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Talking about Music: Interview of Five KDI School Professors

03 Nov, 2020 KDIS News Center 1,736

As the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, the need for us to continue to self-isolate has also been extended. As the time for staying at home is further prolonged, so more and more people are finding it difficult to cope with not being able to socialize with their friends and families, or to meet new people. The ‘corona blues’ is a new phrase that’s recently been coined, combining ‘COVID-19’ and the ‘blues’. This refers to the stressful feelings of depression or lethargy that are caused by the spread of COVID-19, as well as the related concerns about the risk of infection and social distancing. It is a phenomenon that you have ‘the blues’, feeling down since you feel like your ordinary daily routine is slipping away from you and you can become fearful of doing even the simplest of things such as walking around outside. Although there are many ways to lift your mood, isn’t the easiest way listening to music? KDIS supporters have interveiwed five professors from KDIS about their music tastes and what music means to them in their daily lives. We chatted to Professor Jin Park, Taejong Kim, Jinsoo Lee, Baran Han, and Inbok Rhee.

1: What types of music do you usually listen to?

Jin Pop songs, especially retro ones from the 70s and 80s. I’ve been listening to pop music from when I was young. I was a big fan of ABBA, QUEEN, ELO, Fleetwood Mac etc. I mostly love listening to rock music. From the 80s onwards, I started tuning in to Korean pop music, especially Hyun-sik Kim. When I studied abroad, I tended to listen to more classical music. However, since returning to Korea, I have started to listen to Korean pop music again, such as Seotaji and Boys, NOISE and Zam. Recently, I have tried to listen to Korean idol music as I know that the younger generation love it and it seemed a good conversation opener with my children. I’m now a big fan of SUPER JUNIOR and also went to the SUPER JUNIOR concert with my sons where OH MY GIRL made their debut appearance! These days, I absolutely adore BTS-Dynamite.

Taejong All kinds of music to be honest: classical music and music from the movies too. Because I’ve been more hands-on with my children recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of K-pop.

Jinsoo Any type of music works for me. I don’t actually like all pop music, but I do like to listen Korean pop music and classical music.

Baran I’m not picky about the type of music that I listen to. I listen to an eclectic mix of music that appeals to me, be that classical, pop, Korean pop music and songs from musicals.

Inbok Crying Nut’s music, which I used to listen to when I was in high school and at university. Recently, Crying Nut rerecorded all their songs to celebrate their 25th anniversary and released a new album. After I listened to the entire album in the office, I realized that, when they did the rerecording, they’d interpreted the songs differently which, of course, meant that I too understood them differently.


2. Are there any music genres that you often listen when you’re in need of a pick-me-up?

Jin It’s got to be Korean Idol group music hasn’t it? When I watch them dance, it brings memories flooding back of dancing with my friends when I was younger. I used to be a good dancer back in the day (haha). It makes me feel a little emotional. Can I still dance like them? It just takes me right back, connecting me to another time and place, making me feel better and younger again. The music that I love most of late is: OH MY GIRL-Dolphin, Remember Me, BLACKPINK – As If It’s Your Last, BTS-Dynamite (I tried to copy them but they’re just way too fast), SUPER JUNIOR – Sorry, Sorry is just a masterpiece in my view.

Taejong Hisaishi Joe’s music is a complete gamechanger for me. He composes soundtrack music for Miyazaki Hayao, the animation movie director. His music gives me great comfort and healing. I usually listen to him on YouTube, such as concerts held in Japan and Paris.

Jinsoo Korean pop music every time! I usually listen to 80s and early 90s music from when I was in my 20s. I prefer to listen to music that’s been released before Seotaji and Boys arrived on the scene. To be totally frank, I know very little about music, but I do think that Korean pop music can be divided into what came before and after the Seotaji and Boys. They’ve done really well having got into the Top 100 Korean pop music masterpieces on three separate occasions. After I listened to all of their songs, I realized why people love Seotaji and Boys so much.

Baran I listen to classical music if I want to be calm and able to concentrate. I like to listen to Bach’s Goldberg variations, Partita No.2 in D minor, Schubert’s Winterreise D.911 and Mozart’s Rondo in A minor, K.511. On the other hand, I like to listen to contemporary R&B and soul if I want to cheer myself up. I recommend you listen to Raphael Saadiq’s ‘The Way I See it’ album if you’re looking for something to lift your mood.

Inbok When I listened to certain songs that I used to listen to when I was young, they take me right back to that happy place and I enjoy stepping back into those memories. That’s why I listen to the same songs that I used to listen to when I was young. It feels like hanging out with an old friend. Just like listening to Crying Nut’s songs.


3. Can you recommend any songs that make you feel better when you’re feeling down?

Jin Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. I’d listen to it when I was studying abroad and I’d sometimes feel lonely or get stressed. Although I also feel happy when I listen to the latest idol songs, Mozart’s music is special as it motivates me to keep going as it reminds me of my time studying abroad. It gives me strength and cheers me up; I say to myself: “you can also get through this difficult period, just like you did when you studied abroad”.

Taejong Of all of Hisaishi Joe’s music, I recommend the Rondo of the House of Sunflowers, which is a song from the movie, Ponyo. Ponyo is an ecological animation movie, and the main character, the boy’s mother works at a senior care center. The song is by grandmothers from the center who are wheelchairs users as they’ve got limited mobility.

Jinsoo Music is very much the art of the younger generation. Most people who compose and supply music are young people, and the people who embrace it most readily are also the young. For me, the most touching music is the music that I used to listen to in my teens and 20s. Songs from the mid-80s to the early 90s are my absolute favorite. The music that I listen depends on the specific situation. Sometimes I listen to music recommended by my son. And, at other times, I’ll listen to music recommended by people on Twitter. When I get tired of listening to it too often, I switch to something else. Personally, I don’t really like the music that’s released these days. Nevertheless, as the world keeps on changing, I think I should intentionally choose to listen to recent music. I try to get into and make sense of the rhythm or lyrics. Although I don’t actually feel connected or get emotional about recent songs, I do feel like I’m getting to know today’s music better. For example, I didn’t used to like classical music when I was young, but I started liking it after my 40s.

Baran Songs by SsingSsing, a band that I got to know last year based on my friend’s recommendation. There is a real mixture of punk, disco, reggae, glamrock, and techno in Korean traditional music. (search SsingSsing: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert on YouTube)

Inbok I used to listen to music a lot when I was young, but I don’t usually listen to it as much these days. I recently bought a CD player and listened to some songs from the past; for a while I got lost down memory lane and I had fun. It helps me a lot when I’m feeling tired. When I’m tired or writing, I have piano music playing in the background.


4. What makes you feel better when you listen to that song?

Jin I like to listen to old songs because they remind me of the feelings that I enjoyed feeling at that time and they’ve got good lyrics. When I listen to a song that I used to listen to when I was going through a difficult patch or in pain, it reminds me of my youth and passion. These days, I like songs because of their melodies. I think the more recent songs are very good at creating exciting rhythms. Current songs are very joyful to listen to, and I think it places more emphasis on the melody than it did in the past.

Taejong I like the lyrics. The lyrics are full of wisdom. They often highlight and show me the reality that we often miss. They sing about their desires, and if they can get up and walk again, they sing about what they want to do. In the lyrics, they sing about how they want to do all the ordinary things like wash, clean the windows, cook, dress up and go for a walk, bring out a pretty umbrella when it rains, and dance. Every time I listen to the song, it reminds me of the breadth and depth of the joy and happiness we can experience through living in the world. This song makes us realize and appreciate the richness of life.

Jinsoo The melody is important. I like classical music, Brahms Symphony No. 4 and Chopin Nocturne. Even though I’m not a sensitive person, when I listen to music, I feel relaxed and it touches me. I think the lyrics are very important when it comes to Korean songs. When I listen to Byun Jin-seop’s songs, who was at his peak in the late 80s and 90s, the lyrics comfort me a lot.

Baran When I’m blue, I feel better if something touches me. When I listen to music or watch performances, I am most moved when I can feel the creativity, originality, excellence, etc. exuding from the talented composers and performers, along with tuneful melodies and strong lyrics. SsingSsing band music and performances that have been reinterpreted and developed by Korean traditional music artistes are so ingenious, bizarre, and fun. When I listen to SsingSsing Band music, I think I should not be limited by what I thought was right and what people think is ‘good’ in our society. I want to live my life full of joy.


5. Is there anything else music-related that you’d like to talk about?

Jin Music makes people feel young again and reconnect with their younger selves. It’s good to get close to music regardless of the genre. In Korea, people should design an education program to develop musical knowledge beginning from the elementary and middle school years. And, as I said earlier, music is a great communicator, a topic that has brought me closer to my children. For example, I talked about Red Velvet’s Wendy’s injuries and OH MY GIRL’s independence story with my sons. They loved to talk about it. I feel like I need to know more about it to keep the conversation going with my sons. If you listen to it, you’ll actually start to like the song. In fact, fathers often don’t really chat enough with their children, but if they try to like their children’s favorite singers, they will be able to have more conversations with them, perhaps go to concerts together, and this will help them build a closer knit relationship with them. When I went to the Super Junior concert with my two sons, Dong-Hae passed in front of us and, interestingly, stared straight at us. It’s a very rare thing that three guys come together to a Super Junior concert. I was very proud.

Taejong When I was young, I didn’t learn how to play musical instruments because I didn’t come from a well-to-do family. So personally, I don’t have any musical talent. I can’t even play the violin or piano. That’s why I don’t think I have a sense for music. However, when I feel the need for comfort in my life, I go to church and worship. I think that since becoming deeply religious, then there is always music around me. I think listening to music is one of life’s blessings.

Jinsoo Music is wonderful. I like listening to music and reading books, and I think about what my life would have look like without them. No matter what the situation is, I know listening to music doesn’t suddenly change your feelings, but it keeps giving me strength. Music consoles me, and makes my sadness gradually fade away. The power of music is ubiquitous. I hope everyone can enjoy music.