In its journey from Sundance to its six Academy Award nominations, Minari has been frequently touted as a chronicle of the American Dream. Loosely inspired by writer/director Lee Isaac Chung’s own childhood in rural Arkansas, the film follows the Korean-American Yi family as they acclimate to life in the country, where father Jacob (Steven Yeun) has big plans to operate a farm, attempting to grow his fortune from the ground up. Minari’s story becomes universal in its specificity, showing one family’s attempt at self-made success, but that’s not the only way it reinterprets our idea of the American Dream; with its gorgeous, ruminative score, Minari actually sounds like a dream, too.
Composer Emile Mosseri is no stranger to intimate, personal storytelling—having worked on the music for both Miranda July’s Kajillionaire and Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man In San Francisco—but his work on Minari had him engaging with film on an even deeper level. Mosseri was introduced to Lee Isaac Chung early on, when Minari was still just a script, and its from those pages and the collaborators’ open-hearted conversations, that he was compelled to write the film’s music before a single scene was shot. What he created was a selection of contemplative melodies that conjure up feelings of warm nostalgia, and speak to the richness of Minari’s themes. While speaking with The A.V. Club, the composer revealed that Chung’s vulnerability itself became a major source of inspiration for the Oscar-nominated score:
“It’s a dream for any composer to work on something that’s such a deeply personal work... There’s a vulnerability to it and a purity to it that’s really special. Isaac made this film that’s incredibly personal, [and] there’s a lot of love in this film—you can feel the love that this family has for one another underneath all of it, but it’s packaged in a way that’s [both] hyper-realism and dream-like... And there’s dissonance, and there’s friction, and there’s a real struggle, you know? So the music had to honor that. Both those things, the love of the family and the struggle, each piece of music felt like it had to contain both, rather than going for a piece of music that feels celebratory, or like a love theme, or something that feels more dissonant. The goal with this film was to have each piece of music [capture] both.”
In the video above, Mosseri shares what gleaned from Lee Isaac Chung’s memories to create Minari’s sweeping yet intimate score, and explains how he came to the instruments—the piano, the flute, the Thermin, the human voice—that would make up its “sonic palatte.” Mosseri also dives deep into the piece “Garden Of Eden,” and you can listen along as he explains how the evocative music was translated from one simple line in the script: “Jacob rides a tractor.”