A cell phone rings at a quiet office. But a search for the phone shows that the sound isn't coming from a phone but from a video titled "iPhone sound effect" by the acapella group Maytree.
Posted on the group's official YouTube channel on Feb. 5, the video as of July 7 had 16.17 million views and about 20,000 comments.
The ringtone sounded just like that of a cell phone but came from the human voice. Korea.net on June 30 visited Maytree at the group's studio in Goyang, Gyeonggi-do Province.
Maytree's five members are S.I., (Jang Sang-in), the leader who is in charge of ensuring "vocal perfection"; soprano Erika (Im Soo-yeon); alto Soo (Kang Su-gyeong); tenor Hoony (Kwon Yeong-hoon); and bass Kim Won-jong. Since forming in 2000, the group has earned a host of awards at international competitions, including in the Asian group category at an international acapella competition in Taiwan from 2010-11. In 2012, Maytree won the Gold Diploma at Vokal.total, an annual international acapella competition in Graz, Austria, showing its world-class skills in the jazz and pop categories, and placed second at a 2018 international acapella festival in Moscow.
Maytree performed around the world until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Forced to cancel all of its scheduled performances, the group needed a new medium to connect with its audiences.
"Our producer suggested that instead of doing extremely obvious things, we try something new such as making the sounds of (Microsoft) Windows or phones ringing," S.I. said. "After COVID-19 broke out, we had more time for this new endeavor since all of our offline concerts and schedule were canceled."
Maytree produced a video in which its members imitated the music that plays when a computer is turned on and off and deleting files in the computer's trash bin, as well as Windows sound effects. The video became a worldwide sensation with 42.7 million views and 7.5 million likes on TikTok.
Windows' official account left this comment about the video: "We give this performance a Windows 10/10." Microsoft shared the video on its official Twitter and Instagram accounts and said in a comment: "This. Is. Amazing."
MayTree also made a video in which it sang "The Champions," the official theme song of Europe's soccer governing body UEFA, and the sports channel ESPN UK retweeted the video.
"When we make regular acapella music, many still wonder how such sounds come from the human mouth. We wanted to raise that sense of amazement and thus produced sounds heard in everyday life," Soo said.
All five members are needed to imitate music from movies and games, and the group's videos initially gained attention abroad than at home. Most comments on the videos are foreign languages like English, Spanish, Japanese and Thai.
Maytree said it used the proper strategy of inducing emotion from people around the world, adding that its videos have received an explosive response from abroad because the sounds of Windows or a cell phone ringtone are familiar to people worldwide.
All five members take part in the entire processing of making a video, from selecting the topic and finding the proper notes to recording and mixing. Pondering over how its music will be received by listeners, the group said it tries to stick to the feelings of the original sounds as much as possible and directly sing. They debate whether "ddum," "bbam" or another sound is better.
The group's members all seem as if they studied music in college, but they did not. S.I. majored in chemistry, Soo architecture, Erika elementary education and Wonjong computer engineering. Their passion for acapella is what brought them together.
Only when their voices are combined to make music does the group's true charm appear.
"The world's oldest musical instrument is the human voice. I think that the music produced by the human voice has an irresistible charm thanks to the warmth and love within human DNA," S.I. said.
On what they want to try later, the members said they want to express through acapella the sounds of the Seoul subway for those abroad who want to visit Korea but cannot due to the pandemic.
"We thought that foreigners who love Korea might miss hearing phone ringtones in the subway or the sounds of when arriving at a transfer subway station," S.I. said.
For more information: Korea.net