Chinary Ung: Spiral XII: “Space Between Heaven & Earth”

Colored pen and marker on paper, 11" x 17”.

Chinary Ung (OM 16) was born November 24, 1942, in Takeo, Cambodia. At age three, living in a small village, toys were scarce. Ung recalled to the Los Angeles Times that “we would roll up banana leaves and blow in them to make a trumpet-like sound, or we would fill jars with rain water to hear the different tones they would make.” His family played traditional Cambodian instruments at home but it was not until he was a teenager that he heard western music for the first time. After studies at the University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, where he learned to play the clarinet, he moved to the U.S. in 1964 where he studied at Columbia University with Chou Wen-Chung, receiving his doctorate in 1974. Sensing the imminent disappearance of an entire musical tradition at the hands of the Cambodian dictatorship, Ung produced two LPs in 1977 of Cambodian traditional music on the Folkways label. His own compositions came to international attention in 1989 when he received the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his orchestral piece Inner Voices. He holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California San Diego.

This score is part of Ung's Spiral series, in which he subjects various patterns of tones to a succession of evolving variations, like a message whispered from one person to another with the tale slightly altered.

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