Original soundtrack composers Kang Mimi, Lee Aram and Lee Ruri have an extensive list of K-dramas and films under their belts such as “My Mister,” “Mother (a.k.a. Call Me Mother),” “I’m Not A Robot,” “She Was Pretty,” “The Battleship Island” and “Let’s Fight Ghost” to name a few. Start the video above to hear why they decided to become screen composers, how they create film and K-drama OSTs, what’s it like meeting the actors IRL and who their favorite Korean actors are!
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Mimi, Aram and Ruri first met as students wanting to compose K-drama and film scores. Ruri recalls she wanted to compose film music when she first realized how it can touch lives. “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 (Im Soo Jung) runs out, and the music in that scene was so impressive that it stayed with me,” Ruri said.
Aram had a similar story. “When I first started film composing, I really liked Spanish film composer Alberto Iglesias. He inspired me to travel to Spain and watch flamenco,” she shared.
How do they create K-drama OSTs?
Original soundtracks are a totally different musical genre from pop or any other performances. “The music we make is not a main character but a supporting character. Regardless, it’s an indispensable component of film,” Ruri explains, adding that music helps people focus on the film.
So how do they create film scores? Mimi, who’s worked mostly on film music as opposed to K-drama OSTs, lays it out for us. “In my team, we watch the film or read the scenario first to understand the film’s vibe,” Mimi explains. “Then the music director gives us a theme,” which can only have two to three sounds or chord progressions. The composers then “sketch the music based on the theme, which means we create freely using the given theme and vibe, for instance, lyrically, romantically, or comically,” Mimi says. They use these different variations within the theme in different parts of the film to evoke specific emotions.
Ruri says her K-drama soundtrack team creates 80% of the music in advance. This is to give themselves enough time to cut and arrange the pre-made music accordingly for each episode.
When asked about creating music for specific characters, Mimi said, “Music can help set up a character in unexpected ways and move people, even subconsciously, which helps create a character through music.”
Ruri has recently finished working on “Call Me Mother” and is currently composing the background music for “My Mister” starring IU. “When I worked on ‘Call Me Mother’s’ soundtrack, depending which mother or which character’s emotions we were portraying, we made the song sound different bit by bit,” Ruri recalls. “Most characters are women. Our main concern was how to distinguish the subtle differences in these women and show that in music.”
Ruri gave us helpful pointers on enjoying this upcoming drama even more. “The soundtrack isn’t in your face. Our concept was to be economical and place music only where it belonged. We didn’t add a lot of music. But where we placed it, it was absolutely necessary. This made the music stand out a bit more than usual. It’s calm and simple,” She explained, adding that she hopes the music will help you get into “My Mister.”
What is it like meeting the actors IRL?
The K-drama composers don’t work on the filming set, so they don’t get to see the actors a lot. Except at the afterparties, where they can leave a big impression. Mimi loves actor Ha Jung Woo of “Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds” and Ruri’s favorite was Yoo Seung Ho of “I’m Not A Robot.” Ruri says she was blown away by Seung Ho’s kindness when she saw him in person at the “I’m Not A Robot” afterparty.
It’s “common to see the actors cry (at an afterparty),” Aram says. “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.”
Aram, Mimi and Ruri hope you’d enjoy K-dramas even more now that you’ve learned about K-drama OSTs. Ruri says, “If you would remember for 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 film and K-drama composers. Fighting!”
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You can read the full excerpts from this interview here.
What do you think of this interview? Which K-drama OSTs are your favorites? Please comment below!