London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Hyelim Kim on actualising musical tradition – this week’s SOAS seminar

The first of four public seminars at SOAS this month features taegŭm player Hyelim Kim:

Actualising Musical Tradition: Performance-as-Research on the Korean flute, taegŭm

Dr Hyelim Kim (SOAS, University of London)
Date: 6 February 2015, 5:15 – 7:00 PM
Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Hyelim-KimThe taegŭm, a horizontal bamboo flute, is considered one of the most representative of Korea’s traditional instruments. Its many musical roles throughout a long history are complemented by its use in contemporary music. This paper explores how an instrument so full of history can be accepted as a tool for creating new music in the 21st Century, and how its sound-world and the techniques associated with it can be developed. I explore the creative processes of contemporary music making through a series of collaborations I have developed with musicians from Asian, electro-acoustic, jazz, and Western art music traditions. In such ‘intercultural performances’ (after Turner 1988), participants face, according to Richard Schechner (2003) a variety of issues regarding musical and social relationships around performance. Most significantly, I understand improvisation, as a compositional method which ‘encompasses a vast network of practices’ (Nettl, 1998: xi) which surround the complexity of musical communication. Focusing on one specific collaboration, I detail a project with the Australian electroacoustic composer, Leah Barclay. Through DVD and CD recordings, I illustrate an empirical approach to performance-as-research, looking at improvisation and collaborative composition in a way that recontextualises traditional Korean music in a contemporary and increasingly globalised world. Using Schechner as my theoretical model, I explore the resulting performance as a continuum provoking ecological dynamics framed in regard to the relationship between composer and performer, and between performer and audience.


Hyelim Kim is currently a post-doctoral associate at SOAS, University of London. She obtained her Ph.D in ethnomusicology from SOAS in 2014, where her dissertation was on the performance-as-research of Korean traditional music. Hyelim Kim has been engaged to teach at various universities both in England and Korea, including SOAS, Hanyang University and Kyungbuk National University. As well as the traditional music of Korea, Hyelim is interested in the modernisation of Korean culture, South Korean music, and theories of cultural nationalism and transformation.

As a composer and taegŭm soloist, Hyelim has been performing professionally since 2000 specialising in traditional repertoire and various cross-over genres. Her debut recording entitled ‘Nim: Hyelim Kim Taegŭm Collection’ released by Universal Music in 2013 includes traditional pieces together with new works, special commissions and her own composition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.