Nam June Paik Video Innovations

Nam June Paik was born in Seoul, Korea on July 20, 1932.He was the fifth and youngest child of a textile merchant.In 1947, at the age of 14, he studied piano and composition with two of Korea’s foremost composers. The family moved to Tokyo, Japan in 1950 to avoid the havoc of the Korean War.Paik studied music, history, art history, and philosophy at the University of Tokyo from 1953 to 1956.He did his graduate dissertation on Schoenberg.
In 1956, he moved to Germany to pursue his interest in avant-garde music.He studied music history under Thrasybulos Georgiades at the University of Munich and composition under Wolfgang Fortner at the Hochschule fűr Musik.He also attended classes under Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, David Tudor, and John Cage.Paik lived in Cologne for the next five years and then returned to Japan for a short time to conduct experiments with electromagnets and color TV sets.In 1964, Paik moved to New York and still resides there today.
While he lived in Korea, Paik had become familiar with the work of Schoenberg.Paik was interested in Schoenberg above all others because of his radical compositions.
They reflected the social atmosphere of Seoul at the time.In 1947, Paik had only one piece of Schoenberg’s work.It took Paik two years to convince a record shop owner to let him listen to what was probably the only Schoenberg record in Korea.Paik had only two compositions by which to judge his “guru.”Then one day in Japan, in 1951, Paik heard a third piece on NHK Radio.
Another of Paik’s great influences was John Cage, whom he met in Germany.Meeting Cage, a student of Schoenberg, was a turning point in Paik’s life.Paik’s piece Zen for Film was definitely influenced by Cage’s 4’ 33”, the silent piece. Cage was devoted to sounds, but Paik was devoted to objects, yet Cage’s influence is evident in all of Paik…

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