It’s such a massive honor for your country to host the Olympics. For Korean composer Myungsoo Shin, this year’s Winter Games also offered the gig of a lifetime: to create his country’s official TV theme song for the Olympic Broadcasting Service.
“Because these Olympic Games were held in Korea, it must have been very natural that a Korean composer create the music for them,” says Myungsoo, founder of Kraft Music. “I already had some experience with big national events, such as the anthem for IAAF World Championship in 2011, so I must have been one of the qualified composers. I’ve also had good relationship with the film production company who made the Olympic station ID, and fortunately I was chosen.
“I’m very proud that I could give a good contribution to my country’s event. This project wasn’t just business to me.”
It also helps that Myungsoo has years of experience crafting music for big international brands like Disney, Samsung, Nike, Hyundai, LG, and Kia: to date, he’s composed for over 1,500 TV ads. He’s also an Emmy-nominated film composer.
Even with all that experience, though, how do you capture the essence of your country into a 30-second (or less) TV intro? An intro that will air repeatedly throughout the world’s TV broadcasting systems, to every culture imaginable?
Answer: you start with your country’s musical heart — the “Arirang,” Korea’s most-beloved traditional song and unofficial anthem.
“In this Olympic Games, I heard that there’s no official anthem. And all the people around the world participate in the Olympic Games by watching TV,” explains Myungsoo. “I simply thought that Korean traditional music, arranged in a way that can easily embrace the universal musical feeling, would be the best solution.
“So I arranged ‘Arirang’ with many Korean traditional instruments, and western instruments such as drums, bass, piano and strings. To create an optimal balance between both a Korean and universal sound, I made the basic traditional rhythmic pattern the essential backbone for the song.”
His choice in arranging ‘Arirang’ for proved pitch perfect for this year’s Olympics — spectators also enjoyed two separate ‘Arirang’ renditions during Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang, hockey fans sung the tune together from the stands, and South Korea’s ice dancing darlings Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin were celebrated for choosing ‘Arirang’ for their free dance routine.
Myungsoo’s long-held fascination with music and its accompanying video and visual materials prompted him to earn his master’s degree in film scoring from NYU.
“From the beginning I wanted to be a composer for media, and fortunately I was hired in a small music firm that makes commercial TV jingles,” recalls Myungsoo.
To succeed in the advertising music world, Myungsoo recommends branching out into all areas of the arts.
“Media composers have to communicate with the non-musicians who give them jobs. We need to speak in non-musical ways to solve their musical problems. So, it is very essential to study many other artistic genres such as literature, languages, film, painting, dance, etc.,” says Myungsoo. “I can’t say exactly which part of my college studies helped to maintain my job, but I believe the broad range of subjects certainly has helped.”
Myungsoo returned to South Korea 10 years ago, but often creatively wishes he’d stayed in the U.S.
“I got the green card easily by being nominated in the broadcasting Emmy Awards, so there was no big hurdle for me to live in the States. But I chose to go back to my country for private reasons.
“Fortunately, my job ensures good income for me in Korea, but I always feel thirsty to make music in bigger venues. That’s why I still keep trying to knock the door abroad — it’s not the matter of money.
As for where he’d like to work next, Myungsoo says the sky’s the limit.
“I’m trying to go into the bigger world,” explains Myungsoo. “It could be the U.S., or other Asian countries, Europe, or Africa.
“As a middle-aged composer, I have to work harder to exhaust my experiences and skills fully. Until the day nobody calls me,” he laughs. “It may be the best way not to leave anything to regret in my life as a composer.”