Study of Isang Yun’s Exemplum in memoriam Kwangju
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Exemplum in Memoriam Kwangju is a symphonic poem written in 1981 by the Korean-German composer, Isang Yun (1917-1995). In the preface to the score, Yun gives the program of the piece. He states that he composed the Exemplum in Memoriam Kwangju to commemorate the uprising that took place in Kwangju, South Korea, in May 1980, in response to the suppression of human rights by the government. The uprising was brutally crushed in ten days of bloody fighting and resulted in countless deaths. Beyond a tribute to the historical event itself, the work is a monument of mourning for the victims and an exhortation to fight for freedom around the world. Although Isang Yun’s music is well-known in Germany and has in recent years been acclaimed in South Korea, it is as yet largely unfamiliar to American audiences and scholars. Some aspects of Exemplum in Memoriam Kwangju have been discussed by German scholars but the work has never been analyzed in any detail. This study gives new insight into the specific ways in which Yun’s music commemorates the Gwangju massacre. In particular, through analysis of the deep-level structures created by his use of Haupttöne, as well as through discussion of scene changes, this document examines the ways in which Yun employs his distinctive Hauptton technique to represent the historical event.