Chapter 2: Bit by bit 5
Picking the phone up, I pressed on the play button.
– Hi everyone, nice to...
It was the recording file. After checking that teacher Ku Mingi’s voice was properly coming out, I stopped the audio.
“Mhmm... working well.”
The size of the audio was a lot larger than I had thought so there was the question of whether a phone could play it but... fortunately it worked fine. Although it was big, it was still within the boundaries of an audio file so perhaps it was just me looking down on the technology too much.
In any case, with this, the preparations were now over.
Sitting down, I could feel the comfy cushion of the chair around my bum. After all the lessons of Future Arts High had ended, I had finally reached the practice rooms.
“How long has it been.”
Looking around the practice room gave me a nostalgic feeling.
Through my high school, university and ensemble days... more than half of my life had been spent in this space every day.
Most of the time I would stay in here more than in my own house. A home was only a place for sleeping and on days that I indulged myself in training, I would sometimes not even go back home so it wasn’t an overstatement to call the practice rooms my house.
But with one incident as the cause, that life had been shattered like a lie, and my feet had never carried me back into another practice room ever since.
It truly was pathetic now that I reflected back on it. So what if I failed the interview? And yet I had spent more than 5 years after that just playing around like a NEET.
Without ever stepping back into a practice room.
Then, I realised that I was unconsciously touching the soundproof walls. The rough texture meeting my fingers felt unusual and awkward.
Throwing my gaze to the front, a black piano entered my sight. Placing my hand on top of it, I held onto a random key.
The sound of C4 quietly echoed through the room.
Just like that, I continued up.
D4, E4, F4, G4, A4, B4
And lastly, I pressed down on C5 along with the pedal and the ringing string continued its vibration for a while.
In other words, 3 Octave C.
It was a high note that symbolised top tenors.
Why? It was because there weren’t many males that could give out a proper C5 pitch. That meant something other than just reaching up to C5, and was different from squeezing everything out to hit that note.
A person that could have the high note C5 fill an entire stadium of a few hundred metres in diameter could stand proud as a revered tenor with that one ability.
Right. Exactly like that famous Pavarotti who had been called the King of High Cs.
Getting rid of all the stray thoughts, I prepared my throat and started off lightly with some simple scales.
“Ah- ah- ah- ah!”
The tone that barely brought itself up had stopped at F4 – a note 4 steps lower than C5.
Of course, it was due to a lack of practice. If I were to train, I should be able to go up to B4 which had been my highest note before coming back in time.
B4 – one level lower than C5.
‘To that B4 which I had been stuck at for 20 years.’
With only that, I could not call myself a tenor. How can an opera singer that can’t even sing a high note be a tenor?
Turning my head over, there was a mirror to the side of the practice room. Mirror, through which my eyes were able to glance over the me inside it.
A feeble body and a small height. Staring directly at that youthful face, there was a burst of fantasies floating in my head. Wouldn’t it be possible this time, with this body that had yet to fully develop
After a while of staring into the mirror, I flicked my head away.
“Let’s just practise.”
Whether it would succeed or not, there was the need to actually begin. Putting aside all the ideas and opinions, I played the rest of the recording. Along with some background noise, the voice of the teacher started to flow out.
‘It’s indeed quite bad.’
I had thought it was just the recording feature but the playing feature was also quite bad. When I tried putting an earphone in, the earphone itself was terrible too so it felt like my ears were rotting away. If the recording file was in bad quality on top of this, then the practice itself would’ve been impossible.
At least thanks to teacher Ku Mingi, I’ll be able to practise.
I listened to the rest of it after a sigh.
At the start, there was the teacher’s explanation on concerted music and blah blah blah. I knew all of these so I just skipped it. Soon the teacher called Jun Shihyuk and I to the front and Jun Shihyuk’s turn to sing had arrived.
The shabby phone speaker vibrated as if being ripped to pieces, by the notes overflowing with power.
Hearing it the second time, there were still feelings of admiration.
‘Jun Shihyuk is indeed really good.’
After hearing this much of a cool sound, it had even created some good-will towards the guy. He must’ve tried quite a lot as well, so I wanted to have some conversation on how he approached his singing.
Maybe I should talk to him later and become friends.
Soon, his voice ended and it became my turn to sing. Opening my ears to its maximum, I glared daggers at the speaker.
The first note was dropped.
It was different to what I had felt during when I was singing. The sound was different and the resonance had dropped... making it sound raw. That was the sound it made.
This was my song from the audience’s perspective.
– Ah– Ah- Ah ah–!
The me inside the speaker tried its hardest. Filling in the breath, and barely ringing the resonating chambers. I could feel it trying whatever it could to somehow continue with the song.
‘I’m going crazy.’
It felt like I was ripped naked.
Barely holding my hands back from trying to stop the song, I swallowed the embarrassment and analysed the timbre.
– Ah –...
Hmm... It was a timbre with leftover signs of a boyish feel. Even then, it was soft, not sharp and the diction overall gave off a bright feeling.
‘It’s more different than I thought.’
Compared to 20 years later, it was way too different. I scanned deeper.
First, the bright feeling it gave off was a little burdensome and there seemed to be a need to consciously make it darker. Hmm and... there was nothing much to complain about the timbre. In fact, I quite liked it. Did I have this kind of voice?
I organised my thoughts while tilting my head.
“For now... I’m done with checking.”
Now that I had finished analysing my voice patterns, it was time to decide the direction I was going to head towards. How should I develop my singing from here? After having my brain quickly spin, the 20 years of experience as an executant had immediately thought of a few training routines.
First off, the most lacking were the basics, and especially breath. The body that had not even tried abdominal breathing suffers from even having to maintain that breathing.
The basic of singing was breath so without this, things collapsed like a house built on sand. After all, how would one sing without air?
‘But since I can do breathing exercises at the dorm, let’s do that later.’
There was a limited time of use on practice rooms so they had to be used efficiently. Exercises that couldn’t be done at the dorm. A practice that should only be done at the completely soundproof practice room – exercises that require sound...
I guess we should start from high notes. Tenors just had to sing high notes properly. Of course they had to have other things added on top of it to be treated as a top level, but being acknowledged for just being able to sing at high notes was a tenor.
‘Around two months I guess...’
After hearing my own voice and knowing the gist of things, it now shouldn’t be too difficult to go up to high notes. As soon as I am able to have my vocal cords stick better, it should skyrocket. Well, maintaining that high note and properly vocalising would be another issue in itself though.
Lightly relaxing my mouth, I slowly began practising.
“I also told you last time how the German pronunciation of ‘r’ is relatively different to English’s ‘r’ right? You have to shake your uvula a little bit more. Hmm... sometimes it’s more similar to ‘g’ than a ‘r’. It’s like talking while gargling. Now let’s all try it.”
The voice of the German teacher obstinately trying to fix German pronunciation sounded like a lullaby. After blinking my eyes, I gave a yawn and looked around me.
“Urrr... How do you do this.”
I could see Lee Suh-ah making an irritated voice. She looked like a dog growling and looked quite funny. While I was grinning at her, Lee Suh-ah who had felt the gaze like an esper quickly turned towards me.
Look at those vicious eyes.
Feeling a little startled, I quickly pretended like I was trying to fix her pronunciation and gave her advice.
“Put your tongue deeper in. Rufen.”
“You’re doing well.”
After staring at Lee Suh-ah who then started practising for a while, I threw my gaze outside the window. The idly floating clouds entered my eyes.
‘I’m jealous. Damn clouds. They look super comfortable...’
It had already been a few days since the admission. The school life was quite hectic – first off, the fact that the waking up time was decided by others was quite uncomfortable. I would crawl myself out and wash, and exercise to grow the body...
Listening and having to focus on the likes of maths and science with a blank brain after a meal was torturous. At least it was thanks to Music Theory, SRMD, German etc being included that I was able to survive. If there weren’t any freelo subjects like these then I definitely would’ve been sent to a hospital while studying.
Somehow enduring until the afternoon classes were over and then spending the rest of the day inside a practice room was how the days went by.
It was a very classic life of a performing arts student.
The yawns that became a part of my life thanks to the lack of sleep was quite annoying. What I earned during these last few days were the exhaustion and the gradually increasing singing skills, and the friendship with the concerted music group, I’d say.
Roughly rubbing my teary eyes, I felt Noh Jusup stab me with his elbow.
“Did Lee Suh-ah say something just then?”
“We just practised German together.”
“Oh~ What’s this? She usually doesn’t ask much thanks to her pride. What’s going on hmm?”
Noh Jusup. This frisky-appearing guy with his playful actions.
How does this guy use such a heavy chest voice, ringing his heart when singing? Due to his body still being thin, the resonance was slightly lacking but if he were to get bigger it would probably get a lot better. I also need to get bigger; should we order some food late at night?
‘But it feels like this guy’s gonna devour all of it if we were to order.’
Finding Noh Jusup who continued talking without an end annoying, I turned my head to the side and found Han Dasom, who had been giving off a small smile while gazing at us. I greeted her because our eyes had met but she quickly avoided her eyes with a start.
... She looks like a vigilant rabbit.
I scratched my head in embarrassment.
She was also good at singing – she was so good that I’d be sorry to compare her with Noh Jusup. I was seriously surprised when I heard her properly sing during the concerted music lesson.
How should I explain this... let’s say I were to compare her with Lee Suh-ah.
If Lee Suh-ah had a skillful and elegant timbre, then Han Dasom’s gave a warm and soft feeling. Right, you could call her a classic soprano lirico. A girlish, piano voice, with her pianissimo tone.
‘To be honest I think she’s better than the so-called second best soprano Song Mirae.’
How come I only got to know her after graduation? If it was this level of skill then it was bound to leave some kind of memory, like Jun Shihyuk did.
I had no idea.
While I was shrugging, the bell rang.
“See you later!”
With this, Friday was over. What should I do during the weekends... I thought but there was nothing apart from practice I could do.
When I slowly walked back to the tenth classroom, there was teacher Kang Heewon greeting us. Had she been waiting? She had a wide smile and seemed very happy.
We all sat down on our seats, in preparation for the last end-of-the-day meeting of the week.
“Everyone. Are you adapting well?”
To the gloomy replies of the students, teacher Kang Heewon gave a grin.
“That’s good to hear because the teacher has brought some good news for you!”
“Your Improvement Concert timetables have come out!”
Groans filled the class.
Improvement Concert. 𝗶𝙣𝗻𝚛eα𝑑. 𝒸𝗼𝑚
There was indeed something like that. The teacher that was happy to make such a dreadful announcement gave out papers to everyone.
“Now, the schedules are all there on the papers. The first week will be done by the students that have received great prac marks during the admission test and from the second week onwards students were randomly allocated. Everyone must choose and send the songs in one week before the concerts. Then, have a nice weekend!”
Without batting an eye at the booing students, teacher Kang Heewon skipped her way out of the class with a hum. Seeing that I gave out a sigh.
You could probably tell from the name but it was simple.
It was a little concert opened by students. Pretty much, the students would one-by-one go up and perform the songs they had prepared. In universities, people would call them ‘weekly’s as well, as they would be held once a week.
As for those reactions... well it was because the teachers would watch the students and give them marks. And those marks would go straight into the final prac marks.
‘I need to practise for concerted music, prepare for the mid-sem exams...’
It really made me fully aware that I was at a performing arts school – there was no time to relax. With a glance, I checked the timetables she gave us.
[First week] (High-achievers’ concert)
[Piano: Chloe Denjelle.
Opera: Kim Wuju, Lee Suh-ah]
Phew. Thank goodness I’m not there. Well I guess that was obvious because the teacher did say that the first week would be done by the high-achievers, but, anyways did she say it would be random from the second week onwards?
I prayed with my hands intertwined.
Please. Please be on the last week, or at least after the 6th week. I need time – time to prepare my body and regain all my skills. I also need to find an accompanist. It was impossible to sing by myself so there had to be an accompanist but that was quite difficult as well because I had no money or connections.
So please at least give me ample time. 6th week out of 12 weeks is not asking for the impossible right?
With my eyes half-closed and going lower to the second week, there were lists of names written down. They were under piano, violin, viola, cello... and opera.
Opera: Jo Yunjae, Song Mirae]
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