An Interview with Otto Luening: By Norma Beecroft

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Otto Luening
b. 1900, Milwaukee, WI – d. 1996, New York, N.Y.

Interviewed by Norma Beecroft as part of her ebook, Conversations With Post World War II Pioneers of Electronic Music.
Recorded on audio cassette.
Digital transfer and editing: William Van Ree

While Otto Luening is known primarily for his work and experiments in the early electronic music field, he was a prolific composer producing over 350 compositions of an amazing variety of styles during his long life. Intensely interested in music and encouraged by his parents, he made his debut as a flutist at the age of 16. Born in Wisconsin, USA, one of seven children, his German immigrant family had moved to Munich in 1912, but in 1917 fled the country for Switzerland. Otto studied at the Zurich Conservatory and took private lessons with the famed composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni, whose ideas and experiments profoundly influenced the young musician. Returning to the United States in 1920, Otto Luening built his career as a performer, composer and conductor in various centres, finally locating in New York at Columbia University where he began to explore the new world of electronics. With Vladimir Ussachevsky who had joined the staff at Columbia in 1947, they began a long collaboration, resulting in a number of pieces for tape, synthesizer and acoustical instruments. In 1960, they founded the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, attracting young composers to this new world of ‘tape’ music.

You can read the transcript of the interview, along with interviews of 22 other electroacoustic composers, by purchasing the ebook here.