Friday, June 1, 2018

Music to Game to: Scott Walker - The Childhood of a Leader (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I listen to a lot of music (over 40 days worth in 2017 according to and I find that few things help me keep the mood of a game foregrounded in my mind like a good soundtrack. Plus, I’ve discovered that when I’m playing music to a speaker via Bluetooth, I’m less likely to be on my phone, lest my players hear any stray sounds, letting me better model engagement during a game. To that end, I want to share some of my favorite music to game to; the albums that inspire and inflame my imagination and that I’ve found work well as background music for games as well. I’ll do a mini-review and cover the basics of what mood it helps me set.


I’m not going to recommend many soundtracks with this blog series, after all, they are well trod ground. Many an article or post about music for RPGs references the Lord of the Rings Soundtrack (without going back to check, I feel like the Master and Commander soundtrack is also strangely well represented in this oeuvre). So, why recommend The Childhood of a Leader soundtrack?

Firstly, it is composed by the legendary Scott Walker (as opposed to the aggressively boring, anti-democratic Wisconsin politician who sullies the name), but Noel Scott Engel, who took the moniker Walker at the formation of the 60’s pop trio, the Walker Brothers. With JG Thirlwell, Walker is in my mind, one of the very best composers of the 21st century. If you doubt it, I will direct your attention to the epic “SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)” which mixes references to ascetics of Roman Antiquity, astronomy, insults, flatulence and more in 21 minutes. And I’ve written before on Scott’s collaboration with Drone Metal titans Sunn O))) before.

Secondly, unlike the tried and true soundtracks of LotR or other blockbusters, your players (and let’s be honest, you as well) have probably never seen The Childhood of a Leader. It is not a stirring, epic score, but a suspenseful and uncanny one. This is probably not music for your fantasy hearbreaker game or your sci-fi epic, but would work tremendously well for a horror/suspense game set anytime in the 20th century. There are quiet lulls suddenly torn apart by blasts of horns, strings and percussion. This is an album of music to put in the mix when you want your players to be unsettled and on edge.

  • Vocals?...No
  • Music Genre(s)…Classical
  • Perfect for…Horror, suspense and paranoid games set in the 20th century.
  • If you only grab one track, make it...The track, “The Meeting”, which begins with swirling and nausea inducing strings and then settles into a tense silence punctuated by low bursts of horns, the returning strings and flute or piccolo whistles.

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