Komungo Muse and Permutations:
Jin Hi Kim

Experience a uniquely Korean approach to music through original works for the classical Korean komungo (zither) that utilize interactive computer audio to create entirely new worlds of sound based on Korean aesthetics. Kim has appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and her works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet and the American Composers Orchestra. In the words of the Washington Post, her “unique vision blends . . . state-of-the-art technology, ancient mythology, and timeless music and dance traditions” and her works “cut across barriers of language, culture, and tradition, touch us at deep, irrational levels [and] result in a work that speaks to our common humanity.” This performance was recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery of Art on January 21, 2000.


Komungo Muse and Permutations
Jin Hi Kim, komungo and electric komungo
Alex Noyes, computer-based interactive music system

All works are by Jin Hi Kim.

Acoustic Komungo

Yellow Seed (1993) 0:00–06:20
Core (1995) 06:35–12:55
Naby (1993) 13:08–19:32

Electric Komungo

Komungo Forward (2000) 19:50–27:54
Ssalgeng (2000) 28:08–32:35
Doduri (2000) 32:55–38:47
Komungo In & Out (1999) 39:04–47:32

This concert was recorded live at the Freer Gallery of Art on January 21, 2000.


The komungo is a musical instrument indigenous to Korea, originating in the fourth century in the northern part of the country (Koguryo). The six-stringed, fretted board zither was mainly used in the court music orchestra and kagok ensemble for the performance of aristocratic lyric songs. Traditionally, komungo was also performed by male Confucian scholars for their meditation. The only solo repertory for komungo is sanjo, a long, folk-style virtuoso piece that is based on six rhythmic cycles moving from slow to fast. Jin Hi Kim’s compositions represent an evolution of the instrument into the twenty-first century, a development she had already been pursuing for over twenty years at the time of this performance. She has created a wide array of pioneering compositions for the komungo as a soloist, collaborated with leading Western contemporary musicians, and co-developed the world’s only electric komungo with Joseph Yanuziello, who, in 1999, built the instrument being premiered at this performance (an earlier version was developed and performed by Kim in 1992). The computer-based interactive music system for electric komungo was designed by Alex Noyes.

Jin Hi Kim improvises on her compositions. Her work celebrates the different energies of Buddhist and Confucian-influenced Korean court music, integrated with the spirit of vigorous shamanistic folk music. Her works approach contemporary composition with what might be called a “bilingual tongue,” drawing on stimulating aspects of both Western and Korean cultures.

Her pieces for electric komungo and computer-based interactive music systems are inspired by a desire to blend Asian musical forms with Western technology. The komungo sound is processed through a personal computer and then manipulated using manual switches and foot pedals. This new computer/komungo arrangement allows her to blend acoustic and processed sounds, achieving a fusion of ancient Korean forms with new mechanisms for sound manipulation.


Jin Hi Kim

Jin Hi Kim, innovative komungo virtuoso and Guggenheim Fellow composer, has performed as a soloist in her own compositions at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, Asia Society, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and around the world. The New York Times wrote that “Jin Hi Kim promises thoughtful, shimmering East-West amalgams in combinations that are both new and unlikely to be repeated.”

She received the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Rebecca Blunk Fund Award to create A Ritual for Covid-19 in memory of the deceased worldwide during the pandemic.

She is a pioneer in komungo (a classical Korean zither), introducing it into the American contemporary music scene and performing extensive solos on the world’s only electric komungo with live interactive computer programs. Her large-scale multimedia pieces include Ghost Komungobot, Digital Buddha, and Touching the Moons. The Washington Post wrote that “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’s “Living Tones” compositions have been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, Festival Nieuwe Muziek for Xenakis Ensemble (the Netherlands), Tan Dun’s New Generation East program for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Meet the Composer US Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and many others. The New York Times called the work “a gorgeously tactile piece that moved easily between an earthy folksiness and meditative refinement.”

Kim won the Wolff Ebermann Prize at the International Theater Institute (Germany), and received an Artist Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts (created by John Cage and Jasper Johns). She received artist residence fellowships for the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, Italy; the Asian Cultural Council to Japan and Indonesia; a Freeman Artist-In-Residence at Cornell University; a Composer-to-Composer Residency with John Cage and international composers in Telluride Institute; a Fulbright Specialist Program to Vietnam; Composers Now Creative Residencies at the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; McKnight Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum; and Music Alive Composer in Residency with New Haven Symphony.

Alex Noyes

Alex Noyes is a sound post-production engineer and designer of interactive music and media systems. When the concert on this podcast occurred, his recent projects included Toni Dove’s Artificial Changelings, an interactive film installation premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 1998 and presented in the United States at the Wexner Center as part of their Body Mechanique exhibition in 1999. He also collaborated with media artist Julia Scher on interactive media installation design for Predictive Engineering 2 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1998; Wonderland at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York in 1998; Freaklab 101 at the List Gallery of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997; and the Komputer King (Germany) in 1997.


The podcast was coordinated by Michael Wilpers, manager of performing arts. Audio recording and editing by Andy Finch and Suraya Mohamed. Photography by Witjak Widhi Cahya. Web production by Gio Camozzi. Copyediting by Ian Fry. Special thanks to the artist for granting permission to share her performances at the Freer and Sackler Galleries. The concert was made possible, in part, through the support of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Studies Program (now the Asian Pacific American Center).