ListN Up Playlist: DoYeon Kim (September 7, 2023)

ListN Up is a series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

DoYeon Kim is a virtuoso of the Korean zither. Traditionally trained, she has since risen to international acclaim for her free jazz improvisation. Her 2017 album Gapi received a Korean Grammy nomination, recognized her as one of Seven Musicians Pushing Ancient Asian Instruments into the Future (2021). She is currently performing projects at Roulette as a 2023 Van Lier Fellow.

Hello my name is DoYeon Kim. I’m a gayageum [Korean zither] player, composer and improviser. I grew up in South Korea and I’m trained in Korean traditional music. I want to share my musical journey with you through this playlist: my musical foundation and influences, and how I’ve developed a new approach. I hope this music also inspires you. Please enjoy my playlist! Thank you. Bye!

“Sinawe” by Kim So Hee

People often ask me “what is Korean traditional music?” and “what is the attraction of it?” This first song is an example of Sinawe music by Kim So Hee. She has a very powerful voice, and the rhythmic beat organically stretches and shortens throughout the piece. It’s marvelous.

“Sanjo” by Kim Juk-Pa, performed by Mun Kyunga

The lineage of traditional folk music in Korea dates back over a millennia, and connects me to a deep ancestral history. Sanjo, a relatively new traditional style invented in the early 19th century, features “scattered melodies.” These works were originally improvised and survive today as transcriptions of performances by the masters. Kim Juk-Pa’s Sanjo reveals an intimate and feminine approach that touches on the grief she experienced in her life.

“Skanu Mezs 2014” by Okkyung Lee

The world of improvisation was new to me in 2014, when I moved to Boston from Korea. Okkyung’s improvisation particularly impacted me, and elicited many new feelings in me that I could not explain in words. Her cello improvisations reveal a deep connection to the instrument, and a unique improvisational language. It’s simply beyond everything — I really admire her.

“Awakening” by DoYeon Kim

I began to experiment using a bow on the gayageum to both sustain and pluck notes at the same time, in order to expand my improvisational musical language. This piece was recorded during that exploratory phase. I hope you enjoy it!

“Drip” by Tigran Hamasyan

Tigran has developed an integrated style that blends his individuality with musical tradition in a way that far exceeds the typical “fusion” paradigm. This kind of musical depth is rare, but beautiful.

“Gagaku” by Steve Lehman

Steve’s epigynous approach to music is on full display in this piece, which mixes together hip hop, jazz and gagaku genres. It is as if he is a chef cooking a musical stew, bringing in disparate musical languages on their own terms to add flavor.

“From me to me” by DoYeon Kim

This piece is inspired by the concept of “rebirth,” and is conceptualized in three parts: the past, symbolized by waves; the present, represented by the artwork scenes; and the future, symbolized by the scenes of floating objects. From a personal perspective, I perceive an evolution of the balance between different aspects of my life. These aspects continually change, just as the different items of artwork change, which speaks to an inherent uncertainty about one’s life in the future.


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