University of Pittsburgh

Songlines Praises Hee-sun Kim’s Book on Contemporary Kayagŭm Performance

Hee-sun Kim's (PhD 2004, ethnomusicology) Contemporary Kayagŭm Music in Korea offers the first book-length account of a new musical genre developed in post-war South Korea for kayagŭm, a traditional 12-stringed long board zither. The book examines the process by which a traditional instrument has become a vessel for the expression of new ideas concerning modernity, tradition and identity by examining history and relationships among composition, performance and representation. At the same time, Hee-sun Kim shows how, for kayagŭm practitioners, producing and performing new music has become a means of artistic survival and lately, of social distinction and success. Contemporary Kayagŭm Music in Korea deals with musical sound, the meaning of performance, aesthetics in specific social contexts, and interactions among people. Most importantly the book aims to answer the question of why people make music in a given society at specific times. The book, which is accompanied by an audio CD of representative kayagŭm repertoires, offers unique perspective on music and society in contemporary Korea, which will be of importance to students of Ethnomusicology, Korean music, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies as well as Korean studies. Contemporary Kayagŭm Music in Korea received a four-star review in the the March 2009 issue of world music periodical Songlines. Keith Howard praises many aspects of the book saying,

"…this book, supplemented by an excellent CD (the author is the performer on several tracks), gives us the needed insight. On the whole, this is easily accessible, well illustrated (with some rare photographs) and sensibly constructed…"

Dr. Hee-sun Kim is adjunct professor of graduate school of education at the Kookmin University and a research fellow at Asian Music Institute, Seoul National University. Kim received her BA and MA in Korean music from Seoul National University and PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh, and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Asian Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Her publications include “Pungnyu: Classical Instrumental Music,” “Socio-cultural Meaning of Ethnic Instruments in Contemporary Singapore,” “Music for Distinction: Negotiating Identities in Modern Kayagŭm Performance,” “Musical Representation of Nationalism in Contemporary South Korea,” “Hwang Byung-ki and Contemporary Kayagŭm,” “Socio-cultural Landscape of Contemporary South Korea and Performance of New Kayagŭm music,” “Creating New Instrument, Changing Aesthetics: Newly Modified Kayagŭm in South Korea,” and "Modification Process and Historical Development of Zheng, Koto and Kayagŭm in East Asia." As a practitioner of Korean kayagŭm, she has performed in the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe as well as Korea.

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