Just a few years ago, I would not have described myself as a “music person.” I didn’t have a favorite artist or favorite genre of music. Most “popular” songs I regarded as shallow. I sang hymns in church, but loved them more for their words than anything else. (I mean, have you read “The Love of God”?) Occasionally, I listened to Christian radio and had a passing familiarity for what is termed “contemporary” in that genre.
But my ambivalence toward music in general changed when I discovered what can only be called “fantasy music.”
What is “fantasy music”? I doubt it counts as an official genre of music. (But, who’s to say?) You can check out this sparsely populated Wikipedia page to get an idea of how little the term is used. There’s certainly no Billboard Top 100 Chart for fantasy. And you won’t find this kind of music playing on your local music station.
Fantasy music, in my view, is music which creates in us the same effects of the fantasy genre that are most associated with the literary and visual art forms. Fantasy music, like books and movies categorized under the same moniker, sparks a sense of wonder, imagination, and other-worldliness. Fantasy music takes you places you wouldn’t otherwise think possible. Have you ever imagined what it must have sounded like for the morning stars to sing together (Job 38:7)? The notes of a song can indeed be a door to another world.
For this article, I wanted to find an official-sounding definition of “fantasy music” or “speculative music”; I wanted an expert opinion. But, I found none. The best I can do on that front is adapt the words of British children’s fantasy writer, Beth Webb, and apply them to music.
Fantasy music expresses the full range of human emotions—wild, exciting, passionate, vigorous, totally irrational, and raring to go.
But you can’t grasp the power of fantasy music with words alone. So, here are five of my favorite fantasy music tracks.
Thomas Bergersen – “Ocean Princess”
Bergersen’s work was my gateway into the realm of fantasy music. His tracks grip your imagination and don’t let go. I have frequently found myself playing and replaying “Ocean Princess” and other tracks of his for hours on end. They haven’t grown old. There is a depth to them that leaves you restless and wanting more. If, after listening below, you want more from Bergersen, here’s a great one-hour sampler of some of his best work. If you’ve ever wanted to live in Narnia, you’ll want to give this a listen.
Two Steps from Hell – “Protectors of the Earth”
If you love the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings, I think you’ll also love much of the work from this production company. In fact, you’ve likely already heard their music in trailers for the Harry Potter and X-Men films. Much of fantasy literature tells of war with fiery dragons, evil wizards, and demonic hordes. Life, as some have said, is also war. Music made by Two Steps from Hell makes Davids feel like they can conquer Goliaths. And, if you like this song, check out one of their best albums, Archangel.
Adrian von Ziegler – “Forever Still”
Ziegler is one of the most prolific internet-based composers. (By “internet-based,” I mean that if YouTube didn’t exist, you’d probably never hear about him.) Ziegler’s music is at turns meditative, brooding, wild, cheerful, and adventurous. If you find the vigor of Bergersen and Two Steps from Hell a bit much, you might appreciate the softer, more spiritual tunes of this Swiss musician. And, be sure to check out his channel to listen to music described as Celtic, Viking, and straight-up Fantasy.
Tommee Profitt (ft. Fleurie) – “Onward & Upward”
Profitt is my newest musical discovery. I was thrilled to find that he’s been producing songs for one of my favorite Christian rappers, NF. And, he partnered extensively with Fleurie, one my favorite vocalists, on his latest project, a “ten-song cinematic epic” titled Gloria Regali. I struggled to choose which of his songs I wanted to share, because they are just that good. (And I encourage you to check out the whole album.) As with most fantasy music, the lyrics are scarce, but when they appear in this offering, I can’t help but think of the now-and-future Kingdom of Christ.
Second to none
Willing and able
Call forth the chosen one
King by fear and fable
Higher, farther, onward and upward
Higher, farther, onward and upward
Who will call you lord?
Who will fall on bended knee?
Who will lift the sword,
And lay down his life for me?
Ashton Gleckman – “Infinity”
I don’t know why, but this song puts me more in the mind of serious scifi than fantasy. It’s melodic, vigorous, and expansive—as if preparing the listener for a monumental journey into space to save the human race. Ashton Gleckman’s work falls more solidly under what has become known (on YouTube at least) as “epic music.” He doesn’t have much attributed to his name yet; he’s only eighteen. But he hosts the video blog series, “Behind the Score,” which has explored the film tracks of some of our favorite fantasy films, including: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Wonder Woman.
So, there you have it—some of my favorite fantasy music. And if you don’t love these particular tracks, there’s plenty more where they came from. Feel free to share some of your favorites, or share your thoughts on what exactly is fantasy music.