As a child born and raised during a time of immense difficulty in the history of South Korea, Unsuk Chin was almost exclusively self-taught, learning the basics in music theory and piano from her father. She began her formal training at Seoul National University, where she was introduced to post-war, avant-garde Western compositional techniques and electronic music. In 1985, she relocated to Hamburg, where she studied composition with György Ligeti until 1988. Since then, she has worked in the electronic music studio of the Technical University of Berlin. In 2004, her Violin Concerto earned the Grawemeyer Award. Chin’s compositions are known for their virtuosity and playfulness, meshing a musical language steeped in non-European influences with modern techniques that push the boundaries of Western structure. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has performed several of her pieces, and Gustavo Dudamel began his first subscription concerts as Music Director of the orchestra with the U.S. premiere of S?u, Chin’s Concerto for Sheng and Orchestra.
The original version of Allegro ma non troppo was realized in the studio at the Technical University of Berlin and composed in celebration of the 50th birthday of Folkmar Hein, who was head of the studio for 35 years. Chin created a new version for percussion and tape in 1998, which was premiered by Thierry Miroglio at the Inventions Festival. The composer has written the following note:
“The starting materials were the sounds of tissue paper, watches, water drops, and various percussion instruments, recorded with the help of drummer Kyungsoo Kim. The sounds were subjected to a wide variety of transformations and complex assemblages. It was undertaken with the attempt to create as smooth transitions as possible from one timbre to another. The overall structure is divided into four parts that make up a large arc.”