K-drama OST Composers Interview | whatakdrama


Hello, I’m composer Kang Mimi Nice to meet you I’m Lee Aram I’m Lee Ruri Nice to meet you I met Mimi at a film music festival and studied together The three of us also studied together at a film music institution I started dreaming of becoming a film and drama composer in ninth grade I watched composer Lee Byung Woo’s ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ with friends at a theater Close to the end of film, the protagonist, played by Im Soo Jung, runs out and the music played in that scene was so impressive that it stayed with me I was so attracted When I realized how film music can touch lives, that’s when I became interested in film music and determined to do it whatever it takes We’ve all played it on the piano at the time It’s a beautiful song It’s called ‘Irreversible Steps’ You’ll recognize it when you listen You should check it out You won’t regret it After I became a music major in my sophomore year I watched ‘Seducing Mr. Perfect’ which was an okay film, but I loved the music The big band songs so much that I wanted to compose them By chance the following year I had an opportunity to learn from the music director of the film which attracted me even more to film music and I decided that’s what I wanted to do Usually I listen to folk music or bossa nova I’m the only one who studied classical music composition here so I listen to a lot of classical music Rock band called Kent was one of the recent favorites When I first started film composing I really liked this Spanish film composer, Alberto Iglesias, who inspired me to travel to Spain so I went and watched flamenco Composing soundtrack is actually different from regular pop songs that we listen to or a musician’s performances in nature It’s not a hero, first of all The music that we make is not a main character but it supports the film Regardless, it’s an indispensable component of film When people watch something, they don’t really listen to the music especially when they’re focused They might even say, ‘There was music playing in the background?’ People ignore music a lot of the times But music isn’t actually being ignored It’s helping people immerse themselves in the film Music may not be the protagonist but it makes the audience focus on the film efficiently as an assistant And I feel proud to be creating it Me too Right? When you watch a film and hear the soundtrack, they say that’s not a good film music For me, working in film music, it varies by teams In my team, we watch the film or read the scenario first to understand the film’s vibe The music director gives us a theme We sketch the music based on the theme which means we create freely using the given theme and vibe For instance, lyrically or romantically or comically We use the theme in different variations The director listens, puts them where they fit in the film When they’re approved, we arrange the songs more specifically That’s the workflow of my team The theme might have 2 to 3 sounds We might change it up a lot Or use it as is We might change only the chords or the melody a bit That’s how we create music with a theme In TV shows, we read the scenario or synopsis and we find tone and manner We understand the characters, scenes, or general vibe, And we brainstorm the music that would flow well Then we find the references using YouTube or you can suggest the songs you’ve heard and liked We gather the references and decide on the tone of the show Then we find out what music we need for each scene and we distribute the references for each We collaborate and work separately to complete the soundtrack When my team makes a K-drama soundtrack, we make 80% of the music in advance When each episode airs, we cut the pre-made music, set the in and out points and arrange accordingly That’s how we do it For K-dramas, the duration between working on the music and seeing it on screen is so short So sometimes we’re rushed, which can also happen in films For films, production period is much longer We have more opportunities to see the film while composing When we put the music together, the music director does a technical preview, watching the film as it would premiere in the theater, to find errors to edit back in the sound room We repeat this process a lot before the premiere Music can help set up a character in unexpected ways and move people, even subconsciously which helps create a character through music I have a funny story from work When I worked on ‘Rude Miss Young-Ae,’ there was a character called Mr. Cho He’s a vicious, stingy business owner, who’d get angry at his employers for being 5 minutes late The audience hated him to the point of saying he’s “carcinogenic” If his theme song reaffirmed his unpleasant character, the audience would be too annoyed to watch him So up until the show’s premiere, we were concerned about Mr. Cho So we put marching drum beats to avoid him from appearing scary or annoying in all seriousness We deliberately made his music sound ridiculous So even when he did something mean, because he was also softhearted, music balanced out his personality We put happy trumpet sounds or silly percussions on purpose to alleviate his problems I recently worked on the tvN drama ‘Mother’ To rescue a young girl from child abuse, her substitute teacher decides to become her mother and kidnaps the child The title ‘Mother’ tells it all The non-biological mother can fully love the child and feel the maternal affection It was a well-made drama that showed the characters’ wounds, unspeakable sadness, and love for one another When I worked on the ‘Mother’ soundtrack, depending which mother or which character’s emotions we were portraying, the songs had to be different bit by bit, which was our priority I discussed this in length with director and teammates Most characters are women Our main concern was how to distinguish the subtle differences in these women and show that in music We published the ‘Mother’ OST online They sound similar but have slightly different colors which is something we had to think long and hard about when we produced the music and gave the characters their personalities To me, it would be remembered as one of my top dramas Most recently, I did ‘Be With You,’ ‘Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds’ and a few other movies ‘Along with the Gods’ was especially memorable The staff members united with the actors We were all touched by the story, which made my job easier Plus the film was a commercial success Some of my recent works are on air, but most haven’t aired yet For dramas I’m doing a morning one called ‘Backflow’ A new film ‘Negotiation’ will be out soon starring Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin I’m also working on ‘A Strange Family’ It’s a zombie film, but also a comical family movie tvN’s ‘Lawless Lawyer,’ scheduled to air in May, is another one I’m working on I’m working on the new tvN drama after ‘Mother’ called ‘My Mister’ starring IU I think she’s challenging herself with a new character The soundtrack isn’t in your face Rather we’ve effectively placed it at the right places, which was our concept We didn’t put a lot of music, but where we placed it, it was absolutely necessary, which might make the music stand out a bit more It’s calm and simple I think the music will help you get into this drama We’re a post-production team, which means we don’t work on the filming set So we don’t have a lot of opportunities to meet the actors But I’m getting better at asking for photographs At first I was like, ‘What should I do?’ But I’ve become so smooth, I approach them and say, Hello, I’m so-and-so from the music team Is it cool to take a selfie with you? For me, it’s the actors I love seeing them ‘Who did you like the best?’ I… I really like actor Yoo Seung Ho Last winter I worked on ‘I’m Not A Robot’ and went to the afterparty earlier this year He’s so polite and so kind that I was so touched K-drama afterparties aren’t just where you eat and drink You watch the last episode together with the actors and staff members on the big screen It’s more fun than watching alone At last when the ending credits roll up, we say thanks, clap, hug, shake hands, and take photos It makes me think I’ve worked so hard with these people for months I feel so proud and I love going to afterparties because of this The afterparty is for the actors, of course, but also for the staff members, who’ve been invisible, working behind the scenes It’s common to see the actors cry because they haven’t gotten out of their roles yet It’s a pretty sight The actors probably have a harder time than us because they’ve lived as their characters for months at a time It’s interesting to see those things at the party When the scenes I worked on turn out nice, I feel proud When I realize the audience feel the same way I do about my work, I feel proud as well It might be beside the point when the songs we participate get published, they’re used on reality and variety shows very often I hear a lot of Aram and Ruri’s songs on TV I was eating with Ruri and I was like, ‘You’re song’s on,’ and you were like, Oh yeah, that’s right I feel the most proud when family and friends say I enjoyed watching it because of you I like it when my family likes it My mom used to have my song as her ringtone Before that she didn’t really know the songs I’d written but after she’d changed the ringtone, she told me how she thought she’d gotten a call when they were playing my music on TV After that she was like, ‘Aram, they play your song a lot on TV’ That was funny and I felt proud Teamwork is so important for this job You can’t stand out or get behind You need to have a wide spectrum, be flexible, work fast enough to match the theme, and create the songs that fit the scenes You can do music if that’s what you want If you want to do film music, you need to build your senses around realizing stuff like, they use music in a certain way in this type of scene If you knew these things prior to starting out it could be easier for you It would be the best to enjoy watching a lot of films and dramas Listening to a variety of music without bias would help a lot Enjoy it I hope this interview would help you enjoy K-dramas even more, and become another source of fun, realizing these people worked on K-drama OSTs If you would remember just once that there are people working behind the scenes and think of us while enjoying the dramas, it would cheer us up and make us proud as film and K-drama composers Fighting!