A wintry twilight; a soulless hotel lobby; an untimely fire alarm… The conditions are hardly pleasant to meet one of the great figures of music, the composer Unsuk Chin, legitimately honored by the Présences festival (1). But all it takes is for her to smile for the ice to break: using hands as much as words, the artist evokes her unique journey.
Born in Seoul in 1961 into a Christian family, she was “quickly persuaded that it would be necessary to travel far. At the time, Korea, which has developed so much since, was a closed country under the thumb of a dictatorship”. Unsuk Chin leaves for Germany, “land of music” where she feels “welcomed”. In Hamburg, she follows the teaching of György Ligeti, a brilliant and fiercely independent composer. Now living in Berlin, where she tirelessly enjoys “the fantastic cultural vitality”, she admits, however, “more proximity to French music than to the Germanic style. The colors and iridescences of Ravel, Debussy or Messiaen speak to me”.
Throughout concerts, from the piano alone to the orchestra, his universe will reveal its spells, in dialogue with “the music of other creators”. Unsuk Chin claims the freedom to borrow from all histories and all geographies: “From Scarlatti to Pierre Boulez, the musicians of the past have been my teachers! In their “student”, virtuosity competes with an intoxicating alchemy of timbres, acoustic or electronic, the influence of Korean tradition playing with the symphony of world cultures.
She knows well that the public sometimes dreads contemporary music. “Because he imagines not having the keys to understanding her. Personally, I am above all concerned with touching the sensibilities of listeners, whatever their familiarity with today’s language. »
After her Alice in Wonderland, “halfway between opera and musical”, an opera created in Munich in 2007 under the direction of Kent Nagano, the composer is working on a second lyrical opus, expected in Hamburg under the baton of the same maestro. “This time, I invented the story from A to Z”, she slips… without saying more.