Born in Düsseldorf, he trained as a violinist at Düsseldorf and Cologne. In 1934 he left Nazi Germany (like many Jewish composers of his time) and played in Singapore and Shanghai during the war years. He settled permanently in Montreal in 1949. For the next 15 years Joachim worked as a player, teacher, instrument builder and composer. Since the 1960s he has concentrated on his compositions which are a mix of aleatoric and electroacoustic works. In 1994, he received and honorary doctorate from Concordia University, Montreal. The multi-channel electroacoustic studio in the Department of Music at Concordia University is named "The Otto Joachim Project Studio".