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Skepsikyma
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The Contender
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Con (against)
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Music Battle

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 5/17/2015 Category: Music
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,012 times Debate No: 75411
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (11)
Votes (1)

 

Skepsikyma

Pro

Each debater will link to a piece of music, and include a description of the piece/artist which explores the theme, technique, culture or history of the piece. This debate is impossible to accept; please express interest in the comments section.

First round is acceptance.
Diqiucun_Cunmin

Con

I accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1
Skepsikyma

Pro

My first song is the enka piece Yume wa Yoru Hiraku, as performed by Meiko Kaji. The original was written in a juvenile classification home by Komei Sone, and was immensely popularized by the famous enka sinker Keiko Fuji. The lyrics dealt with typically dark enka themes inspired by the trials and tribulations of post-war Japan: the speaker is young girl who lives a troubled and promiscuous life, while bitterly considering flowers and noting that her dreams bloom at night, as part-time lovers flow away.

The rendition by Meiko Kaji revamps the lyrics and modernizes the theme:

Naku tame umarete kita you na
(Though I don't have any attachment)

Konna ukiyo ni miren nado
(To this floating world)

Koreppocchi mo nai kuse ni
(To which I was born only to cry)

Yume wa yoru hiraku
(Dreams unfold at night)

Nagai kurokami tachi kitte
(There is someone to whom)

Okuritsuketai yatsu ga iru
(I want to sever my long black hair and send it)

Aitsu fukou ka shiawase ka
(Is he unhappy or happy?)

Yume wa yoru hiraku
(Dreams unfold at night)

Shosen otoko wa odatedori
(After all, men are flattering birds)

Shosen onna wa namidagai
(After all, women are shells of tears)

Daite dakarete tsumazuite
(Embracing, being embraced, and tumbling over)

Yume wa yoru hiraku
(Dreams unfold at night)

Hoshi wa nagarete doko e yuku
(Where will the star go after falling?)

Atashi nagarete doko e yuku
(Where will I go after floating?)

Atemonai mi no hanauta ni
(For the hum of someone without a place to go)

Yume wa yoru hiraku
(Dreams unfold at night)

Naku tame umarete kita you na
(Though I don't have any attachment)

Konna ukiyo ni miren nado
(To this floating world)

Koreppocchi mo nai kuse ni
(To which I was born only to cry)

Yume wa yoru hiraku
(Dreams unfold at night)

Yume wa yoru hiraku
(Dreams unfold at night)

In this rendition, the focus is not so much on losing oneself in other people and furtively dreaming, but rather it embraces a theme ofe of detachment in order to avoid pain, and a jaded outlook on the world. In Kaji's version, her love ties her to a painful world from which she desperately wishes to remove herself, and the dreams are not an escape but a tether. It draws on buddhist philosophical themes, such as the idea that life is suffering, and that freedom from suffering requires a detachment from transient things, while personalizing them and tackling the difficulty of such practices. Kaji is lying when she tells herself that she has no attachment to this floating world; even though she can recognize the futility and painfulness of it, her dreams still unfold at night.

Diqiucun_Cunmin

Con

I thank my opponent for starting off the debate with this dark and at times introspective song.

I would like to present here what might, in style, be the very antithesis to my opponent's song - Brahms's Fourth Symphony, which is no less sullen or tragic than Yume wa Yoru Hiraku.



Although, like most pieces of this genre, lacking in a programmatic theme, there is no listener who can, upon hearing the entirety of the symphony, leave untouched. Brahms, noted for his tremendous admiration of the musical giant before him, Ludwig van Beethoven, nevertheless puts behind in this symphony an unwritten rule evident in the works of his idol - that tragic symphonies end in joy. The Symphony, the epitome of tragedy in the romantic symphony canon, has rightfully earned its place as the pinnacle of Brahms' composition career.

Not one to beat around the bush, Brahms gets down to business with the first moments of the first movement, sure to be recognisable to any classical fan. The ensuing movement, with a more tranquil second theme and great fanfare heard throughout, is filled with polyphonic complexities that are sure to dazzle even the most casual of listeners. With each development of the two themes, Brahms showcases his remarkable ability to conjure up the most vast of emotions and moods from simple melodic themes, soon to be further demonstrated in the final movement.

We then hear a slow introduction to what may be the most delicate movement. A remarkably beautiful andante, Brahms takes us on a trip to the most picturesque landscapes known to humankind, when our dreams are abruptly shattered by loud fanfaric blasts - a painful reminder of the tragedy permeating throughout the piece - followed by a resumption of peace and tranquility. The transition from turbulence to tranquility and back repeats, and the movement ends in a bittersweet diminuendo.

We start the third movement, a major movement, with a mood so joyous, triumphant even, that it sounds, at the beginning, to be the polar opposite of our second movement. Intertwined with another theme, at once playful, magical and fantastic, this movement serves to ease the listener with a period of delight, before propelling the piece into the final movement.

A set of variations on a theme by Bach, the final movement, the last symphonic movement penned by Brahms, explores the boundaries of thematic development, through thirty-two variations on a single, eight-bar motif from a Bach chaconne. Each unique in its own right, the variations combine to tell a tragic tale, one of stormy turbulence, of intense fear, and of bitter regret. As we ride on the roller-coaster ride that takes us through the variations, the mastery and perfection of Brahms' craft are evident.

With its unmistakenly lush Brahmsian textures and the unfathomable emotional depth, the symphony is the magnum opus of Brahm's oeuvre, and is destined to astound listeners and inspire musicians for generations to come.
Debate Round No. 2
Skepsikyma

Pro

My next piece of music is an improvisational jazz piano piece by Hiromi Uehara. Mentored by Ahmad Jamal in the US, she proceeded to release several critically aclaimed albums and to corroborate with some of the biggest names in jazz piano, from Chick Corea to Oscar Peterson. She is know for virtuosic control, innovative fusion of various style, expressive performances, and for complete immersion in her art, continuously composing and tapping out rhythyms whenever a piano is not available.

This piece is the title track from her album 'Place to Be', which has been described by critics as 'post-pop' due to it's reflective, yet giddy tones and general deviation from her typical fusion genre. The album consists of solo piano performances which put Hiromi's virtuosity and vulnerability on display.

This particular performance was made after the death of Oscar Peterson, an associate of hers which whom she had collaborated before in the path, and is an exceptionally emotional one which nonetheless puts the pianist's impressive technique on display. It begins in a slow, cerebral, structured manner before falling into pure, upbeat improvisation.

Diqiucun_Cunmin

Con



I thank my opponent for the fascinating jazz piece. With great spontaneity and brilliant virtuosic flair, it is sure to captivate the audience.

However, I now ask that the reader calm down from the emotional turmoil of my opponent's piece, and get ready to listen to a piece on reality, on existence and on the nature of life.

The piece I would like to present is Zhuang Zhou's Butterfly Dream. Zhuang Zhou, better known by the title of Zhuangzi, was the second greatest philosopher of the Daoist school, after the founder Laozi. Greatly revered by generations of followers of the Daoist tradition, Zhuang Zhou's philosphy has inspired numerous works of art, including this piece by Song Dynasty guqin master Mao Minzhong.

The piece itself is a peaceful reverie, which is evident to the listener from the first handful of notes, which set the tone and mood of the piece. The piece picks up after a couple of glissandi, yet remains tranquil in mood throughout. On occasion, one can hear traces of emotional intensity, yet this is always followed by a subsequent, gradual return to peace.

I shall, however, refrain from over-interpreting the piece with my own views, and instead present to the reader only the information necessary to understand it fully. Therefore, I will post here the passage from Zhuangzi on which the piece was based:

Xizhe Zhuang Zhou meng wei hudie, xuxuran hudie ye, zi yu shizhi ye! Bu zhi Zhou ye. E'er jue, ze jujuran Zhou ye. Bu zhi zhou zhi meng wei hudie yu, hudie zhi meng wei Zhou yu? Zhou yu hudie, ze bi you fen yi. Ci zhi wei wuhua.

Although written in Classical Chinese, the passage is not difficult to understand. Here is my translation:

In the past, Zhuang Zhou dreamt that he was a butterfly, a lively butterfly. He told himself that he was happy, and had not a worry in the world. He knew no Zhuang Zhou. Abruptly he awoke, and suddenly, he was Zhuang Zhou again. Yet was it Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt of being a butterfly, or is it now a butterfly who is dreaming of being Zhuang Zhou? Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly, there must be one thing that separates them: It is transformation.

This paragraph is the last of the second chapter of Zhuangzi, Qiwu Lun, or On the Sameness of Things, which posits that all things are one. It concludes the concept very well. All things are one; what separates one thing from the other is transformation. A rational person might point out that it was Zhuangzi who turned into a butterfly in his dreams, and not vice versa, but how do we know exactly? When Zhuangzi turned into a butterfly in his dreams and knew no Zhuang Zhou, was he also a butterfly?

According to Daoist thought, it is only the most spiritually developed man who can see through the barrier between dream and reality, regard all things as one, and forget what we call 'self'. In one world, he was a butterfly; in the other world, he was Zhuang Zhou. The butterfly was joyous, without a worry in the world, and belonged to the realm of spirituality; Zhuang Zhou was human, had to deal with worldly affairs, and belonged to the realm of man.

In the words of Moni Tianhong, one of the foremost guqin masters of our times, to master this piece, one must be able to '[...] Ride on the winds across the massive void, to transform in the same rhythm as the heavens and the earth, and to be one with all things.' This is demonstrated in the video, by an anonymous performer whose work we are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy through YouTube.

***

In The Shadows of the Dark Dream, a collection of essays from the Qing Dynasty, writer Zhang Chao wrote that Zhuang Zhou becoming a butterfly was a blessing for Zhuang Zhou, but the butterfly becoming Zhuang Zhou was a curse for the butterfly. This is sadly true. Transforming into a butterfly rid Zhuang Zhou of all his worldly worries, but transforming into Zhuang Zhou robbed the butterfly of its peace and tranquility. So, too, was the butterfly who wrote this piece robbed of his piece and tranquility. After dedicated his life to performing, collecting and composing guqin works, Mao Minzhong went to Beijing for a place in government, the greatest honour for any scholar in Imperial China. He failed, and passed away in Beijing. One can hope that in his eternal rest, he will again transform into a butterfly, and roam the realm of spirituality forever.
Debate Round No. 3
Skepsikyma

Pro

My next piece is extracted from Aram Khachaturian's Spartacus, a ballet about the famous Thracian slave and escaped gladiator who lead a revolt against the Roman empire known as the Third Servile War. In the ballet he was the former king of Thrace, and Phrygia his wife. After his arrival in Rome they are separated, and he is sent to the gladiator pits while Phrygia is forced to join the harem of the Consul Crassus.

Spartacus, in the pits, is set against a close friend, and, shattered at being forced to kill his comrade, leads a successful revolt and escape. After attacking Crassus's orgy and freeing the enslaved women, the rebels escape to the countryside, where Spartacus and Phrygia celebrate their freedom to this piece before Spartacus must head off Crassus's pursuing army, an act that ultimately results in his death.

The work is very unique within the ballet, as most of the other action-packed scenes are set to rhythmic toccata pieces. This is because the Adagio represents the brief moment of happiness which Spartacus has won, his fleeting moment of freedom with the one whom he loves before he meets his tragic end on the tips of Crassus's spears.

The music for this ballet was composed during Communist rule in Russia, and the narrative is set as a class struggle. The brasses and percussion, which come in around 6:10, are typically used to depict the cruel, martial Roman upper classes, while the slaves are depicted with the sort of colorful Armenian folk music which Khachaturian favored. In this piece, the memory of the struggle which seizes upon their happy peace is overcome with an effusive, overpowering resurgence of the theme at 6:55.

This particular piece is of an orchestral suite of the ballet's music, arranged by Khachaturian. This performance is conducted by Yuri Simonov, the conductor at the Bolshoi Ballet where the original work was often performed, and is one of my favorite renditions because it maintains the high drama and tension that the piece draws from the narrative. In other arrangements, this is sometimes discarded, and the piece becomes just another detached orchestral work. The insertion of the Roman theme, and ensuing resurgence, is in my opinion one of the highest moments of musical dramatic climax in the Russian, or even Western, canon. It is a powerful denunciation, a banishment, of the voice of authority and power from the space occupied by a pure love.

Diqiucun_Cunmin

Con



I thank my opponent for the Khachaturian. It is a piece that explores the brief moment of reprieve before plunging into another deep war. My next piece was also written in the wake of a great war in which the country of the composer emerged victorious - and yet it was not a song of triumph, but an epitaph of the pain and suffering inflicted by the war.

Le tombeau de Couperin was written by Maurice Ravel after the First World War. The second greatest Impressionist composer, Ravel's fame is dwarfed by his rival Debussy, who was the first to champion the genre. Ravel wrote four substantial works for piano solo, the other three being the Sonatine, Gaspard de la nuit and Miroirs. Yet Le tombeau de Couperin stands out among the four, not just in the solemness of the mood but also in the ostensible disparity between the tragic theme and the seemingly joyous notes on the piano - it commemorates the dead, and yet all its movements are marked by some variant of vif or allegro.

Ravel was a patriot; when the country was in dire need, he felt duty bound to participate in her defence. Refused a position in the trenches, he applied to the hospital to take care of injured comrades, and later became a lorry driver. Although initially curious about adventure, this curiosity soon turned into anger towards the cruelties of war and commiseration for those affected by it. 'Oh le pessimisme stupide de ces imbéciles … cet égoïsme borné, ces opinions de taupes … de petits cris me dérangent : c’est une pauvre souris qui s’est prise au piège du rat.' (Oh the stupid pessimism of fools... This narrow egoism, these opinions of moles... Little cries bother me: It is a little mouse in a mousetrap.) After he was demobilised in 1917, he continued work on his compositions, particularly on Le tombeau of Couperin.

The suite, both a homage to the French Baroque composers and a monument to commemorate seven fallen friends, comprises six movements, taking the form of a Baroque suite in the style of Rameau and Couperin. Although the modes and counterpoint featured were characteristic of seventeenth-century keyboard music, Ravel added many distinctly modern flavours to the pieces, which the listener can easily make out.

The prélude is a beautifully-written perpetuum mobile dedicated to Jacques Charlot, who transcribed Ravel's famous duet Ma mère l'oye for piano solo. With its distinct falling and rising triplets played alternately by the two hands, the smooth melodic lines set the tone of the piece, with subtle melancholy embedded in the lively notes. The piece calms down with a carefully-crafted fugue which takes care of contrapunctual intricacies required by its genre and commemorates the son of Mme Cruppi, the dedicatee of Ravel's opera L'heure espagnole.

The forlane, dedicated to a Basque painter, is a mysterious thing, with notes both legato and variously detached, painting a seemingly pastoral scene, as though rabbits were playing a game in the fields of a farm in the country. Yet as the movement progresses and the themes reappear, each time more solemnly than the last, we are forced to conclude that these imageries are but bitter reminiscences of the past. It cuts off with the direction sans ralentir, without slowing, which brings us to the assertive fortissimo introduction to the next movement. Here we can have a brief glimpse into Ravel's childhood as he presents his two childhood friends Pierre Pascal Gaudin. After the brilliant beginning, we can hear from the trio Ravel's sadness of their loss, which is reinforced by the introduction of the lively A-section.

The menuet is dedicated Jean Dreyfus, at whose house Ravel stayed while recuperating and writing Le tombeau. With classical grace and elegance, the chordy, introspective movement displays his stronger emotions as the chords grow successively louder in the middle, revealing his anger at the cruelties of the war. Unlike its two predecessors, it ends very slowly, and readies the listener for the final, virtuosic movement: the toccata. The rapid, turbulent movement ends brilliantly, but this scarcely masks Ravel's pain, evident in the dark dissonance of the movement, at the loss of musicologist Joseph de Marliave. He was the husband of Marguerite Long, who premiered the piece.

Inheriting the French tradition of subtletly, restraint and understatement from his teacher Gabriel Fauré, a close friend of Marliave's, Ravel grieves the deaths of his dear friends without the bomastics octaves or exceedingly sentimental passages of Liszt's Funérailles. When told that the piece was not sombre enough, he replied, 'Les morts sont assez tristes dans leur silence eternel' - the deceased are sad enough in their eternal silence. This is true. Le tombeau de Couperin does not need overly sentimental melodies to express sorrow. It only takes a thoughtful interpreter and an equally thoughtful listener for the atrocities of the Great War to be brought before our ears.
Debate Round No. 4
Skepsikyma

Pro

My final song is from the opera Madame Butterfly, by Giacomo Puccini. It is entitled 'Con Onor Muore' (Honor in Death). The opera is set as a love story, and begins with an American officer (Pinkerton) falling in love with a geisha, and promising to marry her. The geisha (Cio-Cio San, or Madame Butterfly) and Pinkerton plan to marry, and she renounces faith and family ties in order to be with him. However, he returns to America, leaving Cio-Cio alone and heartbroken. Later she discovers that she is pregnant with Pinkerton's child, and writes to him, to which he replies that he will return for the child. In a tragic instance of misinterpretation, Butterfly perceives this as a renewal of his dedication to her, and joyfully prepares her home for is arrival in the most famous aria of the piece, 'Un Bel Di, Vedremo'.

However, Pinkerton arrives with his new American wife, not to join Cio-Cio, but to take his son back to America with him. Butterfly is crushed by this, and in the end decides to allow her son to go while taking he own life in face of her disgrace. This final aria takes place as her son walks in on her preparing for her own death via jigaki (ritual neck-cutting). It is one of the most heartbreaking pieces in the operatic repertoire, highlighting the depths of Butterflies despair and her radiant love for her son alongside one another. She begins the piece by addressing and praising her son, then moving to explaining herself. Claiming that it is for his good the Butterfly must die, so that he can live happily across the sea without having ever known that his mother forsook him. However, in the climax, Butterfly grabs her son's face and forces him to look at her face, so that it may 'linger, even faintly, in his memory', demonstrating her reluctance to completely cut herself from her sons life, and then beseeches him to 'go' and blindfolds him. She commits suicide shortly thereafter, as Pinkerton rushes in shouting her name.

The opera was interesting for several reasons. The first is that it truly has a female protagonist, and that the narrative is laden with her perspective. Another is that the foreign protagonist is cast in the positive light, while Westerners take the roles of antagonists. A third is that it humanizes where other operas have often jingoistically stereotyped. Butterfly is extremely relatable, an optimist who is betrayed to the point of utter devastation. While the exotic depictions may seem a bit hackneyed and outdated in modern times, Butterfly was a big step forward at the time of its publishing in it's adoption of an extremely relatable female Japanese protagonist.

This piece is sung by Ying Huang, and is extracted from a movie adaption of the opera.



Diqiucun_Cunmin

Con

I thank my opponent for the aria. It is a deeply emotional piece that shows us the inner world of a heartbroken female protagonist during her mental breakdown, just after her mistaken rediscovery of hope.

For the final round, however, I would like to conclude our debate with a piece where hope is lost and subsequently regained, tragedies are forgotten and subsequently relived, joy is indulged and subsequently overwhelmed by sorrow, dispair and regret. The work is Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor, his only work in the genre (the Dante sonata was actually a fantasia quasi sonata). It is arguably the greatest post-Beethovenian sonata, often compared to the B minor sonata of his friend Chopin. It faded into obscurity when Liszt stopped playing it public because of poor public reception, but was rediscovered in the 20th century.

Contrary to his usual habits (but in line with those of Chopin), Liszt bestowed no programmatic title upon the single-movement sonata - evidence of Liszt's attachment to the work, whose plot he hopes to remain a mystery. It spins a curious tale, variously identified as Dante's Divine Comedy, the damnation of Faust and Liszt's own life. It carefully weaves four simple themes, or leitmotifs, into a single narrative, with the themes given each time a new life. The Faust theory will be used.

The pieces starts off with a two soft octaves and two descending scales, our first theme, or the H-theme. It gives the piece a mysterious air and prepares us for the story about to unfold. All of a sudden, our second theme, the A1 or Faust theme, jumps into our ears with an allegro energico, followed by A2, or the Mephistopheles theme, with its strong repeated notes. It is followed by a speedy transition, after which we plunge into the real action of the piece with rapid arpeggios interwoven with our A themes. We then hear our first theme, several times in rapid succession and each time more intense than the last.

We then hear for the first time our third theme, the famed grandioso theme. It is a harmonically rich variation of Liszt's crux fidelis motif, which he uses to symbolise the Christian cross. Our A-theme reappears, this time much weaker, and is followed by gentle, dreamlike version of the A2 theme. A1 sneaks quietly in as the left hand, after which a broken variation of A2 appears several times, propelling the piece into an energetic fortissimo before briefly returning to our reverie.

A dark, stormy version of A2 ensues, followed by more RH remolos with the H-theme in the left hand, and a transition to the a diabolical variation on the grandioso theme. After a transition with the A themes, we get to know our C-theme in what seems to be the slow movement of a sonata, an andate sostenuto, or the Gretchen theme in the context of Faust. We hear the gentle version of A2 again, followed by a reappearance of the crux fidelis, this time gay in character. After a transition, we face another sombre version of the cross theme, this time less aggressive than the first, before a stormy transition using the A-themes to a passionate yet brief C-theme, after which the piece transitions into its softest section with descending scales and the gentle A2 theme again, eventually turning into a pianississimo.

The soft section is followed by a brief return to the H-themes at the beginning, followed by a playful fughetta, the only contrapuntal part of the piece, with three voices intertwined at the end. It incorporates the Faust and Mephisto themes, and is followed by a crescendo into the most agitated, turbulent part of the piece. With intense fury, blazing virtuosity and the frequent appearances of the A1, A2 and H themes, it abruptly ends with the re-exposition of the crux fidelis theme. Like the first time, it is followed by the more subtle, delicate version of the A2 theme. Just as we are about to get a feeling of déjà vu, we get to another tumultuous section, full of twists and turns and the A themes, followed by crux fidelis, this time as passionate as the first time.

At this point, the piece dies down with the return of the andante sostenuto, and subsequently the A1, A2 and H themes, with far less spirit than before. The piece ends quietly - an ending Liszt put in hastily before publication, for he had written a loud, flashy ending at the beginning. Yes, unlike the flashy Liszt playing the Grand galop chromatique, this Liszt reined in his technique-flashing tendencies to perfect his magnum opus. Regardless of programmatic intentions, the piece is sure to stay in the piano repertoire, immortal, for centuries to come.

The interpretation I used here is Yundi Li's. It retains the emotional turmoil of the piece, and the camera often showcases the virtuosity required for the piece (which, unlike in Liszt's earlier works, was not for its own sake). However, I encourage that the reader also listen to the interpretations of the masters - Argerich and Zimerman, in particular.

;
Debate Round No. 5
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin
I do wish we had some votes, even if they're tied votes...
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Thanks to you too :)
Posted by Skepsikyma 1 year ago
Skepsikyma
Thanks, this was a fantastic debate; I really enjoyed your pieces and analyses.
Posted by TheJuniorVarsityNovice 1 year ago
TheJuniorVarsityNovice
this is an awesome debate
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Thanks, and same to you too. :)
Posted by Skepsikyma 1 year ago
Skepsikyma
No problem; I really enjoyed that last piece. This is turning out to be a fantastic music battle, and I love these because they expose me to new genres and artists.
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Sorry for the long descriptions. It's not that I want to be competitive, although it may seem so. I just couldn't resist talking about the music.
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Phew! Seems I'm not that good at writing pretentious musical descriptions :P My next will be more factual...
Posted by Diqiucun_Cunmin 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Yes, I'm certainly interested in it. :) I do love talking about my favourite pieces of music.
Posted by Skepsikyma 1 year ago
Skepsikyma
Someone else performing it. If you're interesting I'll challenge you.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by tejretics 1 year ago
tejretics
SkepsikymaDiqiucun_Cunmin
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: I'm not really sure how I vote on this, so I'm casting a tied vote. Good debate.