Unsuk Chin | © Woenki Kim
Unsuk Chin (진은숙) was born in 1961. After studying composition at Seoul National University with Sukhi Kang, she continued her studies from 1985 to 1988 on a DAAD scholarship at the University of Music and Theatre in Hamburg with György Ligeti. In 1985, she received the first prize at the Gaudeamus competition in Amsterdam, marking the beginning of her international career. Since then her works have been performed by many orchestras around the world, conducted by Simon Rattle, Kent Nagano, Myung-Whun Chung and others. Besides her work as a composer, she founded the series “Ars Nova” with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and is also the artistic director of the program “Music of Today” by the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Unsuk Chin has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Gaudeamus International Composers Award (1985), the Arnold Schoenberg Prize (2005) and, most recently, the Ho-Am Art Prize (2012), considered by many the Korean equivalent of the Nobel Prize for the arts. Since 1988, she has been living in Berlin.
Stylistically, Unsuk Chin does not consider herself a Korean or Asian composer; rather, she sees herself as “part of an international musical culture.” Brilliantly moving between different musical worlds, her ensemble pieces are influenced by avant-gardists such as Bartók, Stravinsky and Debussy; as well, she draws heavily from non-European traditions such as Indonesian gamelan music. Since the beginning of her career, only a few compositions for electronics can be found in her catalogue of works; however, she again and again returns to electronic sounds and digitally created music to broaden her horizon. Playing the piano is of special importance to Chin – originally she wanted to become a pianist, composition was merely an alternative. Her enduring fascination and respect for the instrument can clearly be seen in her series of (up until now) six piano etudes. In 2007, Achim Freyer staged Unsuk Chin's first opera “Alice in Wonderland” at the Bavarian State Opera. “Overwhelming like a natural phenomenon”, as one reviewer judged in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the colorful shimmering work captured the enthusiastic audience.