Act 10: D.C. 10
Arriving at the hall behind Lee Suh-ah, I realised the atmosphere of the hall was different from usual. With cables everywhere, there was a camera located in the very centre, plus long mysterious things placed here and there on top of the stage.
I don’t remember this hall having all this electronic equipment. Since this auditorium was usually for small-scale concerts, there was no need for such equipment.
Plus, it was too grandiose for these to have been brought in just for an interview as well. While I was watching those with curiosity, the teacher in charge of freshmen walked up to the front.
“Guys, you see the camera there, right?”
Throwing glances at the principal sitting in the distance, he pointed at the front and following where he was pointing, I found the camera I had seen before. It was a black, large one that appeared like a professional one at a glance.
After confirming the confused looks on the students’ faces, the teacher continued his words with a nod.
“This concert’s practice will be recorded and saved into a video. After editing it, it will be uploaded on the school website and youtube. It’s a special request from the principal…”
Then, he leaned his upper body forward with a whisper.
“So you should be careful of what you say. Okay?”
A video huh… it felt like that was adding to the tension.
I was glancing at the equipment with a myriad of emotions as the teacher continued his explanation on how practices would be held.
He talked about how there will be a periodical practice session more than once a month and that no-one will be exempted from participating unless they had an extremely urgent task. Then, while he was talking about how the principal would be personally conducting, and how we should therefore try our best, the most-important interview topic was brought up.
“Today, as a practice, everyone will perform together like a real concert. After hearing that, the principal will evaluate who did the best, whose song suited his wants and the voice he liked – he will be choosing all that in one go.”
Hearing that in silence, I nodded my head.
Five of us will be singing together and he will choose one male and female huh… it was an interview style inside my expectations.
The teacher tilted his head while quietening down the crowd.
“By the way, who were the ones sitting the interview today?”
When I raised my hand slightly, he glanced across and caressed his chin.
“Right, you five, try your best. Singing as a main vocal under the principal is a rare opportunity. But don’t be too nervous.”
Turning towards me, the teacher opened his mouth apathetically.
“Then all of you, move to your designated locations.”
Moving towards the stage, I let out a mutter after being close enough to recognise the black sticks.
On top of the stage were rows of silhouettes of black sticks protruding out from the ground with a spherical shape at the top.
It appeared familiar. From a distance, I was doubtful of my eyes but after coming so close, it looked too familiar for me to feign ignorance.
After walking up the stage, I was looking at those objects with a sullen look when Han Dasom faced her blank expression at me.
Right – microphones. We’re going to be using mics apparently…
I suddenly remembered the practices we had. Thinking that there’s no way we would be using a mic in this concert, and that as the top level school of classical music, there would be no way for us to use mics, I assured Han Dasom to believe me and yet…
…It was embarrassing.
In silence, I stared at those spherical heads as Han Dasom looked at me again with jumpy feet.
“What should we do Yunjae… I think we have to use mics…”
She was right. They wouldn’t have put them here if we weren’t going to use it and besides, the fact that we even had it during simple rehearsals of freshmen meant that they would definitely be used in the actual performance.
And that, was a problem.
‘We practised without using mics though…’
Whispering to myself, I scratched my hair.
It wasn’t an overstatement to say that the history of modern music started due to mics. That was the level of impact mics had on the history of music.
At a glance, it might sound like an overstatement. One might think, ‘How could we talk about the history of music changing from a mere machine that amplified the voice?’
But by using that one machine, it was possible for a whisper to reach the audience at the back, and that was enough to completely overturn all formulae in music.
‘Opera and popular music were, after all, classified by the use of mics.’
Like how mics even changed the history of music, the difference in using, and not using them had a significant impact on the singing style.
If without a mic, it had to be a loud song which thousands of audience could hear, but if with a mic, it didn’t have to be that loud. Although neither was better than the other, they required different approaches.
‘But we practised with the assumption that we won’t be using mics…’
Oblivious to our restless hearts, the preparations for the interview continued, as students moved to their areas and tuned their instruments. When the principal walked up with his tailcoat fluttering behind, the three other interviewees stepped forward in nervousness.
“Are you all ready?”
Seeing the principal swinging his baton in satisfaction, I quickly racked my brain.
What should we do? It was too late for us to change our style. We already researched the song and digested it the way that suited our style and if we suddenly changed it, it wouldn’t be perfect.
More than anything, if we changed it on the spot, all the harmony we built up so far would crumble.
‘We can’t allow that to happen.’
After a deep contemplation, I turned towards Han Dasom and opened my mouth.
“Let’s just do it the way we practised.”
“…the way we practised?”
“Yeah. It would be too noisy if the mics are too close so leave them further away and during the chorus part, let’s express it in a brighter fashion. That might sound better through a mic.”
When I organised my thoughts while speaking rapidly, it felt like my brain was clearing up.
Right, although there was a variable called ‘mic’, that didn’t erase all the practices we had built up so far. In fact, this might even be better.
It would be easier for us to show everything we had practised. There’s a thing called contrasting effect right?
With such thoughts, I suggested that as an alternative and soon, Han Dasom gave a nod.
“Good. Let’s try our best.”
Bumping my fist with Han Dasom’s, I smiled.
Unlike the interviewees drowned in tension, the performers at the back were filled with curiosity.
“Hey, who do you think will be chosen?”
“Has to be Kim Wuju and Lee Suh-ah right?”
“Yeah. Future Middle School duo all the way.”
“But these days, Han Dasom is a force to consider as well.”
“Right. Han Dasom and Jo Yunjae practise together everyday.”
Looking at the girls chattering and screaming, Song Mirae made a sulky expression. She couldn’t find Jo Yunjae lately but it seemed that it was due to him practising with Han Dasom.
So when he said he was busy via message, he meant he was busy practising with that b*tch huh.
‘I should’ve done better in the prac test if I knew this would happen!’
She was in deep remorse but immediately turned her head around when a sentence reached her ears from the side.
“But to be honest, Jo Yunjae shouldn’t be there.”
Seeing Song Mirae’s glare, the girl was startled but soon continued her words awkwardly.
“I mean… it’s true right? Although Jo Yunjae’s good, he’s not at Kim Wuju and Jun Shihyuk’s level.”
Whispers of agreement spread within the ensemble.
“Yeah. Even during the Prac High-achievers Concert, it felt more like it was thanks to the song choice and he lacked impact during the Improvement Concert as well right?”
“Besides, he doesn’t have any achievements either.”
“No matter what he’s not at Jun Shihyuk’s level…”
In front of the constant bombardment of facts, Song Mirae lost her words as her face reddened.
‘But, well, it does appear like his current skills are a little insufficient but…’
She suddenly thought of the things that had happened during the song composition. In front of the upperclassman’s assault that seemed to leave no escape route, he had magnificently defeated through it. There was also the flash of talent he showed during the composition of the song itself.
‘Although it’s a bit different from Kim Wuju…’
Jo Yunjae was definitely a talented person – at the very least, that was what she thought.
“Didn’t you see him during the composition presentation? Jo Yunjae’s also super good at singing okay?”
In response, the freshmen opera students tilted their heads.
“Composition presentation? Why would we watch that?”
“We’re busy enough practising our own songs.”
Without sparing another glance at Song Mirae who gritted her teeth, the ensemble kids chatted before lowering their voices as the song started to flow.
“Ohh, finally, finally.”
“So in the first part all three males are singing together?”
“Wahh, Jo Yunjae must be super nervous. Hit.”
How low would his fall be?
As the girls had subtle expectations on the upcoming interesting scene, the voices of the boys started flowing into their ears. The students listened in before suddenly tilting their heads.
“Something’s not right…”
A unique resonance touched their ears and the students that had been focused on the song blankly dropped their chins.
“But he’s good?”
“How could this be?”
Interviews didn’t end with just singing the prepared song. After the song ended, a bunch of sharp questions welcomed me.
Those went as such.
“During the Jean Valjean section, you used a surprisingly unique bright vocalisation. Why did you do that?”
“It’s because we used a mic. Unlike the sound that leaves straight after vibrating the throat, sound that is filtered through a mic and a speaker are greatly impacted by them. After observing the structure of the hall and the mic, I decided that it would be better to be slightly brighter.”
Since I used mics quite frequently during the previous life, I had a rough idea on how to use it. I told Han Dasom how to use it in a rush so it was fortunate that she followed well enough.
When I raised a thumb at her, she returned a bashful smile.
The principal threw a dissatisfied glance at me before continuing with a snort.
“Talking about the mic, there was something I wanted to ask… Why did you place your mic so far away from your mouth when you sang?”
“…Because I practised with the assumption that there could be no mic, I placed it further away in fear of the sound being too loud.”
“Why did you assume such a case scenario? Isn’t it a musical song? It is completely normal to be using a mic and because of that, your style was in contrast to others and stood out.”
…Well, that’s because we didn’t use a mic in the previous Subscription Concert.
Rolling my eyes around in thought, I quickly made an answer up.
“If we practise with the assumption that there could be no mic, we could solve the problem by placing the mic further away, but if we practise with the optimistic thought that we would definitely have a mic and ended up having none in the actual stage, there’s no way to deal with it.”
“That… it’s called risk management…”
I looked into his eyes awkwardly as the principal sneered.
“Risk management huh. Not wrong.”
Did it work?
Carefully, I tried reading his expression but his face remained indifferent without giving any signs.
He tapped his hand with the baton a few times before finally opening his mouth.
“There’s something I felt while listening to that performance just then but to be honest with you, your song was just so so. It wasn’t bad, but that’s all.”
“Analysing everything one by one, it becomes extremely clear. Student Kim Wuju? Very superb. A song that resembles a perfect sphere without a single part sticking out and missing out on such a student is a huge loss as a conductor. What about student Jun Shihyuk? This guy – he’s also a fine baritone and a heavy baritone like that can’t be found that easily.”
I could see from the side Jun Shihyuk’s lips slowly rising up.
“But it’s weird…”
The principal threw a glance at me, then at Han Dasom.
“It’s strange but when you two sing together, it sounds good – somewhat harmonic, beautiful song. Right, perhaps more so than Kim Wuju, Jun Shihyuk and Lee Suh-ah…”
Now it was our turn to have brighter expressions.
This… perhaps our set menu strategy succeeded?
Pressing on the bridge of his nose, the principal contemplated before suddenly raising his head up in a flash.
“I’ll ask the final question.”
“You must’ve practised together with that girl – Han Dasom.”
It would be impossible to deceive him in this because no matter who saw it, our song appeared like a well-woven artwork. There was no way he would accept ‘coincidence’ as an answer.
When I carefully gave a reply, the principal nodded his head as if he had known about it and continued his words.
“Then who led the practice sessions? Is it teacher Ku Mingi, or the specialist teacher of Han Dasom?”
I blankly blinked my eyes for a while when the principal gave a frown.
“I’m asking you who was in lead! It was definitely a high-level chorus. It was the kind of duet that had every expression and every sound polished up with the support of a professional touch. But for it to be teacher Ku Mingi’s style, it had too much individuality sticking out and… I’m just curious if I got confused a little.”
Seeing me slurring the end of my sentence, one of his eyebrows rose up.
“…Don’t tell me it was you that led it?”
I rolled my eyes around in thought but soon had to open my mouth, having no other choice.
Vacantly, our eyes met.