Mention the band 2nd Moon to someone and chances are they will say they have never heard of them. However, listen to their music and the familiar melodies will make you feel as if you are stepping back into the past. The band has participated in numerous original sound tracks (OST) for Korean dramas such as Island (2004), Princess Hours (2006), and Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (2016), many of which have topped the music charts. Search the internet for songs like “The Boy from Wonderland,” “Ice Pond,” “Byeolhoogwangeum,” and you will be amazed to find that these songs, which you are probably already well aware of, are all by 2nd Moon.
2nd Moon is an ethnic fusion band that seeks to create new music with roots in traditional music. The band aims to make music that Koreans would like to hear by fusing traditional tunes with genres from different countries such as the waltz, tango, pop, and jazz. Just as the band experiments with different types of music, its members play a variety of instruments: the guitar, mandolin, bass, keyboard, accordion, drums, and percussion.
The band started out of curiosity in December 2003 and its members did not have any plans to release an album. Nonetheless, the band became well known in the music industry within a few years of its debut. The band won the Rookie of the Year, Record of the Year, and Top Excellence in Crossover Jazz at the Korean Music Awards in 2006. The band’s achievement is not surprising at all as most of 2nd Moon’s music strikes a chord in the hearts of listeners. “Ice Pond” and “Byeolhoogwangeum” both perfectly illustrate this.
“Ice Pond” was used on the soundtrack for the drama Princess Hours, often played in scenes where the main characters were experiencing hardship. The song begins with a calm piano melody that is soon accompanied by a violin that creates a melancholy atmosphere. The song gradually reaches a climax as the violin becomes higher pitched. The pure sound of the flute and the drum beats in the background intensify the heartrending effect. This unusual combination of instruments somehow creates a wonderful harmony; this is what makes 2nd Moon’s music stand out.
In 2014, the band broadened their musical territory by adding gukak, Korean traditional music, to its existing style. When the band made a trip to Ireland, members saw that Irish people enjoyed their traditional music in daily settings like pubs. In an interview with the Ministry of Culture, 2nd Moon said, “We were curious about what kind of music will be created if we add a European style of music to the 1920s pansori, a Korean traditional narrative song.” Thus, the band collaborated with vocalist Lee Bong Geun and reinterpreted “Chunhyangga”, which is a famous pansori where the singer tells the story of a girl named Chunhyang in song.
To create a 21st-century version of “Chunhyangga” that everyone could enjoy, the band used traditional European musical instruments like the violin, mandolin, Irish tin whistle, accordion, and uilleann pipes (an Irish wind instrument) in the background. The band did not change the original “Chunhyangga” melody or the storyline. However, “Chunhyangga” has become much more pleasant to listen to than before as the rhythmic beats of the European instruments make the overall song bright and cheerful. Instead of the monotonous traditional music of pansori that people are accustomed to, “Chunhyangga” has now become lively and almost like a musical.
Without a doubt, 2nd Moon’s attempt at reinvigorating an old classic has great significance since Korean traditional music is often utterly distant from our lives. It is unfortunate that the band has not received widespread recognition for its excellent, innovative music. Hopefully, the band will become more famous in the near future as the band members start to hold concerts more frequently and appear on TV variety shows.