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Earl Kim was born in Dinuba, California, the third son of immigrant Korean parents. He was educated at Los Angeles City College, the University of California-Los Angeles, and Harvard University. His principal teachers included Arnold Schoenberg, Ernest Bloch and Roger Sessions.

Throughout his career, Mr. Kim received considerable recognition as a composer, including commissions from the Fromm, Koussevitzky and Naumburg Foundations, from the University of Chicago and Boston University, from individuals and performing organizations; grants from the Ingram Merrill and Guggenheim Foundations and from the National Endowment for the Arts; and awards including the Prix de Paris, National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, Brandeis Creative Arts Medal and the Mark Horblitt Award of the Boston Symphony.

Mr. Kim served terms as Composer-in-Residence at the Princeton Seminar in Advanced Musical Studies and at the Marlboro, Dartmouth, Tanglewood, Cape and Islands, and Aspen Music Festivals. In addition to his work as a composer and teacher, he was active as a pianist (including lieder recitals with Bethany Beardslee, Benita Valente and Dawn Upshaw), vocal coach and conductor, and was a co-founder and past president of Musicians Against Nuclear Arms.

Mr. Kim is especially well-known for his extensive work in the idiom of music theatre, specifically on texts by Samuel Beckett. Representative works include Exercises en Route, which has been performed by artists such as Benita Valente, who has performed it throughout the United States in both its concert and theatre versions, and Narratives, premiered by Irene Worth and the Ariel Chamber Ensemble. Eh Joe and the one-act opera Footfalls were presented at the Second International Samuel Beckett Festival in The Hague, where Kim also lectured on the subject "Setting Beckett" and participated in the "Beckett and Music" panel.

Earl Kim died of lung cancer at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday, 19th November, 1998, at the age of 78.

View scores here (roll over to view score title):


Choral and Vocal | Instrumental Solos | Orchestra | Vocal and Choral

Choral and Vocal

Where Grief Slumbers (1982) -- 16'30"
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: Benita Valente, M. Gielen conducting, Cincinnati Symphony; 1986
Additional Information: Texts by Apollinaire and Rimbaud

Available Separately:

Full Score - Large (#444-41024)

Instrumental Solos

12 Caprices for Solo Violin (1980) -- 14'
Published: #144-40238
Premiere Information: I. Perlman; Avery Fisher Hall, New York; 1982


Violin Concerto (1979) -- 22'
Solo Vln.; 3(Picc.) 2 3(B.Cl.) 2-3 3 3 0; Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: New York Philharmonic, I. Perlman, violin, Zubin Mehta, conductor; Avery Fisher Hall, New York; 1979

Vocal and Choral

Eh, Joe A Television Play (1974) -- 22'
Woman’s Voice; 2Vln. Vcl. 2Tpt. A.Tbn.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: L. Smith and Earl Kim, Cambridge, 1975

Exercises en route for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble (1971) -- 25'
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: Music theatre version: Benita Valente and Earl Kim; Sanders Theatre, Cambridge; 1971. Concert version: Benita Valente, Earl Kim, Marlboro Players; Marlboro, VT; 1982
Additional Information: Text by Samuel Beckett

Footfalls Opera in One Act (1981) -- 23'
Sop., Mezzo-sop.; 2 Pno., Hpschd.
Available from the Presser Rental Library
Premiere Information: L. Johnson; Cincinnati Conservatory; 1985
Additional Information: Libretto by the composer, after the play by Samuel Beckett

Letters Found Near a Suicide for Baritone and Piano (1954)
Published: #491-00468
Premiere Information: C. Bressler and Earl Kim; Princeton; 1954
Additional Information: Text by F. Horne

Now and Then for Soprano, Flute, Harp and Viola (1981) -- 8'
Published: #141-40036
Commission Information: Department of Music of the University of Chicago
Premiere Information: Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players, Elsa Charleston, soprano, Ralph Shapey, conductor; Chicago, IL; January 22, 1982
Additional Information: Texts by Chekov, Beckett, Yeats

Available Separately:

Full Score - Large (#141-40036S)

Scenes from a Movie, Part 1 "The Seventh Dream" (1986) -- 16'
Soprano, Baritone; Vln. Vcl. Pno.
Published: #141-40037
Premiere Information: Boston Choral Music Society, Dawn Upshaw, soprano, C. Trakas, conductor; Cambridge; 1987
Additional Information: Text by Rilke

Available Separately:

Set of parts (#141-40037P)
Full Score - Large (#141-40037S)

Some Thoughts on Keats and Coleridge for SATB Voice, a cappella (1990)
Published: #342-40162
Premiere Information: New England Conservatory; 1990

Three Poems in French for Soprano and String Quartet (1989) -- 13'
Published: #141-40034
Premiere Information: Dawn Upshaw and the Lydian Quartet, 1990
Additional Information: Texts by Verlaine, Baudelaire

Available Separately:

Set of parts (#141-40034P)
Full Score - Large (#141-40034S)


Violin Concerto

Naxos Records NAXOS 8.559226: Violin Concerto/Dialogues/Cornet
Cecylia Arzewski, Violin; RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Scott Yoo, Conductor

Where Grief Slumbers

Nonesuch Records 9.79262-2: The Girl with the Orange Lips


"…a composer whose music valued economy, precision and quietude, and who was an important mentor to younger composers during a 23-year career at Harvard University."

-Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

Three Poems in French for Soprano and String Quartet

"While many have wanted to write French songs and to ‘enter the world of Debussy.’ few have the ear and the mastery of Mr. Kim, whose settings of familiar poems formed a beautiful and quite fitting conclusion to a rather special evening of music."

-The Music Connoisseur

Now and Then for Soprano, Flute, Harp and Viola

"But the master at calligraphic vocal writing was Earl Kim…whose Now and Then for soprano and viola/flute/harp trio was performed; this is music of inner-directed beauty and stunning economy of gesture."

-Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

Exercises en route for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble

"… Kim did the actor’s job, weighing every word exactly and exquisitely."

-Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

"The music perfectly captures denial and acceptance, the amused emotional distance and shocking emotional directness that is the contradictory heart of Beckett…"

-Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

Violin Concerto

"The Violin Concerto is a real gem… there are extended passages in the music of such mesmerizing beauty that you will be transfixed… If you don';t know this concerto, you must."

-Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

"…I must say how much I enjoyed making the acquaintance of Earl Kim’s Violin Concerto… It seems to cultivate tranquility and repose rather than the cut-and-thrust of the clasical-romantic concerto…leaves one wanting to explore other works by this composer."

-Robert Layton, Gramophone

Where Grief Slumbers

"A major cycle by Earl Kim…[it] plays upon [Ravel’s] elegance, its passions encoded in a contemporary idiom that sustain the human voice."

-Lesley Valdes, Philadelphia Inquirer