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Isang Yun

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Isang Yun


Isang Yun (also spelled Yun I-sang) (17 September 1917, Sancheong, Korea - 3 November 1995, Berlin, Germany) was a Korean-born composer, composer and educator, who made his later career in Germany.

Yun began writing music at the age of 14 and studying music formally two years later, in 1933. In the mid-1930s, he studied briefly at the Osaka College of Music, and from 1938 composition under Tomojiro Ikenouchi in Tokyo. After Japan entered World War II, he moved back to Korea and participated in the Korean independence movement. He was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese in 1943.

After the war, he did welfare work, establishing an orphanage for war orphans, and teaching music in Tongyeong and Busan. After the armistice ceasing hostilities in the Korean War in 1953, he began teaching at the Seoul National University. He received the Seoul City Culture Award in 1955, and traveled to Europe the following year to finish his musical studies.

At the Paris Conservatory (1956–7) he studied composition under Tony Aubin and Pierre Revel, and West Berlin (1957–9), and at the Musikhochschule Berlin (today the Berlin University of the Arts) under Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer, and Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling.

In 1958 he attended the International Summer Courses of Contemporary Music in Darmstadt and began his career in Europe with premieres of his Music for Seven Instruments in Darmstadt and Five Pieces for Piano in Bilthoven. The premiere of his oratorio Om mani padme hum in Hanover 1965 and Réak in Donaueschingen (1966) gave him international renown. With Réak he introduced the sound idea of Korean ceremonial music as well as imitations of the East Asian mouth organ saenghwang (Korean), sheng (Chinese) or shō (Japanese) into Western avant-garde music. Yun's primary musical concern was the development of Korean music by the means of Western avant garde music.

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