Profile: Fellowship Composer Jin Hi Kim
It's a blustery early-January day and composer Jin Hi Kim is camped-out at an old desk in a corner of ACO's office. She is pouring over her manuscript sketches for Eternal Rock, a new piece-and the composer's very first orchestral work-that she is writing for premiere at ACO's March 18 Carnegie Hall Concert. Joining her at the desk is Brian Fairtile, a professional music copyist with years of experience in preparing orchestral parts for performance. The two are deep in discussion of how best to translate Ms. Kim's concept of "Living Tone"-in which each note is alive, embodying its own individual shape, sound and subtext-into specific notation that each of ACO's seventy-four orchestra players will understand. Together, they conceptualize how best to convey the music to the orchestra-through traditional music notation, and some not so traditional-so that when the parts land on the players' music stands, precious rehearsal time is not squandered deciphering the composer's intentions.
This is just one of several professional meetings Jin Hi Kim has had as ACO's Composer Fellow for the 2000-01 season. Launched last year as an extended professional development opportunity for emerging composers, the Composer Fellowship is designed to provide the broad range of skills and experiences that are crucial to successful work as an orchestral composer. The Composer Fellowship focuses on both the creative and the practical: during the season, Ms. Kim has mentored with ACO's music director Dennis Russell Davies and ACO's artistic director Robert Beaser, and also met with ACO's administrative, production and marketing staffs.
Not that Ms. Kim is an unseasoned musician. In addition to her work as a composer, she is a virtuoso komungo performer, the traditional fourth-century Korean fretted zither. Born in Korea in 1957, Ms. Kim started her musical career by majoring in traditional music at Seoul National University. She also studied for ten years with National Living Treasures at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. After arriving in the U.S. her training took a decidedly more contemporary turn through MFA studies in electronic music and composition at Mills College in California.
Since then her career has taken her in many directions, combining her work as composer and performer, and blending world aesthetics. In addition to the traditional komungo, she now plays the world's only electric komungo, which she helped develop. She has performed her compositions with the likes of the Kronos Quartet, Xenakis Ensemble, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has worked with such leading improvisers as Derek Bailey, William Parker, James Newton, Oliver Lake, Evan Parker, and Elliott Sharp. She has performed at major festivals throughout the world, including the Next Wave, Darmstadt, and Lincoln Center Festivals. She also collaborated with virtuosos of the Indian sitar, Japanese koto, African drum and Australian didgeridoo on her "Komungo Around the World" CD project.
Josef Woodard of The Los Angeles Times calls her work, "new music/world music at its finest, beyond political correctness, into the realm of the sublime, where words and cultural postures fall away."
During her tenure with ACO, Ms. Kim will have ample opportunity to display the full range of her talents. She will perform in ACO's "Composers Out Front" series at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater on Friday, March 9th, 2001 at 8:30 pm. There she will perform komungo and electric komungo solos, plus her Nong Rock for string quartet and komungo, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. That program also features Ms. Kim's improvisational ensemble, Quagmire, with William Parker on bass and the famed Oliver Lake on saxophone. Ms. Kim will also serve as soloist with ACO when Eternal Rock premieres at Carnegie Hall on March 18.
Also as part of the fellowship, Ms. Kim participates in a number of educational and outreach activities, including Music Factory, ACO's partnership with New York City High Schools, and Coming to America: Immigrant Sounds/Immigrant Voices, which brings her to a variety of community organizations for performance/discussions about her work as an immigrant American composer.
Robert Beaser, composer and Artistic Director of ACO, says, "Jin Hi has a unique musical voice-a true blending of Eastern and Western musical aesthetics. The ACO Fellowship will allow her to integrate her musical sensibilities with the supreme challenge of writing for the symphonic ensemble. Our goal is to allow the composer to explore all facets of working with an orchestra-from aesthetic issues to the pragmatic ones-and to provide an opportunity for experimentation, which is so critical to artistic growth."
As part of its efforts to provide extended professional development opportunities to emerging American composers, ACO announced the Composer Fellowships in 1999. Through this program, four young minority composers over three years will have the opportunity to work with ACO artistic and administrative leadership to hone their professional skills, participate in planning, educational activities and performances, serve as a liaison with student composers, and enhance their professional careers by immersing themselves in the professional environment of ACO. The Composer Fellowships are made possible with the support of the Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund of The New York Community Trust and The Greenwall Foundation.
ACO's first Composer Fellow was Daniel Bernard Roumain, a Haitian-American composer, now residing in Harlem. As part of his Fellowship, Mr. Roumain composed "Harlem Essay for Orchestra and Digital Audio Tape" which premiered at Carnegie Hall in January 1999. Since the Fellowship, Mr. Roumain has continued his work as a composer, has been signed to the roster of Fine Arts Management, a noted artist management concern; and landed a teaching post at the Harlem School for the Arts.