Medieval fantasy is my overall favorite genre. It incorporates a fantasy setting and a ficticious version of history from such time periods. Examples include Lord of the Rings, Ranger’s Apprentice, The Chronicles of Narnia, Robin Hood, The Name of the Wind, The Chronicles of Prydain, the Inheritance Cycle, etc. Pretty much anything that has to do with castles, dragons, rangers, epic battles and journeys on horseback. Stereotypically speaking, there are usually heroic persons in mysterious hoods, capes, and/or cloaks, ancient British Isles settings, a sad lack of technology with an abundance of magical superpowers and prehistoic weapons, you get the picture.
And then there are the movies and TV series: Brave, The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings, How to Train Your Dragon, Braveheart, Maleficent, Thor, Tangled, and so on and so on. You may notice that Patrick Doyle has composed a few of these movies. But of course you didn’t, which is why I’m informing you. The film score composer for Brave, Thor, and Braveheart has Celtic roots in his soundtrack for these three films, even in the soundtrack for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. How to Train Your Dragon, my favorite animated film, has incredible, powerful music (too beautiful, I’m not even going to try and describe it) and I think Powell’s score for the movie is the most noticeable Celtic film score soundtrack, besides Doyle’s Brave. Those two go hand in hand.
Now, for you writers. I have some music inspiration suggestions and I betcha you can’t guess what it is. Nope, it is Celtic music, good job and try again. I will tell you not to stop listening to those wonderful film scores as they really help with the emotions particular for your setting and world building. But Celtic music, even if it’s not a film score, can help in your medieval fantasy just as well. Because, you bet, nearly every medieval fantasy book and movie in the genre has a certain style of music that has to do with bagpipes, enthusiastic little tunes, fiddlers, jigs, and folk/barn dancing, all of which incorporate the Irish/Celtic music genre.
I grew up listening to Celtic music and started Irish dancing at age 7, thus my recommendations for artists and albums I now henceforth present thee with. I’ve also put together a YouTube playlist specifically for Celtic music to write to from these artists. A lot of them are more mystical, mysterious, and magical (just remember those three sober Ms), some of them are fast and happy, and some have really dumb lyrics or words sung in some Irish language. You can listen to all of them and find which ones fit your fantasy novel writing better.
- Maggie Sansone is a hammered dulcimer musician and a lot of her songs are very mystic and otherworldly, perfect music for medieval fantasy. Some of them even have jazz roots. Listening to her songs has made me want to learn the hammered dulcimer. It’s such a beautiful instrument. (Hint: You may have heard it before in Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for the Sherlock Holmes movies.)
- An Dochas is my favorite artist when it comes to modern Irish music for dancing. but they also have slower, mysterious, and even very odd tunes that work great for medieval settings, such as the songs Song of the Books, Autumn Day, The Wanderer, and Ho Dracon.
- The Cheiftains was my first favorite Celtic band. Their style is more folk, traditional Irish songs and I just love them all. Particularly the albums The Wide World Over and A Celtic Wedding. The band is more of a lively group, but if you’re looking for hardcore Irish classics, Chieftains should not be passed up. They’re also just good for listening to while not writing.
- Gaelic Storm is an epic Irish band and their style is definitely more comedic (what ho! A comedy Irish band? Seriously, you guys have to try it). A lot of their songs have lyrics to them that tell funny traditional Irish stories. They’re good fun, have so much humor, and you can tell they have so much fun playing. A lot of the songs just don’t make any sense. It’s great.
- Enya has a very unique, ethereal style. I believe she sang the original “Aniron: Theme for Aragorn and Arwen” from Lord of the Rings, or maybe that’s just a cover. Singers similar to Enya, such as Celtic Women, Elysium, and Lisa Kelly have done covers for songs from Lord of the Rings. Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard (singer) have done tracks for the movie Gladiator.
- Era. Ooh! Ooh! You want some New Age/Modern Gregorian chants/Electronic music? These songs use Latin words put together to sound neat but have no meaning at all. I think they go pretty well with medieval fantasy. For the purpose of compare and contrast, they’re basically a quieter, more subtle version of Two Steps from Hell …
- Two Steps from Hell. Their two songs that have Celtic roots that are (for lack of a better term) amazingly epic are Winterspell and Sky Titans. I wish this artist composed movie soundtracks, because the movie would be waaaaay more epic if they did. Partiuclarly the medieval fantasy ones with the huge battles and giant feels. Yeah. Those scenes. (Also, the Gladiator soundtrack isn’t the only one that sounds very much like Pirates of the Caribbean. Sky Titans has an instance in which you may recognize a similar tune.)
Alright. That’s all I got. Feel free to check out the playlist and see which artists and songs work best for your writing and look up similar Celtic artists. Questions? Comments? I’d love some discussion. Good writing to you.