Composer behind film music festival
To begin with, he has composed title music for more than 40 films that have become contemporary hits.
These include director Heo Jin-ho’s romantic “Christmas in August,” starring Shim Eun-ha and Han Suk-kyu, Lee Jae-yong’s risque “An Affair,” Lee Myung-se’s crime thriller “Nowhere to Hide” and Jeong Jae-eun’s delicately observed drama “Take Care of My Cat.”
From comedies to tear-jerkers, the 44-year-old composer can create the right sound for any particular film.
But Cho’s real attainment is in leading the rise of domestically-produced soundtracks at a time when most Korean films used foreign pop songs as background music. That was only about 10 years ago, and it might have been a musical trend of the time, but whatever soundtracks Cho created seemed to help the films gain popularity. (There was the notable exception of B-movie “Yonggary,” or “Reptilian,” which Internet voters selected as the worst film Cho ever worked on, but few blame his music for the film’s poor ratings.)
At any rate, Cho is now one of the most-talked about film music directors, along with popular musicians Cho Young-wook for his work on the film “The Contact” and Lee Byung-woo on “The Rules of Dating.”
Cho has also released 10 popular albums of Korean film music in Japan, making him a serious contributor to the hallyu (Korean wave) boom. He is an assistant philosophy professor at Yonsei University (he studied philosophy in college) and is chairman of the upcoming Jecheon International Music & Film Festival ― Korea’s only film music festival.
Cho had ambitious plans for the second Jecheon International Music & Film Festival when the JoongAng Ilbo met him prior to Wednesday’s opening in Jecheon, North Chungcheong province.
“A film music festival is a rare event around the world,” said Cho. (He could only think of one similar festival in Prague at the time.) “I think that my experience as a film music director will help me to make this festival more special.”
This year’s festival is showing 45 films from 27 countries, all of which heavily feature music, including compositions by Mozart, Latin beats and Bollywood musical numbers. Laura Fygi and Korean pop groups Loveholic and Deli Spice will perform at the festival and musicians will lecture on their soundtracks.
There will also be awards given out at the Jecheon festival, Cho said.
“There have been several film music awards in the past. But they never struck a chord with the musicians and I wanted to make one that’s more professional,” he said.
Directors Heo Jin-ho, Lee Myeong-se and Park Heung-sik are known as close colleagues and buddies of Cho. It was through their films that he made his successful debut and he is due to write four more soundtracks with them.
He said he prefers to work with directors who have strong personalities rather than with directors who try to make blockbusters.
“I believe film music is more about being intellectual than it is about being sentimental,” said Cho, explaining that a music director has to consider how certain music will affect the film. “That is why a music director has to have the eye of a director as well.”
Because of that belief, Cho said he tends to work with directors who share a “similar eye” on the world.
Director Heo and Cho’s both studied at Yonsei’s philosophy school. It was also Heo who encouraged Cho to later study composing.
“When I read Heo’s script ideas, melodies come to me naturally.” Cho said.
In contrast, when working with Lee, Cho said, he asks the director to give him visual cues. That is not because Heo is any better than Lee, but because Lee is known for slow-motion visuals in his films, which can not be fully explained in words.
Despite the ongoing popularity Korean films are gaining abroad, Cho said Korean soundtracks still have a long way to go because people do not see them as independent creative works.
“People consider the music as just part of the film,” he said.
One “embarrassing incident” he spoke of was when a Japanese film distributor paid its Korean counterpart separately for importing the soundtrack along with the film, and the Korean counterpart did not know where the money should be paid.
After all, even a lot of exporters think that a soundtrack is part of the film package, he said.
“In Japan, copyright has become an important issue and even coffee shops have to pay film producers to play their soundtracks in their cafes,” he added.
Through a company he founded called M&F, Cho said he is trying to protect the copyright of music directors and composers. There are eight composers employed by the company, who have created 6,000 songs so far. The company ensures that the composers get paid when their music is used in other films or commercials.
Rights to use the title song Cho wrote for “One Fine Spring Day,” for example, were sold to more than 10 countries for commercial use.
by Yang Sung-hee, Lee Min-a