Korean Traditional Music Lecture


Korean traditional music lectures by Jin Hi Kim have been successfully presented at over 200 universities in the USA including Wesleyan University, Cornell University, Yale University, Duke University, Indiana University, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory, California Institute of the Arts, University of Minnesota, University of California San Diego, and University of Michigan. Ms. Kim was the Freeman Artist–In–Residence at Cornell University for the fall semester 2004, for which she gave a course entitled, “Korean Music in a Global Context”.


Booking Korean Traditional Music Lecture & Concert (PDF)

Jin Hi Kim with Korean barrel drums © David Ryan


Korean Music

Korean traditional music has been evolving for over 2000 years, and it is now rapidly moving in many directions with contemporary life and influence from Western culture. Traditional Korean music has three basic styles: court music, folk music, and ritual (Confucianism. Buddhism and Shamanism). Within each of these areas there was a great deal of variety including vocal music, various size ensembles, drumming groups, and solo music. Historically Korean music was integrated with dance, literature, art, song and ceremony. Therefore, music (sound) was not separated from other elements.

A revolution of Korean music occurred in the late 19th century, when two new forms were created: Pansori, an epic drama song and Sanjo, a solo improvisatory instrumental form. Finally, through these new solo forms, the individual expressivity and freedom in Korean music began to be recognized. This was a dramatic change in a culture that valued group activity and to a large degree suppressed individuality. This emerging improvising legacy was similar to early American jazz.

Korean Music was severely impacted during the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) and subsequently by the Korean War. During the Japanese occupation the Korean Yi dynasty court was completely demolished and leading master musicians lost their freedom. After the Korean War, European classical music was fondly embraced and began to overpower the ancient Korean music. In the 1970's, influenced by the Western classical orchestra music, a new repertoire for the traditional Korean music orchestra emerged and became a sensation with audiences.

Meanwhile the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts (NCKTPA) in Seoul worked to preserve the late 19th century Yi dynasty court and folk music and dance. Fortunately, this repertoire still can be heard and seen today. There are many universities that teach Korean traditional music in Korea. NCKTPA has been touring traditional performing arts worldwide with support from the government, foundations and corporations. Over the years, many great performances have been presented throughout the United States with leading virtuosi.

Jongmyo Shrine Ceremony

Despite the promotion of Korean traditional music on national radio and TV broadcasting, newly created Korean ensembles and bands are successfully beginning to dominate the national music scene. In 21st century, as the society changes Korean music is changing also with differing values of popular culture brought in through recordings, film, and of course the internet. Young musicians go beyond the traditional music and are developing a new repertoire that mixes Western instruments or electronics with various traditional instruments. In contrast to the past, as Korea has entered into instant global communication, more individual music is constantly produced in various styles.

Jin Hi Kim, a renowned Korean music virtuoso, has devoted her life to introducing Korean music outside of Korea. Kim’s komungo (Korean fourth century fretted board zither) music is deeply rooted in Korean tradition and represents an evolution of the instrument into the twenty first century.

The komungo is a string instrument indigenous to Korea that originated in the fourth century. The six-stringed zither was traditionally performed by male Confucian scholars for their meditation and was mainly used in the court music orchestra and kagok ensemble for the performance of aristocratic lyric songs. The komungo has always been the primary instrument in the court orchestra; however, it was not a solo instrument. Approximately one hundred years ago two styles of komungo sanjo, derived from Shamanistic music tradition, were improvised with a series of rhythmic cycles by Sin Kwe-dong and Han Gap-duk. This sanjo is the first and only significant komungo solo repertoire.

In addition to her primary instrument, the komungo, she also performs Korean percussion instruments such as janggo (hour glass shaped drum) and barrel drum set consisting of three to five highly ornate suspended barrel drums. The barrel drums were used in Korean traditional dance pieces, in which a dancer also plays the drums with vigorous rhythmic patterns. The drum solo is derived from the Buddhist monk’s drumming on a large barrel drum for meditation and enlightenment.

The international awareness of Korean music in the past twenty-five years has arguably been in part due to the world-wide touring, performing and appearances of Jin Hi Kim. She has brought a deeper understanding of the universality of Korean music through her relentless work around the world. Jin Hi Kim, a renowned komungo virtuoso, has performed on main stages world-wide including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), Royal Festival Hall (London), Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), and various international festivals.

Kagok Lyric Song Ensemble Shaman Ritural Kut