Chu Guang was puzzled, but he wouldn't question the decision before getting to the bottom of things.
He wanted to listen to the song first. Did Julian place the song first because of quality or because virtual idols were given special preference?
There were many screening rooms at Silver Wing. Some of the offices also had the audiovisual equipment to play music videos. After signing with the label, Chu Guang was given his own office, A fully equipped screening room was located near where the newcomers were housed, so Chu Guang planned on heading to that screening room and playing the song on the audiovisual system there, to see what kind of song merited the top spot.
But before he arrived, he noticed that Rong Zheng and a group of other newcomers had already shown up. Rong Zheng's expression was one of bafflement, surprise and disbelief—but not the look of someone who felt robbed.
"Oh, you're here too. Let's listen to it together." Rong Zheng pointed to a seat on the side.
Chu Guang sat in his seat and took in the holographic image projected by the audiovisual system. The top-of-the-line stereo system delivered every note clearly.
Was it techno, rock, or another genre?
When the music started, Chu Guang was shocked to discover it was none of the above.
The music video.
A vast, lush forest that projected vitality. The flowers, plants, and trees were all anthropomorphic. The branches had eyes, noses, and mouths.
They had peaceful faces.
The blue skies were abruptly tainted with a coat of red.
A horn sounded an unsettling melody on a low register. The seemingly inchoate notes suggested a growing anxiety. The symphonic arrangement resembled a whimper, suggesting imminent disaster.
"A symphonic structure?" Chu Guang was so shocked he almost stood up.
In the music video, fiery meteors hurled toward earth. Panicked human beings fell into deep despair before the unexpected crevices.
The heavy drumming resembled the sound of rolling thunder. It grew in volume and pace, delivering an unsettling shudder.
Bang bang! Bang bang!
It could have been the landing of the meteors, the collapse of the landscape, or the heavy beating of someone's heart.
Panic and fear spread.
After the deafening clash of percussion and strings, a low voice sang.
Unlike the ebullient, wholesome opera technique that Chu Guang was familiar with, this voice was wild and unkempt, a mournful sigh emerging from the tree silhouette the camera had focused on. The voice had an amazing energy that radiated from the sound system and imprinted itself on every nerve of the brain.
A tense string score re-emerged and the drums found a measured, upbeat rhythm. The various tones created by the electronic synthesizer suggested a darkening mood. An invisible thunder invaded the universe.
Planet Earth was sick.
The combination of heavy percussion and wailing woodwind foreshadowed the ruthless, violent character of mutated animals.
The savage beasts lurked everywhere.
A trail of destruction engulfed the landscape. One after another, towering trees that had been around forever toppled one after another. Some were struck by meteors, others overturned by the massive tremor that broke the surface of the planet. There were also some torn to bits by the silhouettes darting about. Trampled by unrelenting catastrophe, every form of life inevitably marched toward death.
In the face of total destruction, everyone and everything was reduced to specks. The sun was blocked by thick smog and the lingering warmth trapped in the atmosphere dwindled amid the tragedy popping up everywhere.
A piano and woodwind combination made for the "end of days" theme, ushering in stark images of bodies scattered across the land.
The intricately layered string score and the tastefully structured arrangement, coupled with a top-notch sound system, delivered the melody to the human brain with the utmost authenticity. If felt like a supernatural power was tugging at your soul, easily parachuting you into those war-torn times.
The symphonic bass foundation conveyed a weighty sense of history. Even if you closed your eyes, images of jadedness, turbulence, suffering, and the dilapidated earth surfaced. It was a period everyone in the New Era knew about.
The 100-year Period of Destruction.
A refined, low-register piano melody resembling a painful sob accompanied scenes of wasteland. Electronic music transcended the limited range of traditional instruments, creating a chilling atmosphere with a conventional arrangement, like a mysterious music whisperer.
The tone shifted again, this time reinforcing the sense of restlessness and the anxious, panicked mood.
Scenes of chaos and gore inundated this sick planet. There were countless casualties. Once lush forests were depleted to a pathetic state. Mutated beasts ravaged the bodies of innocent souls. Seas of fire erupted everywhere.
The silhouette the camera focused on examining its surroundings, it eyes revealing a deep sorrow and helplessness. Was this the end of days? Were the days of earthly life numbered as a result?
The figure started humming in a deep voice. The hum seemed to stem from the bottom of his heart—it mourned the death of souls and the uncertain future that lay ahead.
The melody picked up. A melancholic woodwind score mixed with a steady percussion beat that resembled rolling stones. The heavy beat and extended notes seemed to suggest the silhouette's indecision, but a blaring horn broke through, rekindling the hope of survival.
Danger was approaching. This land was no longer fit for living.
Should he curl up in a dark corner and pray for Lady Luck to save his scalp? Or should he forge a way out?
Straddling the threshold between light and darkness, mired in blood and fire, he had a decision to make.
The tempo of the melody shifted, as if a turning point had been reached. A quirky flute solo combined with the synthesizer picked up the pace. After a brief pause, the tone became spirited.
The silence of percolating thoughts, pierced by the determination of a charging bull.
A modulating piano melody and firm strikes of the timpani shattered the lingering doubt, signaling the muted triumph of rebirth after surviving dire straits and capturing a volcanic eruption of unfettered masculine pride.
Once deeply buried in the ground, his roots freed themselves from the encumbering earth and burst to the surface, transforming into leg-like limbs. His verdant green leaves receded and his thick branches shrank.
Finally, he took his first step.
An excited human voice emerged, projecting a powerful aura that sent every hair on your body standing. It felt like a storm was afoot.
"Can't let it go,
And can't call it quits.
Hope still exists.
Despite the thorny path ahead.
It was the first time in his life that he had stood erect on this land. He didn't know how long it would take to find a destination, but now that he had planted his first step, he could take the next 1,000, the next 10,000.
The laws of nature prevailed, but uncertainty and patterns existed side-by-side.
One decision could bring about a change of fate.
He turned back to look at his compatriots.
The weak light of dawn seeped through as a horn sounded a wake-up call.
The piercing siren was followed by a spirited chorus of indeterminable size, which augured the determination and gall to take the world by storm. One tree, two trees, 10, 100...
A flurry of shadows flapped like butterflies.
Thousands of survivors broke free of the earth, taking a cue from their leader and transforming into ambling figures.
They were about to leave the land that nourished them and hit the road once and for all.
But from that moment on, they need no longer cower.
No one was born with endurance, but for survival's sake, why not take a first step?
There was no room for retreat.
To survive, they could only move forward.
Maybe there was some place on earth where they could keep living?
The symphony lingered on a long note and a drum beat suggested rolling thunder harbored by the clouds. A new chapter was forthcoming.
The screen showed a dense, packed cluster of countless departing survivors on one side, and the fluttering shadows of demons amid a bloodied, dusty atmosphere on another.
Fade to black.
The credits rolled.
"Leading man: Polar Light
Species: Longxiang Tianluo
Song title: "100 Years of Destruction, First Movement: Divine Punishment," producer Fang Zhao
Production team: Polar Light project team, Fang Zhao, Zu Wen, Song Miao, Pang Pusong, Zeng Huang, Wan Yue, Ji Polun, Bei Zhi
A Silver Wing Media production"
The music and footage ended at the same time.
The audience in the screening room let out deep breaths, as if they had just been suffocated for a long time, recovering from the chills sent down their spines.
"This is... This is..." Chu Guang didn't have the guts to mutter the word he had in mind. He questioned his judgment, yet his sense of injustice had vanished. He was a lesser composer.
The arrangement department.
Ya Erlin has just hosted a screening for his staff.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, as if taking in a lingering fragrance in the air.
"Do you smell it?" Ya Erlin whispered to the arrangers sitting beside him.
"What?" They were still in a trance.
"The smell of an epic."
There was a genre in the New Era distinct from pop music and the repeatedly covered classic songs. Maybe it didn't have many fans, but no one could dispute its status.
It evoked life-and-death situations, rebirth in extreme circumstances, the vastness of the universe and the enormity of the galaxy. It captured boundless dreams and hope, the beauty of human life, and miracles in dire times, its awesome power derived straight from the soul.
People called it the epic.
That was the word Ya Erlin refrained from using when he'd heard the demo, the same word Chu Guang had hesitated to utter.
When he listened to the demo, Ya Erlin wasn't sure how the final product would turn out, so he didn't want to jump to conclusions. Symphonic songs weren't easy to pin down. It was hard to craft a satisfactory track without sufficient experience and sensitivity and the ability to steer the overall piece. Even Ya Erlin wasn't confident he could execute a song to such perfection.
That's why, when he'd first heard the demo, Ya Erlin had questioned Fang Zhao's ability. He seemed too young, hardly someone who could compose and harness a song like that.
But when he heard the final cut, Ya Erlin realized Fang Zhao handled details like intensity and tempo perfectly. He blended a symphonic score and electronic music from the New Era seamlessly, carefully crafting a layered texture and engaging plot. The powerful yet subtle melody beautifully conveyed the mood of the music video.
Accustomed to cute, lively ballads, the passion and vigor of dance tracks and other musical styles, this was the first time Rong Zheng, Chu Guang, and company were exposed to the grand narrative of an epic.
Captivated by the magnificent melody, every listener was transported to those dangerous times, traveling through the layers of bloodied smog to witness the evolution of a race, tracing their footsteps one by one.
'Twas the end of days, the cry of survival.
A melody and voice so powerful they penetrated your bones.
Now that was an epic in Ya Erlin's book.
That perfect blend of score and singer lent itself to an incredible, awesome effect and impact. That was beyond doubt.
"Yes or no? Perhaps we'll find out this afternoon."
Yet Ya Erlin had underestimated the industry response.
It didn't take the whole day. Oct. 1, 9 a.m., an hour after "Divine Punishment" was released.
The most respected music publication in Yanzhou, "Voice of Yanzhou," founded by the Yanzhou Music Association, posted this review:
"Polar Light is the first virtual idol to debut with an epic in the New Era."