James: Hey everyone, before we dive into our reaction of ‘Black Swan’, I wanted to talk about our partnership with LV Bangtan and give you guys the opportunity to purchase discounted BTS merch while also supporting their Love Myself campaign. The Love Myself campaign is a joint effort between a UNICEF and BTS that helps children and their families worldwide. Brianna: We find this campaign extremely important because UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of children around the world. They work with them to overcome obstacles such as poverty, violence, disease, and discrimination that they face in their path. Henry: We’ve partnered with LV Bangtan for this video because they’re independent promoters of the UNICEF End Violence Campaign. They sell quality, clean BTS merchandise with the Love Myself branding to help raise money for the cause.
Cloud: You can donate directly to the hashtag BTS Love Myself UNICEF website or anything you buy merchandise-wise from LV Bangtan will go directly to the campaign, and that way you can get exclusive awesive..awesome…I don’t know how to say that word, so I’m gonna say wonderful… wonderful, exclusive BTS merchandise to represent army and the love yourself message. Kevin: And by purchasing through the link in the description or entering the promo code tothek10, you get an additional ten percent off your entire purchase and are automatically entered to a giveaway for the ‘Map of the Soul 7’ album. Umu: I really hope that our fan base will be able to give lots of love and support to this cause so if you can, please head to the description to check out the website, where you can buy this beautiful merch and support such an amazing campaign. Now, let’s go back to the reaction video. You are now reacting to the boy group BTS and their 2019 song ‘Black Swan’. They actually released two versions: trap version on ITunes and stuff, and you guys are reacting to the Art Film version on YouTube. As you might have already guessed, the choreography and concept of the video you’re about to watch is inspired by the movie the Black Swan.
Elizabeth: Oh, God, I just watched that. Let’s go, Aronofsky for the win. Umu: The art film begins with a quote by by American choreographer Martha Graham. The concept of the song is based on the meaning behind the quote that artists, dancers, musicians die twice. The first death is when they have to give up their art for whatever reason. For BTS this death comes if they lose their passion for making music. Fame brings with it pressure to produce songs, and some artists release music that is systemically written for mass appeal. But the group wants to continue to inspire us with their music, and if they can’t do that, their end has come–their first death. The concept for the album that the song will be released on, ‘Map of the Soul 7’, is Jung’s theory of the shadow. The dancers in the video are the MN Dance Company from Slovenia, and the song is composed by Pdogg, August Rigo, Vince Nantes, Clyde Kelly, and the BTS member RM (Strings arranged by Myungsoo Shin)
Fiona: Three, two, one.
. Daniel: Big hit. All right. Hit me hard. Fiona: A dancer dies twice–once when they stop dancing, and the first death is more painful.
Daniel: That’s so sad. Elizabeth: An aesthetic.
Owen: Um-hmm. Owen: I did not expect that. James: Go off. Oh, my God, I love this. Cloud: I love this so far. Fiona: The sound is going from left to right a little bit in the headphones, and that’s mirrored by his arms.
Damiel: I love how this, the orchestration, it’s like a mix between Western and Eastern instruments. It’s like string quartet with the Euro… yeah, the gayageum. Owen: I really like how the whole rhythm is just given by… like it almost sounds like it’s improvising on the chord progression–the strings and the guitar player. Elizabeth: Yeah. Brianna: I love the syncopation in the violin. It’s like: *demonstrates* Aaron: *is string* Nick: Also, that violinist is really good. Fiona: I like how the high violin is tripleting over everything. Kind of the strings are all kind of doing their own thing, but staying rhythmically together. Daniel: Yeah. It’s a lot of trills, tremolos, figures, I think it’s supposed to represent flight, because that’s what most…I think when you think of tremolos in string playing, that’s what it’s supposed to imitate–flight. Brianna: You hear that? There’s like one thing that doesn’t fit inside the melody. I think that symbolizes the shadow coming to take over. When you hear the dis- that stability in the tonality, it symbolizes something changing.
James: This is amazing. Nick: It’s kind of like they took a list of extended techniques for the violin, and
Aaron: ohh it’s so cool, that… *noise* Nick: and cello, and viola and they just put them all there.
Aaron: Boom. Yunyi: This is incredible. Yeah, I don’t want to talk. Elizabeth: I feel like all the transitions between the different sections are so organic and smooth. It’s hard to tell if he’s personally like, where the like pre-chorus gets into the chorus. It’s very smooth. Owen: It actually feels linear to me, but linear in the way that Bolero is linear. Elizabeth: Um-hmm.
Owen: It’s sort of one idea, but just expanded on the entire piece.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Elizabeth: I really like how they give a lot of time for the instrumentals.
Owen: Um-hmm. Yunyi: Wow! The choreography, first of all, is just ridiculously good, and the design of the video is incredibly good. The music is also just, I think, perfect to accompany it. Especially, I love what they did with the strings, and how they disintegrate into sounds every once in a while. And that’s kind of like, you know, that’s like the instrumental shadow, in a way. But again, the choreography just blew me away. This is really a perfect marriage between all forms of media in production of this of this piece. The end result was so powerful Elizabeth: Did they end on like, seven? Scale degree 7? (singing) I feel like it wants to resolve up
Owen: Actually, well, tonic in that, in that key, was actually bizarre. It was really bizarre. I don’t think it ever actually played with tonic. I think all the chords were like IV-ii-vi-V. I don’t think it ever played tonic.
Elizabeth: But at the very end, we never reached tonic either, it stops on scale degree 7. Owen: We just, we never get to hear tonic.
Owen: Yeah, that’s tonic.
Elizabeth: You think that’s tonic? I think that’s the real tonic, we just never get to it. Elizabeth: No, I don’t think so, because in the chorus it’s, “Do your thing, do your thing”… I don’t think that’s one in the chorus
Owen: You think it’s the relative minor? (singing)
Elizabeth: I do think this is in minor. Yeah. I mean, it’s playing a little bit between major and minor. Theory and aural skills, especially when things are more complex, is a little bit subjective, so people can hear it different ways, especially if it’s playing with major versus minor. *flashback*
Yunyi: It sounds inconclusive because it landed on the third of the i, okay. Kevin: No, no, no, it’s not because of that.
Yunyi: No, it’s still 3, 3. It’s in minor.
Kevin: Maybe we hear it differently. So, Black Swan is a film. You know, the main character…Oh, God, what’s her name? Nina. Nina keeps seeing herself. People around her will turn into her, and so she keeps seeing like the dark shadow version of herself, cuz the whole le point is there’s this tension between her being like obviously the White Swan and her Black Swan tendencies coming out. And there’s this blend of her confusion as she’s losing time in her brain, and things are happening and she doesn’t remember them happening. And so, there’s this kind of ambiguity. Is this Black Swan version of her she keeps seeing real is it not real? So I think by like the fact that we can like have a debate about what key we think it is in is indicative of the fact that they’re playing with that and trying to confuse us, and I think that’s also like kind of the vibe of the movie. Owen: I thought what was interesting, too, is that it went from the main dancer being held by the rest of the shadow characters to in the middle, when the music was much more dramatic and energetic and passionate, it was like a fight scene, almost, choreographed, and that, I think, was when you were fighting the shadow within yourself. And then at the end, when it went to more above a resolution, almost back to the beginning, but it felt like we had passed that, we had gone through that journey, so it felt different. At the end, it felt like the swan had accepted the shadow, and the shadow was raising the swan up. Umu: I got so many goosebumps!!!!! It was pleasant. A lot of layering of different rhythms, there’s a point where violins were like tripleting, descending up high to down low, and the bass was just like boom, boom, boom, boom.
Daniel: ??????? Fiona: There’s a lot of like texture within the string section.
Fiona: Cuz in a lot of music the strings are all kind of doing the same thing. Daniel: Yeah.
Fiona: That was interesting. They each have their voice Daniel: I think the variation that you’re hearing is sort of like traditional in terms of string quartet scoring. Which is, because you know how each instrument has its own part? Fiona: Yeah. Daniel: So it’s like four voices coming together. And I think that they really draw on a lot of classic techniques of not just orchestration or scoring, you hear those cascadings of triplets or like the sixteenth- like *sings rhythms* and you hear the cello holding the bass.
Daniel: And so I think it really encapsulated the string technique repertoire, what we consider for quartet playing. Cloud: First off, I do think that there is a bass and a cello. There might be a cello line that they doubled and lowered, but I definitely do think there is something heavier on the bottom than just a cello. I don’t think it’s just a quartet. It might be a quintet with bass in the back, but there’s also like a pizzicato line, I want to say, on the downbeats. They were just those hits as people are bowing because most of it is very arco heavy. And even when the cello does a little bit more of like a, kind of, not super spiccato, but a little bit more off the string, you can still hear that there’s a strong downbeat, and they’re like, whapping. That’s a bad…like the whaps are just either on some kind of a percussion box or…
Henry: Yeah, I think it’s like on a cello.
Cloud: Because when I first listened, I thought that they were just hitting the back of a bass, because you can get that nice like, whop!
Henry: Thump! Cloud: Yeah.
Cloud: That being said, I think they’re making a lot of efforts to make it not feel heavy and drag on the bottom. Like there were some points when they had short, long–just like when you’re playing that often, because they would have every downbeat, and sometimes they would have one, two, three, four, or one, two three, four,
Henry: (singing) Cloud: Yeah. But sometimes they’re playing every single beat: just the dun, dun, dun, dun, and it’s really hard not to make everything feel very like passante,
Henry: Like stiff, yeah.
Cloud: very heavy, and hard to move. Sometimes I felt that it kind of did feel a little stuck and a little heavy for me, and maybe that was because the quarter notes were so even. It was very (singing) instead of like a (singing more softly. Or even like a crescendo through it like bom, bom, bom, bom, where it’s important. Listening again, I was like, okay, I can feel where they’re doing this, and like, so, the musicians were good, but I did want more. Nick: It’s interesting to hear kind of the electronically processed voices too, with the string orchestra. I feel like we never hear that in any other kind of music with the actual live instruments and then kind of an electronically altered voice. I think it works particularly well because on the violin you can really sustain a note, and with the bow, you’ve got a really even sound, but with the voice, naturally you’re gonna have little highs and lows in terms of volume, especially. That seems to be one of the things that people correct in post-processing that makes the voice sound kind of more electronic, but it actually makes them match the string sound in a really cool way. James: I knew when you described it, I was like, yeah this is gonna be really relatable, but watching it I realized it’s relatable to anyone who is in the realm of performing arts. You know, it’s not just something that we as instrumentalists can relate to, it’s something that the dancers can probably relate to, it’s something that the singers can relate to, it’s like this is something that affects every artist in every genre, whether it’s classical or pop or any genre in between. The way the strings were arranged, I noticed there were very specific things they did to kind of hint at that this is something that all artists feel. It was like string textures and trills, but there was also a plucked instrument in there that was, I don’t know what kind of instrument it was, but it sounded a bit Oriental to me.
Umu: It’s a Korean instrument. James: Yeah, so just the way they blended everything, the way they blended the mediums, like the dance, and the instrumentals, and even the vocals and the lyrics, it was just like, they really drove it home for me. Aaron: But also like, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which is what this is all based off of.
Nick: Does that resolve?
Aaron: Tchaikovsky was gay, by the way.
Nick: Tchaikovsky was…
Aaron: I’m just saying.