Earl Kim

  • Earl Kim was born on January 6th, 1920, 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. He had a long and active career as a composer and teacher, and was James Edward Ditson Professor of Music, Emeritus, at Harvard University, where he taught from 1967 to 1990. Prior to his appointment at Harvard, he taught for 15 years at Princeton University.

    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 in 1994, where Kim also lectured on the subject “Setting Beckett” and participated in the “Beckett and Music” panel.

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

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    144-40238 Twelve Caprices for Solo Violin
    14:00 Violin
    Voice and Ensemble
    11330 Exercises en Route
    For Soprano Voice (Singer-Narrator) and Chamber Ensemble
    25:00 Sop. Fl./Picc. Ob. Cl. Vln. Vcl. 3Perc.
    141-40036 Now and Then
    For Soprano, Flute, Harp, and Viola
    8:00 Voice with Instrument
    141-40037 Scenes From A Movie, Part 1
    “The Seventh Dream”
    Voice and Instrument
    141-40034 Three Poems In French
    For Soprano and String Quartet
    13:00 Voice with Instrument
    12121 Where Grief Slumbers
    16:00 Soprano, Harp and String Orchestra (Chamber Version for Soprano, Harp and String Octet)
    342-40162 Some Thoughts On Keats and Coleridge
    For Unaccompanied Voices
    9:00 SATB
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    23591 Dialogues
    for Piano and Orchestra
    11:00 Solo Pno.; 2(2 dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; 2Perc. Str.
    12120 Violin Concerto
    22:00 Solo Vln.; 3(Picc.) 2 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 3 3 3 0; Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    16708 Footfalls
    Libretto by the composer, after the play by Samuel Beckett.
    23:00 2Pno. Hpscd.

  • …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

    … 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

    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


    …spare, inspired text setting. Even without its horrific backstory, Kim’s trenchant work takes on significant power from texts from Chekhov (“The Seagull”), Beckett, and Yeats (“The Tower”).
    –Susan Miron, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

    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

    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

    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

  • Violin Concerto/Dialogues/Cornet VIOLIN CONCERTO/DIALOGUES/CORNET
    Naxos (8.559226); July 1, 2005
    Performer(s): Cecylia Arzewski, Violin; RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Scott Yoo, Conductor
    Work(s): Violin Concerto
    Earl Kim EARL KIM
    New World Records (80561); April 1, 2001
    Performer(s): Benita Valente, soprano; Karol Bennett, soprano; Eva Kim, narrator; Metamorphosen Chamber Ensemble, Scott Yoo, director
    Work(s): Exercises en Route
    Now and Then
    Three Poems In French
    The Girl with the Orange Lips THE GIRL WITH THE ORANGE LIPS
    Nonesuch Records (9 79262-2); August 2, 1991
    Performer(s): Dawn Upshaw, soprano; Bruce Coppock, Eric Bartlett, cello; Thomas Hill, Mitchell Weiss, clarinet; Fenwick Smith, Laura Gilbert, flute; Barbara Allen, harp; Marcia Butler, oboe; Randall Hodgkinson, pia…
    Work(s): Where Grief Slumbers

  • Fromm Foundation commission
    Koussevitzky Foundation commission
    Naumburg Foundation commission
    University of Chicago commission
    Boston University commission
    Ingram Merrill grant
    Guggenheim Foundation grant
    National Endowment for the Arts grant
    Prix de Paris
    National Institute of Arts and Letters award
    Brandeis Creative Arts Medal
    Mark Horblitt Award of the Boston Symphony

  • Exercises en Route
    for Soprano Voice and Chamber Ensemble
    Chamber Opera in One Act
    Violin Concerto
    Where Grief Slumbers
    for Soprano, Harp, and String Orchestra