April 13, 2014

Wonderful Days music

I can’t say the Wonderful Days music is knocking my socks off. The opening instrumental theme is especially nondescript. I’d swear I was listening to a long forgotten (and rightly so) 1960s European film. The Korean affection for unremarkable mid-twentieth-century pop music from the west is mysterious. I asked a young Korean student whether 70s and 80s American Top 40 hits are really played in all the restaurants, as we so often see in dramas. He confirmed that they are indeed. I asked why? Why not Kpop? “Kpop doesn’t have the right…,” I waited in suspense while he looked up the English word he wanted to use. “…ambiance,” he said. Unlike the Carpenters?? Still baffled.

But back to Wonderful Days. The opening theme works a lot better as a ballad. The singer sounded a bit like one of my favorites, ALi, in the stronger passages, but not so much during the softer parts of the song. It took some digging to find out who it was – Seo Young Eun, of whom I haven’t heard before. This and the other ballads in Wonderful Days are well sung.

I decided it was time to track down the lyrics, which often serve as background narration on important points of plot or motivation. I’ve been watching Wonderful Days on KBS, since my TV screen is bigger than my monitor (and I’m too impatient to wait for Viki), but KBS doesn’t bother to subtitle song lyrics.

Never fear, though – the fansubbers that do subtitles on Viki DO subtitle all the lyrics. This is why I love fan subbers – they think like viewers. Thanks, No Place Like Home Team!

I’d like to give the Wonderful Days director credit for using the background swish of the waves in the beach scenes in episodes 11 & 12 to good advantage, and at just the right volume, and not mucking those moments up with unnecessary music. Beach scenes are pretty common in Kdrama (Korea being surrounded on three sides by water, and all), and so is artistic framing (lamp posts are particularly popular – there was even one in the beach scenes), but these were some of the nicer ones I’ve seen. The timing of the gulls was so fortuitous, they might’ve been part of the cast.

I also enjoyed the love poem in episode 12 (it sounds better in Korean :). That adorable young Hae Won, who looks about 13, is actually 20-year old Kpop starlet Kwon Min Ah, from the group Ace of Angels. Weird they aren’t crediting her more noticeably, in the English credits, anyhow. Still wondering who plays young Dong Seok.

5 comments to Wonderful Days music

  • ida

    I kind of like the music but that might because I am a mid century modern person myself.

    • Mihansa

      I have the impression rural Korean culture is less westernized than in the cities, so I was hoping we might get at least a glimpse of traditional roots. I’d really love to hear some Korean music in a Korean drama, for a change.

  • Tubie51

    I discovered gugak music on a Happy Days episode and love it but do not believe it is good accompiment music. It is so robust it needs center stage.

    • Mihansa

      Oh, I look forward to that. Do you remember which episode it is? I was fortunate to hear a live performance on a number of traditional instruments by a young Korean musician who visited my area on an international tour. The instruments were very diverse. One surprise was some very abstract Joseon court music that sounded like modern jazz. Koreans are often kidded about claims that they invented things, but in this case, I think they have a good claim to having invented jazz, since the music I heard was hundreds of years old! It made me wonder whether some of the American musicians we think of as inventing that music may have had Asian influences that were left out of the music history books.

      Some of the instruments were quite loud – it might be good background music for certain kinds of scenes, but not others. It really depends on the instrument, though. I think there are flutes and stringed instruments that would be great accompaniment for scenes where characters are thinking, outdoors, or for romantic or emotional scenes.

      I have occasionally seen some popular musicians in a number of different genres incorporate traditional instruments on programs like Korean TV music Immortal Songs, but not very often.

  • Ida M Leung

    On youtube, enter Song Sohee and view her folksong concert video is dtd Nov 14 2014 I believe. If that video is too long, just watch some of her song snippets. There is a movement to crossover gugak with kpop but a lot of it just sounds insipid. Song Sohee is the real deal and her passion for gugak will keep her renditions from getting too watered down as she tries to repopularize it. Hers may be only one version of gugak; I am not that knowledgeable.

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