Music director Jaeil Jeong resting in the driver's seat Music director Jaeil Jeong resting in the driver's seat

2022.04.22 Hyundai Motor Group 분량9min

Music Director Jae-Il Jung and His New Journey with Hyundai Motor Group

Jae-il Jung, one of the best music directors in Korea, produced the sounds of 〈Parasite〉 and 〈Squid Game〉 and completed ‘Sound of Nature 2’ with Hyundai Motor Group this time. Here, he talks about his world of music and his new challenges.

Music director Jaeil Jeong crossed arms in a white shirt

What do the movie 〈Parasite〉 and the Netflix series 〈Squid Game〉 have in common? Both have been loved by people all over the world. And another thing they have in common is their music director - Jae-Il Jung. He is already famous in the music world. In 1999, at the age of 17, he made his debut as a bassist for the band Gigs, formed by guitarist Sang-won Han and singer Lee Juk, and made his name as a ‘genius musician.’ He was also a member of Puri, a traditional Korean fusion music band, and worked as a record player and producer for top Korean singers, including Yoon Sang, Hyo-Shin Park, IU, and Lee Juk. Now, he is further developing his career in various genres such as plays, musicals, dances, and exhibitions, as well as films. And last year, he was happier; At the ‘2021 Hollywood Music in Media Awards (HMMA)’ held in November, 〈Squid Game〉 won the TV show/drama category. He became the first Korean to win an award.

Continuing his music career in various fields, he collaborated with Hyundai Motor Group for a new creation this time - Sound of Nature 2. ‘Sound of Nature’ was the first premium sound system housed in the Kia K7 infotainment system in June 2019. It helps the driver to maintain psychological stability through the sound from the system. ‘Sounds of Nature 2’ is an upgraded version of the current ‘Sounds of Nature.’ From the current source that only provided natural sounds, music director Jae-il Jung created new pieces that would fit the theme. In addition, for vivid sound, the current stereo was changed to 5.1-channel stereo sound using the sound system in the vehicle. What was the intention of composing the added soundtrack? Here, music director Jae-Il Jung explains the sound of nature 2 in more detail.

Q. We’re a little late, but congratulations. At the 2021 Hollywood Music in Media Awards, 〈Squid Game〉 won the TV Show/Drama category. Did you sense that you were going to win?

A. Thank you. After 〈Squid Game〉 was a huge hit, I was very excited about it, but I didn’t expect it to actually win the award. In 2020, I was nominated only for the movie 〈Parasite〉 and did not win the award, but I am very happy to win this award this time through this work.

Q. How did you become the music director for 〈Squid Game〉?

A. At the end of 2018, I was introduced to coach Dong-Hyeok Hwang, and he offered me this position. At that time, I was finishing the music for Parasite. I met Director Hwang at the New Year’s Eve party. And I got an offer to work with him.

Music director Jaeil Jeong, dressed in a black suit, holding hands on the table and looking to the side

Music director Jaeil Jeong looking straight ahead with his arms crossed

Q. Was it the first time you met Director Dong-Hyeok Hwang?

A. Yes. It was actually the first time we met. However, I had already seen the movie 〈Namhansanseong〉, which he directed, 5 or 6 times. I like it so much. Writer Hoon Kim’s original work was also very strong, and the directing that transferred the narrative to the screen felt great. There, world-famous composer Ryuichi Sakamoto created the music. I was so moved by 〈Namhansanseong〉 that I was willing to work on the music for 〈Squid Game〉.

Q. A lot of the songs in 〈Squid Game〉 were loved, but ‘Way back then’ was really popular. I know you made it yourself, but was it also your idea to use an instrument such as a recorder or a melody based on the three-three-seven rhythmic clapping?

A. Yes, all the missions of 〈Squid Game〉 were created based on the games we played when we were young kids, so I thought, ‘Let’s use the simple instruments we played in music class back then.’ I thought that the scene where the children were playing poorly could give a feeling of nostalgia and, at the same time, surprisingly grotesque.

Q. In addition to 〈Squid Game〉, you worked on a number of film music pieces, including director Bong Joon-ho’s 〈Parasite〉 and 〈Okja〉. When did you start working on film music?

A. The first time was 〈The Bad Movie〉 directed by Sun-Woo Jang in 1997. At the time, I was a member of the trio with Jang Min-Seung, his son, who is now a contemporary artist, and that led me to work on two scenes for the film.

Q. Wasn’t it when you were 16 in 1997? You started at such a young age; wasn’t it too much of a burden?

A. There was no such thing. The genre of 〈The Bad Movie〉 was a bit unique. Real young gangsters were starred in the film, and we made this work something radical that crosses between film and documentary. So I worked comfortably. I saw the music band in the movie and just played it. Of course, looking back now, it’s a mess. I just did it without knowing the concept of composing or performing.

Side view of music director Jaeil Jeong looking up

Q. I heard that you have been working on something a little different recently. You made ‘Sounds of Nature 2’ in collaboration with Hyundai Motor Group. How did you start doing this?

A. The Hyundai Motor Group made a proposal. ‘Sounds of Nature 2’ was a work in which I added my own new music to the current ‘Sounds of Nature.’ I found that part very interesting. And I thought that it would be really exciting if these could help someone to ‘heal.’ I also felt that my experiences gained through movies and plays would be helpful.

Q. How was the current ‘Sounds of Nature’?

A.  I really liked the current ‘Sounds of Nature.’ So I was very excited to add my music to it.

Sound of Nature 2 of Ioniq 5

Q. Some people find relief in the noise of a specific environment, such as the sound of cities, forests, and the sea. Sounds Of Nature is also a feature inspired by this. How do you feel about this as a director?

A. You are right. The sounds of the vast ocean or the deep mountains are incomparable to any music we humans have ever made. It is very challenging to artificially reproduce it, but Glad Studio did a great job, and the environment for Hyundai Motor Group’s premium audio was also excellent, so I thought it was worth a try.

Music director Jaeil Jeong staring into the distance

Q. You collaborate with Glad Studio this time?

A.  Yes. Glad Studio sent me a portfolio, and there are so many great things, so I thought it would be nice to try things together.

Q. I wonder if the sound source used in the car will be a little different from the music you have been working on so far. What did you take care about the most in this work?

A. Obviously, I kept thinking that this music wasn’t the main thing. This music had to simply exist in the space like air or wind. Besides, this time I had to mix through 5.1 multi-channel - I rarely do this even for movie sound - so I thought a lot about the sense of space and resonance along with the musical feel.

Music director Jaeil Jeong sitting in the back seat of the IONIQ 5 and staring straight ahead

Q. Where did you work?

A. I composed the song at home, and after that, I did all the work in the car. I did it at Electrified Genesis, which housed the Bang & Olufsen system, and it was a very exciting experience. It was my first time working in a car, and making music through 5.1 channels was also new to me. Above all, it was a great challenge for me to create a sound that felt good not only in the driver’s seat, but also in the seat next to it or in the back seat. Usually, when I work on music, I mainly consider earphones and speakers. But this work was both difficult and fun because the music itself had to come from multiple speakers and sound good everywhere.

Q. You composed a total of 8 sound sources for ‘Sounds of Nature 2’. Four have been updated this time, and you are preparing to update the rest four sources, right? Personally, I found ‘Communicating with Space’ very interesting. Whose idea was this fresh soundtrack?

A. It was Hyun-Sung Jung’s idea, the CEO of the Glad Studio.

Music director Jaeil Jeong operating the IONIQ 5 infotainment

Q. The theme of ‘Communicating with Space’ is actually quite abstract; No one has ever heard of it. How did you express this?

A. Well, ‘Communicating with Space’ might be the sound coming from a walkie-talkie. When I first thought about the space theme, I thought, ‘What are the sounds of space?’ Then I came up with the movie 〈Gravity〉. After much thought, I have concluded that there is no sound in the universe. So I used my imagination. While other sound sources are very realistic, this is just an imaginary sound; at least just for this piece, I decided to work on it this way.

Q. It wasn’t the futuristic feeling we had in mind - especially the EV sound - so it felt even newer.

A. The requirement for this project was that, first and foremost, it should be able to ‘heal’ people, and that everyone should like it. So I decided to exclude any experimental or electrical sounds. To be honest, it was not easy to make a sound that everyone would like.

Q. Which one do you like the most in Sounds of Nature 2?

A. You know, every one of my creations is dear to me, but I like ‘Peace at the Cathedral,’ which Hyundai Motor Group plans to distribute as a software update in the second half of the year. I felt that the music was well absorbed into the space without standing out.

Q. Can you recommend a sound for each situation?

A. There are times when you feel disconnected from the outside world because you can’t hear the engine sound in electric vehicles. The scenery outside the window is busy and complex, but inside, the cabin feels so peaceful and quiet. In that case, the sound I have created may provide a paradoxical experience that boosts the peaceful atmosphere.

Q. Is there any work you would like to try in the future?

A. Just as I am doing right now, I want to create more essential sounds through various genres. I thought I had experienced all genres in the field of music, but while working on this project, I realized that there are things I haven’t done yet. This time I compose, but next time I want to experience a new genre - just like a completely new EV sound created by Hans Zimmer, for example.

Music director Jaeil Jeong operating the IONIQ 5 infotainment

Music director Jaeil Jeong resting in the driver's seat

Q. How would you like to be remembered?

A. It wouldn’t matter if people forget me completely. If someone could just think that the music played in 〈Parasite〉 or 〈Squid Game〉 was pretty good, I’ll be happy.

by In-Su Seo

Photography by Min-Seok Choi