Kunsu Shim was born as the son of re-migrants from Japan on September 15, 1958 in Busan, South Korea. The ocean provided the adolescent Shim with the experience of spatial openness and expanse. This notion can be seen later as the basis of his production. He twice won the first prize in a competition for young composers in Pusan, at age eighteen and nineteen respectively. From 1979 to 1983 he studied composition with Inyong La (amongst others) at the Yonsei University in Seoul. In 1982 he won the DongA Newspaper prize, followed by the JungAng Newspaper prize in 1983.
In 1985, Shim arrived in Germany, where he studied composition with Helmut Lachenmann in Stuttgart (1987-88). Around this time, he met Gerhard Stäbler, with whom he lives and collaborates today. In 1989, Shim moved to Essen to continue his education until 1992 with Nicolaus A. Huber at the Folkwang Hochschule. Huber’s “simple, but strong” language attracted Shim. It was then, that his style moved in a new direction – last, but not least through an increased interest in New Music from the U.S. (notably John Cage and Morton Feldman), the visual arts and literature. He found his own characteristic language with the composition orchester in stereo mit fünf sinustönen. In 1992, he was awarded a prize at the Forum junger Komponisten/WDR. From 1992 onward, he was co-organizer of the “Aktive Musik” series in the Ruhr Area (Germany). Concert tours led him around the globe, and he has been “artist-in-residence” numerous times (such as “Derjassi artist-in-residence” California, 1993; “Ragdale” near Chicago, 1995; or at “Schreyahn” Germany, 1996-97). From 1994 to 1999, he belonged to the composer’s group “wandelweiser”, with whom he shared basic aesthetic positions such as silence and simplicity. He has been a lecturer at the Folkwang-Hochschule since 1993 several years. 1998 Kunsu Shim was awarded a stipend by the Academy of the Arts Berlin. In the same year, he also was composer-in-residence at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Chicago (USA).
In 2000 he founded “EarPort”, along with Gerhard Stäbler, at the Duisburg Innenhafen as a center for the presentation of and discourse about New Music and for interconnecting the arts. He lectured at the Donga University (Busan), the Sukmyong University (Seoul) and the Suwon University (Suwon) in Korea. Invited by the Goethe Institute San Francisco, he created the music theater project at the New Langton Arts Theater in San Francisco in collaboration with Gerhard Stäbler. 2001 Kunsu Shim was featured at the Ultima Festival in Oslo (Norway), and 2002 at the Kore-Festival in Montreal, followed by concerts and lectures at the University of Toronto (Canada) and at the Columbia University in New York (USA). 2003 Kunsu Shim received the well-known Genko Uchida Fellowship – scholarship, which enables him a three month visit to Japan, followed by concerts in 2004 there, too. 2004 he was portraited at the University of Dortmund, and was invited to present his work at the Evergreen State College (Washington State, USA). He also received a commission from the Foundation Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg for the sound installation Lichtrand for the project “StadtLicht-LichtKunst” at the Kantpark Duisburg. From 2005 to 2007 Kunsu Shim accepted invitations to present his compositional work in various concerts and master classes in the United States, Greece, South Korea, England, Australia, Singapore and in numerous German cities. 2008 he was commissioned to write the orchestra work Steinschlag·Zeit for being premiered at the project “What you love” of the Radio Festival “WDR Fest Duisburg” in Duisburg’s former steel factory Landschaftspark in April 2008. In Summer the same year he gave a master class in composition on the Greek island of Crete, and in fall 2008 he was featured at the Sonic Fusion Festival in Edinburgh and in concerts and master classes in Lebanon’s capital Beyrout.
January 2009 Kunsu Shim received a stipend to work at the Cultural Center of Andratx (Spain). In March he and the composer Gerhard Stäbler took part in the audio visual project TRIALOG with the Korean artist Kyungwoo Chun in Seoul (South Korea) and lead a masterclass in composition at the Kyungsung University in Busan (South Korea). His work was also presented in various European and American cities.
In March 2010 Kunsu Shim was invited to the “Borealis Festival” in Bergen (Norway) as composer-in-residence (commissions for numerous especially site specific works performed during the festival). In the same year, he organized the festival “HörSinne” in the Ruhr Area, and published the German-English-Korean art book bild·klang·los together with the Korean artist Kyungwoo Chun, and the composer Gerhard Stäbler.
In February 2011 Shim was composer-in-residence at the festival “opening 11” Trier. In April, his work After a hundred years for soprano and orchestra – a commission by the Essener Philharmonie – was premiered at the Essener Philharmonie by the soprano Salome Kammer and the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Kalitzke. In May 2011 Shim’s work Ensemble (Chor) was performed the first time in Venice (Italy).
The John Cage centenary in 2012 led to numerous projects and concerts, with “CAGE 100” (a project of the Tonhalle Dusseldorf) being the most prominent. Together with Gerhard Staebler, he initiated in 2013/14 the concert series “naturally beautiful!” (with interactions between historic and contemporary music) in Benrath Castle, Duesseldorf, as well as the “First Winter Academy for Young Composers” in Duesseldorf.
In the fall of 2014, a new orchestral composition will be premiered by the Wuerzburg Philharmonic, as well as TO HEAR for string orchestra at the ZKM Karlsruhe. After 2012, Shim will be present again at this year’s Muziek Biennale Niederrhein.
Kunsu Shim resides permanently in Germany.
Foto © Britta Lauer