Act 8: Lively 2
The Improvement Concert for the composing department started off later than other departments.
Other departments would have theirs starting in March, almost straight after admission while the composing department started at the start of June. The reason for this 2 months difference was simple.
They required more time to prepare.
Unlike performers that just had to perform their prepared songs, the composing department students had to compose songs, let the performers practise, and only then could they present their songs.
Because they weren’t presenting it by themselves, they had to match the schedule with performers and had to remain in a positive relationship with them. Since there were lots of things that had to be done, it wasn’t strange for the preparations to take longer than others.
In that sense, we could say that the composing department’s preparations were nearing its end. After the previous interim presentations, the song and the lyrics were completed and it was now time to practise.
Therefore, Chloe entering our group at this time could be considered quite late, despite not being too late – it was quite the questionable timing.
I carefully glanced at Yu Minij-sunbae who seemed to have fallen into deep contemplation. Yu Minji then raised her head to observe Chloe for a bit before finally opening her mouth.
“Mhmm… alright. Since there’s still around a month left till the presentations… I think it should be okay after lots of practice… Is it okay to take a bit of your time then, dear junior?”
“Yes. I have one concour but it ends soon!”
“That’s a relief.”
She nodded her head before quickly standing up from the piano seat and giving it to Chloe. Chloe sat down somewhat blankly, and there was a music sheet in front of her, which had tonnes of notes written by Yu Minji.
Pointing at that music sheet, Yu Minji smiled.
“Then, should we start right now?”
Like that, they started their own lesson with Song Mirae and I watching from the sides.
After Chloe played it once, Yu Minji quickly walked up and talked about the things that had to be changed.
‘This would be better done like this’, ‘Press the pedal like this’, ‘Touch the keys like this’…
Her explanations were very detailed and in-depth, quite different from when she was giving feedback to us after our singing. Seeing that, Song Mirae seemed to feel slightly betrayed as she spoke with a pout.
“Wow… isn’t she way too different from when she was talking to us? She wasn’t that enthusiastic when doing it with us.”
“She wasn’t! After my song she would be like, ‘Ah, that’s not how you do it…’, without a real explanation! She would then say ‘make it fluffier’ or ‘press it down harder’…like, how am I supposed to understand if she puts it like that?”
I gave a bitter smile in response to her complaints.
“She’s from the composing department. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
“Uun? What do you mean?”
Glancing at Chloe passionately learning the accompaniment, I thought of how teaching piano in more detail was something to be expected of, from a composing department student.
“Pretty sure piano is a course requisite for the composing department.”
Composers tend to usually… or rather, they always learned piano before learning anything related to composing. It was because there was no other instrument like piano when it came to effectiveness in mastering pitch, and learning about the structures of music.
A piano could make an objective pitch from a press of a key; it could be the main melody and could be the accompaniment as well, not to mention that it was the most popular instrument.
That was why composers always learned piano, without having much interest in any other instruments. Especially when it came to opera… it was very questionable whether there would be a person who would study it on top of composing.
Vocal music was quite hard to build the basics in, and since everyone made different sounds, composers who preferred objective pitches didn’t really favour them.
That’s why it had hit me.
A point that both Yu Minji and Kim Sukwon had missed.
Despite composing an art song which used opera, he knew nothing about the actual opera. If I brutally pierced through his weak point that had been revealed at the ‘interim presentations’ once again, I would be able to defeat Kim Sukwon.
‘Lack of experience.’
But of course, Kim Sukwon would prepare for it somewhat and wouldn’t make another stupid mistake with beats. However, hearing that he had hired a sunbae from a graduate school, I had found another gap.
A gap which Kim Sukwon could not get rid of.
…Like that, I was thinking silently with a smile when Yu Minji approached quietly with Chloe left sitting behind her, seemingly having finished the little lesson. With an expression full of curiosity, Yu Minji whispered.
“So what are you planning to do? Although Chloe is good, I don’t think she’s up to the standards of a postgrad student.”
That was natural.
No matter how much of a genius Chloe was with piano, time was a huge factor in music. Especially with piano, performers had no chance to develop beyond in terms of techniques before the age of 20 so Chloe wouldn’t be able to follow a postgraduate student in terms of techniques.
However, the reason I brought Chloe in wasn’t just because of her skills so it was okay. With a bright smile, I replied.
“We will be practising.”
“…Well, of course we need to, right?”
Seeing Yu Minji’s puzzled expression, I realised.
Ah, this could sound a bit funny huh. Of course we had to practise, and there would be no-one who performed without practising.
I scratched the back of my head and glanced around before opening my mouth.
“It’s a bit hard to explain in words but… should we just start first?”
The instrument called piano was close to yet far from opera.
In arias and oratorios, it was extremely rare to use pianos so they were far, but for light songs and lieder, they were close enough to depend solely on piano for the accompaniment.
Even without considering the general viewpoint, that was the case from my experiences. Although the accompaniments were almost always done with piano during schools, after entering an ensemble, we relied heavily on orchestras.
In any case, what I wanted to say, is this.
Accompanists were our companions with whom we formed the songs together.
After finishing the preparations, I looked around once.
At the corner of the room was Yu Minji-sunbae sitting with a dark expression, Song Mirae standing next to me and Chloe playing and fidgeting around with the piano.
I nodded once and opened my mouth.
“Let’s first go through the song in full so that we can tell how the song currently is.”
We finished the song in an instant and gathered back to share feedback as Yu Minji gave various opinions.
“Chloe did well despite this being the first performance. There was nothing wrong but… it was a little lacking. Were the expressions a bit lacking?”
“Since Mirae has recently changed to a mezzo, your habits are still a bit out of tune but that should be fixed with time…”
“Yunjae… you changed your singing a lot. It feels like there are more emotions in the song… very impressive.”
After saying all that, Yu Minji blinked and touched her chin.
“Overall… it’s not bad. It’s not bad but… something… there’s something mixed into the song that’s unpleasant to the ears. Ah, how do I explain this.”
She thought hard on it before raising her head up in a flash.
“Right. It feels like you placed pineapples on top of a pizza or something. It feels disharmonious…”
Huh? Why are pizzas and pineapples disharmonious?
I thought for a bit before getting rid of unnecessary thoughts and nodding my head. As expected of the top student of the composing department, Yu Minji-sunbae was able to locate the problem immediately. However, it seems that even she couldn’t figure out the solution.
“…But I have no idea what we need to do. Like, in fact… the pizza itself was delicious right? The pineapple was okay if eaten separately as well but eating them together wasn’t very good…”
With my eyes facing the thinking Yu Minji, I smiled.
In other words, it was like this.
Chloe, Song Mirae and I.
Because we all practised separately, we could sing our own songs without a problem. It meant that our songs were good just like how the quality of the pizza ingredients themselves were good.
However, the moment we added them up, it formed a strange group.
The smell of cheese that stood out too much; the wobbly texture of the sour yet sweet pineapple as well as the bread that turned soggy from too much sauce.
It would naturally taste weird to most people and there was only one solution to this problem. With a smile, I opened my mouth.
“In our opera department, we have this thing called Concerted Music.”
I could see Yu Minji confused from the sudden change of topic.
“During the first few lessons of Concerted Music, we really don’t mix in well. Everyone sings their own songs and… they’re all good. They are good, but their own colours are too strong and they stand out too much. It usually results in something similar to what we just sang before, and sounds unpleasant due to the unnatural mix.”
Song Mirae let out a mutter like she was in agreement.
“That’s why we practise like crazy, so that we can understand each other’s songs and until our ears can pick that up. We do that until we make a song that resonates spherically together with not a single bit sticking out; until we can sing choruses together and not alone.”
Yu Minji had the same confused expression. I took my eyes off her and turned towards Chloe.
“And, that’s the same for the accompanists.”
I saw Chloe blinking her eyes.
Right, songs weren’t sung alone.
It was true that the protagonist of this song was the human voice and not the piano as it was an art song made by Yu Minji-sunbae. However, even if we were the protagonists, what would happen if we didn’t have the accompaniment supporting us from behind?
A perfect song could suddenly turn into a plain song without accompaniment and that was how big of an impact accompaniments had.
In other words, accompanists shouldn’t be just thought of as accompanists and had to be considered as another special member of the chorus.
A chorus member with whom we had to match our voices with.
…Now with this as the basis, what was the reason for me being confident of our victory?
When Yu Minji slapped down on the table like something had popped up in her head, I smiled.
“A postgraduate sunbae was it? He probably doesn’t have time to practise together with Kim Wuju because he’s a busy person… and even if he does practise, it will be done separately.”
Besides, he was from graduate school. A skilled veteran who had entered a graduate school with just his piano skills – would he try to support and match a high schooler’s main melody?
99% chance that he wouldn’t.
He probably would show off his own melody. It was obvious considering that it was coming from the prideful piano department.
Then, what would happen?
Kim Wuju singing zealously and the piano running up by itself alongside it.
Their song won’t result in a mere hawaiian pizza – I could bet Han Dasom’s hair pin on it.
Perhaps having thought of all that as well, Yu Minji’s expression turned brighter.
Her lips were raised into a curl and her expressionless look turned brighter. The relaxed eyes formed crescents and her teeth revealed themselves in a bright smile.
Was she that happy?
Yu Minji smiled brightly like that before tapping my shoulders and giving endless compliments.
“Wow this guy. You thought of that immediately after hearing the story? Are you seriously younger than me? You look like someone who performed a lot. I only realised something was odd after hearing you perform…”
“No… It’s perhaps because you’ve only been practising with students from our school. If you start practising with people outside school, you would figure it out immediately.”
“Really? Then how did you know all that?”
With an awkward smile, I scratched my neck and made an innocent smile. Well, I knew it because I had come across piano performers a lot back in the days. If they’re not professional accompanists, they were quite prideful and I fought so much because of that…
I shook myself out from nostalgia and turned towards Chloe.
She was smiling brightly with her thumb raised up.
Right, she was the odd one. Chloe was pretty much an angel compared to them.
With a warm gaze that meant ‘I’m proud of you Chloe’, I was staring at her when suddenly, I felt the piano accompaniment I had heard before touch my ears.
The jumpy, attractive timbre of Chloe…
Chloe. Piano. Song. Chorus…
Within the thoughts that continued on without a real link, I suddenly remembered a conversation I had with Chloe. Back then, when Chloe was practising with me – a short while after the admission.
“Yunjae! What’s this in Korean?”
“Yes! The teacher told me to fix it but… I can’t do it well. The teacher said it would be very, very good if I could fix it!”
Right I could remember now. I could remember Chloe pointing at a musical notation of a music sheet and asking what it was in Korean. Although I didn’t know much about pianos, I remembered trying my hardest to help her.
What was that symbol again? That…
I thought back on it for a long time before raising my head with a flash.