Classical music is reused and reinvented in K-dramas
Korean dramas use classical music to add drama. The ongoing tvN drama “The Devil Judge” and the Netflix original “Move to Heaven” as well as the already completed tvN drama “Vincenzo” are some of the dramas that have explored the use of classical music.
What they do is more than just use what’s already there. Theater teams work with musicians to rearrange existing music to suit their style and record music with international orchestras.
In tvN’s “The Devil Judge”, musical director Jung Se-rin rearranged Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concert No. 2 into three steps so that the music could work better with a scene where the actors dance the waltz.
“We chose the music because the particular tune brings out more mysterious emotions with strong tunes than other regular waltz music,” the director said. “It was used as the theme song for Judge Kang Yo-han in the drama whenever he has a new plan. So we wanted to rearrange the same music in many different versions to play it continuously over and over again. ”
This particular song was recorded by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
In the fourth episode where Minister Cha Gyeong-hee is dying at the idea of punishing her son, the drama plays Erik Satie’s “Gnossians”.
“The music brings the drama to life to show the political ambition of the minister as well as the love she has for her son, and the fear coming from the son when he is dragged to the place for his punishment and the strange atmosphere felt there, ”Jung said.
“Music that is very new and unfamiliar doesn’t have much of an impact on home audiences, and music that is widely known no longer provides entertainment.
“Music that makes it look like they might have heard it somewhere before but can’t remember its title is what we use to match the scenes we show in the drama well, so that the music can convey all the mood we want to show. ”
Some other dramas use existing songs with already established imagery to make certain scenes more entertaining. In JTBC’s “Nevertheless”, Chopin Etude Op. 25 No. 9 “Butterfly” is performed for the scene where a boyfriend from the time of the main character Nabi, which means butterfly in Korean, holds an exhibition with a work of art. art bearing his name which insinuates the naked body of a woman.
“Nevertheless” music director Kim Tae-seong said the song used for the exhibit scene helps set the awkward mood when Nabi is surprised by the artwork and her nonchalant ex-boyfriend.
“Music creates even more extreme emotions when you learn the title of the music,” Kim said.
In SBS’s “Penthouse,” the character Cheon Seo-jin plays Listz’s Transcendent Studies # 4 “Mazeppa,” which deals with adultery, to hint at how the story will unfold. In JTBC’s “Sky Castle”, the theme song for Kim Ju-yeong’s character was Schubert’s Erlkönig, who is about an evil force chasing children.
Sometimes classical music is used as a prop to make a drama humorous. In tvN’s “Vincenzo” Bach’s “Chaconne” is used in the scene where the main character Vincenzo, played by Song Joong-ki, kills members of the Italian Mafia and escapes, adding a grand element. Later, the same music is used for about 10 seconds in scenes involving Vincenzo, adding a somewhat comical element.
The music from the opera “Cavalleria Rusticana”, which was used in the drama’s first scene, helped create an Italian vibe, where the drama takes place, but it was also used to make the local audience laugh. When Vincenzo returned to Korea and took a shower in his old house, the water kept stopping and returning. The music, along with the rhythm of the water stopping and starting, stops and plays over and over again.
“Overall, people are paying more attention to the importance of directing, and the quality of music performed in dramas is also increasing,” said pop culture critic Jeong Deok-hyun.
Another pop culture critic, Ha Jae-keun, said that TV series these days use techniques that make scenes look more like those seen frequently in movies – a style that goes well with it. classical music.
As budgets for making television series increase, more and more investment is made in choosing which music to broadcast. Netflix has announced that it will invest 550 billion ($ 480 million) in the creation of local content in Korea.
“To improve the overall quality of drama, the importance of music has also increased,” said a tvN official.
“Although our investments in music have not increased as much as the overall budget increases, they have increased a lot. ”
But even with the more frequent use of classical music in dramas, few local musicians or orchestras are interested in making music for television. This is one of the reasons why the team of “The Devil Judge” had to ask the Czech orchestra to record the music.
“If local artists are more involved in music for films or dramas, maybe we can have musicians like John Williams or Joe Hisaishi” more often, Pop culture critic Han Jeong-ho said, adding that the Korea has yet to see many classical musicians working on pop culture related projects.
“So far the investment in such music for TV work has been minimal, so local musicians haven’t paid much attention to these areas, but with more investment along the way, we can expect to see better quality music in such TV series. . ”
BY KIM JEONG-YEON [email@example.com]