Biography

View more photos Jin Hi Kim & komungo - download high res

Short Bio

Jin Hi Kim, innovative komungo virtuoso, Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition, has performed as a soloist in her own compositions at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, Asia Society, Royal Festival Hall (London), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) and around the world.

She is known as a pioneer for introducing komungo (geomungo) to American contemporary music scene through her "Living Tones" cross-cultural chamber and orchestral compositions and her extensive solo performances of the world’s only electric komungo with interactive MIDI computer system in her large-scale mulitmedia performance pieces. The New York Times wrote, "virtuoso, Jin Hi Kim promises thoughtful, shimmering East-West amalgams in combinations that are both new and unlikely to be repeated." 

She has received commissions from the American Composers Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, and Tan Dun’s New Generation of East program for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The New York Times wrote, "A gorgeously tactile piece that moved easily between an earthy folksiness and meditative refinement." Kim was awarded Fulbright Specialist Program 2017 to Vietnam, 2015 Composers Now Creative Residencies at the Pocantico Center of Rockefeller Brothers Fund, 2014 Asian Cultural Council Fellowship to Indonesia, 2013 McKnight Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum, Music Alive Composer in Residency with New Haven Symphony, and received Artist Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, which was created by John Cage and Jasper Johns.

Kim was featured on PRI's The World, Voice of America, and BBC-Global Hit in recognition of her works that lead to a new direction incorporating a profound Korean cultural heritage with a balance of Eastern and Western aesthetics. Recent years Jin Hi Kim composed new works, which are responses to two wars involving the American military in Asia: a choral piece, Child of War, dedicated to Kim Phuc who is renown for "the girl in the picture" during the Vietnam War, and One Sky for Orchestra and two Korean soloists, dedicated to the reunification of Korea.

Kim also focused on multimedia working with emerging interactive technology interfaced with Asian traditional instruments. The major works are Ghost Komungobot, an interdisciplinary live interactive performance of electric komungo and komungobot (virtual robotic instrument) with visual media, created at CultureHub, the Art & Technology Center at La MaMa for REFEST 2015 and co-produced by Harvestworks Digital Arts Center, NYC; Touching The Moons, a multi-media lunar ritual, in which the electric komungo, Indian tabla, Korean kagok singer, and Indian kathak dancer were processed live with a computer-controlled MIDI systems and sensors resulting in interactive digital animation, won the Wolff Ebermann Prize at the International Theater Institute (Germany); and Digital Buddha, for komungo/electric komungo with video mandala and digital image mix, which has been presented at Metropolitan Museum of Art in conjunction with 2014 Exhibition Silla; Korea's Golden Kingdom, Expo Cibao (Dominican Republic), Expo Zaragoza (Spain), Festival Salihara (Indonesia), Bandung International Digital Art Festival (Indonesia) and many other places.

"Her unique vision blends science fiction images, state-of-the-art technology, ancient mythology and timeless music and dance traditions. No other artist is doing work quite like this, and she does it with superb style. Kim performs brilliantly and evocatively on an amplified komungo." Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post

Kim’s autobiography Komungo Tango, a 25 years journey of creative collaborations with master musicians in America and around the world, was published in Seoul, Korea. A retrospective interview about Kim's major works was recorded and archived in Oral History of American Music at Yale University Library. Interview about her electric komungo was featured on MBC-TV in conjunction with Korean Traditional Craft Exhibition 2007 at United Nation. In 2001 Korean National Broadcasting System (KBS-TV) produced an hour documentary film on Kim's musical contribution. 

Jin Hi Kim with electric komungo - download high res

Full Bio

Background:
Jin Hi Kim, innovative komungo virtuoso, Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition, has performed as a soloist in her own compositions at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art, Asia Society, Royal Festival Hall (London), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), the Festival of Asian Art in Hong Kong and many significant festivals throughout the North America, Europe, South America, Russia, Asia, New Zealand and Australia.

She is known as a pioneer for introducing komungo (geomungo) to American contemporary music scene through her "Living Tones" cross-cultural chamber and orchestral compositions and her extensive solo performances of the world’s only electric komungo with interactive MIDI computer system in her large-scale mulitmedia performance pieces.

Kim’s compositions have been commissioned by Kronos Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, Tan Dun's New Generation of East program for Chamber Music Society for the Lincoln Center, Boston Modern Orchestra Project and many others. Kim was awarded 2017 Fulbright Specialist Program to Vietnam, 2015 Composers Now Creative Residencies at the Pocantico Center of Rockefeller Brothers Fund, 2014 Asian Cultural Council Mandarin Oriental Fellowship to Indonesia, 2013 McKnight Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum, Music Alive Composer in Residency with New Haven Symphony, and she received Artist Award from the Foundation For Contemporary Performance Art, which was created by John Cage and Jasper Johns.

Peter Watrous, The New York Times wrote, "virtuoso, Jin Hi Kim promises thoughtful, shimmering East-West amalgams in combinations that are both new and unlikely to be repeated." 

Allan Kozinn, The New York Times wrote, "A gorgeously tactile piece that moved easily between an earthy folksiness and meditative refinement."

James R. Oestreich, The New York Times wrote, "The solo demonstrations and performances were brilliant and fascinating."

Kim was featured on PRI's The World, Voice of America, and BBC-Global Hit in recognition of her works that lead to a new direction incorporating a profound Korean cultural heritage with a balance of Eastern and Western aesthetics. Recent years Jin Hi Kim composed new works, which are responses to two wars involving the American military in Asia: a choral piece, Child of War, dedicated to Kim Phuc who is renown for "the girl in the picture" during the Vietnam War, and One Sky for Orchestra and two Korean soloists, dedicated to the reunification of Korea.

In celebration of Music From Japan's 40th anniversary, Kim was featured along with Wu Man and Mayumi Miyata for East Asian Vibrancy program presented at The Asia Society, Freer Gallery at Smithsonian Institute and Japan tour in 2015. She performed with Cosmic Ensemble at Venice Biennale 2013 for Joana Vasconcelos Floating Pavilion Opening Exhibition.  

Kim also focused on multimedia working with emerging interactive technology interfaced with Asian traditional instruments. In collaboration with sound designer Alex Noyes, Kim created 60 minutes Ghost Komungobot, an interdisciplinary live interactive performance of electric komungo and komungobot (virtual robotic instrument) with visual media. The work-in-progress was presented at CultureHub, the Art & Technology Center at La MaMa for REFEST 2015 and co-produced by Harvestworks Digital Arts Center, NYC. The work is a reflection of emerging aspects of American culture including robots, artificial intelligence, and explorations of multidimensional space in the universe.

She has created an expansive body of experimental cross-cultural works that lead to a new direction incorporating Eastern mythology, aesthetics, and ritual with new emerging technology. Kim's widely acclaimed 60 minutes Digital Buddha, for komungo/electric komungo with video mandala and digital images of extraordinary juxtapositions, fast cut swirling images of a deconstructed electric komungo, was performed at Metropolitan Museum of Art in conjunction with 2014 Exhibition Silla; Korea's Golden Kingdom. The work has been presented at Korea Festival, Festival Dos Abrazos (Santiago de Compostela), Expo Cibao (Dominican Republic), Expo Zaragoza (Spain), Art & Ideas Festival (New Haven), Festival Salihara (Indonesia), Bandung International Digital Art Festival (Indonesia), Roulette (New York), Cornell University, Yale University, Stanford Pacific-Asia Music Festival and Michigan University. The work contrasts both the neurotic intensity of American life with daily Asian meditative practice.

"Cosmic Music Meditation, Jin Hi Kim presented a unique form of Buddhist Meditational Music.....as if their (audience) consciousness was carried into outer space that means the music was successful." Tempo (Jakarta)

Kim's Touching The Moons, a 70 minutes multi-media lunar ritual, in which the electric komungo, Indian tabla, Korean kagok singer, and Indian kathak dancer were processed live with a computer-controlled MIDI systems and sensors resulting in interactive digital animation, won the Wolff Ebermann Prize at the International Theater Institute (Germany). The work was commissioned by the Kitchen with workshops at MassMoca and presentation at the Kennedy Center. In the workKim challenges the duality of Asian mythology and American scientific exploration of the moon.

"Her unique vision blends science fiction images, state-of-the-art technology, ancient mythology and timeless music and dance traditions. No other artist is doing work quite like this, and she does it with superb style. Kim performs brilliantly and evocatively on an amplified komungo."
Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post

In Korea, Kim studied and practiced with masters from the National School for Korean Traditional Music, which was established under the nation's single music institute, the prestigious National Gugak Center. She earned a BA degree in Korean Traditional Music at Seoul National University before coming to the United States. Subsequently, Kim studied with composer John Adams, Lou Harrison, and David Rosenboom, receiving an MFA at Mills College in California.

Kim’s autobiography Komungo Tango, a 25 years journey of creative collaborations with master musicians in America and around the world, was published in Seoul, Korea. A retrospective interview about Kim's major works was recorded and archived in Oral History of American Music at Yale University Library. Interview about her electric komungo was featured on MBC-TV in conjunction with Korean Traditional Craft Exhibition 2007 at United Nation. In 2001 Korean National Broadcasting System (KBS-TV) produced an hour documentary film on Kim's musical contribution. She appeared in the MBC TV national broadcast of the film 100 Years of Sanjo.

She is a recipient of the composer fellowship from National Endowment for the Arts, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, MAP fund from Rockefeller Foundation, Meet The Composer, Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, as well as the artist residence fellowship for the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (Italy), Asian Cultural Council to Japan and Indonesia, Djerassi Foundation (California), Composers Now Creative Residencies (Pocantico Center of Rockefeller Brothers Fund), and Freeman Artist-In-Residence at Cornell University.

Crosscultural Compositions:
Kim’s compositions are developed based on her aesthetic of Living Tones- each tone in traditional Korean music must be perceived as alive, embodying its own individual shape, sound, texture, vibrato, glissando, expressive nuances and dynamics, as its philosophical mandate from Buddhism, a reverence for the ‘life’ of a tone, the color and nuance granted each articulation from Korean Shamanism.

Kim refers to this quality as "Living Tones," a compositional method that she has developed over the past thirty years for her cross-cultural compositions working with Western contemporary musicians. Kim’s music is about challenging these organic shapes and the breath of time with a living tones concept. Her work brings an expanded instrumental vocabulary to clasical Western performances with the inclusion of Korean instruments within the Western ensembles and herself as soloist.

"(Living Tones) is new music/world music at its finest, beyond political correctness into the realm of the sublime, where words and cultural postures fall away." Josef Woodard, The Los Angeles Times

Kim’s Living Tones CD features her signature bi-cultural compositions Nong Rock for string quartet and komungo, Tchong for flute and daegum, Piri Quartet for oboe/English horn with three piri(s) and Yoeum for kagok singer and baritone.

In 1986 She began to be recognized as a composer when she was commissioned by the Kronos Quarter for her work Linking. She was invited to the Composer-to-Composer Telluride residency with John Cage and other leading composers in 1989.

Jin Hi Kim is both composer and soloist for the following compositions: Nong Rock for the Kronos Quartet premiered at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in 1992; Voices of Sigimse for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center premiered at the Lincoln Center Summer Festival 1996 with Tan Dun conducting; and Tilings (2013) for Either/Or ensemble conducted by Richard Carrick premiered at The Kitchen (NYC).

She was featured composer for the Festival Nieuwe Muziek 1998 and Agate Slice was commissioned for Xenakis Ensemble (Holland). Kim was featured on BBC The World/Global Hit radio program for her One Sky for string chamber orchestra and electric komungo, which was commissioned by the Great Mountain Music Festival for the 50th anniversary of Korean War memorial event at DMZ between North and South Korea and was broadcast on KBS-TV.

“(Linking) An essay in integration which suggested a Takemitsu-like ability to hover between eastern and western traditions.”  Paul Griffiths, The Times (London)

(Linking) The delicacy of her effects (and of the Kronos Quartet’s playing) were constantly riveting.”   John Rockwell, The New York Times

"(Voices of Sigimse) A gorgeously tactile piece that moved easily between an earthy folksiness and meditative refinement." Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

“(Nong Rock) Kim juxtaposes and synthesizes the timbres, techniques and even styles of East and West in a way that is at once jarring and inevitable.”   Dean Suzuki, Option Magazine

Steve Smith wrote in the New York Times, “In Tillings, Jin Hi Kim, an eloquent, eclectic advocate for the komungo, an ancient Korean fretted zither, vividly translated her instrument’s characteristic slurs and wobbles for a Western ensemble of woodwinds, strings, percussion and cimbalom."

Kim was awarded the 2000-2001 American Composers Orchestra Composer Fellowship, and her commissioned Eternal Rock for Orchestra and komungo was premiered at Carnegie Hall with Kim as soloist and Dante Anzolini conducting. Subsequently she performed it with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Riverside Philharmonic, Seattle Creative Orchestra, KBS Symphony, and South Florid Symphony. Kim also has introduced Korean tall and colorful barrel drums in the orchestra. Kim’s Eternal Rock II (2006) was commissioned and premiered by Boston Modern Orchestra Project and conducted by Gil Rose and Gerry Hemingway as soloist on drums. Her Monk Dance (2007) was commissioned and premiered by New Haven Symphony Orchestra with Kim as soloist on the drums and Jong Ho Pak conducting. Subsequently she performed it with Stanford Symphony, South Florida Symphony, Empire State Youth Orchestra, and returned to New Haven Symphony for the second performance. Kim was Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with New Haven Symphony Orchestra (2009-2011), for which she premiered her commissioned Nori III for Electric Komungo and Percussion Quartet.

“(Eternal Rock) moved through the orchestra like a curious outsider, wondering at the range of sounds it can make and using it as an extension of twangy vocabulary of solo komungo.”  
Anne Midgette, The New York Times

“(Eternal Rock II) Some of the orchestral writing sounds like movie music, but the way that Kim extends the effect of the drums by additional percussionists ringed around the stage is striking.”  
Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe

"Most exciting of the instrumental imports was the set of barrel drums used by Korean percussionist Jin Hi Kim in her own vibrant composition, "Monk Dance." Kim's close, high-pitched harmonies spoke with an original voice, but her propulsive solos on drums and wooden blocks gradually took over, leaving the audience breathless."
David J. Baker, New Haven Register

Asian-Pacific Crosscultural Music and Mask Dance:
Her intercultural collaborations utilize ancient Asian traditions of drum, voice and mask dance with contemporary aesthetics and Western technology. Kim's 90 minutes cross-cultural Pan-Asian mask dance and music drama, Dragon Bond Rite (1997), featured musicians and dancers from India, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Tuva and the U.S., and was commissioned by the Japan Society through funds from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and the Rockefeller Foundation Multi Arts Production Fund, and presented at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC) and the Festival of Asian Art in Hong Kong with development at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Italy.

“...(Dragon Bond Rite) cut across barriers of language, culture and tradition, touch us at deep, irrational levels result in a work that speaks to our common humanity.” 
Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post

Komungo Improvisations:
Kim’s new komungo compositions are imbued with meditative and vivid energy that makes it mesmerizing. Kim is a pioneer of evolution of the 4th century komungo into the world's only electric komungo with interactive MAX/MSP program. In 1989 Kim had an experimental electric komungo with metal strings without a sound board, which was plugged in sound processors. In 1998 Kim co-designed new one with Joseph Yanuziello that is built on the acoustic board and uses original komungo silk strings. This represents a radical departure from traditional instrument and became a precursor to subsequent instrument innovations throughout Asia. The new komungo sound is processed through a personal computer program in live that is triggered by MIDI foot pedal. Staying true to the nature of the instrument, her solo interweaves from old timeless mind to space-age blips.

In 1986 Kim was first discovered by avant-garde guitarist Henry Kaiser and has plunged into improvisation scene. In three decades of creative activity, she worked in improvisational forms with traditional music masters from Asia and Africa including Kongar-Ol Ondar, Shonosuke Okura, Akikazu Nakamura, Min Xiao-Fen, Wu Man, Samir Chatterjee, Mayumi Miyata, Vikku Vinayakram, Abraham Adzenyah and Mor Thiam. She has performed in a free improvisation context at many international festivals with prominent Western avant-garde improvisers including Elliott Sharp, Henry Kaiser, Bill Frisell, Derek Bailey, James Newton, Evan Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Joelle Leandre, Billy Bang, Joseph Celli, William Parker, Oliver Lake, Hans Reichel, Rudiger Carl, Peter Kowald, Reggie Workman, Jane Ira Bloom, Eugene Chadbourne, Leroy Jenkins, Gerry Hemingway, Joe Morris, and Hamid Drake.

Soundtracks:
In collaboration with artist David Chung at University of Michigan, Kim composed two soundtracks: Pyong Yang, a multimedia installation, and Koryo Saram, an hour long documentary film about Korean refugees from Russia to Kazakhstan, which was presented presented at Harvard University, Princeton University, Smithsonian Institution Freer Gallery of Art and the Sackler Gallery  (Washington, DC) and international film festivals including San Paolo International Film Festival, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, Vancouver Asian Film Festival and European Film Festival. In collaboration with composer Joseph Celli, Soundprint: Asia, commissioned by New American Radio and premiered on the WDR in Germany was broadcast on the national radio networks of KBS/Korea, NPR/USA and WDR/Cologne.

Media Appearance:
Kim was featured for interviews and performances on Voice of America, PRI-The World, BBC-Global Hit, CPR-Insight, Korean National KBS TV, KBS Radio, MBC-TV, Arirang Global TV, YTN-National TV, PBS in New York; CPTV and WNPR in Connecticut; KPFA and KQED in San Francisco; RAI in Rome, Italy; ABC in Sydney, Australia; DRS in Switzerland; KCUR in Montreal; CBC-TV in Vancouver; VPRO in Holland, SinoVision (China) and many others.

Lecture Presentations:
Kim has given lectures about Korean traditional music and her compositional concept ‘Living Tones’ at over 200 universities in the USA including Cornell University, Yale University, Wesleyan University, Duke University, Indiana University, Wellesley College, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Dartmouth College, University of Minnesota, Stanford University, UC San Diego, and University of Michigan. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University.

Cross-cultural Music Meditation Workshop:
During the New Haven Symphony Music Alive Composer in Residence (2009-2011), Kim developed a Cross-Cultural Music Mediation (CCMM) Workshop. CCMM introduces participants to meditative practices while providing opportunities to create together playing Asian percussion instruments that have an historic role in various Asian meditation practices. The project has been highly successful with proven benefits for multi-generational community including students, seniors, teachers, and clients at the Yale Mental Health Center. She was 2013 McKnight Visiting Composer and 2014 Artist-In-Residence at Lou Harrison House to present CCMM workshops for the Minneapolis community and the community in Joshua Tree, California. She is a recipient of Arts Catalyze Placemaking - Arts Leadership grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD)/Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) that allows Kim to present her CCMM at New London Maritime Society, Intense Education Academy (Hartford), and CT Mental Health Center in New Haven in 2014-2015.