Cover Story

The Composer Awakened Asia with New Music, Suki Kang

Sometimes, pretty often, I talk to myself ‘I am ‘lucky TeRra’. There are so many reasons I have to thank to somebody for that, though, one of the biggest reasons would be the fortune of getting people, such as music teachers of my musical life. Me, TeRa was suffering from musical ego when I was in college, I met him, Sukhi Kang who is one of the most representative Korean composers and educator.

I was hanging out with pretty many of friends who dreamed of becoming great composers when I was college student because it was only available way to break through of my musical identity since high teen. I was also few kayageum musician who had many friends of western contemporary composers comparing to other Korean traditional musician. At that time, one of my closest friend always boasting his teacher who were internationally renown, music giant, it used to be arousing my curiosity and sometimes even jealousy, it was Sukhi Kang, I was 21 years old, then.

I remember only one thing, just it was really difficult for me to interpret his music. He has only one piece for kayageum- my instrument- as he usually worked for largely organized music such as orchestra. His kayageum solo piece might have been one of the simplest piece, though, it made me pretty often frustrated with the hardness to play, memorizing, even to listen. It was a theme of my graduation thesis for master degree. However I remember he was cared about my studying and led me to awakening what is ‘universal music’ breaking through the bridle of my natured in ‘Korean traditional musician’.

He was the first student majored in the Western music composer in the Seoul National University, he was the first composer who introduce electronic music to Korea, 60’s, he was the first student who studied abroad, Germany 70’s, he was the first vice president of ISCM (International Society of Contemporary Music) and any others he can be truly called as the first witness of modern music history of Asia.

Now, he has been already 80 years old more,,and his hair had gray. But still his presence itself is inspiring young people, not only for musicians and next generation the in Asia. I had short e-conversation with him gracefully, I am willingly going to share with you the conversation here.

Sukhi Kang, TeRra Han and Jeongja Kim (The Late Korean kayageum master), from left (photo courtesy of TeRra Han)

TeRra™ e- Conversation with Sukhi Kang

Mar. 3rd 2018 

  1. What is the most representative piece of yours?

‘Dalha(달하)  For the large orchestra.

The fundamental intention of this work was to try combination of contemporary music’s language and the Korean traditional piece sujecheon. The story lie was the conflict between tradition and modern

This conflict is ultimately refined in the tradition. The important part is the matching of the last two ending minutes of the huge Heterophony

The piece was commissioned and world premiered by The National Symphony Orchestra and for their tour concert of America and Japan.


  1. What does music mean to you in life?

Music can be said to be the centrifugal force of my life that makes me to be myself.

The music can be said to me as like sunlight which connect the fragments of my life, as it dancing with countless drops of water splashing, matching and bumping into each other just as it creates a group of chirping sounds.

  1. What was the condition of cultural exchanges between Korea or Asia when you were going to Germany from Korea? Also how was the music trend of n in European, American and Asian music world when you were doing music in Europe? How was the relationship among popular music and other genres, pops, jazz, etc., classical music and world music.

At that time, Berlin was a point of confrontation between Eastern and Western powers

And the style of modern art that pursues new forms and experiments of all arts

In the field, contemporary music stands out, and classical and creative opera and so on.

At that time, my teacher Isang Yoon had been highly active there, in Germany.

  1. You had a lot of activities in Japan, could you tell any memories if you have any?
  2. In 1970, I was charged for the music of the Korean Pavilion at the Osaka World Expo in Japan and composed electronic music. At the time, Akiyama Kuniharu, a famous Japanese music critic and composer, he was very surprised with my music and the performance that they could not imagine. He responded that Korea were presenting the electronic music in Korea as like Japan, too, even though he thought Korea would been uncultivated of electronic music. At that time, my works <Yebul> and <generation 69> were played, and I got a recording and broadcasted to NHK, and there were many article released in various newspapers.

Since then, when I was staying in Germany, I continued to exchange letters, commissioned works, and also played <Puluts and Piano Concertos> with him. Akiyama was a very experimental person. I made my own movie music.

In February and August 1996, both Takemitsu Tōru (1930 – 1996) Akiyama (1929–1996) died of cancer. Takemitsu, famous for his film music, had many memorial writings and the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award to succeed him. Nobody mentioned Akiyama, who played an important role in spreading the electronic music of Japan and Korea to the world. I did. So I wrote a song for him to several composers and suggested to have a memorial concert a year later. Seven great composers, including George Yuasa, Urban Ichiyanagi, Akirani Nishimura, Shinichiro Ikebe, and Maki Ishii, produced their works.

  1. What was the first and most shocking, memorable musical learning in Europe?

When I was studying in Germany, I felt that everything was new to me, including European rationalism and the climate that emphasized reason.

In order to study computer music, I entered the Department of Communication Engineering at the University of Technology Berlin. The Department of Communication Engineering was a place to study broadcasting media. It was the work of the department of communication engineer and the professor who was the professor of Fritz Vinkel, who made the German Pavilion at the Osaka Expo in Japan. In minutes, he made a big ball shaped like Earth and released music in it.

At that time, after seeing Yun Sang-sang’s “Dream of a Ghost”, I came to think a lot about combining traditional music with modern music.

Isang Yun and Sukhi Kang, from left (photo courtesy of Sukhi Kang)

  1. What do you think is the core of Estern philosophy, Korean music, Asia, traditional music or art? The culture and arts of Asia, and music in a narrow sense, are very diverse. Unlike Europe or Western music, what do you think the future direction of Asian music is going to be?

Since art is always an act of creating new things, we have to combine and fuse together to pursue experimental and new music.

  1. Nowadays, the fourth industrial revolution is coming, and the world is becoming one with science technology. You are also pioneer of Asian contemporary music, even electronic music for the first time in Korea. What do you think about the correlation between science and art? What would happen to art in the future, especially in the field of fine arts, is facing many crises.I think that science and art are in a mutually beneficial relationship.

I have created a new type of film electronic music such as <Masters> through electronic music that combines music and science, and I think that these fusion arts and music will be more popular than pure music in the future.

  1. The teacher has made a great contribution to the education of students in Asia and Korea. In addition to western music, other musicians of different genres such as TeRra Han have also been brought up. Is there any difference between past and present music? Memorable disciples, and gifts?

TeRra Han is the most active both in Korea domestic and internationally. She have been performing of traditional music and contemporary art through the concert of traditional Korean musical instrument Gayageum and electronic music, and a concert to anticipate the future of modern music.

Eunsuk Chin was selected as one of the next generation composers to lead the world composer,

Lee Shin-woo is the youngest professor at Seoul National University,

In addition, disciples during the professorship of Keimyung University in Daegu are active in Europe.

My teacher is Isang Yoon Sang who made me wake up to modern music.

Through Isang Yoon, I changed my mind more and more about how to make the universal music through Korea’s materials as the language of my music.

  1. Who is the most respectful, great musician to you?

Beethoven and Hayden, among others, are Beethoven who pursued new music that no one could ever imagine.


  1. What is the goal of your music?

– Music is a flow of energy and a flowing structure. Music is like a diamond as it is also a task to crystallize the sound.

Composers are people who pursue their own world thoroughly. It is people who go to the world of unity like an inventor. It is not different that the process of philosopher achieve self – completeness by logic alone and mathematicians endlessly seek numbers that can not be solve by abstract mathematics from the world of composition. It is the world of composing that the creation of the original by the logic based on the imaginary world and the approach based on the thorough reason.

It should be confident that the more complete work, that higher human mind


TeRra Han performance Buru composed by Sukhi Kang
TeRra Han performance ‘Buru’ composed by Sukhi Kang (photo courtesy of TeRra Han)
  1. Do you like music of other genres besides classical music, if you like any music?

Traditional Korean music, A-ak, among them, Jongmyo Jeryeak (종묘제례악) gives us the profoundness and glamor which is not felt in any music.

In addition, there is a piece called,,the music that the souls of the ancestors such as the kayageum and the kagok,,


  1. In the mean time, there would been a lot of support, such as your family members.

The eldest son, Kang Ho-jung majored in electronic music, earned his reputation, worked as a professor at the Seoul University of Arts, and Hosu Kang has been actively working as a composer in the major of ballad music scene of Korea.


  1. TeRra™ Magazine, the world Premiere Asian arts magazine, please celebrate with a message!

I sincerely congratulate the launching of the TeRra Magazine.

As an important bridge connecting Eastern and Western music in the future, I wish the magazine working hard as a brigade of new music.

Sukhi Kang was born in Seoul, Korea, on October 22, 1934. He graduated from the Seoul National University College of Music, and continued his studies in Germany at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Hanover, as well as at the Technische Universität and Musik Hochschule in Berlin, from 1970 to 1975. Kang became professor of composition at Seoul National University in 1982, serving there for almost 20 years until his retirement in 2000.

He has been awarded numerous international prizes and honors, such as being selected for the International Rostrum of Composers, Paris, UNESCO in 1976; the Korean NationalComposers’ Prize, Seoul, 1978; the Grand-Prix of the Korea National Composers’ Prize, 1979; Musician of the Year Award given by the Association of Korean Musicians, 1989; and the Cultural Art Prize of the President of Korea in 1990.

Kang has been actively involved in international musical life as an organizer and director of music festivals such as the Seoul Contemporary Music festival from 1969 to 1992 and the Experimental Music Festival “Inventionen” in Berlin from 1982 to 1984. He was music director of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games closing ceremony, and has been codirector of the Mosaico Festival with Krzysztof Penderecki in Kraków, Poland, from 1994 until the present.

Many of Kang’s major works have been performed worldwide with renowned orchestras, such as:

  • Cantata, performed by the KBS Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Krzysztof Penderecki
  • Catena for Orchestra, performed by the Solingen State Symphony in Germany
  • Dalha, performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Georg Schmöhe
  • Fantasie, performed by Ensemble Ricercata de Paris and conducted by Yves Prin
  • Legend, performed by Ensemble AKI in Yokohama, Japan
  • Mosaicum visio, performed by the Korean Chamber Ensemble and conducted by Piotr Borkowski
  • Mutatio Perpetua, performed by Ensemble Kontrapunkt Wien
  • Penthesilea, performed with the Elektronische Studio at the Technische Universität, Berlin
  • Piano concerto performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France and conducted by Bruno Ferandis
  • Sonata Bach, recorded with the pianist Kayako Matsunaga and released commercially on the Vienna Modern Masters label in 1995

Many of Kang’s works have been published in Asian countries; Legend for Clarinet, Violin, Violoncello, and Piano and Parody for Flute and Organ appeared also in Europe.

(biography from the ISCM homepage, original access click, here )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *