Sought-After Composer/Orchestrator Eunjung Jeong Listens while Working Toward her own Oscar Award
“What is often forgotten in music class, is the first thing you have to do as a musician, and that is you have to learn how to listen.” — two-time Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer
Ambitious film and television composer/orchestrator Eunjung Jeong, who dreams of earning her own Oscar one day, says one of the main things she learned at prestigious Berklee College of Music was a professor’s advice about first listening and observing.
Eunjung, who says she personally loves movies that reflect the characters’ complex emotions, explains what she was advised: “You can’t say it’s good film music if it doesn’t reflect the mood of the movie even if the music is amazing. Absolutely, I agree with Hans Zimmer, that even if you’re pressed for time, you have to watch video or film before you start scoring, in order to get a feel for it. I also agree with him suggesting that if you talk to any director, they’ll say music is fifty percent of the movie. So, getting the right feel is key.”
Keeping with the theme of “listening,” Eunjung, who prides herself on her ability to be versatile and to easily collaborate with other musicians, admits she checks out various genres of music, explaining, “I feel one of my strengths as an orchestrator/ composer is a deep understanding of different genres because film music is not only classical music these days.”
For example, Eunjung, who has been freelancing with some of the biggest film/tv show companies in Hollywood like Fine Line Music Service, mentions how films more and more now use non-classical music-based scores: “The haunting soundtrack of multiple Oscar-winning movie, Birdman, was very unique because cutting-edge drummer/percussionist Antonio Sánchez composed the majority of the movie’s score. It’s very rare to have a drummer compose most of the soundtrack, and he won a Grammy for his outstanding effort.”
Indeed, Eunjung notes that Birdman’s Oscar-winning director Alejandro Iñárritu suggested that “Antonio‘s drums, for me, was a great way to find the rhythm of the film.”
Interestingly, Sanchez’s work was jazz in nature, and Eunjung had an initial background in jazz, explaining, “I began composing when I was 18, and as I started learning jazz piano, I composed pieces for a jazz band with my musician friends. In fact, my band entered a jazz competition held by one of the biggest music academies in Korea. We won second place in the competition playing one of my compositions called Clouds.”
Now, her expanding credits include a brilliant short film, Sapphire, for which she composed, orchestrated and mixed the entire soundtrack. Totally proud of her efforts on Sapphire, she explains how she works on a film like that: “I watch the video many times before I start to write music. I think about the story, mood, and sync points. Once I get to understand the story and catch the mood, I play and record piano freely watching the video thinking about the overall mood and the story. When writing, I write the theme first and decide what instruments are going to be suitable. Theme music is very important when you compose for a film because it defines all the other tracks. It suggests the direction in which the music in the film is going to go, and more importantly, it should evoke the movie when you hear it.”
Moreover, through Fine Line Music Service, a world leading company in the field, Eunjung has also gotten the opportunity to work with legendary film composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. Her work with Fine Line has included: orchestrating some soundtracks for BBC’s Frozen Planet and the recent TV series, The Santa Clauses; contributing to the music prep team for Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, and also working on the recent seasons for Family Guy and American Dad television series; along with the film White Noise, whose music score was composed “by one of my heroes, Danny Elfman,” enthuses Eunjung.
So, what makes Eunjung Jeong so much in demand by producers and directors?
“Movie genres have become more diverse over time. Accordingly, film music genres have had to become diversified, as producers and directors don’t want only classical music for their films. I was a jazz/R&B musician in the first place and I developed a broad understanding of all the genres. Based on my understanding of these various music genres, I can quickly latch onto the types of music the director wants and determine the direction of composition and orchestration.”
Upcoming, Eunjung has several exciting projects over the next two years, including the release of her own music album in the U.S., and more high profile work with Fine Line Music. Moreover, with thousands of movies and television shows coming out every year in so many different genres, she enthuses, “I want to be a versatile composer/orchestrator that can handle any genre. I want to compose for as many genres as I can. This has always intrigued me the most about this industry.” She adds, “My initial goal is to create a solid reputation in the industry as a go-to freelance film composer/orchestrator. Then, my longer-term goal is to establish my own music studio with a team of my composers working within. Ultimately, I want to be an Oscar winning composer and I will do my best to achieve it.”