Epsilon Spires to host performance of Jin Hi Kim’s ‘Ritual for COVID-19’

BRATTLEBORO — The virtuoso composer and Guggenheim Fellow Jin Hi Kim will present her multimedia performance piece, Ritual for COVID-19, at Epsilon Spires on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 8 p.m.

Inspired by elements of the Korean shaman ritual of the dead, called ssitkimkut, Kim developed Ritual for COVID-19 as a way to “collectively grieve the losses experienced during the pandemic and purify the spirits of the deceased,” according to a news release.

During the ritual, Kim will sing in the traditional kagok style, use a suspended barrel drum called a buk, and play the world's only electric kŏmungo, an ancient Korean stringed instrument similar to a zither.

Kim will also play her “virtual kumongobot,” an algorithmic computer program controlled by a laptop and MIDI pedal that she has been developing since the late 1990s.

“The interactive performance incorporates the projection of hundreds of pandemic-related images, which will be processed into sound by the kumongobot, as well as members of the audience humming and playing singing bowls,” the event organizers describe.

“The central action of the ritual involves a processional and the unfurling of a long, knotted white cloth, with the untangling of each knot symbolizing the release of pain, agony, sorrow, and trauma.”

Part of the trauma that the ritual is designed to purify is that resulting from the wave of anti-Asian hate created by the pandemic. In an Oct. 12 interview with San Francisco Classical Voice, Kim says that “in the Asian tradition, music always functions for healing problems, especially social problems. It is a kind of therapeutic performance for so many people in the face of community pain.”

Kim has previously performed her own compositions as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and around the world. Her work has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and she is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Fulbright to Vietnam in 2017 and a residency with avant-garde musician John Cage.

Ritual for COVID-19 was created with media artist Benton C Bainbrdige and videographer Dustin DeMilio.

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