ISANG YUN (1917 - 1995)
The Korean composer Isang Yun (Yun Yi Sang), son of the Korean poet Yun Ki Hyon, studied in Japan, during the war taking part in secret anti-Japanese activities that led to his imprisonment in 1943. After the war he was able to play a part in the revival of Korean culture. From 1956 to 1957 he studied in Paris and thereafter for a year at the Berlin Musikhochschule with Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer and Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling. The meetings at Darmstadt provided a formative influence. His abduction to Seoul by agents of the South Korean regime of Chung Hee Park in 1967 led to international protest and in 1969 he was granted an amnesty and allowed to return to Germany as a political refugee. He taught at the Hanover Musikhochschule and from 1970 at the parallel institution in Berlin. In Germany he held a position of some distinction, receiving a number of awards, while in North Korea he was honoured by the establishment of an institute bearing his name. He died in Berlin in 1995.
Vocal and Instrumental Music
Isang Yun did much to encourage contemporary music in North and South Korea. His aim as a composer was to provide synthesis of East and West, developing essentially Korean ideas through Western instruments and avant-garde techniques. He developed a system of composition based on oriental heterophony, his work influenced by his political ideals and desire for Korean unification, and by elements of Korean and Chinese culture and Taoist philosophy. His many compositions include four operas, the first two based on the work of the 12th-century Yuan dynasty poet and playwright Ma Chi Yuan. Gong-Hu for harp and string ensemble dates from 1984. Tapis is scored for a string quintet or, optionally, string orchestra, and his Chamber Symphony No. 1 displays his idiosyncratic musical language, with ornamentation, quarter-tones, divisions of the strings and dynamic patterns that accord with his stated principles of musical structure.