In addition to their work as the performance and installation duo O+A, Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger are committed to inspiring a new generation of artists and sound producers at some of the world's most prestigious institutions to think about sound in urban space in new and interesting ways. Together they have led workshops at universities on three continents, from South Korea to Europe and the United States. Individually, their work goes even further.
Austrian-born Sam Auinger, who lives not far from Ableton headquarters in Berlin, has always thrived at the nexus of sound and technology. From his early days in a punk band in Austria to his discovery at the world-famous Ars Electronica, where he first met Bruce Odland, Auinger has sculpted his life around sound. In 2008, Auinger accepted the position of Professor of Experimental Sound Design at the University of the Arts in Berlin (UdK). "For me, teaching at an institution like the UdK is a way of imparting the bits of knowledge I have picked up along the way to a new generation of creative professionals interested in sound." Auinger's primary focus is to challenge students to re-think what it is to hear in today's urban landscapes in order to devise new strategies of designing with sound, from sound installations to urban planning applications. In teaching, Auinger takes advantage of Ableton Live's unique on-the-fly nature to show students how to experiment dynamically in space with new and interesting sounds. To illustrate this point, Auinger points to a recent project he did with students at Berlin's singuhr - hoergalerie, an exhibition space founded in the decommissioned remains of a turn-of-the-century underground water storage tank.
"We used Ableton Live on a laptop and a couple of active speakers as a means to experiment with sound in a space with extreme sound characteristics. Each student was able to bring their own material and test their ideas instantly in the space with Ableton Live. This was a boundary-breaking experience for everyone involved."
Breaking boundaries is also a goal in Bruce Odland's teaching pursuits. "In general my emphasis is to wake up the ears of the students, empowering their sense of hearing as a tool for cultural critique," says Odland. In the form of both lectures and workshops, Odland has taken his message to such prestigious U.S. universities as Harvard, Yale, New York University, Tufts, California Institute of the Arts, M.I.T. and Cooper Union, to name a few. For a project with students at Tufts University entitled "Harmony in the Age of Noise," for instance, Ableton Live played an integral role. Odland elaborates: "Using Ableton Live we were able to edit over a hundred psychoacoustic sound maps in two and four channels with video, which was quite a feat." This teaching philosophy carries over into his work as a musical director with a variety of performance groups, including the world-renowned Wooster Group. Odland explains:
"My work with larger performance groups absolutely requires me to run Ableton Live. Installed on a laptop and connected directly into a theater's sound system, Live allows me to dynamically respond to the activities on stage from within the performance space as opposed to being cooped up in the booth. Also Live is so fast that I finish my work during rehearsals and go for drinks with the actors instead of slaving over changes all night. I have brought the use of Live to more than a dozen theaters in the US where it outperforms the systems typically used."