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Nicolai has received numerous awards and grants, among them: Giga Hertz Prize (2012, with Ryoji Ikeda); Villa Massimo, Rome (2007); Zurich Art Prize (2007); Villa Aurora, Los Angeles (2003); Prix Ars Electronica (2000 and 2001, with Marko Peljhan); Grand Prize Japan Media Arts Festival (2014).
His oeuvre echoes in his work as a musician: For his musical outputs he uses the pseudonym Alva Noto.
Diverse musical projects include remarkable collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ryoji Ikeda, and Blixa Bargeld among many others.
Nicolai toured extensively through Europe, Asia, South America and the US.
 Among others, he performed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the San Francisco Museum ofModern Art, Centre Pompidou in Paris and Tate Modern in London.
Nicolai scored the music for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 'The Revenant’. 
The score was nominated for a Golden Globe, BAFTA, Grammy and Critics Choice Award.
As well he has created the sound design for Iñárritu’s groundbreaking VR project “Carne y Arena”.