Schneller grew up in Ireland, Sudan, Belgium and the Philippines. After completing a MA in musicology, political science and history at the University of Bonn, he worked for the Goethe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal (1990–91).
In 1994 he moved to the USA, first studying composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston. From 2000-01 he lived in Paris attending a yearlong course at IRCAM/Centre Pompidou. In 2002 he received his doctoral degree in composition at Columbia University as a student of Tristan Murail, where he also taught composition and computer music as an assistant to Murail. During his time in New York Schneller developed and managed the Computer Music Studio at the Graduate Center of CUNY and taught harmony and counterpoint at Baruch College. Masterclasses with Salvatore Sciarrino, Jonathan Harvey, Brian Ferneyhough, George Benjamin, and Vinko Globokar provided important orientations. From 2002 to 2004 he was compositeur en recherche at IRCAM working on "Jardin des fleuves" a work for ensemble and live-electronic.
Oliver Schneller's music has been performed at international festivals such as Festival Agora Paris, Musica Strasbourg, Munich Biennale, Maerzmusik Berlin, Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, Ultraschall, Wien Modern, IFNM Darmstadt, Tremplins Paris, Les Musiques Marseille, musique action Nancy, Musica nova, Wintermusic Berlin, Karnatic Lab, Alternativa Moscow, the International Computer Music Conference, in Singapore and Göteborg, Musicaaoustica Beijing, Takefu Japan, Indaba, Aspen Music Festival and School, Tanglewood Music Festival, "Frankfurt 2000", and the "Millenium Stage Series" at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.
He was a Visiting Composer at the 2001 Festival of Contemporary Music at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and a featured composer at Festival Résonances at IRCAM (2002).
His works have been performed by numerous ensembles including Ensemble modern, Ensemble InterContemporain, MusikFabrik, Ictus Ensemble, Avanti!, ensemble recherche, Speculum Musicae, Court Circuit, Ensemble Mosaik, Südwestrundfunk Orchestra, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, Ensemble Courage, Antares, the Tanglewood Symphony Orchestra, and St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble.
As a saxophonist, he has performed with the George Russell Big Band, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa, with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as a soloist in Tan Dun's "Red Forecast", as well as with musicians such as Steve Drury, Heather O'Donnell, Jiggs Whigham (Big Band), Bernhard Lang, Ned McGowan, Robin Hayward, Vinko Globokar, and Gert Matthias Wegner.
In 2004 he was the artistic director of the "Tracing Migrations" Festival in Berlin which led to the foundation of the "Tracing Migrations Project", an ongoing documentation and permanently updated data base of contemporary compositions, recordings and newly founded music institutions from the Arab world. In this function he was a co-curator at Berlin's MaerzMusik Festival 2013.
In 2005 he was the curator of the project "The Musical Moment" at Berlin's House of World Cultures featuring composers Toshio Hosokawa and Helmut Lachenmann. From 2005-06 he was a guest lecturer and "mentor" in Cairo as part of the GLOBAL INTERPLAY project of Musik der Jahrhunderte, Stuttgart. At Berlin University of the Arts he taught the seminar "Psychoacoustics and Acoustics for Composers".
Schneller is the artistic director of the SinusTon Festival for Experimental Music in Magdeburg which he co-founded with Carsten Gerth in 2008. In 2004, together with Jean-Luc Hervé and Thierry Blondeau, he formed the composers collective "Biotope". Since 2009 he serves as Sound Arts Curator of ha'atelier Platform for Philosophy and Art and Taswir Projects. His works have been recorded on Wergo, Mode, Hathut, Telos, and LJ Records.
From 2009-2010 Schneller held a professorship in composition at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart as a sabbatical replacement for Prof. Marco Stroppa. From 2012-2015 he was a professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover. In 2015 Schneller was appointed professor of composition and director of the Eastman Computer Music Center at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where he resides with his wife, pianist Heather O'Donnell, and daughter.1984 First Prize in Instrumental Performance of the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools1996 Robert Starer Prize1998 the Boris Rapoport Award for Composition1998 Meet The Composer Grant for Joyce Paraphrases1998–2002 Presidential Fellowship from Columbia University1999 Commissioning Prize of the National Flute Association1999 Benjamin Britten Memorial Fellowship, Tanglewood Music Center2000 Paul Fromm Award Tanglewood Music Center/Harvard University2002 Residency at the Maison-Heinrich-Heine in Paris2004-05 Fellowship Bavarian Ministry of Science and Culture, Villa Concordia Bamberg2006-07 Rome Prize Fellowship of the German Academy Villa Massimo,2010 Composition Award of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation2011 Fellowship Civitella Ranieri FoundationGammes, full orchestra, 1995Tightrope Dancer, full orchestra, 1996Wu Xing/Fire, full orchestra, 2010Wu Xing/Metal, full orchestra, 2006-11"Dreamspace", full orchestra and soloist ensemble, 2011"Wu Xing/Water", full orchestra, 2013-14Tropes", full orchestra, 2014Big City Divertimento, 4 saxophones, 1995Kumoijoshi, soprano saxophone, koto, 1995Hoqueterie, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, guitar, percussion, 1996Marsyas, amplified flute, amplified cello, 1996Processional Suite, 2 guitars, 1996Five Miniatures after Maurice Sendak, French horn, trumpet, trombone, 1998Joyce Paraphrases, amplified string quartet, tape, 1998Trio, cello, piano, accordion, 1999Phantom Islands, (14 players) + electronics, 2000Topoi, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, 2000Soleil in memoriam Iannis Xenakis, flute, piano, 2001"Twilight Dialogues, flute, clarinet, viola, percussion, 2005String Space, violin, viola, cello + electronics, 2005Resonant Space, 2 pianos, 2 percussion, 2007per maggior intreccio, flute, harpsichord, 2007Rugged Space, accordion, piano + electronics, 2009Die unendliche Feinheit des Raumes, organ, horn, tuba, percussion + electronics, 2005Vier Szenen, flute, percussion, piano, 2010Cyan, for two pianos and two percussions, 2011 Finnegain Speaking, 9 players, 1997Aqua Vit, 8 players, 1999Diastema, 14 players, 2001–02Jardin des fleuves, 16 players + electronics, 2002–04 Clair/Obscur, 7 players + electronics, 2005–06Stratigraphie I, 6 players + electronics, 2007Musica ficta, 5 players + electronics, 2008Paysage sauvage, 4 players + electronics, 2009Stratigraphie II, 6 players + electronics, 2009–10Kagura, solo flute + 22 players, 2010–11"Transatlantic Jukebox", piano and Chamber Orchestra, 2012"Amber", two string quartets, 2011–12Alice Blue, for ensemble, 2014Superstructure, for six percussionists, 2014Rice Pudding (text by A.A. Milne), speaker, piano, 1993Three Songs after Hopkins, Shelley and Meredith, soprano, piano, 1994Alice Setting (text by Lewis Carroll), soprano, mixed chorus, piano, percussion, string orchestra, 1997Pour Schnabelmax. Hommage à Max Ernst (text by the composer), 3 male voices, 1999Candidum lilium for vocal ensemble (SSTTB) + electronics, 2005Abendlied for voice, clavichord, violin, cello, 2009Monodie for voice and electronics, 2010Mugen for Noh voice and electronics, 2011Kireji for vocal ensemble and loudspeakers, 2015Vier Capricen, piano, 1989–90Sieben Bilder, piano, 1995Reed-Weed, alto saxophone, 1996Labyrinth, piano, 1996Aurora, piano, 1997Clouds, piano, 1998Five Imaginary Spaces, piano + electronics, 2001And Tomorrow, piano + electronics, 2004Turbulent Space, recorder + electronics, 2005Track & Field, piano, video + electronics, 2006–07Open Space, organ + electronics, 2011Variations on a Word, tape, 1997; Bell/Man, tape, 1998Proteus, tape, 1999Cell Cycle, for six channel audio + video, 2007La couleur du son, 4 channel audio-visual installation, 2005WuXing, five channel audio-visual installation, 2007Voice Space, six channel interactive audio-visual installation, 2007An Atlas of Sounds, 42 Channel audio-visual Installation, 2009–10Trojan Lion, 5.1 Channel interaktive sound installation with Peter Wyss, 2010Lichtkörper (2009): 4 Channel Sound Installation for suspended speakers with Alexander Polzin, 2009IO, 5.1 Channel Installation with Curtis Anderson, 2006Cento Correnti (2006) 20.1 Channel Sound Installation with Iris Dupper, 2006Ritratto Romano, Soundtrack to a video work of Christoph Brech, 2006Duets I-VII (2006–11): Soundtracks to seven video works of Eberli/Mantel, 2006–11Imperfect Enjoyment, Soundtrack to a video work of Almut Determeyer, 2004Sechs kleine Klavierstücke (Nos. 1,2,6), Op. 19 (Arnold Schoenberg), orchestra, 1989Zehn Märsche um den Sieg zu verfehlen (Nos. 5,9) (Mauricio Kagel), orchestra, 1995All of Me, full orchestra, 2007My Funny Valentine, full orchestra, 2007"You're the Top", wind band, 2012Klänge einer Ausstellung . Anmerkungen zum kontrapunktischen Soundparcours von Taswir, in: "TASWIR. Islamische Bildwelten und Moderne", Nicolai Verlag Berlin, 2009, pp. 133–137Akustisches Modell und komponierte Struktur, Institut für Neue Musik und Musikerziehung, Darmstadt 2008, Schott Verlag Mainz, 2009, pp. 183–189Sechs Werke von Sebastian Stier. Schott Verlag/WERGO Edition Zeitgenössische Musik (Deutscher Musikrat), Booklettext WER 6569 2 (2008)Migration and Identity: Perspectives in Contemporary Arabic Music, Jahrbuch der Berliner Gesellschaft für Neue Musik, Pfau Verlag, 2006, pp. 127–139HörRaum Stadt, Jahrbuch der Berliner Gesellschaft für Neue Musik 2003/2004, Pfau Verlag 2006, pp. 99–100Raumklang-Klangraum: Über Pierre Boulez' Répons, Magazin der Berliner Philharmoniker, October 2005, pp. 38–40Braucht die Neue Musik den Kammermusiksaal?, Bauwelt 8/05 (2005), pp. 26–27, Berliner Festspiele (Hg.), MaerzMusik. Festival für aktuelle Musik 2004, Saarbrücken Pfau Verlag 2004, pp. 138–139A Contemporary Response to Charles Ives in: Berliner Festspiele (Hg.), MaerzMusik. Festival für aktuelle Musik 2004, Saarbrücken (Pfau) 2004, pp. 146–153Klangschicht und Zeitharmonik. Begegnung mit Gottried Michael Koenig, Programmheft zu den “3. Magdeburgischen Concerten”. Festtage zur Musikgeschichte Magdeburgs, October 2003Music und Raum, Research Commission from the House of World Cultures (HKW) Berlin 2003Sonic Arts in Germany, M.I.T. Press Computer Music Journal 26, 4 (Spring 2002), pp. 54–57Chambres Séparées, KOMA, entrop, Zwischenwelten: Gerhard Winkler, M.I.T. Press Computer Music Journal 25, 1 (2001): pp. 75–76Material Matters Current Musicology 67/68 (Winter 2002): pp. 156–174IRCAM at Columbia 1999, Dossier d'Information IRCAM, No 18 (October 2000), pp. 136–138)Musik und Utopie, Universalmaschine Heft 02, Berlin (2001), pp. 68–70Donald Martino's Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, CD-liner text © New World Records. Recorded Anthology of American Music, No. 80529-2 (1998)Helmut Lachenmann - Four Questions Regarding New Music transl. into English for: Contemporary Music Review, Vol. 23, No. 3/4 (September 2004)James Harley - "Sonic and Parametrical Entities in Tetras: An Analytical Approach to the Music of Iannis Xenakis, transl. into German for: Musiktexte 91 (December 2001)Neil Leonard.1994. "Kompromißlos und fortschrittlich. Juan Blanco:Kubas Pionier der Elektroakustischen Musik, transl. into German for: Musiktexte 96 (Mai 2003)