After studying piano and composition in her native Korea, Hyo-shin Na came to the U.S. in 1983 to do graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Colorado, where she received her doctorate. After moving to San Francisco in 1988, she met Cage, Rzewski, Wolff and Takahashi, and encountered the music of Nancarrow. At the same time, she made return trips to Korea to hear and study traditional Korean music while also taking a broad interest in the music of other regions of Asia.
Hyo-shin Na has written for western instruments, for traditional Korean instruments and has written music that combines western and Asian (Korean and Japanese) instruments and ways of playing. Her music for traditional Korean instruments is recognized by both composers and performers in Korea (particularly by the younger generation) as being uniquely innovative. Her writing for combinations of western and eastern instruments is unusual in its refusal to compromise the integrity of differing sounds and ideas; she prefers to let them interact, coexist and conflict in the music.
In Korea, she has twice been awarded the Korean National Composers Prize, and in the west she has been commissioned by the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations among many others. Her music has been played worldwide by ensembles as varied as the Barton Workshop, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Kronos Quartet, and the Korean Traditional Orchestra of the National Theatre. Portrait concerts, consisting solely of her music, have been presented in Amsterdam by the Barton Workshop (2006), in Seoul by JeonGaAkHoe (2009) and Buam Arts (2009), and at Texas A&M University (2007).
She is the author of the bilingual book Conversations with Kayageum Master Byung-ki Hwang (Pulbit Press, 2001) and the translator into Korean of Christian Wolff's article Experiments in Music around 1950 and Some Consequences and Causes Social-political and Musical (Soomoon-dang Press, 2011). Her music has been recorded on the Fontec (Japan), Top Arts (Korea),Seoul (Korea) and New World Records (US) labels and has been published in Korea and Australia. Since 2006 her music has been published exclusively by Lantro Music (Belgium).