|Revised Romanization||Jin Eunsuk|
Unsuk Chin (Korean pronunciation: [ɯnsʰuk t͈ɕin]; born July 14, 1961) is a South Korean composer of classical music, based in Berlin, Germany. She was awarded the Grawemeyer Award in 2004, the Arnold Schönberg Prize in 2005 and the Music Composition Prize of the Prince Pierre Foundation in 2010.
Unsuk Chin was born in Seoul, Korea. She studied composition with Sukhi Kang at Seoul National University and won several international prizes in her early 20s. She studied with György Ligeti at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg from 1985 to 1988. In 1988 Unsuk Chin moved to Berlin, where she worked as a freelance composer at the electronic music studio of the Technical University of Berlin, realizing seven works. Her first large orchestral piece, Troerinnen, was premiered by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in 1990. In 1991, her breakthrough work Acrostic Wordplay was premiered by the Nieuw Ensemble - since then it has been performed in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Chin's collaboration with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, which has led to several commissions from the latter, started in 1994 with Fantaisie mecanique. Since 1995, Unsuk Chin is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes. In 1999, Chin began an artistic collaboration with Kent Nagano, who has since premiered five of her works.
Chin's violin concerto, for which she was awarded the 2004 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, was premiered in 2002 by Viviane Hagner. Since then it has been programmed in Europe, Asia and North America, and performed, among others, by Christian Tetzlaff, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Simon Rattle in 2005.
Unsuk Chin's works have been performed by conductors such as Kent Nagano, Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Neeme Järvi, Peter Eötvös, David Robertson and George Benjamin as well as by leading orchestras and ensembles. Commissioners include the Kronos Quartet, Radio France, the BBC, the London Sinfonietta, South Bank Centre, Los Angeles Opera, IRCAM and the Bavarian State Opera. Chin's music has been highlighted at major music festivals such as Festival Musica in Strasbourg or Settembre Musica in Italy.
2001/2002 Unsuk Chin was appointed composer-in-residence at Deutschen Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; since 2006 she holds the position of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's composer-in-residence and artistic director of its Contemporary Music Series.
Unsuk Chin was a featured composer in the 2009 Suntory Summer Festival in Tokyo which celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Suntory Music Foundation. The festival culminated with the world premiere of Šu, a concerto for Chinese sheng and orchestra. The work was commissioned by Suntory Hall International Programme, ZaterdagMatinée, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Essen Philharmonie, and was composed for sheng virtuoso Wu Wei. The world premiere on 28 August featured the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kazuyoshi Akiyama.
Awards and recognition
- 1984 International Rostrum of Composers for the chamber music work Gestalten
- 1985 First Prize of Gaudeamus Foundation for Spektra
- 1993 First Prize at the Contest for Orchestra Works to Commemorate the Semicentennial for the Tokyo Government
- 1997 First Prize for Contemporary Piano Music at the Concours International de Piano d'Orléans for the Piano Studies Nos. 2-4
- 1999 First Prize at Concours Internationaux de Musique et d’Art Sonore Electroacoustiques de Bourges for Xi
- 2004 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Violin Concerto
- 2005 Arnold Schönberg Prize
- 2010 Music Composition Prize of the Prince Pierre Foundation for Gougalōn
Unsuk Chin doesn't regard her music as belonging to any specific culture. Chin names Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Anton Webern, Iannis Xenakis, and György Ligeti, among others, as 20th-century composers of special importance for her. Chin regards her working experience with Electronic music and her preoccupation with Balinese Gamelan as influential for her work. The colour of her music might perhaps be explained through Chin's affinity for non-European music. However, Chin has also clearly been influenced by musical modernism. In her orchestral work Miroirs des temps Chin has also used compositional concepts of Medieval composers, such as Machaut and Ciconia, by employing and evolving techniques such as musical palindromes and crab canons.
Characteristic for Unsuk Chin's music is a fascination with virtuosity, which is reflected in the difficulty of her works. Virtuosity is an important feature also in Chin's electronic pieces such as Gradus ad infinitum for 8 pianos. In general, Chin doesn't prefer to make a strong distinction between electronic and instrumental music. A dominant aspect of Chin's work is playfulness. In some pieces, theatrical actions are employed: e.g. in Allegro ma non troppo for percussion and tape, in Cantatrix Sopranica for voices and ensemble and in Double Bind? for violin and electronics.
The texts of Chin's vocal music are often based on experimental poetry, and occasionally they are self-referential, employing techniques such as acrostics, anagrams and palindromes, all of which are also reflected in the compositional structure. Consequently, Chin has set music to poems by writers such as Inger Christensen, Harry Mathews, Gerhard Rühm or Unica Zürn into music, and the title of Cantatrix Sopranica is derived from a Nonsens treatise by Georges Perec. However, in Kalá Chin has also composed works with less experimental texts by writers such as Gunnar Ekelöf, Paavo Haavikko, and Arthur Rimbaud, and Troerinnen is based on a play by Euripides.
Playful aspects are dominant also in Chin's opera Alice in Wonderland, which is based on Lewis Carroll's classic. The opera's libretto was written by David Henry Hwang and the composer. The Munich production, which has been released on DVD by Unitel, was directed by Achim Freyer, and it was selected 'Premiere of the Year' by an international critics' poll, which was conducted in 2007 by the German opera magazine "Opernwelt".
My music is a reflection of my dreams. I try to render into music the visions of immense light and of an incredible magnificence of colours that I see in all my dreams, a play of light and colours floating through the room and at the same time forming a fluid sound sculpture. Its beauty is very abstract and remote, but it is for these very qualities that it addresses the emotions and can communicate joy and warmth. ~ Unsuk Chin
- Rocaná for orchestra (2008)
- Gougalōn. Scenes from a Street Theater for Ensemble (2009/2011)
- cosmigimmicks. A musical pantomime for seven instrumentalists (2012)
- Graffiti (2013)
- Piano Concerto (1996–97)
- Violin Concerto (2001)
- Double Concerto for piano, percussion and ensemble (2002)
- Cello Concerto (2009/2013)
- Šu for sheng and orchestra (2009)
- Clarinet Concerto
- Fantaisie mécanique (1994/1997) for trumpet, trombone, two percussions and piano
- Piano Studies (1995-)
- Alice in Wonderland (opera; 2004-07)
- Troerinnen (1986/1990) for 3 sopranos, women's choir und orchestra, after Euripides
- Akrostichon-Wortspiel (1991/93) for soprano and ensemble
- Miroirs des temps (1999/2000) for 4 singers and orchestra
- Kalá (2000–01) for soprano, bass, mixed choir and orchestra
- snagS&Snarls for soprano and orchestra (2004)
- Cantatrix Sopranica for two sopranos, countertenor and ensemble (2005)
- Scenes from Alice in Wonderland for soprano, mezzo-soprano and orchestra (2004-07/2010-11)
Tape / electronics
- Gradus ad Infinitum for 8 pianos (1989/1990) for tape
- ParaMetaString (1995) for string quartet and electronics
- Xi (1998) for ensemble and electronics
- Double Bind? for violin and live electronics (2006-07)
- Fanfare chimérique for two spatially distributed wind ensembles and live electronics (2010/2011)
- Spektra für drei Celli. In: Ladder of Escape 6. Taco Kooistra, Viola de Hoog, Eduard van Regteren, CD, ATTACCA, 1992
- Unsuk Chin: Akrostichon – Wortspiel and other works. Ensemble Intercontemporain. CD. Deutsche Grammophon, 2005
- Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland. Bayerische Staatsoper, Kent Nagano. DVD. Unitel, 2008
- Allegro ma non troppo. In: Fifty Years Studio TU Berlin. EMF Media, DVD 054, 2008
- Unsuk Chin: Rocaná, Violin Concerto. Viviane Hagner, Kent Nagano, Montreal Symphony Orchestra. CD. Analekta, 2009.
- Cantatrix Sopranica. In: Sprechgesänge - Speech Songs. musikFabrik, Stefan Asbury. CD. Wergo, 2010.
- Unsuk Chin: Xi and other works. (reissue of Akrostichon-Wortspiel CD). Ensemble Intercontemporain. CD. Kairos, 2011.
- Unsuk Chin: Six Piano Etudes. Mei Yi Foo. In: Musical Toys. CD. Odradek Records, 2012
- Stefan Drees (ed): Im Spiegel der Zeit. Die Komponistin Unsuk Chin. Schott (Mainz) 2011.
- Portrait of the composer
- Boosey & Hawkes: Unsuk Chin Website of the composer
- Paul Griffiths: An introduction to the music of Unsuk Chin
- Hanno Ehrler: Ordnung, Chaos und Computer – Die Komponistin Unsuk Chin
- Arnold Whittall: Unsuk Chin in focus: Meditations & mechanics
- Interview with the composer
- (French) A biography of Unsuk Chin, from IRCAM's website.