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 here!)
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!
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.
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.