Dungeon cheese

Musical digression: Apparently there’s a genre of black-metal-influenced electronic music called “dungeon synth.”  According to the Dungeon Synth Wiki:

Dungeon synth is a genre of music characterized by its strong use of atmosphere and melody to create a sonic reality usually pertaining, in concept, to the fantastic or historical periods.  The genre draws influence from the Dark Ambient music genre, while encompassing musical structures that are relatable to medieval and folk music.  Many artists within the genre have been known to draw inspiration from a variety of other musical styles such as film music, video game music, and classical music.

To each their own and all that, taste is subjective, bla bla, etc., but after listening to about a dozen artists randomly selected from the wiki list, I can confidently say that Dungeon Synth music does not transport me to an alternate fantastic or historical sonic reality.  If “atmospheric” simply means using lots of minor keys and occasional nature samples (especially rain) and bestowing your work with Lovecraftian/Norse Pagan/fantasy-themed titles and art, then I guess it’s pretty atmospheric.

The generally simple harmonic progressions are “relatable” to folk music, but how the musical structures of Dungeon Synth are “relatable to medieval music” is a total mystery, since I haven’t heard any chant, dance forms, or musical techniques that were, you know, actually used by medieval composers…  The melodies, harmonies, and rhythms are OK, but pretty forgettable, about what I’d expect to hear on a SyFy original movie soundtrack.  That said, what really grates on me about this music is the common use of some of the cheesiest of cheesy faux-orchestral timbres (flutes, oboes, horns, strings, percussion) that I’ve ever heard, straight from a circa-1996 Casio keyboard soundbank.  I get the impression that this is part of the aesthetic; fans of Dungeon synth expect cheesy 1990s synth-orchestra sounds, sort of like how “chiptune” fans expect everything to sound like lo-fi 8-bit video games from the 1980s.  Maybe there are some rogue Dungeon Synth composers out there who defy the aesthetic by incorporating actual medieval musical structures and techniques and using high-quality instrumental samples.  If there are, I’d really like to hear them because I might actually dig that stuff.

Again, it’s all a matter of taste.  I’ve reluctantly passed on albums by bands I normally enjoy only because I didn’t like the snare drum, cymbals, keyboards, or other sounds, so I’m not just nitpicking to be mean.  Given the genre’s fantastic bent, I can only assume there are significant numbers of D&D players in that community who are inspired by dungeon synth.  If so, that’s cool — don’t let me pee in your cheerios.  Surely there’s music I listen to that someone else would find ridiculous or objectionable…




One response

  1. librarianlopez

    I thought the post was going to be a how-to for PCs to make cheese from xorn milk as a dungeon survival skill.

    I had never heard of a genre called “dungeon synth” until I read this post. I listened to some of it and managed to find a few listenable tracks, but even that was muzak.

    06/29/2016 at 11:00

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