[HOT TRACK]Sounds with roots worth digging

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[HOT TRACK]Sounds with roots worth digging

The sublime and soothing music of the neoclassical duo Secret Garden has international appeal, but Koreans seem especially taken by it. The three albums put out by the Irish classical violinist Fionnuala Sherry and the Norwegian keyboardist Rolf Lovland since they linked up in 1994 have sold well worldwide, but especially so on the peninsula.

That the duo's music has been used for Korean television dramas and commercials no doubt boosted exposure and sales; but Koreans have always been drawn to deep music with a profoundly plaintive feel, which Secret Garden consistently delivers.

No less an authority than Barbra Streisand endorses Secret Garden; she played one of the duo's songs, "Heartstrings," at her wedding to James Brolin a few years back.

Streisand surely wanted to create an air of serenity in which to tie the knot, because that's what Secret Garden generates. Its new age music can be described as pacifying, mystical and restorative - or just the audio balm the body needs late at night after a hectic day.

The duo's new album, "Once in a Red Moon," remains true to the Secret Garden sound. Sherry's violin conjures up visions of Ireland's vast and rocky grasslands, while Lovland's moderate yet powerful orchestrations transport you through the narrow, mystical Norwegian fjords.

What makes the album truly enjoyable are not merely the traditional influences but the fresh harmonic aesthetic the blending of the styles bring about. The opening cut, "The Promise," is in that sense agreeably relaxing, with Lovland's piano setting the stage for Sherry's strings. There is a subtlety to Secret Garden that is uncannily effective; instead of conspicuously conveying in its music that life is beautiful, it has more of a palliative effect. It heals weary minds with sympathetic, tranquil and even plaintive sounds. "Duo," the sixth track, with an exquisite melding of cello and violin, is one such song. On the surface it's melancholy, but its depth gives it a therapeutic, even cathartic effect. Sometimes you don't want music to cheer you up.

"This album packs spiritual elements that people are deeply engaged with," Sherry said recently. When asked about the meaning or symbolism of the latest album's title, the duo said it's open to the listener's interpretation.

Nobody knows the frequency of a red moon; but this kind of otherworldly, halcyon sound comes but once in a blue moon.

by Chun Su-jin

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