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|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 more than 20 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 six 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 14 countries 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, Alan Gilbert, Gustavo Dudamel, Myung-Whun Chung, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Neeme Järvi, Peter Eötvös, David Robertson and George Benjamin as well as by leading orchestras and ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Ensemble intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet, Hilliard Ensemble, Klangforum Wien, Arditti Quartet, London Sinfonietta and Ensemble musikFabrik. Chin's music has been highlighted at major music festivals such as at the 2014 Lucerne Festival, the Festival Musica in Strasbourg, the Suntory Summer Festival, the 2013 Stockholm Concert Hall's Tonsätterfestival 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, which she founded herself at the invitation of the orchestra's chief conductor Myung-Whun Chung and in which so far ca. 150 Korean premieres of central works of classical modernism and contemporary music have been presented, including commissioned works by Peter Eötvös, Pascal Dusapin, York Höller and Tristan Murail. Since 2011, she has overseen the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra's Music of Today series at the invitation of its chief conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.
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 does not 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. 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.
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, Troerinnen is based on a play by Euripides and Le silence des Sirènes juxtaposes texts by Homer and James Joyce.
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".
Some of Chin's works are influenced by extramusical associations and other art genres, such as her orchestral work Rocaná which alludes to Olafur Elíasson's installations, or her ensemble works Graffiti and cosmigimmicks, the latter of which is being influenced by the art of pantomime and by Samuel Beckett.
- Rocaná for orchestra (2008)
- Graffiti for chamber orchestra (2013)
- Mannequin for orchestra (2014)
- 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 (2013–14)
- Spektra (1985) for three cellos
- Fantaisie mécanique (1994/1997) for trumpet, trombone, two percussions and piano
- Gougalōn. Scenes from a Street Theater for Ensemble (2009/2011)
- cosmigimmicks. A musical pantomime for seven instrumentalists (2012)
- 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)
- Le silence des Sirènes for soprano and orchestra (2014)
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)
Portrait CDs and DVDs
- 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
- Unsuk Chin: Rocaná, Violin Concerto. Viviane Hagner, Kent Nagano, Montreal Symphony Orchestra. CD. Analekta, 2009.
- Unsuk Chin: Xi and other works. (reissue of Akrostichon-Wortspiel CD). Ensemble Intercontemporain. CD. Kairos, 2011.
- Unsuk Chin: Three Concertos. Myung-Whun Chung, Alban Gerhardt, Sunwook Kim, Wu Wei, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. CD. Deutsche Grammophon, 2014
Other selected recordings
- Spektra für drei Celli. In: Ladder of Escape 6. Taco Kooistra, Viola de Hoog, Eduard van Regteren Altena. CD. ATTACCA, 1992
- Allegro ma non troppo. In: Fifty Years Studio TU Berlin. EMF Media, DVD 054, 2008
- Cantatrix Sopranica. In: Sprechgesänge - Speech Songs. musikFabrik, Stefan Asbury. CD. Wergo, 2010.
- cosmigimmicks. In: "Dokumentation Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik 2013". Celso Antunes, Nieuw Ensemble. CD. WDR, 2013
- Fantaisie mécanique. In: "Euclidian Abyss". Vimbayi Kaziboni, Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie. CD. Ensemble Modern Records, 2013
- Gougalōn. In: "Contact! 2012-13 season". Alan Gilbert, New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Mp3-CD. New York Philharmonic Records, 2013
- Six Piano Etudes. Mei Yi Foo. In: Musical Toys. CD. Odradek Records, 2012
- Six Piano Etudes. Yejin Gil. In: "Fulgurances". CD. Solstice, 2013
- Stefan Drees (ed): Im Spiegel der Zeit. Die Komponistin Unsuk Chin. Schott (Mainz) 2011.
- Unsuk Chin's official Facebook page
- Performance of Unsuk Chin's Piano Etude No.5 'Toccata'
- Website of the composer
- Paul Griffiths: An introduction to the music of Unsuk Chin
- Documentary: Unsuk Chin on Unsuk Chin
- Article in 'The Guardian'
- Hanno Ehrler: Ordnung, Chaos und Computer – Die Komponistin Unsuk Chin
- A biography on IRCAM's website (French)