After arriving in the US in 1964 to study clarinet, he turned to composition studies with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky, receiving a Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University in 1974. In 1988, he became the first American to win the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award (Music Composition) for musical composition. Additionally, he received the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, as well as awards from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Asia Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.
Ung taught music at Northern Illinois University, Connecticut College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Arizona State University, before being appointed to the faculty at the University of California, San Diego. In 2013, UCSD promoted Ung to the rank of Distinguished Professor. He currently holds the position of Presidential Fellow: Senior Composer in Residence at Chapman University in Orange, California.
Ung's music is published by C. F. Peters Corporation and his music is recorded on New World Records, Bridge Records, Cambria, London Records, Other Minds, Oodiscs, Nami Records, Kojima Records, Albany Records, Norton Recordings, Composers Recording Incorporated, Folkways Records, and Koch International.
- University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition (1989) for Inner Voices
- Friedheim Award (1989) for Spiral
- American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1981, 1988)
- John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award from the Asian Cultural Council (2014)
List of selected works
- 1970 – Tall Wind, for soprano and chamber ensemble
- 1974 – Mohori, for soprano and chamber ensemble
- 1980 – Khse Buon, for solo cello or viola
- 1985 – Child Song, for alto flute, viola, harp
- 1986 – Inner Voices, for orchestra
- 1987 – Spiral, for cello, piano, and percussion
- 1989 – Spiral II, for soprano, tuba, and piano
- 1990 – Grand Spiral: Desert Flowers Bloom, for symphonic band
- 1992 – Spiral VI, for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano
- 1995 – Antiphonal Spirals, for orchestra
- 1997 – Seven Mirrors, for solo piano
- "បុស្បា ប៉ាន់ វិលមកកាន់មហោស្រពតន្ដ្រីជាមួយនឹងនិស្សិតបរទេស ១៤ រូប". Post Khmer. 2016-07-12. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- "1989- Chinary Ung". Archived from the original on 2013-10-13.
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