Outsiders: Jin Hi Kim, KomunGuitar, Nonsequitur/What Next?, 1993


Jin Hi Kim, KomunGuitar, Nonsequitur/What Next?, 1993


Jin Hi Kim (born February 6, 1957 in Incheon, South Korea) is a composer and performer of komungo and electric komungo, and a Korean music specialist. Kim is known as a pioneer for introducing komungo (instrument similar to koto but with a much darker and more percussive sound) to American contemporary classical music scenes through her own cross-cultural chamber and orchestral compositions and her work only in avant-garde, as well as cross-cultural free improvisation. He also studied in the United States with the likes of Terry Riley, Lou Harrison and David Rosenboom) has distinguished himself for adventurous collaborations with Western avant-garde musicians as well as for the use of modern techniques such as electrification of the instrument or the interaction between it and computerized systems. She is a Guggenheim fellow in composition and her recent works include the development of komungobot (algorithmic robotic instrument) and solo performances of the world’s only electric komungo with live interactive MIDI computer system in her large-scale multimedia performance pieces. She has a really impressive curriculum, with commissions from commissions from the American Composers Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, and Tan Dun’s New Generation of East for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, among others.

During the last three decades Kim has performed as a komungo soloist in her own compositions at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asia Society (NYC), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), and for collaborative improvisations at Royal Festival Hall (London), Venice Biennale, Moers Festival (Germany) and many significant international festivals throughout the USA, Europe, Canada, Latin America, South America, Russia, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.


I found this wonderful cd released in 1993 on ?What Next? with the title KomunGuitar, in it are collected (next to two tracks in complete solitude) six duets with some of our favorite guitarists. In order: Elliott Sharp, Derek Bailey, Henry Kaiser, Eugene Chadbourne, Hans Reichel and David First. A series of meetings between opposites (as written in the cover notes): “man / woman, east / west, matter / spirit, fire / earth”. And, once again, the magic created by the creative encounter between different cultures unfolds its wings and hovers high like a hawk.

Here are eight inspired and free improvisations recorded in several locations around the world with exploration of “noise” articulation from very soft to very hard edges, relying on gesture rather than traditional melody, harmony or rhythm. On this record we can listen to: “Point” for komungo and electric komungo with Elliott Sharp on double-neck guitar bass and saxophone (Stainach, Austria, 1992); “Company” for komungo with Derek Baily on guitar (London, England, 1992); “Yongary Meets Big Foot” for komungo with Henry Kaiser on electric guitar (San Francisco and New York, 1993); “Naby,” a komungo solo (Santa Fe, 1991); “Howdy Partner” with Eugene Chadbourne on banjo (Zurich, 1991); “Yellow Seed,” a komungo solo (New York City (1992); “Gut Morgen” komungo with Hans Reichel on electric guitar (Berlin, 1993); “Slow View Picnic” for electric komungo with David First on electric guitar (New York City, 1992). This record is not your usual East/West melange or world music band. It’s a real “ousider” project, but please, listen to it, there are so many things to learn.