Yiruma’s River Flows in You: from its meaning to its starring role in the Twilight saga

27 February 2019, 14:08 | Updated: 31 May 2023, 17:41

Yiruma, (이루마) - River Flows in You

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Since it was featured in the Twilight saga, ‘River Flows in You’ has morphed into the ‘Clair de lune’ of the 21st century – but when did Yiruma compose it and what does it mean?

If you’re an aspiring pianist or just enjoy the sound of a simple, beautiful melody, you will have likely come across Yiruma’s lyrical piano piece, ‘River Flows in You’ (2001).

The piece, written in A major, is the South Korean-British composer’s best-selling song to-date. Structured more like a pop song than a classical piano composition, ‘River Flows in You’ is hugely popular among both pop and classical listeners.

It is inspired by the French composer Samuel Vallée’s 1999 composition ‘Une rivière coule en toi’, which literally translates in English as ‘River Flows in You’.

Read more: Did you know Debussy's 'Clair de lune' features in Twilight?

Consisting of recurring patterns and repetition, it is generally classed as ‘new-age’ or ‘contemporary classical’ music and has been compared to modern film and TV music.

Yiruma was born in 1978
Yiruma was born in 1978. Picture: Getty

Who is Yiruma?

Yiruma, whose real name is Lee Ru-ma, is a South Korean-British composer and pianist. Born in 1978, he started playing piano at the age of five, and moved to London when he was 10 to study at the Purcell School of Music.

He later attended King’s College, London where he studied composition and released his first album, Love Scene. His most popular album First Love (there’s a running theme here...), containing the hit ‘River Flows in You’, was released in 2001.

Yiruma is often compared to the Italian composer-pianist Ludovico Einaudi, famous for writing solo piano tracks including ‘Le Onde’ and ‘Divenire’.

Yiruma, (이루마) - Kiss the Rain

What does ‘River Flows in You’ mean?

The phrase ‘River Flows in You’ is quite enigmatic in English. So, whether it’s about finding your inner music, falling in love (or the feeling of desperately needing to find a bathroom), the meaning behind the piece is all in the ears of the listener.

The 14 best pieces ever written for the piano >

Did it feature in Twilight?

‘River Flows in You’ is frequently mistaken for ‘Bella’s Lullaby’, another simple piano piece on the Twilight soundtrack written by Carter Burwell. However, it does also feature later on the soundtrack.

Kristen Stewart (Bella) and Robert Pattinson (Edward) in Twilight
Kristen Stewart (Bella) and Robert Pattinson (Edward) in Twilight. Picture: Concorde/DPA/PA Images

Since Bella and Edward drew the world’s attention to Yiruma’s piano ditty, it has become one of the most popular contemporary classical pieces on Spotify and boasts millions of YouTube views.