Volume 5 / Chapter 185
This is different from how the Queen Elisabeth Competition is progressed in reality. This was created by the writer in interest of the story.
In October, submissions for the composition section of the Queen Elisabeth Competition began.
12 judges gathered in one place to go over 100 pieces that flew in from over 30 countries.
54 year old judge Marion Cotillard is the standing conductor of the Berlin Deutsche Symphony Orchestra. She was given the ‘Nobel Prize of contemporary music,’ the Grawemeyer, for a 30 minute cello concerto that she composed especially to perform with a movie to allow the audience to interact with music and film.
Most of the competition entries are contemporary music, so the judges were configured appropriately. They investigated their past statements and actions to rule out anyone who venerates the classics while disparaging contemporary music. It is to eliminate the concern that they may not be able to evaluate the value of the music due to prejudice.
“Alright. I’m sure everyone knows, but I’ll say it again in case. There will be experimental and avant garde music. But we need to keep in mind that we are evaluating music. We cannot choose a winner just because the song is novel. A score that we look at and want to hear the music for! This is the best criteria for judging.”
The judging began with Committee head Marion Cotillard’s greeting words.
The judges split into groups of 3 people and begin the trial. The trial is held so that if all 3 people are in agreement, the piece is eliminated.
Songs that clear the trial go back to primary screening. In the primary screening, all 12 judges go over each song and must choose between pass and fail. The pieces are ordered in the number of passes they receive, and they choose the top 12 to go into the finals.
The judges discuss each song and decide on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places with the last standing pieces.
The majority of entries are short songs of 10 to 30 minutes. There are songs that are entirely ‘experimental’ and there are songs that squeeze ‘emotion’ out. Pieces that only seek novelty were filtered out by the 3 judges.
3 judges had their last and most curious piece in front of them, and scoffed.
“‘Choral’… It can’t be what we’re thinking of, right?”
“So there are people who compose such large works these days.”
Looking at the thickness of the score alone, they could tell that it is a symphony and would take over 1 hour to perform.
“I just hope it’s not a song that’s been stretched out by unnecessarily repeating a thematic progression.”
Notes filling up the score. And there were so many instruments organized within it that it was hard to see the flow of the song in one run through. They needed to look over this one song with as much time as they had taken to look at over 10 songs.
The 3 judges took almost 3 hours to look over the score and only sat in silence. They did not say anything in evaluation during the trial. It is only a place to state whether or not it will be eliminated. If all 3 decided to eliminate it, not even Mozart could refute.
The judges need to be particularly careful because they do not know who the composers of the entries are.
“Well. How do we interpret this…..”
“Criticism isn’t our responsibility. We need to do that in the finals. All we need to do now is make a decision.”
When 1 judge spoke up, the other 2 shut their mouths.
“Then shall we make a decision?”
The 2 people lightly nodded their heads.
“Will you tell me? Does this song need to go up to finals?”
Nai and oxi is Greek and used in official matters to contribute opinion. It is used commonly in the west and is used when the U.S. Congress passes bills.
“So it’s one vote each. Then my opinion doesn’t matter. I’ll put it up to finals.”
“Why don’t you tell us your opinion anyway?”
Jun Hyuk’s song received 2 votes in favor and went up to finals.
20 out of over 100 songs made it to the finals, so the competition is 5:1. There are less works that made it to the finals than in previous years. There are normally about 30, but it has been reduced by more than 10.
This means that either there were a lot of submissions that did not meet standards, or that the judges’ standards had gone up.
The judges gathered for the final evaluation and started talking about the preliminary.
“There seems to be something influencing young composers, doesn’t it? Inferno?”
“Is that so? I found a few in the entries I saw as well.”
“The attempt to touch on physical sensations as is done in Inferno is good, but it’s not something that anyone can do. Why don’t they know that putting one delicate sound out of place will reduce it to nothing but noise?”
“They must know. They just don’t have the ability to express it.”
“Is that why there are fewer entries that have come up to the finals?”
“Pretty much. Looking at objective numbers, we could say that at least 10 entries were trying to copy Inferno.”
Then, the committee head said something meaningful,
“What would the results have been if Inferno had been an entry in this competition?”
The judges could not answer this sudden question easily. They were all busy recalling the first time they heard the album.
“Anyone who could read the score without stopping would have thrown it to the side, saying that it is noise. Anyone who could appreciate it wouldn’t have been able to read the score properly. Then would it be eliminated or would it win?”
There were people who had turned red. There are those who still think that Inferno is nothing but noise. But no one confessed to this.
“We might have eliminated a song like Inferno today. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’re average people who might not be able to recognize a piece by a young composer who is better than we are. But let’s be that much more careful with the final assessment so as not to make the same mistake twice.”
After committee head Marion Cotillard spoke, the preliminary portion was completed. They would have to gather the next morning and choose 12 out of 20 entries.
The next morning, the 12 judges talked over coffee and prepared for the final evaluation that would soon be starting. They spoke about each entry, but everyone could tell that they were saving their words.
It was obvious that they were avoiding any misunderstanding that could arise from something they say.
With the committee head’s light greeting as a start, the final evaluation commenced with everyone picking up a score. They looked over the 20 pieces again in silence.
Unlike previous years, time passed quickly and progress was slow. Everyone was preoccupied looking at one tremendous score that they did not realize time was passing.
When the 12 judges were done assessing the 20 pieces, it was already dark outside.
“Alright. Then shall we see the results?”
The committee head received the committee’s sheet and announced the order of pieces by the passes they received. Of the 20 songs, only 3 had received 12 passes. All of the judges had given them passes.
“Registration number 67. Title Concerto for Violin and Piano in D Minor, ‘Choral’… 7 votes. It is in 8th place.”
She looked up from the sheet and spoke,
“The other works can all be said to be expressions of contemporary music, but this one is classical. I’ll just call it ‘Choral Concerto’ from now on.”
The committee head continued tallying the results.
“So we will decide on the top 11 works. Are there any objections?”
Everyone shook their heads to indicate that they accept the results.
“Then tell us about the two songs that are both in 12th place with 3 votes each. We need to drop one.”
No one jumped in to speak. 3 votes. It is an ambiguous number. It is too high to say that someone forced themself to vote, but too low in quality to expect it to go in competition.
The best method in this situation is to look for reasons to pass it rather than to drop it. One of the judges worked up the courage and used this method.
“I’ll tell you what I think. First, I’d like to reveal that I marked pass for both of the pieces. And I think that both are great. If asked to choose one however, I will choose ‘Spiral’.”
Once someone spoke up, it became much easier to share their opinions. Another judge’s evaluation was added on.
“It’s a sound that is well expressed to stimulate visual images. I think that it’s a great attempt to liken the dizziness and dual structure that Spiral’s image gives to human emotion.”
They all agreed with the evaluation of the song. If they need to choose one of the two songs, the weight tipped to ‘Spiral’ and there was no opposing opinion.
Anyway, being tied for 12th place means that they are not awarded. It just means that there is a slight extension.
No one spoke after the two people gave their opinions. The committee head looked around at everyone’s expressions for a moment and made the last decision.
“Since no one has any opposition, I will assume that everyone is in agreement. The last song for finals is ‘Spiral’.”
The 12 final songs had been chosen. From now on, the true judging will begin.