Austin taught at the University of California, Davis from 1958 till 1972 rising from assistant professor to full professor. While at the University of California, Davis, he founded the improvisational New Music Ensemble. In 1972 he accepted a position at the University of South Florida, where he taught until 1978. In that year he returned to Texas, teaching at his alma mater, the University of North Texas, from 1978 until 1996 when he was named Professor Emeritus. His notable students include Dary John Mizelle and Rodney Waschka II.
Austin received early recognition for his instrumental and orchestral works and of those pieces, Improvisations for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists, was performed and recorded by the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein. Other orchestral works of special note include Charles Ives's Universe Symphony, "as realized and completed by Larry Austin" (1974-93) for large orchestra, and Sinfonia Concertante: A Mozartean Episode (1986) for chamber orchestra and tape. Chamber works with particularly significant computer music/electro-acoustic music aspects include Accidents for electronically prepared piano (1967), written for David Tudor, Canadian Coastlines: Canonic Fractals for Musicians and Computer Band for eight musicians and tape from 1981, and BluesAx for saxophonist and tape (1995), which won the Magisterium Prize, at Bourges in 1996.BluesAx has been recorded by Steve Duke.
Recent work includes John Explains... (2007) for octophonic sound, based on a recording of an interview with John Cage. John Explains... was premiered at the 2008 North Carolina Computer Music Festival. At the CEMI Circles festival, Austin's 2013 piece, Suoni della Bellagio--Sounds and sights of Bellagio, July-August, 1998 for video and two-channel tape was premiered.
The noted critic Tom Johnson has written of Austin's music, "His style is neither uptown nor downtown, nor is it minimal, eclectic, hypnotic, or European. But it works, it is strongly personal, and it has something to say in all these directions.... The real source of Austin's music, however, is clearly Charles Ives, who also liked musical symbols, enjoyed collaging them together as densely as he could, and never had much of a knack for prettiness."
Austin has said that "Exploring new concepts, new materials and their interaction is essential to my work as a composer."[dead link]
Leonard Bernstein Conducts Music of Our Time. New York Philharmonic, Columbia Masterworks, MS6733, 1965.
Improvisations for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists
Robert Floyd Plays New Piano Music by Hans Werner Henze and Larry Austin, Advance Records, FGR10S, 1970.
Piano Set in Open Style
New Music for Woodwinds, Advance Records, FGR9S, 1974 (performed by Phil Rehfeldt, clarinet and Thomas Warburton, piano).
Larry Austin Hybrid Musics: Four Compositions, Canton, TX: IRIDA Records 0022, 1980.