- Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, The Firebird, and his symphonic poem The Song of the Nightingale (the latter not to be confused with his opera, The Nightingale, from which it was born). The first is famous because of its use in Fantasia, but the performance is terrible and the piece cut up and bastardised. In its original form it is a stunning, brutally rhythmical musical depiction of a human sacrifice, which makes it pretty D&D in my book. The Firebird is a gorgeous and exotically alien piece, starring an evil and immortal sorcerer-king called Kaschei the Deathless. The Song of the Nightingale is perhaps not for everyone - it's discordant and extremely strange, like an opium-fuelled vision of the orient. But it's one of the most genuinely 'fantastical' pieces of music ever written.
- Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, which is a very popular piece - for a reason: it's beautiful, exciting, uplifting and mysterious, and it draws on the 1,001 nights, one of humankind's great artistic achievements. Here's Rimsky-Korsakov's own description of the story it depicts: "The Sultan Schahriar, persuaded of the falseness and faithlessness of women, has sworn to put to death each one of his wives after the first night. But the Sultana Scheherazade saved her life by interesting him in tales she told him during 1,001 nights. Pricked by curiosity, the Sultan put off his wife's execution from day to day, and at last gave up entirely his bloody plan." 'Nuff said.
- Sibelius's Violin Concerto in D minor. It is the very essence of Scandinavian cold: icy, exotic, dark, brooding - like what a fjord would sound like if you put it to music. The Lord of the Rings would be set to this.
- The Paris Quartets, by Telemann, for a slightly different feel: if you want the sound of 17th/18th century Europe, this is it. The kind of chamber music that, used in a film, is a lazy shorthand for "the court of a monarch in an indeterminate post-renaissance age".
- If you ever need something lithurgical, mournful, awe-inspiring and like it sounds as if it comes from the heart of some huge temple, you can't go wrong with J.S. Bach's Mass in B minor. Conjurs images of heaven, but also of weird magickal cults who worship the chaos gods.
- Bartok's String Quartets, especially numbers 1 and 2. Forget death metal. If you want a disturbing, unsettling listen that will give you nightmares, put these on your Spotify.
- Rachmaninov's The Isle of the Dead, based on this picture. Again, 'Nuff said:
Friday, 27 January 2012
I'm not the world's biggest expert on classical music, but I know what I like, and I know what's good inspiration for a D&D DM. I don't generally like to have music on during game sessions, unless it's just in the background, but during planning or setting creation some pieces can really get the synapses firing. Here are a few favourites: