/electronics duo with Ute Wassermann since 1999, but also since 2003 as a member of the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. Since 1990 about half of his compositions have been written for the ELISION Ensemble, most notably the extended works Opening of the Mouth and DARK MATTER. In 2005 he and Obermayer formed the electroacoustic octet fORCH.
Many of Barrett's works are grouped into series, and have extra-musical associations — particularly with the writers Samuel Beckett and Paul Celan, but also the Chilean painter Roberto Matta. Barrett's compositional techniques, which derive equally and indistinguishably from serial, stochastic and intuitive methods, have since the mid-1980s made extensive use of computer programs he has developed himself (Warnaby 2001). He regards free improvisation as a method of composition rather than as a different or opposed kind of musical activity. He has often been politically outspoken (Whittall 2005), and in 1990 joined the Socialist Workers Party (Britain). While no longer an active member he remains aligned with revolutionary socialism (Lenz 2005).