Seolhee Snow Kim is an accomplished composer currently pursuing graduate studies at the University of Kansas. She writes music for a variety of ensembles with an aim to represent the inspiration she finds in art, nature, and the world we live in. We are delighted to share some of her music and this interview, where she talks about what inspires her and how she creates.
Please introduce yourself and describe your music for new listeners.
Hi! I am Snow Kim, a composer. I am originally from South Korea and currently pursuing my doctoral degree at the University of Kansas. I have focused on representing the inspiration I find in arts, nature, life, and the world we live in. Usually, my music starts from a melody or harmonies with an image that the inspiration gives me. I always think about my listeners and hope my music tells something to listeners. It is not about listeners feeling the same as me; instead, I wish my music to touch individual listeners' minds in a way.
What brought you to this area and the University of Kansas?
A few years ago, I met Dr. Ingrid Stölzel at LunArt Festival, an annual event in Madison, Wisconsin. I participated in the festival as a member of their emerging composers' program. Dr. Stölzel was a call for scores winner, and she came to the concert for the emerging composer's program. During the reception, I had a chance to talk with her, and later, I got to listen to her music, and from that moment, her music has been on my playlist all the time. I so much wanted to study with her, and now I am here!
After I came to the US, my experience had been only on the East Coast, and it has been an incredible year in Lawrence. I love this lovely small college town so much.
You've said that you find inspiration in art and nature. Can you tell us more about what inspires you, and how that turns into music?
I love arts and nature. I often go to a local museum and travel to go to a museum whenever I can, and I take some pictures whenever I get to see beautiful scenery such as sunset, waves on the sea, a mountain covered with mist, etc. There are always several artworks that catch my eye and make me think about the story behind the artworks. Then the story turns into an image that keeps me thinking during my composition. Once I have a clear vision, the sound comes to my ear.
What is your composition process like?
I could imagine the sound once I had a clear image or story for a piece. After that, it is a process to make the sound into a musical medium, such as melodies, harmonies, textures, and structure that allows it to live beyond my imagination so that it becomes music to be heard by listeners.
Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you're excited about?
I am working on a piece for oboe, violin, and piano commissioned by the KU faculty trio NAVO. The piece is about a female novel writer who has been forgotten. Her name is Kim, Myungsoon (1896-1951), nom de plume, “Tansil.” The time when she was active was tough for a woman to have a professional career in Korea. She was bright and a very much talented writer, but her talent became an object to be attacked by male contemporary writers. Her works were underestimated because of false beliefs about her, and she got a mental disease and never returned to her life again. Her works were also forgotten. However, young female writers in Korea recently began discovering and re-valuing Myungsoon’s works.
After I learned about her life and work, I wished to write music about her. I am so excited to work with NAVO and write a piece about her. The piece will be completed during the Summer or by early Fall.
What music are you loving right now?
I have recently listened to Bach, Chopin, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Jennifer Higdon.
Recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
Those works made me think about the world and the society we live in deeply.
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Greek Lessons by Han Kang
Moon Pops by Paek Hŭi-na
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A Tribute to Ryuichi Sakamoto by Ryuichi Sakamoto