Kunihiko Ryo (Yang Bangean)

Composer, keyboardist and sound producer

Author

About

Born to a father from Jeju island and a mother from Sinuiju, Yang Bang Ean grew up in a family in medicine for generations. He started classical piano at 6, joined a band in middle school and learned diverse genres of music.  

Having a keen interest in music, Mr. Yang went to Medical School. He started his career as professional musician when he was a medical student at Nippon Medical School and after graduation, he worked as an anesthesiologist at the university hospital. However, he resumed his musical profession just one year later. At the beginning stage of his career (after 1986), he participated in producing the albums and live concerts of famous Asian pop artists such as Hamada Shogo and the legendary rock band from Hong Kong, BEYOND, and joined the band Shambara with Akira Jimbo (drum) and Sakurai Tetsuo (bass).  

Since his first solo debut with the album "The Gate Of Dreams" (Universal Music Japan) in 1996, he has released 7 regular albums performing with London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra and had a number of live concerts. He served as the music director of "Thunderbolt" starring Jackie Chan in 1995, and since then, he has participated in producing soundtracks for many documentaries, movies, animations, online games, soap operas and CFs in Korea and Japan and released OST albums.  

In Korea, since one of his pieces from the solo album "Pan-O-Rama" was selected as the official theme song of the 2002 Busan Asian Games, he has been very busy, attracting lots of attention to his compositions such as "Prince of Jeju" and "Flowers of K" that integrated traditional Korean emotions into western music. He left a deep impression after performing his composition "Arirang Fantasy" with a large-scale orchestra (200 members) including chorus on the presidential inauguration in 2013. From 2012 to 2014, he served as the art director of Yeowoorak Festivals, the traditional music festival of National Theatre of Korea, and was praised a lot for breaking new ground in Korean traditional music.

In 2014, he served as the music director for the performance during the selection of the next site at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Later, he has been appointed as the music director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

It’s like breathing. I breathe while I am playing my music. Sometimes I should breathe more deeply than usual or even get checked when I think about music but I think it’s also part of my happy life.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. For me, fantasy is about describing a virtual (or ideal) world. I have been working on a lot of media music and some of my works reflect the reality just as it is, describing the feature realistically like documentaries. On the other hand, animations or background music for large-scale online RPG games describe the fantasy world without any restriction. One of my works「Poetic Dance」 is more like fantasy.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I used to work as an anesthesiologist at a university hospital in Japan but quit after one year as I loved music so badly. So, if I had not stepped into the world of music, I would have been working as a doctor.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

No, not at all. My music is not 100% classical but is more like instrumental music, which you may find it hard to specify its genre. Free from particular genre such as classical music, jazz, new age and OST of movie or animation, one thing will never change that many people will still love music. So I have a very positive vision that people will have more chances to enjoy new music.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

I think that’s a very natural trend for music. I mean something new will be created and people will choose it. One thing I feel regretful about it is that a so-called ‘future classical(iconic) music’ loved by many people has not appeared in the world of classical music. Of course it is my personal opinion.

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? What’s the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Creativity is not only required to classical musicians but also to all imaginative producers and artists. An artist without any desire for creativity will gradually lose his/her ground. The most important thing for me is getting as much inspiration as possible from all kinds of ideas and experiences and I need to keep myself neutral and well-balanced for it. I built a studio on a mountainside (1,000 meters above ground) surrounded with a beautiful nature and do my work – composing and producing – there. I keep myself well by breathing and playing music in the nature. Sometimes I confine myself at home for a few days for producing, and going out for some fresh air really helps me refresh myself, feeling the cycle of Mother Nature.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

I believe we musicians should make a bigger and bolder approach to producing a classical performance. There is a movement to introduce game music to a program but I think we should create composite classical concerts while making an effort to maintain the conventional performances. In short, it will be more fun if we try syncing lighting and images with music by using mapping technique or introducing diverse classical music that sympathizes with the modern trends.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favorite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

I have several motives for making songs. For media music, I make images based on the scenario, direction and story of the work. I produced the music for opening and closing ceremonies of the recent Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and my team made songs through discussions based on the concept of every performance including direction, dance, lighting and images. For the solo performance, I try to make songs focusing on what I feel intensely at the moment of creation. For example, I get inspired by good memories, shocking incidents, beautiful drawings or other artistic works and the inspiring factor is not restricted to only one type. I think it is very important to be always open to those factors (stimulation).

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

As I said earlier, I love it very much. In 2015, I was in charge of composing and producing the performances and a poetry reading with the theme of peace for the opening ceremony of the 70th anniversary of foundation of UNESCO that held at the head office in Paris. I was very happy and musically inspired while working with musicians in total different genres. I do hope that European classical musicians will be more active in this regard. One more thing. I record orchestral music including solo performance, OST of movie and animation and songs for international events in London once every year and a half. I think it is amazing to collaborate with London Symphony Orchestra (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) covering a wide range of genres. I wish I could do the work in Germany next time.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Of course the competency of an individual is important but I more respect one’s characteristic. Depending on the player, the played part gives us totally different impression. You may say like, “Oh, that is great” or “Hmm.. It does not sound professional”, but I do not really care about it. I think that the performer’s own color that completes the song and performance is what really matters.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

Now any music genre or any type of art has to be able to coexist with its contrast. Educational and industrial effect is strongly required to classical music and pop music is not an exception. I think that the balance between the artistic and commercial aspects is important. If artistic aspects are too strong, it is highly probable that the music itself may not last and vice versa. There may be some exceptions of artistic works with timeless quality but it is not very common.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

Well, I would like to travel to the unknown fantastic story, sometimes to the very deep inside of heart or fly above clouds with all of you. I always want to make songs with those free images and l hope we travel together.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I am currently doing a lot of big projects including composing music and producing musicals, documentary series by the Korean state-run broadcast and large-scale animations and games in Japan, China and Korea. I am also holding live concerts a lot. At the moment, I am focusing on the Asian region but wish I could have a chance to hold a concert in Germany. I am very happy for this opportunity to introduce myself to you thanks to Poetic Dance of Schott Music. I really look forward to meeting you all in my live concert here.