Larry Austin

Biography

Born: September 12, 1930; Duncan, OK  
Composer Larry Austin is a native of Oklahoma; he first studied music at North Texas State University, primarily under Violet Archer, and took his master's degree in 1951. He continued with Darius Milhaud at Mills and finished his education with Seymour Shifrin and Andrew Imbrie at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1958, Austin joined the staff of the University of California at Davis, and although the agricultural UC Davis was a Read more school mostly known for its habit of "tipping cattle," Austin transformed its music department into a bastion of "new music." In 1961, Leonard Bernstein presented Austin's Improvisations for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists on a nationwide Young People's Concerts television broadcast and recorded it for CBS Masterworks in 1965. In 1963, Austin founded the New Music Ensemble at UC Davis that explored free group improvisation; the group issued its only recording in 1964. The following year, Austin began his work in electronic music -- in which he is acknowledged as a pioneer -- initially for use as an element in the free group improvisation Roma (1965).

In 1966, Austin founded SOURCE magazine, which became the primary house organ for avant-garde music-making in America until it folded in 1971. In 1972, Austin moved to the University of South Florida and in 1978, he returned to Texas to teach at the University of North Texas until his retirement in 1996; both of the computer music studios at these institutions were founded by Austin. Afterward, Austin settled in Denton, TX, where he ran his own studio and continued to compose. In 1986, Austin founded CDCM (the Consortium to Distribute Computer Music) which, through Centaur Records, has released more than 20 compilation discs of computer music, including some of Austin's own.

Although much of Austin's computer music is considered groundbreaking, and some of his conventionally scored music, such as the zany piano piece Tango Violento (1984), has elicited positive comment, Austin is best known for a work he didn't compose -- his edition of Charles Ives' "Universe" Symphony. Austin began in 1974 through attempting to realize Ives' Life Pulse Prelude utilizing the verbal description in Ives' Memos; his realization of the complete symphony was presented for the first time by the Cincinnati Philharmonia in 1996. Though other realizations of the "Universe" have followed since, Austin's was the first, and to date is the most frequently performed. He has also prepared other, original compositions out of the "Universe" materials. Austin has created a computerized, octophonic trope on John Cage's earliest tape piece, Williams [re]Mix[ed] (1997-2001) and has received the coveted "Magesterium" prize from the International Electroacoustic Competition in Bourges for his work BluesAx (1996), the first ever awarded to an American composer. Read less


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