You have quite an accomplished background as an orchestrator, but you recently had the opportunity to compose music for your first major project with Episode 7 of the Amazon Studios animated series, THE BOYS PRESENTS: DIABOLICAL. What did you take away from this exciting experience and what do you hope it brings for your future?
My biggest takeaway from the whole experience was that people were right about not giving up.
I’ve been in the industry since 2004, working more as orchestrator than as a composer. Now, I’d like to make it clear that I love orchestration and working with the orchestra. It was never the second-best thing that I settled for.
Anyway, my career as composer didn’t really pan out the way I wanted, but I kept trying, nonetheless. I wrote tracks for library music, submitted demos to projects that never amounted to anything.
So, when I was offered to submit my demo for this project, I was not only thrilled for the opportunity, but also very glad that I didn’t give up writing because it hadn’t gone anywhere.
What do I hope this project brings for my future? I think it’s brought me enough already, haha. I got to work with such a fantastic group of people, more people now know the composer side of me, I’m just very grateful for what it’s brought me so far.
- For DIABOLICAL, can you talk about why it was important for there to be a cultural synergy between yourself and director Steve Ahn?
I think this story might answer itself. When the supervising director told me the synopsis of the episode, the first thing I thought was ‘I wonder if ‘Arirang’ is public domain for us to incorporate into the score.’ During our first meeting with producers, I brought this up, and one of the producers said, “That’s exactly what Steve said.” When I heard that, I thought to myself, “I guess this is why they wanted a Korean composer, or a composer who is familiar with the Korean culture.”
Then there were small cues that Steve left in the film. For example, in the beginning part of the episode, we see Gaenari flowers. I didn’t have to ask what those meant, because Gaenari is like a symbol of Spring. The whole country is full of them in the prettiest shade of yellow in Spring. So, I knew what to do to accompany the hope he wanted to paint.
There is a famous Korean folk song called “Arirang” that is featured in the episode’s end credits. How did that come to be and what is the message you hoped it would convey?
Arirang is like a second national anthem for Korean people. Every Korean person knows this song, regardless of which region you’re from, or how old you are. And the lyrics of the song are about saying a painful goodbye to your loved one. So, in a way, using Aririang to depict the end of the old Korean immigrants couple accepting their fate and saying goodbye felt perfect.
What is an aspect about the art of orchestration that people would be surprised to know?
It’s something I still get surprised by when I study the orchestration of all these great composers — that there are a million ways to deliver one melody, and how the smallest change in instrumentation can change the whole nuance of the phrase. It’s fascinating.
What advice would you give aspiring women film composers who have the passion, but have some hesitancy about joining a male-dominated field?
I think now is the time to act on passion. The industry has never been so open to women or other minority groups as now, I feel. All thanks to pioneering women composers like Shirley Walker, Rachel Portman, Miriam Cutler, Laura Karpman, and Lolita Ritmanis, just to name a few, who work unceasingly to break the glass ceiling.
Where do you see our composing industry in 10 years, where do you see it heading?
I think the last few years have been very exciting for everyone in Hollywood who has felt overlooked. There have been so many “Firsts” recently, for women and people from other minority groups achieving amazing things. There is a lot more work to be done in that regard for sure, but it’s clearly heading in that direction, and I can only hope that in 10 years from now, we’ll be in an even better, and more inclusive place in this industry.
Check out Hyesu’s AWFC profile.
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