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Chinary Ung


Apps-Google-Music-Metro-iconSong: Still Life After Death by Chinary Ung from the album Southwest Chamber Music (2011). Visitors can listen to the Featured Song by clicking the play button above.

Composer Chinary Ung‘s music seamlessly combines styles of instrumentation and form derived from the Western classical tradition with an Eastern-sounding approach to rhythm and pitch organization. Ung was born in Takeo, Cambodia in 1942. He studied at the University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, the Manhattan School of Music, and Columbia University, where he worked with Mario Davidovsky. His early works include “Tall Wind” and “Mahori,” both for chamber ensembles. In 1975, however, Pol Pot took power in Cambodia, killing and detaining large numbers of Cambodians. Ung didn’t know if his family was safe or even alive. He took a break from composing and in 1977, he accepted a professorship at Northern Illinois University. By 1980, Ung had learned that half his family had died, and he had also become concerned about the survival of Khmer culture, since Pol Pot’s regime had specifically targeted many artists. So from 1980 to 1985, Ung studied the music of the Khmer people. The only work he composed from 1974 to 1985 was the solo cello work “Khse Buon.” He returned to the composition world in the mid-’80s, though, and his 1986 orchestral work “Inner Voices” won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Musical Composition. He stayed active as a composer and scholar throughout the late ’80s and the ’90s, composing works for small and large ensembles and teaching at Arizona State University and the University of California, San Diego. ~ Charlie Wilmoth, Rovi

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