Internationally celebrated Cambodian American composer Chinary Ung has been awarded one of the highest honors in the U.S.,
a lifetime membership at the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Ung will be officially inducted in May.
The 77-year-old composer was chosen based on his artistic merit in music composition.
Ung says he owes his success to his own Cambodian identity.
It is my culture.Its what I learned it from the rice field that I spoke.
What touches me the most and I think I am proud to say that I am a Cambodian.
Ung got a scholarship to study clarinet in the U.S.in 1964,
and later received a Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University in 1974.
His music is known for incorporating Eastern characteristics into Western classical settings.
In spirit my music yes does carry the background of the culture in Cambodia.
Without that background I wouldnt be able to compose, lets say, Inner Voices.
The twenty-minute award-winning piece Inner Voices was Ungs second orchestral work following a hiatus between 1974 and 1985.
Ung turned his attention to the rescue of surviving relatives and the rebuilding of the editions of Cam-court music.
In 1989 Inner Voices made on the first American to win the prestigious Ramada Award.
Ung said the piece was his attempt to embrace the expressions of many cultures in a singular musical language,
and he got the inspiration from a dream.
In the dream I thought I had receive an invitation to attend a ritual,
and I heard the chanting about a text that this young Cambodian lady, a teenager,decided to commit suicide,
and left that text to her parent to set it into music, into song, funeral song,during her funeral.
Tapping into his dream to compose Inner Voices only employed what he calls the interaction within himself,
to create an art that speaks to a global audience.
You are not only looking I would and what could be learned and so forth,
but dont forget that another 50% is the intangible.
It is your feeling which is not yours when you go deeper,
you hit on archetypal type of dimension and so forth,and that could be share globally.
Today Ung is a distinguished professor of music at University of California San Diego,
and works to preserve and innovate Cambodian traditional music.
Im Chetra Chap for VOA news San Diego