Guest Post: Original music inspired by It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Today we have a very special guest post by our very own Snow Flower, everyone! 😀

If you know Snow Flower, you might know that she’s a drama fan who’s passionate not just about her shows, but about music too. I learned some time ago that she plays music, but I did not realize that she writes music as well – until she asked if I’d like to share her original IOTNBO-inspired music with my IOTNBO review (the review is coming! Stay tuned!)

Once I took a listen of her music, however, I immediately felt that these pieces didn’t deserve to just be tacked onto the end of a review; they deserved their own place to shine. Which is how this guest post was born.

I hope you guys enjoy listening to Snow Flower’s lovely compositions as much as I did!

~kfangurl

Thank you, kfangurl, for inviting me to write a guest post. I have been following this blog for a couple of years and I feel honored to contribute.

I will start with a couple of words about myself. I began taking piano lessons at the age of 6. I liked making up my own pieces, but I never bothered to write them down, and did not think of myself as a composer. Creating music was something I did for fun, and it was not part of my regular practice routine. In high school and in college I had to complete various assignments that did involve composition (such as harmonizing a melody or mastering the rules of 18th century counterpoint), but I still did not think of myself as a composer.

A couple of years ago I turned to composition out of necessity, to meet the needs of the small church choir I was directing at the time.  I was looking forward to attending a master class for composers of choral music this summer, but it got canceled because of the pandemic. So I went back to making up my own pieces on the piano, but this time I tried to imagine myself writing music for Korean dramas. I wrote one piece inspired by Crash Landing On You and another one inspired by The King: Eternal Monarch.

When I first read the description of the upcoming drama It’s Okay To Not Be Okay I thought it was going to be another medical drama, but set in a psychiatric hospital. I usually don’t watch medical dramas, so I was not too excited. Also, I had no idea who Kim Soo Hyun was so I had to look him up. “Oh, so he was the alien from My Love From Another Star? I liked that drama, but did not like his haircut, so I am still not interested in his new drama” – this is what I was thinking in early June.

Then I saw the trailer and I was intrigued. This did not look like a medical drama at all, so I decided to give it a try. I liked the fairy tale angle and the whimsically artistic feel of the first 2 episodes. It was the ending of Episode 4 that made me think about music. I thought that the lighthouse scene was so beautiful and hopeful that I just had to write a piece of music and call it Lighthouse in the Rain. After a couple of false starts, I finished the piece in 2 days, recorded it, and posted the recording online. The response was very positive, so I decided to keep composing. Also, I needed to do something while waiting for new episodes, so composing a new piece for every 2 episodes seemed like good way to avoid anticipation anxiety. Here are my notes about each piece.

Episodes 1-2: Your Eyes

I composed this piece after I watched the entire drama. I wanted to complete the set, so I went back and re-watched the first two episodes. These episodes introduced our main characters Gang Tae and Moon Young and we saw their first encounters as adults. Their first meeting was a painful experience for both of them, but it also nudged them to take the first steps on the path of growth and healing. I knew from the later episodes that Gang Tae recognized Moon Young quite early, so I was trying to capture in music the moment when he saw his first love for the second time.

Looking in the eyes of this strange woman and recognizing the eyes of the strange girl he loved as a child must have been overwhelmingly painful for poor Gang Tae. He was also experiencing physical pain from the stab wound Moon Young inflicted on his hand. And yet he could not stop looking at her. It was reading Moon Young’s fairy tale The Boy Who Fed On Nightmares that helped Gang Tae to face his own problems with the hope of overcoming them.

Episodes 3-4: Lighthouse in the Rain

Gang Tae and Moon Young continue to push each other’s buttons by saying some uncomfortable truths.  They are also deeply affected by each other. When Moon Young was having a nightmare in Episode 3, she dreamed about Gang Tae comforting her and gave herself the butterfly hug that he taught her. In Episode 4, reading Moon Young’s story Zombie Kid moved Gang Tae to tears.

I thought the lighthouse scene at the end of Episode 4 was very emotional and beautiful. It made me think about two lost souls embracing each other in silent understanding after wandering alone for so long. They still have not found shelter from the rain, but they have found each other, and they have the lighthouse to guide them home. The musical piece does not have an easily identifiable melody. I chose to use broken chords to represent the shimmering light reflected in the raindrops. Many of the harmonies do not belong to the main key, and yet are drown to it, like our main characters finding each other despite their differences.

Episodes 5-6: The Cursed Castle

The inspiration for this piece came from a comment I read online. The commenter mentioned how the push and pull between Moon Young and Gang Tae felt like a dance. I thought that this metaphor translated really well into music, so I tried to imagine what kind of dance would be the most appropriate for them. I decided that a waltz would fit better with the fairy tale vibe of the show rather than a tango. The great hall of the Cursed Castle seemed like the perfect location too! In this piece I tried to blend the eccentric with the melancholy. I also added some butterfly flutter and happy memories from a distant past to the mix.

Episodes 7-8: Smile

The title of the piece is a verb in imperative form. I thought Gang Tae needed to allow himself to smile for real, and to express his true self. Moon Young also had reasons to smile in these episodes. By cutting her hair she was able to free herself from the shadow of her mother. She also found something that she never had before: a family.

I wanted the music to express purity, simplicity, and child-like innocence. I imagined what it would be for our characters to sleep in on a perfect summer day, and then  find happiness in the most ordinary things.

Episodes 9-10: Missing You

Gang Tae and Moon Young had some lovely moments of happiness on their day trip in Episode 9. I loved the purity and the innocence of their first kiss and was thinking about writing a piece inspired by that scene. But then I realized that my previous piece, Smile, already captured a similar mood. I started seeing the pieces as parts of a set, so I thought it was important to alternate between major and minor keys and contrasting moods. Episode 10 provided plenty of dramatic and sad scenes for inspiration. Missing You is an attempt to express in music the feelings of Moon Young when she realizes that she misses Gang Tae. The wide leaps in the mournful melody made me think of the feeling of loss and emptiness when trying to reach for someone who is no longer there.

Episodes 11-12: Happy Birthday, Juliet

Simply put, this is my response to the birthday kiss scene in Episode 11. I tried to create music that was passionate, uplifting, and full of hope. There is still a little bit of fluttering anxiety in the middle section, but in the end I used the same music in a major key without the fluttering movement in the left hand. I thought this was a way to express the healing power of love through music.

Episodes 13-14: Shadow Cast By Butterfly Wings

The inspiration for this piece came from the last scenes of Episode 13. The crude and creepy drawing of a butterfly in the middle of Sang Tae’s lovely mural had a very disturbing and unsettling effect on our main trio. I immediately thought of the poem “Papillons noirs” (Black Butterflies) by Belgian poet Albert Giraud. The poem is part of the set Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot) which explores the themes of madness and melancholy. Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg set 21 of Giroud’s poems  translated into German for his own Pierrot Lunaire. The German translation of “Papillons noirs” is titled “Nacht” (Night) and deals with giant black butterflies killing the light of the sun and slowly descending upon the hearts of men. I don’t recommend listening to Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire right before going to bed!

For my own piece, I tried to depict the unsettling fluttering of the butterfly wings combined with descending motion and darkening mood.

Episodes 15-16: Family Portrait

I loved the scene in the photographer’s studio at the end of Episode 12 and the beginning of Episode 13. I knew that I had to write a piece with this title for the finale even before I watched the last two episodes. I thought that old family videos and slideshows of family photographs were very similar to silent movies, so I tried to imagine myself writing music for a silent movie with a happy ending.

Silent movies were not really silent. During the so-called silent era movie theaters were hiring pianists and organists to improvise live while the movie was playing. I remember reading somewhere that there existed music books which contained various ideas and themes for the movie theater musicians. I chose a slow waltz with a simple melody and lovely harmonies as a warm and heartfelt farewell to a show that brought healing and hope in difficult times.

Closing Thoughts

I was not even planning to watch this show, much less write music inspired by it, but it happened anyway. I was enchanted by the fairy tales and the healing journey of the main characters. Following the show live and writing one piano piece a week was a healing process for me as well. I hope that fans of the show will be amused by this unusual tribute.  I also hope that the music itself will touch the hearts of the listeners, even if they have not seen the show at all.

I am thankful to  everyone involved with this drama: writer, director, actors, and production crew.

I am also thankful for the support I received from family, friends, and online listeners. Thank you again, kfangurl, for inviting me to share my music with the readers of this blog.

35 thoughts on “Guest Post: Original music inspired by It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

  1. Kay

    Wow! Such beautiful pieces Snow Flower! You are truly talented and really added even more beauty to this incredible drama. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  2. Geo

    Hello Snow Flower: This is beautiful music, I’m really taken by “Your Eyes” and I have your music playing as I type this comment. I really like it. I’m no expert on music or art but I have a passion for both, I like what I like and know what I like though I may not be able to articulate fully all the reasons. I always say my passion for music and art is inversely proportional to my musical and artistic talent and I have zero talent in either.

    Snow Flower, you are very talented and people like you and the music you make contribute to the beauty in this world. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you, Geo. I am glad that you like the music.
      I am not good at art, but I do appreciate it. I think every one can contribute some beauty to the world. It can be making music, or cooking a delicious meal, or simply smiling.

      Reply
  3. simple

    hello snowflower,
    love your piano tracks.. missing you, smile and cursed castle are my faves the cursed castle title is more like a “Foolish Me” that’s how i felt. Snow Flower, you reminded me of Yiruma, the sk contemporary pianist and the ongoing kdrama ” Do you like Brahms? is about a pianist too. im your fan now. fighting!!! God Bless.

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Hello simple,

      I am not familiar with Yiruma, bu will look him up. I have not started Do You Like Brahms yet, but I am interested. Thank you for your encouragement!

      Reply
  4. Elaine Phua

    Thank you for the beautiful music Snow Flower! I think you captured the mood of the scenes perfectly, including both sweetness and wistful feelings with uneasy discordant notes too which mirrored the characters’ conflict.

    Not everything about the show worked for me but there were definitely several memorable moments about healing and emotional growth. It’s so true that the people closest to us also make us the most uncomfortable and angry but that’s how they push us to grow! The most special and poignant moments for me were tied to the fairy tales written by the protagonist Ko Mun Yeong, they were grim and a bi horrifying but had a big emotional resonance when linked to what was happening in the main story. I heard on Soompi that they’re going to publish those books in real life in Korea as the illustrators did a really great job and they don’t want it to go to waste. How cool!

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Hi Elaine,

      I agree it is cool that they are publishing the fairy tale books! I still need to know how The Cheerful Dog ends!

      Reply
  5. Lamenteuse

    I just finished IOTNBO and have had the OST on loop for a few days, and these songs are such a lovely complement to those! How cool, Snow Flower, to be able to relate to the show through music. (The best I can do are some ill-composed sentences.) You captured the key moments and emotions so well. I can totally imagine your music as part of the soundtrack.

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you, Lamenteuse! I really liked the music in the show too, both the pop songs and the instrumental tracks. Since I started watching dramas, I have been consistently impressed with the quality of their soundtracks. Being a composer for dramas is now officially my dream job! I would like to see interviews with the composers of some of my favorite drama OSTs (Chuno, Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, and Secret Love Affair, to name a few)

      Reply
  6. Prashil Prakash

    Really impressive!

    And your initial impression of Kim Soohyun totally matches with mine.

    My Love from the Stars was the first kdrama (the old gateway drug!) I had ever watched and was totally skeptic towards this whole sub genre.
    And since i wasn’t conditioned to the concept of appearance of male protagonists in kdramas, Kim Soohyun actually didn’t feel fit to be the main guy of the show to me. (Junji hyun is the main course of the show let’s face it lol)
    However as the show progressed I got used to him. And he truly shines in “its okay to not be okay”

    Your work truely reflects your connection to the show and its motif, and feels quite fresh and already lived in.
    I’m glad you decided to not dismiss it and actually compose the tracks as it would have been a disservice to us!

    Cheers!
    And hope to see more of guest posts.

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you, Prashil!

      I agree with you that My Love From Another Star was truly Jun Ji Hyun’s show. But KSH is excellent in It’s Okay. I think the whole cast did a great job, there is no weak link at all.

      My gateway kdrama was Faith and I have been watching kdramas ever since.

      Reply
      1. Prashil Prakash

        Yup Totally agree with you on that one!
        It’s okay to not be okay truely is a very character driven show and I think not even a single character led me down.

        Everyone had a story and all of them were on a journey towards healing themselves. And KSH totally did shine in portraying Moon Gang-tae.

        Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you, beez! I do have a soft spot for Lighthouse in the Rain because it is my first IOTNBO-inspired piece.

      Reply
  7. Carulhein

    Hi Snow Flower, what a wonderful musical tribute to the show. You really put your soul into it and the heartfelt songs absolutely reflects the tone and mood of the show. I loved IOTNBO because I love fairy tales and mostly things just hit the right spot for me. I’m not a musician like you, but I do play the piano in my own minimalistic way. I do like to make my own songs too and having watched K dramas and listened to K drama OST’s over the past couple of years have kind of inspired me to make a bunch of new ones. 😁

    Anyway, keep composing, you have a wonderful talent.

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Hi Carulhein! I love fairy tales too, and I liked how they were used in this drama. Yes, Korean dramas and their OSTs are very inspiring. If playing the piano and creating your own music makes you happy, just keep doing it!

      Reply
  8. merij1

    Really wonderful, Snow Flower! While learning complex music I like to hear it many times in a row. Is there a way to play this collection back-to-back without needing to re-select the next song? For example, if I had a Soundcloud account?

    Two parentheticals:

    This paragraph cracked me up because I had the exact same reaction:

    “Also, I had no idea who Kim Soo Hyun was so I had to look him up. “Oh, so he was the alien from My Love From Another Star? I liked that drama, but did not like his haircut, so I am still not interested in his new drama” – this is what I was thinking in early June.”

    There’s an album of classical-ish piano compositions by a non-classical artist I think you would really enjoy. Her name is Margie Adam and the album is Naked Keys (1980). She normally records singer-songwriter material, none of which does a thing for me, at all. But this collection of short piano compositions is a hidden gem. You can download the MP3s from Amazon for $9.00.

    This track, for example, reminds me of Beethoveen’s piano sonatas. Not to say it’s in that class, but to me it has the feel:

    Reply
    1. Carulhein

      😁 I knew who Kim Soo Hyun was, but yes, it took me quite a while to adjust my lens to accommodate that haircut in My love from the star.

      Reply
    2. kfangurl

      Hi MeriJ, if you right click on Snow Flower’s name on one of the tracks, you’ll be able to go to SoundCloud, and see all of Snow Flower’s compositions together in one place. You could then create a playlist of her tracks, if you have SoundCloud account. At least, that’s what I think, after poking around. 😅

      Snow Flower is such a talent, isn’t she?! 🤩🤩

      Reply
      1. merij1

        Thanks. I discovered that her collection at SoundCloud auto-advances from track to track. So no need even to create a playlist.

        Yes, she rocks!

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          Ooh, useful information about SoundCloud, thanks for sharing, MeriJ! 😀 (And now everyone who wants to soak in Snow Flower’s compositions can do so easily!)

          Reply
    3. Snow Flower

      merij1,

      I have never heard of this artist before, but I liked her music. Thank you for sharing. I think that labeling the styles of music is mostly for the sake of marketing. There has always been an exchange of ideas and inspiration between different styles, and that has enriched music.

      I was OK with Kim Soo Hyun’s haircut in this drama. My personal favorite is still his wild country bumpkin look in the early episodes of Dream High.

      Reply
      1. merij1

        It was his haircut in My Love From Another Star I thought we needed to overlook. Although, in my case, ditto for his acting! We enjoyed that show a lot, actually, but thought he was the weak link.

        I take it you recommend “It’s OK Not To Be OK?” We just finished our re-watch of One Spring Night and need a new show.

        Reply
        1. Snow Flower

          merij1,

          If you are in a mood for an emotional modern fairy tale, I recommend It’s Okay. Kim Soo Hyun does an excellent job playing an ordinary character stuck between two extraordinary people (his autistic artistic brother and the eccentric fairy tale writer who stirs up his life).

          Reply
  9. Peony

    Truly wonderful, Snow Flower! I could practically hear how much thought and care you’ve put into creating this. Even though I’m not well-versed in Keyboard/piano nor Western music terms, and couldn’t fully grasp what you were explaining about the usage of keys and stuff, I’m amazed that you put so much focus into such seemingly small things like how each note can spark a different emotion in you and how certain combinations can further enhance the feeling.
    My favorite was the “Shadow cast by Butterfly Wings”. Truly scary and quite successful in conveying what it was supposed to!
    Thanks for sharing this with us. \^0^/
    .
    P.s.- kfangurl, this is the 1st time I’m seeing your site makeover and it looks quite lovely! Congratulations!!!! I’ll look up how to whitelist hehe.
    P.s. 2- omy it’s SO posh! The site didn’t even reload while posting my reply!😍 And it’s giving an edit window too omg

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you so much, Peony! I tried to keep the music theory to a minimum in my notes. I am glad that the emotions in the music moved you. That is something every composer is happy to hear!

      Reply
    2. kfangurl

      Thanks Peony!! So glad you like the site’s improved look and feel! 😀 I must admit that not everything is working as it should (yet!), and in particular, the ads are still something that I’m wrestling with.

      Thank you for looking into whitelisting the site, though! I really appreciate it. I’m hoping to resolve the ad-related issues soonish, and am literally writing to 3 different helpdesks (one for the ad network, one for WordPress, and one for the developer of the ad plugin) while trying to get the ads to work the way they should. Thanks for your patience! 😅

      PS: So pleased you like the edit function tho! 😄

      Reply
  10. deliaerre

    what a beautiful music! this morning was brightened by this Snow Flower’s post.
    I think I’ll try to re watch this drama that I dropped because it didn’t seem honest or real to me (in the writing non in the delivery of the actors). Now I ask myself: was I wrong?
    ^^

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you, deliaerre! The drama had a fairy tale vibe, so not everything was very realistic, but I was totally OK with this approach. The characters’ emotions felt very real and it was the journey of healing and love that carried the drama for me.

      Reply
  11. kfangurl

    Thank you for sharing your music with us, Snow Flower!! You truly are a talent! The pieces are so evocative, and you play with such feeling and expression! 🤩🤩 I love the warm feels of Family Portrait. 🥰🥰

    Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      Thank you again, Kfangurl. I actually had to practice my own pieces before recording them live in my living room! I had thought about naming the last piece The Walnut Tree and the Camper Van, but then I decided that Family Portrait was a better fit.

      Reply

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