Atmospheric, broody music for my weird campaign?
March 23, 2020 7:54 PM   Subscribe

I’m planning a virtual game D&D game which will be set in the time of the Justinian Plague, 542 AD. It’s going to start in the Carpathian region, with plans to travel through the Byzantine Empire, the Slavic realm, Jerusalem, and Egypt. Themes include church politics, Christianization of the Balkans, mysticism, magic, all that good stuff. So I need appropriate tunes! I’m looking for things that will be interesting but not obtrusive. Special requests inside.

So I need a few soundscape options. There is no need to be period specific, though if you could point me 6th Century music that would be awesome. I’m looking mostly for classical and modern classical or other choral pieces. Things that have Slavic, Germanic (but not Wagnerian), or Greco-Roman flavors would be great. I’m also interested in early Church music.

Specific soundscape needs would include:
-pastoral village
-spooky forest (especially Slavic and Germanic)
-Chase scene
-witches and trolls themes)
-it's a great big world travel music

I know it's a big request but we've got a long quarantine to go and we're gonna have a big campaign while we do it. Thanks for helping!
posted by skookumsaurus rex to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
From a century before, but they might well have known it at the time your game is set:
Vasilissa ergo gaude ("Therefore rejoice, princess")
"Its composition was occasioned by the marriage on 21 January 1421 of Cleofa Malatesta, daughter of Malatesta di Pandolfo, to Theodore II Palaiologos son of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II and Despot of the Morea."
It's lovely.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:09 PM on March 23

How about the Silkroad Ensemble? They definitely make me think of "it's a great big world" travel music. My favorite piece they perform is Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider's Ascending Bird.
posted by yasaman at 8:11 PM on March 23

What a fun question! If you haven't seen it, the Byzantine music Wikipedia article is full of hundreds of possible search terms and pathways to follow.
posted by mdonley at 8:11 PM on March 23

(it's also written partly for someone who's job title was Despot, and it simply doesn't get more Late Byzantine than that)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:13 PM on March 23

Tabletop Audio has 10 minute historical vignettes that may fit the bill.
posted by matrixclown at 8:18 PM on March 23

I would look at the Crusader Kings II soundtracks. There are many, but they're all pretty short (meant for looping), I don't know what the prices are right now, you can buy them off Steam and they're often on sale. Check youtube for specific ones, I glanced just now and they all seem to be available.

Tabletop Audio is often linked as a good starting point for gaming! Since this is a virtual session, this might be a lot less useful for you -- but possibly good for brainstorming or finding something and saying, "I want more like this one."

I think you might also find some good pieces on the Quest for Glory V soundtrack.

For choral pieces: Tallis Scholars tend towards more Renaissance pieces but might work for you. Likewise, Kingdom of Heaven is set at the end of the 12th century, so later than you want, but I think will have some good pieces.
posted by curious nu at 8:22 PM on March 23

For the Witches segment, use Vena Cava by Diamanda Galas. Your players will poop their breeches.
posted by ejs at 8:27 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]

If you want a neo-contemporary black metal segue, I recommend the Greek black metal band, The Elysian Fields, here is a sample Their Blood Be On Us.
posted by mephisjo at 9:38 PM on March 23 might be a good resource if you can donate your way into more access? I paid the $10 to have access to all of them on my phone using their app version, here are specific ones to consider if you can get ahold of them:

* RPG Battlefield
* Mountain Pasture -- sounds like belled sheep, might work for pastoral village?
* Medieval Village -- also might be a good one for pastoral village
* Dark Forest -- specifically billed for RPG atmosphere, nighttime forest noises

The ones I've listed aren't tunes, they're endlessly generated soundscapes. However, there are many many options in the soundbank that are more musical.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:25 PM on March 23

(and now I realise I misread the year - apologies!)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:29 PM on March 23

The mysterious voices of Bulgaria
posted by Heloise9 at 11:48 PM on March 23

You might check out Alan Hovhaness, particularly Mountains and Rivers Without End.

Also possibly Ralph Vaughan William's Symphony #6, especially the second movement starting at about 8:15 in the linked video.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:47 AM on March 24

Dvorak - New World Symphony (especially the Allegro con fuoco)
Saint-Saens - Danse Macabre
Mussorgsky - Night on Bald Mountain
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring
Mendelssohn - Calm Sea, Prosperous Voyage

Peaceful, pastoral: Raflum - Melodies of Forests and Springs

Atmospheric black metal:
Drudkh - Blood in Our Wells (Ukrainian)
Agalloch - Our Fortress is Burning
Mgla - Exercises in Futility (Polish)

Ritualistic music:
Monks of the Dip Tse Chok Ling Monastery - A Prayer Of Kala Rupa
Phurpa - Trowo Phurnag Ceremony
Om - Advaitic Songs

1 Hour of Dark and Powerful Viking Music

"Funeral March" played on the "Gnaal" (ancient bowed lyre)

Witch/Troll music: Heilung - LIFA

Dark Swedish folk : Forndom

The Epic of Gilgamesh in Sumerian

Ethiopian Orthodox music
Egyptian Coptic Hymns

(Thanks for asking this question, I had a lot of fun thinking about this!)
posted by Balthamos at 3:32 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]

Consider Secret Chiefs 3 - I use Horsemen of the Invisible as fight/chase music. That entire album, Book M, is awhirl in eastern inspired music.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:34 AM on March 24

The Blue Notebooks by Max Richter is a classical album he described as “a protest album about Iraq, a meditation on violence – both the violence that I had personally experienced around me as a child and the violence of war …”.

See this NPR Tiny Desk performance or this youtube of "On the Nature of Daylight".

I'm listening to it now.
posted by zenon at 7:40 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]

'The Serpent's Egg' by Dead Can Dance has that haunting proto-medieval-gothic mood that could work in this project..
posted by ovvl at 3:00 PM on March 24

"Brunuhville" by Lumina might be too epic and LOTR-ish for your purposes, but I link it anyway because it always puts me in a good mindframe for DMing, or preparing to DM, D&D.

Not sure if you saw my similar question from awhile back, but the one I landed on is pretty broody. To quote myself from that thread, YouTube has many examples of "a genre I can only describe as 'epic cinematic production music that in most cases hasn't actually been used for anything'"; see the thread for further links, and good luck!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:26 PM on April 20

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