Otto Luening (1900-1996) was an American composer, conductor, teacher of composition and flautist famous for his innovative composition experiments with the use of a tape recorder.
The Luening family moved from Milwaukee to Munich in 1912 and to Zurich in 1917. Luening studied at conservatories in Munich and Zurich, and with the composer Ferruccio Busoni. In 1920, he returned to the United States and held positions at the Eastman School of Music, the University of Arizona and the Bennington College. From 1944 to 1970, Luening taught at Columbia University, where he led an innovative opera group that presented a total of around 40 new operas. In 1952, he began to experiment with the possibilities of recording on magnetic tape and in the same year he collaborated with the composer Vladimir Ussachevsky on the first concert of music for a tape recorder in the United States (at the Museum of Modern Art in New York). In the 1950s and 1960s, Luening, either alone or in collaboration with Ussachevsky, composed pieces in which electronic sounds were integrated into a traditional orchestra. Among these works are Rhapsodic Variations for tape recorder and orchestra (1953), in which the tape recorder takes a solo role. In 1959, they together founded the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York, of which Luening was co-director until 1980.
Though he was a tireless champion of contemporary music, Luening also composed a substantial amount of more conventional music for traditional instruments. Such works include Symphonic Fantasia No. 1 (1922–24) and Louisville Concerto (1951).