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"Shinuh Lee is a composer who ponders seriously about the origins and nature of human existence and, therefore, her works are the result of such thoughts. Lee's reflection touches on the universal pain and emotion of heartbreak of humans in the secular world, but she is a composer who is ultimately finding the consolation and language of healing in regard to these things. The biblical themes which she frequently explores go beyond religious doctrines; they are the questions asked during the process of exploring this language and are a means of appealing to the sensitivity of human universality. In this sense, it can be said that Lee's compositional perspective follows that of Bach or Messiaen, those who did not separate faith from creation. Hence, her name (meaning 信雨 'faith like raindrops') is fitting with her compositional attitude adopted during her creative process. Lee is able to filter the western contemporary music spectrum into her own language. This scrupulous refining process approaches the audience as a language of inspiration, much like the illumination of light."
Lee's pieces are mainly chamber and orchestral music, rather than vocal music. The biblical message, which she often uses as a source of her creation, is recreated in contemporary language through the accommodation of instrumental genres such as sonatas, symphonic poems and orchestral music. In particular, there are pieces which combine Psalms with instrumental genres, such as 《Psalm 20》 (1994-96, revised 1998), 《Psalms Sonata》 for violin and piano (2011-2013), 《Psalm of Nature》 for solo violin (2014) and 《Psalm Cantata》 for mixed choir and orchestra (2015/16). The 'Psalm Series', with the exception of 《Psalm 20》, have the theme of nature in particular. 《Psalm 20》, which was a turning point in Lee's life, is a piece that created a unique Eastern colour through the transformation of heterophony, based on her research of Psalms and ancient Hebrew music. From this piece, Lee’s shifting of interests from the reflection of acoustic and phenomenal tendency of late 20th century European contemporary music to the source and nature of human existence, emerges. This tendency begins to appear in 《Invisible Hands》 for violin and orchestra (2000/2002), 《Song of Joy》 for piano and orchestra (2001/2003) and 《An Open Door》 for strings (2004). This change of tendency becomes intensified in her later works.
Choral Fantasy No.1 《Comfort, comfort my people for piano》 (2007-2009) manifests her will to explore issues of human sin and salvation through music in a profound way. 《Comfort, comfort my people》, consisting of ten movements and 50 minutes in duration, deals with biblical messages of Isaiah and Romans, and these are executed by various experimental techniques and styles including a quote of Bach Chorale juxtaposing tonal, modal and atonal transformations of Lee’s own chorale melody, a total-serial transformation, and poly-chordal and poly-stylistic approaches. This work was tried in a couple of different editions and genre, with its chamber music version performed at Kumho Art hall in 2008. Its another version with light and installation, 《The Screwtape Letters》 was performed at the Seoul National University Museum of Art in 2009, and with the American performance tour and New York Carnegie Hall performance and Vienna Musikverein performance in 2013 & 2014 accompanied by Pianist Hyojung Huh, the journey of various attempts was completed. This work was published as Piano album with No. 2 《The Collar》(2013) and No. 3 《Alleluia》(2010/2013) in Dux label record. Her first Violin Sonata 《Psalm Sonata》 was also released by Dux label record in 2014.
Lee studied composition with Sukhi Kang at Seoul National University and later with Michael Finnissy at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the University of Sussex. Her trio 《Space》 written during her university years in Seoul was selected at the ISCM World Music Days 1991 in Zurich. 《Analogy》 for Oboe and Ensemble written in her first year at the R.A.M. won the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize for Composers 1992, and her other works also won the Musical Times Composers’ Competition, Cornelius Cardew Composition Prize and Gaudeamus International Composers’ Competition consecutively. 《Psalm 20》 was selected at the final round of the Leonard Bernstein International Jerusalem Composing Competition and premiered by Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Its revised version was premiered by BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the ISCM World Music Days 1998 in Manchester. In Korea, she was also awarded the Korean Composition Award, AhnIckTae Composition Prize, Korean Race Composition Award, as well as Nanpa Music Award, Young Artist Today Award from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. In 2019, she was selected as an ARAM (Associate of the Royal Academy of Music), which is awarded to alumni who have contributed significantly to the music profession or to the Academy itself.
Becoming the first female professor in the department of composition in Seoul National University in 1999, she launched the 'STUDIO2021' SNU New Music Series in 2003 and has been working as Artistic Director for 18 years, putting her efforts into supplying the creative and dynamic education in the field of Performing Arts. Furthermore, she was commissioned a piece for the semi-finals at the Seoul International Music Competition in 2011 & 2015. She was also invited as Composition faculty for the Young Artist Summer Program of Curtis Summerfest in 2014, 2015 and 2020,
Her works are being performed by many orchestras, various ensembles and soloists such as the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, KBS Symphony Orchestra, Prime Philharmonic Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra, Seongnam Philharmonic Orchestra, Wonju Philharmonic Orchestra, Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra, Charity Chamber Ensemble & Orchestra, Asko Ensemble, Ixion Ensemble, Ensemble Opus, New Classic Community, Sejong Soloists and Seoul Virtuosi.
Her 《Concerto》 for clarinet and orchestra was commissioned by and premiered at the Seoul Music Festival in 2010, 《Lament》 for clarinet and strings was premiered in the Casals Festival in 2011, and 《Landscape》 for two violins and viola was commissioned by and premiered at the Great Mountain International Music Festival in 2015. In 2019 《Four Songs of Lamentation》 was premiered by soprano Hyunah Yu and the Prime Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Yunsung Chang, at the Seoul Arts Center. Her Symphonic Poem 《Yeomillak》 commissioned by Sejong City, was performed at many venues including Seoul Arts Center and New York Carnegie Zankel Hall, and 《An Open Door》 for strings by Ensemble Pan at Konzerthaus Berlin.