ambient gaming and me, part 2

Following the revelation that was Plight & Premonition, I returned to my music collection with a fresh perspective.  I had a few old Tangerine Dream records that sounded like they would fit the bill, especially the pre-sequencer stuff like Zeit and Alpha Centauri.  Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack album Passion worked pretty well too, so all of those albums were added to the playlist.  My friends’ CD collections were raided in similar fashion, yielding more spooky world music (mostly Middle Eastern, Indian, and Javanese gamelan, IIRC), electronic music, minimalism, and the quiet avant-weirdness of George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children and Makrokosmos III.

I don’t know if the other participants in the college game were as enthusiastic about my slowly-growing playlist, but they understood and accepted my reasons for the change of in-game music.  The switch certainly cut back on the number of music-related derailments, but I can’t speak to the success of the atmospheric enhancement for anyone but me.  I’d like to think that my own experience was enhanced and illustrated by the higher quality of my descriptive refereeing…

With the ambient bug coursing through my system I continued to search out new artists and albums, a quest that continues to this day.  Eno’s ambient series.  Steve Hillage’s magnificent Rainbow Dome Musick (a bit too blissful for dungeoneering, but wonderful all the same), Klaus Schulze, Tim Blake, and other ’70s synth stuff.  Hearts of Space guys like Steve Roach and Robert Rich (a personal favorite).  More avant-garde and experimental stuff by Crumb, Ligeti, Xenakis, Stockhausen, and others. The list goes on and on…

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I don’t have to lug around an armload of records and CDs to the game and hope that whoever’s hosting has the proper stereo components to play all the stuff.  Mp3 players and the possibilities allowed by crafting different playlists changed everything.  A couple years ago my wife received the gift of a compact flying-saucer-shaped portable sound system for her iPod.  This little marvel was immediately appropriated by yours truly for the express purposes of gaming on the go.

I was remarking to my music history graduate advisor a couple years back about how much I enjoyed the music of Rapoon, an artist I’d recently discovered.  He said, “that’s the sort of stuff I’ll use for voiceover background on my radio show.”

“That’s funny,” I replied with a grin.  “that’s the sort of stuff I’ll use for voiceover background when I run D&D games.”  I went on to tell him my little tale, and how my interest in studying, playing, and listening to ambient music can be directly attributed to D&D…

More to follow?


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