[Music and Dramas] What music teaches us
by Guest Beanie
It’s Okay, It’s Love
Growing up, music didn’t seem like the food of love to me. It felt more like the food of life. If I didn’t have my headphones on, or the radio turned all the way up, or even just space to fill the vacuum with my own humming, then I felt like I wasn’t quite breathing. I needed music to filter the world through, to make sense of things that felt, at sixteen, pretty senseless. K-dramas, I’m starting to realize, utilize music in very similar ways.
K-dramas tell very specific kinds of stories that often explore the extremes of human emotions—the deepest loves and most painful betrayals, the hardest choices and the highest hopes. Sometimes, the very intensity of these tales seems foreign, as anyone who has watched the gloriously melodramatic Nice Guy or Secret can tell you. Music is our guide through these moments, giving us gut-reactions to things that sometimes even the most brilliant acting and writing and directing can only communicate cerebrally.
Gu Family Book
For instance, I’ve never personally experienced a level of hopelessness like Yoon Seo-hwa in Gu Family Book, preparing to be sexually sold to the man who destroyed her family—I hope not many have. But “My Eden,” with its ticking clock and oddly fey lyrics played over the montage, gave me the haunting feeling of a girl watching her future fade into the mist, while to trying to grapple with questions about fate and choice, sacrifice and selfishness. A complex emotion and viewpoint to evoke, but the music somehow communicates it perfectly.
Or consider It’s Okay, It’s Love and Family of the Year’s “Hero.” Was there ever a song that better stripped a hero down to his bones? Jang Jae-yeol was such a mystery to everyone, most of all to himself. And yet this song explained him in a way all the dialogue and flashbacks couldn’t manage, in a way I can’t describe, sitting here at my keyboard with all the time in the world.
It’s Okay It’s Love, “Hero”
I can keep going. There are lots of songs that give us deeper insights into complicated characters and situations throughout K-dramas—the emotional and moral revolution of Jang Tae-san in Two Weeks as expressed by “Turning”; the dreamlike psychological connection between the leads in Kill Me, Heal Me in “Auditory Hallucination”; the glorious, bouncy confusion of first love in Weightlifting’s Fairy Kim Bok-ju’s exuberant “From Now On”; Lookout’s rough-edged, street-lit “Got U” that evokes the whole atmosphere of the show.
But a well-utilized soundtrack can do more than give viewers insight into the intention of a story. It can link us to a broader, universal experience—feelings that there are almost no words for.
Six Flying Dragons, “Green Mountain Song”
The “Green Mountain Song” in Six Flying Dragons doesn’t just serve a purpose within its specific story. It’s a reminder for all of us somehow, a sad harkening back to the difficulties of times past with a melancholy glance at a present that doesn’t seemed to have learned. The instrumental “Lost Memories” in The Lonely Shining Goblin has a bittersweet vein of confusion threading through it, pressing not only our poor amnesiac characters to remember the people important to them, but us too. What have we forgotten? What did we value, and lose, and so became the poorer without ever realizing?
K-dramas use music to explore the deepest experiences of humanity. Love and hate, loss and discovery, the eternal stories that we’re constantly trying to capture and explain in words. The stories that in the end music seems to get to the heart of so effortlessly, giving us, at least for the length of a song, a measure of understanding for why we hurt, and love, and above all, why we live.
The Lonely Shining Goblin, “Lost Memories”
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