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American Composers A Biographical Dictionary David Ewen G.P. Putnam's Sons New York (c) 1982 by David Ewen 750w

= page 27 (Austin) =

Austin, Larry Don, b. Duncan, Okla., September 12, 1930.

...In 1963, Austin and several of his colleagues in Davis organized the New Music Ensemble, a group of composer-performers specializing in free-group improvisations. With Austin as codirector, this ensemble gave numerous public concerts for the next five years, at many of which Austin's works were performed. In his own music, Austin continued to refine his improvisation techniques in compositions he now designated as "open style."

Among them were the Quartet in Open Style, for string quartet (1964), which the Lenox String Quartet premiered in Davis on February 7, 1965; Open Style, for orchestra with piano soloist (1965), introduced on September 28, 1968, by the Buffalo Philharmonic in Buffalo, N.Y., with the composer conducting and with Yuji Takahashi as soloist; Catharsis: Open Style for Two Improvisational Ensembles, Tape and Conductor (1967; Oakland, Calif., February 9, 1967); and Piano Set in Open Style (1967; San Francisco, June 2, 1967).

Austin and his family spent the year of 1964-65 in Rome on a $10,000 fellowship and grant from the Institute of Creative Arts at the University of California. In 1967, Austin was cofounder, and for four years coeditor, of Source, a publication devoted solely to avant-garde music.

Austin's close professional associations with Karlheinz Stockhausen, David Tudor, and John Cage in Davis, where they had come as resident composers between 1965 and 1969, opened for him new creative vistas, particularly in the areas of live electronic music and multimedia productions. Some of Austin's most ambitious works of these years were multimedia productions or theater-piece portraits.

Roma: A Theater Piece in Open Style (19656)(?jh) was introduced in Davis on January 9, 1966. Each instrumentalist was dressed in black attire and a single, white greasepaint pseudo eyepatch. While performing in an improvisational manner (which Austin called "movement improvisation") they walked slowly around the stage and disappeared and reappeared through trapdoors. Large Styrofoam sculptures were used to catch and reflect colored spotlights.

The Maze (1966) is a theater piece for percussionists, dancer, tape, and films, performed in Davis, London, and Oberlin. When it was produced at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Tex., on March 24, 1968, D.J. Hobdy described it in the Houston Chronicle as follows: "Three pajama-clad percussionists...ran from stand to stand, up and down that long flight of stairs, hitting, rubbing. Clicking, shaking everything from water-filled glasses to a brake drum. On the balcony wall, a film of the American Brass Quintet using up sixteen minutes for a concert was flashed and on the ceiling a giant projection of a clock face ticked off absurdities. Tying all this together was a dance... like some Now Generation in a particularly noisy Wonderland."

At this performance in Houston, Accidents (1967), for electronically prepared piano, actions, mirrors, a and black light, was introduced. The composer, who operated a synthesizer, covered the strings of the piano with little round contact microphones connected to the synthesizer. Large mirrors around the piano revealed this setup to the audience and the pianist, who was glowing in the dark and in front of whom hung a plastic score covered with glowing red and green lines.

The Magicians (1968; Davis, May 28, 1968) used film projections and iridescent lights flashing on rectangular panels on a darkened stage, mobiles, painted-up children, mimes, and taped electronic sounds.

Agape (1970) was an "electronic masque or rock mystery play" for soprano and baritone soloists, dancers, rock band, and chorus. It was written to help commemorate the centennial of Cauisius College at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., where it was first produced on February 25, 1970.

In 1969, Austin took a summer course in computer-generated music at Stanford University in California. (A decade later, in 1978, he participated in a workshop in the technology of computer music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge.) In spring 1971, Austin composed Quartet Three, the first of a series of extended electronic compositions for four-channel tape. It was followed by Quartet Four (1971), Primal Hybrid (1972), 1976 (1973), and Phoenix (1974).

During the summer of 1970 Austin was visiting professor of music at Trinity University in San Antonio. Austin left Davis in 1972 to become chairman of the department of music at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he remained for the next six years...

Typed by Cheryl Vega 7-31-95


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