Ms. Strom did not dwell on her blindness (“The blindness to me is a nuisance more than anything,” she once said), although mastering her synthesizers was a process of experimentation, since in the 1980s, when the instruments were relatively new, there were no users’ manuals for the blind. Ultimately, she thought, her lack of sight enhanced her music.
“My hearing and inner visualization have, I feel, developed to a higher level than perhaps they would have otherwise,” she told the publication Eurock in a rare early-career interview in 1986. “And it doesn’t affect my abilities from a technical standpoint, either. It’s quite possible to program synthesizers, effects units, accurately record one’s work and handle a mixer. I do this all by sound.”
“In fact,” she added, “I rather like working in the dark.”
Pauline Anna Tuell was born on Oct. 1, 1946, in Baton Rouge, La., to Paul and Marjorie (Landry) Tuell. She grew up in Kentucky in a Roman Catholic household and said that chants and other types of church music influenced her musical ideas, but that so did the works of Bach, Chopin and others.
She was married twice, to Bob Strom and then to Kevin Bierl, but the dates of those marriages and how they ended are, like many details of her life, hard to come by. She moved to San Francisco when her husband — it is unclear which — was stationed there while in the military. Reclusive by nature, she lived in the same San Francisco apartment for decades. (“Thank God this city has rent control,” she told the website listentothis.info in 2018.)
Her early musical efforts included some do-it-yourself sound effects like those in “Emerald Pool,” but she gradually became more adept at creating whatever sound she wanted with the multiple synthesizers she accumulated. She was influenced by the work of the German band Tangerine Dream and the German composer Klaus Schulze, pioneers in electronic music.