Chin Un-suk

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Korean spelling
Hangeul 진은숙
Hanja 陳銀淑
Jin Eun-suk
Chin Ŭnsuk

Chin Un-suk (* 1961 in Seoul , South Korea ) is a South Korean composer living in Berlin. She studied with György Ligeti from 1985 to 1988 and was awarded the Grawemeyer Award in 2004 , the Arnold Schönberg Prize in 2005, the Prince Pierre von Monaco Foundation's Prize for Musical Composition in 2010 and the Wihuri Sibelius Prize in 2017 .


Chin Un-suk studied composition with Kang Suk-hi at the Seoul National University and, as a DAAD scholar, with György Ligeti at the Hamburg University of Music and Performing Arts 1985–1988.

In 1984 Chin Un-suk won first international prizes. During her studies with Ligeti, however, there was a three-year creative break, as her teacher dismissed the works that had previously been written in the post-serial style as outdated. In 1988 Chin Un-suk moved to Berlin, where she worked for years as a freelance composer in the recording studio of the Technical University of Berlin , where she realized seven pieces. The first major orchestral work, Troerinnen , was premiered in 1990 by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra . In 1991 her breakthrough work Akrostichon-Wortspiel was commissioned by the Nieuw Ensemble ; since then the work has been performed in more than 20 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. In 1994, Fantaisie mécanique began their collaboration with the Parisian new music group Ensemble intercontemporain , which led to several commissions. It has been published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes since 1995, and in 1999 Miroirs des temps began an artistic collaboration with the conductor Kent Nagano , who has so far premiered six of her works.

Chin's Violin Concerto , for which she received the Grawemeyer Award in 2004 , was premiered in Berlin in 2002 with Viviane Hagner as a soloist. Since then the piece has been played in fourteen countries - in Europe, Asia and North America - including by Christian Tetzlaff , the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle in the Berlin Philharmonic in April 2005.

Besides Kent Nagano , Chin's works a. a. by the conductors Simon Rattle , Alan Gilbert , Gustavo Dudamel , Myung-Whun Chung , Esa-Pekka Salonen , Neeme Järvi , Péter Eötvös , David Robertson , Markus Stenz , François-Xavier Roth , Susanna Mälkki , George Benjamin and others as well as by leading orchestras and ensembles such as the Berliner Philharmoniker , the New York Philharmonic Orchestra , BBC Symphony Orchestra , Chicago Symphony Orchestra , London Philharmonic Orchestra , Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra , Boston Symphony Orchestra , Bamberg Symphony , Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin , Philharmonia Orchestra , Tokyo Symphony Orchestra , Orchester 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 Sinfo nietta and Ensemble musikFabrik .

Chin was composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival in 2014, the Philharmonie Essen , the Eight Bridge Festival of the Cologne Philharmonic , the Tonsätter Festival of the Konserthuset , and the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin . In 2006, at the invitation of Myung-whun Chung, she became Composer-in-Residence with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra , with which she founded a new music series in the same year, in the framework of which since then 170 central works of classical modern and contemporary music by Claude Debussy until Helmut Lachenmann received their Korean premiere. In 2016 she became Artistic Advisor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Since 2011 she has been leading the Music of Today series of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London at the invitation of Esa-Pekka Salonen . In the 1919/20 season, Unsuk Chin was composer in residence with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester Hamburg. Chin was accepted as a member of the Free Academy of the Arts in Hamburg in 2019.

In June 2007 Chin's first opera Alice in Wonderland premiered at the Bavarian State Opera 2007 and was chosen as the premiere of the year in an international survey of critics by the specialist magazine Opernwelt .



Chin Un-suk strictly refuses to classify their music as a particular culture, e.g. B. the Korean , belonging to understand. She mentions Bartók , Stravinsky , Debussy , Webern and Ligeti in particular as personally important modern composers . Chin names her work with electronic music and gamelan music , which she dealt with during her stays in Bali , as important influences . The timbres, for example the drum-dominated instrumentation of her orchestral works, can perhaps be explained by Chin's affection for gamelan music . But the importance of the European avant-garde , whose techniques Chin selectively uses , is also unmistakable .

In the orchestral work Miroirs des temps , Chin Un-suk dealt with medieval music. Obviously, it was not about stylistic borrowings, but about taking over some complex compositional procedures from composers such as Guillaume de Machaut or Johannes Ciconia , from techniques such as musical palindromes or cancer canons . In the 3rd movement Mon fin est mon commencement, Mon commencement est ma fin , the canonical forms are extended to 14 parts.

A characteristic of Chin's music is a fascination for virtuosity, which is expressed in the immense instrumental and vocal challenges of her works. This also prevails in tape pieces like the Gradus ad infinitum for 8 pianos . In general, Chin Un-suk rejects a sharp distinction between electronic music and instrumental music. “As a starting material, she uses the sounds of musical instruments or those that could also be part of an extended percussion apparatus, for example clock noises, rustling paper or falling drops of water. (...) Your field of action, even if it works electronically, relates to another area, to the traditional sound space of classical-romantic music. With this apparatus, however, the composer develops a musical cosmos that has broken away from traditional ties in many ways. It is based on mathematical procedures as well as contrapuntal and serial techniques and collage principles, which are selected and carried out according to the respective compositional idea. "(Hanno Ehrler)

A predominant facet of her vocal works is the joy of experimentation and play; the lyrics are often based on experimental poetry and sometimes they are self-referential. Chin Un-suk has z. B. Poets like Inger Christensen , Gerhard Rühm and Unica Zürn set to music, and the title of Cantatrix Sopranica is borrowed from a nonsense treatise by Georges Perec . "I don't particularly like putting poems into music that convey concrete content or feelings. Music and literature are strongly autonomous" languages ​​"which often stand in each other's way in their connection. The advantage of the combinatorial of experimental poetry is in my eyes (and ears) not only their lack of concrete meaning and "messages", but above all their proximity to compositional procedures. " (Chin Un-suk)

A facet of language play is also clearly expressed in Chin's opera Alice in Wonderland . In Lewis Carroll's classic, Chin was less fascinated by the fairy tale theme - "It would be an illusion to want to see fairy tales in them" - than by the "twisted logic underlying a 'different' physical law" . In certain scenes of this opera, a stylistic pluralism is expressed that is otherwise not found in Chin's music. The composer points out that these - in correspondence with Lewis Carroll's puns and corruptions - are musical parodies. She explains the different tonal language of the opera by saying that the main role is a child.

Theatrical actions come to the fore in some of Chin's vocal and instrumental works, for example in Allegro ma non troppo for percussion and tape, in Double Bind? for violin and electronics and in Cantatrix Sopranica for voices and ensemble.


“My music is the image of my dreams. In my music I try to portray the visions of immense light and an unlikely blaze of colors that I see in all my dreams as a play of light and colors that flow through the room and at the same time form a three-dimensional sound sculpture whose beauty is very abstract and also is distant, but precisely because of this it directly appeals to feelings and conveys joy and warmth.

- Chin Un-suk

Press reviews

“The works can hardly be assigned to current stylistic phenomena or aesthetic directions. The composer's isolation, her distance from the new music scene, is reflected in a very idiosyncratic musical cosmos. It can hardly be grasped like a catchphrase. (...) Finally, the attempt to catalog Chin's music as somehow Korean or influenced by Korean leads nowhere. National and cultural borders are hardly suitable criteria for describing the uniqueness of a particular music. Rather, contemporary compositions are measured against the generally and globally available level of technical means and aesthetic discussion. Chin Un-suk rightly protested against calling her music Korean. ” (Hanno Ehrler)

"Chin has created her own sonic wonderland with the orchestra. She has always shown a fascination with puzzles and strange, intricate, interlocking structures that give her music a kind of MC Escher-like eccentricity. " (Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times)

“To describe the violin concerto as a synthesis of European and Far Eastern music would remain too abstract and say nothing. (...) Because Chin Un-suk grew up with European music from childhood. It is more natural to her than to many who come from the Old Continent. The violin concerto is the individual achievement of a highly sensitive artist, who draws from a rich fund of experience and curiosity, experiment and methodology. " (Habakuk Traber)

“Chin's music has something very rare: a melodious sound that easily attracts a larger audience without ingratiation. The gentle, seemingly aimless floating in time that characterizes most of Chin's pieces also finds breaks and edges; the sounds, as chased and preciously polished as they seem, are not of consistent smoothness, in their flexibility also moments of hard, elementary expressivity flash up, are the driving ground of this music. " (Martin Wilkening, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

“Her Violin Concerto (…) is complex and fiendishly difficult to play and to hear. It also happens to be the first truly great work of this millennium. " (Alan Rich, LA Weekly)

“The music of Alice in Wonderland testifies to the outstanding sound fantasy of the composer, who has left the narrow limits of avant-garde music behind. What she has noted is of the finest and most powerful in a never-ending musical plasticity ... Chin's synaesthetic sense for color and aroma of the music is phenomenal, as is her sense of shimmering increases, for instrumental surprises and virtuoso special interludes, which repeatedly with individual characters in the story are linked. " (Wolfgang Schreiber, Opernwelt)

"Chin's sonic imagination, her mastery in the contrapuntal treatment of instrumental lines or rival rhythms, as well as her ability to relate the seemingly incompatible (be it sounds or compositional techniques) must have been strengthened through her studies with Ligeti, whose lessons are in the Clarity, the charm, the capricious energy and the pure sonic beauty of their music - happily - reflects. But listen carefully: she also knows another kind of darkness, of strength and memory. Their music has no national echoes: their preference for the sound of plucked and struck strings, for slow glissandi and for combinations of bells and gongs has no specific cultural connotation, and that is exactly one of their strengths. " (Paul Griffiths)

Catalog of works (selection)

Sound carrier

Image carrier


  • Stefan Drees (Ed.): In the mirror of time. The composer Unsuk Chin . Schott (Mainz) 2011. ISBN 978-3-7957-0760-6
  • Roche Commissions Unsuk Chin - 2014. Contributions by Hanno Ehrler, Habakuk Traber, Bálint András Varga, Hartmut Lück, Stefan Drees and Unsuk Chin. Basel, 2014

Further literature

  • Frank Harders-Wuthenow: Unsuk Chin . In: Annette Kreuziger-Herr / Melanie Unseld (ed.): Lexicon of Music and Gender. Metzler Verlag, 2010.
  • Heekyung Lee (Ed.): 현대 음악 의 즐거움: 서울시 향 '아르스 노바' 10 년 의 기록 - Ars Nova 2006-2016 ( Enjoying contemporary music - 10 years of Ars Nova. With contributions from Heekyung Lee, Unsuk Chin, Kent Nagano , Alex Ross, Ivan Hewett, Habakuk Traber and others). Seoul, 2017. ISBN 9788959166626
  • Music and Literature No.8. With contributions on Unsuk Chin's music by Kent Nagano, George Benjamin, Clemens J. Setz, Alex Ross, Unsuk Chin and others. ISBN 978-0988879973
  • Habakuk Traber: The Violin Concerto by Unsuk Chin. In: Positions - Contributions to New Music, Issue 59
  • Bálint András Varga: The composer's courage and the tyranny of taste . Hofheim, 2016. ISBN 978-3955930714
  • Bálint András Varga: Three questions for 73 composers . Regensburg, 2014. ISBN 978-3940768421

Web links

Individual evidence

  2. Heekyung Lee (Ed.): 현대 음악 의 즐거움: 서울시 향 '아르스 노바' 10 년 의 기록 - Ars Nova 2006-2016 ( Enjoying contemporary music - 10 years of Ars Nova.) Seoul, 2017. ISBN 978-8- 9591-6662-6 (8-9591-6662-6)
  3. ^ Frank Harders-Wuthenow: The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra is reinventing itself
  5.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  8. a b c Hanno Ehrler: Order, Chaos and Computer - The composer Chin Un-suk (PDF file; 28 kB)
  9. Bruno Serrou: Entretien Chin Un-suk. Les feux du matin calme ( Memento from May 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  10. Cantatrix Sopranica
  11. Program book for the production of 'Alice in Wonderland' in the Bavarian State Opera, 2007
  12. Helmut Rohm: A game of light and colors - the composer Chin Un-suk broadcast on Bayern4 Klassik, June 3, 2008, May 22nd
  13. Spotlight Chin Un-suk
  14. Mark Swed: Thumbs up for `Alice in Wonderland '. In:, July 17, 2007
  15. Habakuk Traber: The Violin Concerto by Chin Un-suk positions, Issue 59 - Tableau.
  16. ^ Martin Wilkening: No full employment. World premiere of Chin's Violin Concerto at the DSO. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 22, 2002
  17. ^ Alan Rich: On With Their Heads! In:, July 18, 2007
  18. Wolfgang Schreiber: Archaic Child's Dream. Opera World, 8/2007
  19. Portrait of Chin Un-suk