Oliver Hödl - Computer Scientist, Musician & Organiser of a Viennese Ball
I'm a university assistant at the University of Vienna Faculty of Computer Science and do research and teaching in various fields. My field of expertise is Human Computer Interaction - Human Machine Interaction - and the human-centered design of digital systems. One of my main focuses is music computing, meaning interactive musical applications. For example, I deal with digital musical instruments and new ways of making music, but with digital possibilities.
And I am glad that I am working at the oldest university in Austria, actually one of the oldest universities ever, founded in 1365.
Where were you born?
What is special about your profession? What do you like about it? How did it all began?
Actually, it was not planned that I work at the university. I've always had a passion for music and computer science. My youth was marked by both. I've always loved making music, played in bands, but at the same time as someone who grew up with computers as a 1st generation, I'm very interested in computers and loved to tinker with them. At the age of 18, I was at the crossroads, what am I going to do - am I going towards music or am I going to computer science? Ultimately, I chose computer science, because music is a risk, especially of a financial nature. But I did not quit music completely and after I had my university degree I decided to switch to music for a while. It was a great, exciting, fun time to really make music with everything that goes with it: composing, writing songs, performing.
But finally, I took the decision to change something and I found a way for me to combine my two passions music and computer science. In the course of my doctorate I spent a few years at the TU Vienna. After the TU, it went on to the University of Vienna. I'm still on stage, but now in the lecture hall and it's a wonderful job. On the one hand the explorative of the research where one simply goes into the unknown terrain and on the other hand to pass on the knowledge in teaching, above all the contact to the students. You are getting older, but the students always stay the same age and that keeps you young.
Is there a typical day?
No, it does not exist. Just because I do so many different things. Alone in the job - research, writing applications, publishing, teaching, networking, ... ..
In addition, I have a very time consuming hobby, namely the organization of a traditional Viennese ball, the Rudolfina-Redoute. It takes place once a year, always on Carnival Monday, in the Hofburg in Vienna, with around 3,500 guests. I have many helpers in the ball committee. But since I am the head of the organisation committee and do the whole as a volunteer activity that is also a full-length activity on several evenings of the week.
Because of all this, there is no regular schedule, even on the weekends, but I enjoy that, that keeps me fit.
Something that I will remember for a long time ...
I worked for years on my dissertation, with a topic that is niche beyond compare. You write about 200 pages about it and it might be read by a handful of people. In this time of very intense work, I had to somehow get my head free once in a while. So I sat down for two weeks to develop a new, digital musical instrument. I tinkered, soldered, programmed, ... until a device emerged that makes sounds and makes music by controlling it with breath and movement. I named the thing Trombosonic, as it reminds of the trombone style. It was a desperation-fun-project in the context of my dissertation research. In the dissertation itself, the instrument did not make it because the supervisor was missing the reference to the red thread. However, in retrospect, the Trombosonic was my most important output so far of my research, which has received the most attention over the years.
First, in 2013, I reached the final of a competition for new digital musical instruments in the USA. Then the TU became aware of it, 2015 was the 200th anniversary and they wanted to make something with music, which fits in with Vienna and of course with technology. So a huge project with the TU orchestra, a own competition for the play to be played, a great video was produced, festivals where this was performed and I was then as a not yet ready PhD student fully involved in the whole. This went on that way and also recently I find myself in the new welcome video of the University of Vienna
Olivers Vienna tips
Why do you like to live in Vienna?
I am now in Vienna for almost half of my life and enjoy the city unbelievably. Especially the centuries-old tradition that Vienna brings with it, musically and scientifically, I appreciate so much. As you walk around the city, you can see it everywhere, especially when you look attentively around you. I enjoy exploring Vienna on foot.
Also the peace and cosiness that Vienna still radiates despite being a big city.
My personal Vienna inspiration ...
What I really like when walking around the city is going to backyards. There are so many hidden places. This opens interesting insights into a Vienna, which one does not know.
And of course attend a typical Viennese ball like the Rudolfina-Redoute.
My favorite place in Vienna ...
I like to be in St. Stephen's Cathedral, here I am drawn again and again despite the tourists and I try to find my peace here. A guided tour is also highly recommended - from the catacombs to the roof.
My favorite place in Vienna ...
Oh, I used to go to Cafe Bendl very often, near the town hall. This cafe has accompanied me all my student days. It's just a melting pot, it's where all sorts of people come together. It's certainly not the typical cafe, but look at it yourself.