DONGRYUL LEE


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Korean (한글로 보기)      French


Seoul-born Chicago based composer Dongryul Lee (이동렬, Korean pronunciation: [iː doŋ ɾjəɾ]) seeks to write music that is deeply oriented around the acoustical nature of sounds and the playfulness of classical performance practice. Sometimes with the joy of rendering ludic permutations or interstellar sonic fables, he tries to touch the human spirit in epistemic ways. Because of this nature of “discovery,” clarity and pathos are crucial to his music. The dual identities of his backgrounds, a Korean immigrant living in the States, a born Catholic and learned Buddhist thinker, and a composer with a computer science degree, also greatly influence his musical language. He finds inspirations in spiritual, literary, and scientific elements, encompassing a diverse range of topics from Borgesian poetics and Jungian Philosophy to Number Theory, Deep Learning, and Engineering Campanology, oftentimes employing in-depth interdisciplinary research.


“Dr. Dongryul Lee’s works are alluring, sparkling, thoughtful, and carefully crafted. Each work has a unique concept, which he researches deeply and personalizes.”
Augusta Read Thomas (Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition)


He was awarded the Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship, which supported his study with Jukka Tiensuu (2020); the third prize in the first Bartók World Competition (Hungary, 2018)[1]; the Special Prize Piero Pezzé in the Composition Competition Città di Udine (Italy, 2018)[2]; Second Prize in the 3rd GMCL Competition (Portugal, 2017)[3]; and Second Prize in 2017 Busan Maru International Music Festival Competition (South Korea). The performance of his Unending Rose by the Kairos quartett (Berlin, 2020) was supported by the Theodore Presser Foundation, Arts Council Korea, Kultur Büro Elisabeth Berlin, and Ministry of Culture of the Land Brandenburg. His compositions have been performed by ensembles such as the Avanti!, GrossmanKairos, Contemporanea, Jupiter, MIVOS, Callithumpian Consort, Axiom Brass, GMCL, S.E.M., Conference Ensemble, Paramirabo, Cello Loft, and Illinois Modern Ensemble, among others. His Parastrata has been performed in four different cities in Europe and North America, and his A finite island in the infinite ocean was premiered at the Fromm Players Concerts at Harvard by Miranda Cuckson in April 2021. His new pieces are commissioned by Grossman Ensemble (Chicago) and the Callithumpian Consort (Boston) to be premiered in 2021-23.


“Lee is exploring a complex net of tunings that foreground unfamiliar kinds of consonances between notes of the solo violin. [...] but Lee raises the ante by allowing considerably more complex sonic relationships to emerge. The result is a piece which sounds entirely fresh yet somehow natural in its unfolding.”
Robert Hasegawa (editor of The Oxford Handbook of Orchestration Studies)
On A finite island in the infinite ocean

Lee was the 2020-21 CCCC Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Composition. He began writing music with the computer when he was 13. After probing all kinds of music for 10 years while leading rock bands, analyzing Bach and Final Fantasy, and writing atonal music without an acquaintance with serialism, Dongryul finally came to the US in 2008 to study at the Eastman School (BM in composition) as a 29 year old freshman. To prepare for this late embarkation, he studied music and practiced piano privately for five years[4] while working as a software engineer[5], after earning a degree in computer science and industrial system engineering (BS) from Yonsei University. He completed his MM and DMA degrees in composition-theory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he taught classes and administered the McFarland Carillon. His dissertation research on virtual bells realized by using the Finite Element Method was presented at the IRCAM Forum Workshop in Montreal in February 2021. He currently serves adjunct associate professor of music at North Central College.


“Passages sound like dense reefs of exotic corals. […] In an appealing illusion, the violinist created a faint echo effect, as if subtly enlarging the space.”
– THE STRAD (Bruce Hodges) on A finite island in the infinite ocean

He studied composition with Jukka Tiensuu, Reynold Tharp, Heinrich Taube, Stephen Andrew Taylor, Erin Gee, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, David Liptak, and Tae-hoon Kim, and conducting with Brad Lubman and Mark Davis Scatterday, and piano with Tony Caramia, Ji Yun Lee, and Yoon Jeong Kim. Additionally, he studied at short-term academies with Chaya Czernowin (SICPP 2021), Jennifer Higdon (ACA 2020), Jukka Tiensuu (Sävellyspaja 2018), Julian Anderson (SICPP 2018), Mario Davidovsky (Composers Conference 2017), and Joshua Fineberg (Domaine Forget 2017), and attended masterclasses and seminars led by Hans Abrahamsen, Tristan Murail, Unsuk Chin, Oliver Knussen, Ben Johnston, Lei Liang, Rolf Wallin, Brian Ferneyhough and Helmut Lachenmann to name a few. He also studied rock vocal techniques in 1999 with Myungki Kim, a renowned Korean underground heavy-metal vocalist.

CV (updated Jan 2022)

1. Adjudicated by the jury: Thomas Adès (chair), Unsuk Chin, Chaya Czernowin, Gyula Fekete.
2. Adjudicated by the jury: Michele Biasutti (President), Edmund Campion, Juraj Ďuriš, Harald Muenz, Roberta Silvestrini
3. Adjudicated by the jury: Ivan Fedele (President), Gerhard Stabler, Clotilde Rosa, João Madureira, Pedro Figueiredo, Jaime Reis, and Jorge Sá Machado
4. Before coming to the US in 2008, Lee studied music privately, piano with Yoon Jeong Kim (2003-2004), Ji Yun Lee (2006-2007); piano and music theory with Hee Yeon Chin (2004-2006); counterpoint and composition with Tae-hoon Kim (2006-2007); aural skills with Nam Hui Lee (2005), and attended music courses at Yonsei University–Tonal Harmony I (2000) and II (2007), Orchestration, 16th Century Counterpoint, Conducting Technique (all 2007), et al.
5. At Zinopix (2002-04) and NCSoft (2004-06).

Other photos


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