Act 8: Lively 9
Raising the cup of water back up, the teacher sipped it to wet his throat and tapped on the table a bit more before opening his mouth.
“Let me explain it in more detail.”
Then, he leaned his body behind onto the chair with a faint smile.
“In fact, if you think about it, you would probably remember hearing songs with emotions quite often. Besides, not all of them would have been from amazing singers and there are lots of cases where emotions would be embedded into songs despite having been sung by average people.”
Seeing me blinking my eyes, the teacher opened his hand.
“I’ll give you an example. A children’s song sung by a small child sounds bright no matter who the singer is. After breaking up with their girlfriend, their song would sound sad, and singing with some friends at a karaoke while playing around like crazy would result in a joyful song… You know what I mean? Even if they’re not that good at singing, you can easily feel the emotions of the singers, right?”
“Ah, that’s true.”
I was nodding my head when the teacher leaned forward and made a serious expression.
“But if you forcibly embed those emotions into a song, it becomes really difficult feel that. It in fact feels out of place, and I also pondered a lot back in the days on what might be the lacking factor.”
He tapped on the table with his fork for a bit before forming a frown. After a while, he changed that thinking expression to a grin.
“The lacking aspect was simple – it’s empathy. The reason why a friend who broke up with his girlfriend sounds sad, and the reason why a song after the tests sound joyful…”
Resting his body onto the seat, the teacher nodded his head.
“It’s all because you know their background story that you can feel their emotions. If it was someone you didn’t know, it would probably end with you just thinking, ‘they’re super bad’.”
Um… is that how it works?
Thinking back, it was true that the sounds of other people singing at the karaoke just sounded loud. I was in deep thought when the teacher continued his words while twirling his fork around.
“You don’t believe it? It’s the same with how children’s songs appear bright. Because of the unconscious stereotype you have towards children’s voices, they sound bright to you. If you opened your eyes and saw a big adult singing like that, then you’d be thinking ‘what?’ instead. In the end, the emotion embedded in songs is a matter of whether the listeners can empathise with you or not.”
“…Then what should we do? On the real stage, most of the audience wouldn’t even know me.”
I made a sullen expression with closed lips when the teacher broke into a grin.
“It’s simple. You just need to empathise deeper so that the audience members who don’t know you can empathise naturally. There’s a method taught by my teacher for that.”
“Yeah. That’s around when I was 27… when I first debuted in opera. I was jumping around in joy from being able to stand on the opera company stage thanks to my teacher’s connections when he suddenly gave me a book. It was around this thick…”
He separated his hands to almost a shoulder length.
That thick? Tilting my head, I stared at the teacher and he nodded back.
“Yeah, around this much. You know those super thick telephone books? It was around three of them stuck together and when I asked him what it was, he told me to just shut up and read.”
Teacher Kwak Jungsoo made a faint smile.
“When I read through it, I realised that it was the novel which the opera I was performing in was based after. Well, I could understand that much because there’s nothing wrong with acting while knowing the original work.”
“But when I finished reading the original work, he suddenly gave me a chunk of aria music sheets and told me to memorise other voice parts as well. When I finished that, he gave me a biography about the life of the composer and when I finished that as well, he handed me a biography of the original author. Later, he told me to read everything about the background in which the opera was made.”
Blankly, I sat there listening when the food started being served. Seeing the plates of food slowly being placed onto the table, the teacher gave a cough and opened his mouth.
“Kuhum. In conclusion, it’s like this. Unlike art songs, operas have stories and characters. That’s why you should delve deeply into the background of the characters. What does this guy do for a living that he sings songs like that? What was the situation when he sang this and what kind of feelings did he have while singing the song… You should be thinking of all that and empathising with the said character.”
He met my eyes and continued.
“…Only then could the audience empathise with the story you’re unravelling for them.”
Looking at the plate of steak, I digested his words.
Seeing me in thought, the teacher opened his mouth while chewing on some food.
“Well, that’s the first stage and… after singing like that for a long time, you’ll somewhat be able to tell how to embed emotions into the song. When I was 27, I was able to properly embed emotions after a year of learning so you should be able to as well after some practices…”
After saying up to there, the teacher grinned.
“It’s actually quite funny. To think that I would be saying this to a high school freshman.”
Han Dasom who had been listening from the sides interjected immediately.
“It’s very early…right?”
“Hmm… well yeah. Usually, people would sing without even noticing those things like emotions and would only realise after personally standing on an opera stage. Only after you understand this can you sing songs that can truly move the hearts of the listeners.”
Han Dasom nodded her head blankly before turning her gaze over to me with a ‘hehe’ smile.
Why do you look happier than me when I was the one who received the compliment?
With a grin, I looked away from Han Dasom who had a proud expression and talked to the teacher about what had happened at school when the teacher wasn’t there.
The things that I had learned under teacher Ku Mingi as well as participating in the song presentation of the composing department and reaching high C…
Although they were things we had discussed already on kakaotalk, it felt different when we chatted in person like this. Like that, the conversation flowed with Han Dasom jumping in from time to time and giving me an over-compliment which the teacher responded with a smile, before soon flowing to the talks about prac songs.
“You’re doing Elf King?”
“Yes. It’s a recommendation from teacher Ku Mingi.”
After deep contemplation, teacher Kwak Jungsoo tilted his head.
“Elf King? Although you’re good at expression skills… demonstrating four different people is by no means an easy task. Since it’s different from normal lieder and it’s more of a dialogue-based song, it is somewhat similar to operas.”
“It means that you need to analyse four different characters. On top of that, you need to express that they’re all different people and… that’s not easy technique-wise either.”
After hearing all that, I tapped on the table before soon coming to a realisation.
Ah, right. I didn’t tell him about the ‘sword style changes’ yet right?”
Since it was a bit weird to boast about every single thing through messages I didn’t say anything and the teacher probably thought that I had changed the vocalisation entirely.
Nodding my head, I stared at the teacher with a smile.
“I think that will be okay because there’s something I learned from teacher Ku Mingi.”
“You see, I can go back and forth between two vocalisation methods now – from your vocalisation method sir, to the one teacher Ku Mingi taught me.”
He blinked his eyes before soon dropping his chin.
After finishing the meal, the teacher looked over my practice a bit before returning to Italy. He said that the visit was in fact just to see me and that he hadn’t been planning to stay for long and that it would at least be the second semester before he returned completely.
“Practise well until then.”
“Right, good luck on the prac test. Your songs were good and well, although I’m a bit worried about the Elf King… teacher Ku Mingi must have thought through everything.”
“I’ll practise hard.”
“Of course you should.”
It seemed that the teacher still thought that the Elf King would be too difficult. He said that the sword style changes were great and that the judges would be baffled if a student was to do it.
However, he expressed his worries while saying “Don’t you have to come first though?” and… since he was correct, I did ponder on his words a little.
It was because of the styles of the prac tests.
Whenever there was even a slight mistake, you would get an immediate deduction of marks in the prac test. In other words, to get a good mark, we had to sing our prac songs perfectly, without a single mistake.
And singing Elf King perfectly was easier said than done so… it was natural for him to be worried. Perhaps it wasn’t the best prac song I could have picked.
But shouldn’t I at the very least be able to overcome hurdles like these to stand alongside Kim Wuju and Lee Suh-ah? If I had no talent, then at least I had to make a special move right?
While having such flashbacks, I was sitting still inside the practice room when my phone suddenly vibrated. Taking my phone out, I realised that I had received a message from my mother.
[Mum: What’s this?
I pressed the link while tilting my head as the screen changed to a youtube screen.
Then, a video was played.
Checking that the video was of Han Dasom and I singing on the opposite sides of the table, I quickly stopped the video.
Ah, how did she even find out…
I was somewhat embarrassed. It felt like a book of scribbles was discovered and it was like a diary I had placed inside the drawer was taken out.
Even when I was in such a helpless mood, the phone continued its vibrations diligently.
[Mum: Who’s the girl in front of you? She’s pretty.]
[She’s good at singing and my son is good too. I enjoyed it.]
[The views are very high.]
[But should your mum find this out after hearing from someone else? If there was something like this, you should have told me immediately. Your mother’s sad.]
The impact of the UCC video which I participated with a light heart was massive. These days, the other students would often talk about these things and now even my mum was…
Heaving out a sigh, I did whatever I could to ease my dear mother’s mood when the door of the practice room was pushed wide open. Soon, it closed once again with an echo as a familiar face entered my sight.
Flicking her ponytail, Lee Suh-ah walked straight before sitting on the chair in front of the piano and throwing a glance at me. Then, she primly ran her hand across her hair once as her lips opened.
“Why did you call me? Today wasn’t a day we decided to practise.”
Slowly, I placed the phone down and turned towards her.
Right, originally, we weren’t going to practise today. Since it was now time to focus more on the prac tests, we had decided to reduce the time we spent practising together.
Even then, there was a reason why I called Lee Suh-ah today.
‘Let’s check how effective the method the teacher told me is.”
After nodding my head, I thought back with a smile.
Throughout this weekend, I had done a thorough investigation like what teacher Kwak Jungsoo had suggested. Due to the short time span I had which would be barely enough to fit in one song, I targeted one song, Che gelida which I had sung before and investigated it.
What the background of Che gelida was and what kind of a character had sung it – from the thoughts that went across the character’s head to his values and characteristics, plus how the other characters were like et cetera… I looked into everything and rammed it into my brain.
After all that, it certainly did seem like I could understand better what the character’s feelings were when he was singing. It also felt like there were a lot more emotions embedded into the song and appeared more natural.
However, since it could be a placebo effect or something similar, it would be the best if I could have it checked by someone else. And the most fitting person that could check it was Lee Suh-ah who was sensitive to those ‘emotions’.
I thought she might not come because there wasn’t much time left until the prac tests but I was grateful that she came as soon as I called her.
“I feel like I somewhat got the hang of it.”
“Hang? Hang of what?”
“You know, the thing about emotions. I practised a bit during the weekends so could you have a look?”
“…Weekend? Didn’t you go watch the opera with Han Dasom?”
“Un? We went there on Friday and I practised during the weekends.”
After staring at me with a strange look, she clicked her tongue.
“Really? But we met a few days ago and I heard you sing back then. You also talked about getting the hang of it back then and what was the result?”
…It’s cheap to talk about the past.
“No, like, seriously. This time it’s for real okay? Just listen to it once.”
“…Ehew. How much would it change in that short amount of time… Just do what you want.”
Seeing Lee Suh-ah relaxing on the seat with a sigh, a smile appeared on my lips.
Good. Let’s get evaluated for the practices thus far before she changed her mind.
Shooting up from the seat, I steadied myself. Raising my chin up, I breathed in and postured straight.
Glancing down at the indifferent Lee Suh-ah, I opened my mouth.