Ready to start upon my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, full of devout homage,
There came at nightfall to that hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all
-General Prologue from The Canterbury Tales
Chaucerian Myth was, like most of my discoveries in this genre, by complete happenstance. Paging through Bandcamp, I stumbled on an album cover which was pulled from an illuminated manuscript and had references to the 12th century English poet Chaucer. Enthusiastically, I entered into the page and soon found that the devotion to a source material was beyond my wildest dreams. Here was an artist not just using Chaucer’s name but a full fledged disciple who took the entire Canterbury Tales and transcribed it in the language of dungeon synth. Here was 17,000 lines of text boiled down to a 3 hour, 25 track synthscape which was probably more interesting than most English lit courses. I do not think that this record can be used as a substitute for reading the poem for test purposes but the sentiment is resounding and exciting. On the eve of a cassette release of Canterbury Tales by the label Out of Season, Chacerian Myth exchanged some words. I caught up with him on the road into town and with flowery prose unfurled his tribulations regarding conjuring a centuries’ old piece of literature to life with the magic of dungeon synth.
First of all who are you and how did you come to finding dungeon synth?
You can find my name on the credits of the Chaucerian Myth Bandcamp page. My first exposure to Dungeon Synth was actually Burzum’s infamous Dauði Baldrs album. That was all I had heard from the genre for years, but a growing interest in Dungeons and Dragons, as well as my pursuit of a degree in literature, inspired me to look for more. I’ve also been a big fan of Black Metal since I was very young, and the two genres are naturally connected, so that had something to do with it as well.
I am sure the big question you get a lot or at least I think you do it your relationship with Chaucer? Has he or the Canterbury Tales been a big influence in your literary experience?
Huge. When I first started my college education at a university, I was a political science major. After a year, I knew that wasn’t for me, so I reluctantly took on an English/Literature major, as I always enjoyed writing. It was at that time that I was reintroduced to The Canterbury Tales. They really came alive to me for the first time. The prose, particularly in the original Middle English, is so beautiful and flowing, and the stories are deep and meaningful commentaries on class, rank, gentility, and even feminism – all things that resonate deeply with me today. I’ve since read Chaucer’s other works as well, and they’re all brilliant. There’s a reason they call him the Father of the English Language. He is, by far, my favorite author and poet.
One of the more striking aspects of your first and only record is the length. It is over 3 hours long which makes it, perhaps, the longest single album in dungeon synth history. How did it get to be this big? Did you envision composing a complete take on the Canterbury Tales?
I became interested in Dungeon Synth as a genre around the time I first started reading The Canterbury Tales in college. However, it wasn’t until more recently that I started making it. This album was actually my first foray into the Dungeon Synth genre, so I didn’t really know what I was doing at first. When I got to thinking about a concept, I thought The Canterbury Tales would be a perfect fit. It was certainly from the appropriate time period – medieval – and it was epic and episodic at the same time, making it easy to break it up into separate songs, one for each tale, plus the General Prologue. It was also something that I was familiar with by that time, and honestly, I just thought it would be really cool to have a musical companion to The Tales. I then decided that, if I was going to do this, I was going to commit to doing it properly. That meant doing every single tale, and fleshing them out conceptually and thematically to the best of my ability, while using various styles of Dungeon Synth as a framework. That would explain the length, I think.
Aside from the number of tracks, the length is also impressive for these tracks. There are some that surpass the 15 minute mark. What do you like about longer songs in these compositions? did The Man of Law’s Tale or the Second Nun’s Tale need to be told in 17 minutes?
I don’t necessarily like longer songs more than shorter ones. It’s about what fits best. That’s why there are also quite a few shorter songs on the album – that’s just what worked better for those songs. However, longer songs give an obvious advantage, as you can explore more musical themes and really make it a journey. This makes longer songs preferable for some of the more thematically rich tales, such as The Man of Law’s Tale or The Wife of Bath’s Tale (my personal favorite from the book).
Given your name, do you foresee future releases based on Chaucer or are you intending to branch out beyond one author?
I intend to do both. I definitely want to work more with Chaucer, as he is a great inspiration, and has written so much that would translate very well into music, but there are many other authors that I’d like to explore as well from similar literary periods.
What other major literary works do you see working within the style of dungeon synth?
“The Goblin Market,” a fairly lengthy poem by Christina Rossetti is one I plan on doing, for sure. It’s an incredible poem, and it’s perfect for Dungeon Synth. I’m also currently working on some compositions for an album based on The Book of Margery Kempe, written by Margery Kempe. It was the first autobiography written in the English language, and it’s very intense. I think people would really respond to it.
The Canterbury Tales is receiving a staggering 4 cassette physical release. How did this come about? Did you ever envision this work in the medium of cassette tape?
I feel extremely lucky, as I never imagined getting any musical release of mine put out physically. As far as how this came about, I just contacted every label that I thought would be a good fit until someone responded! I really wanted a cassette release, as the album is free to download on Bandcamp, and I figured that, if I was going to get it released physically, I’d want it to be sort of a collector’s item, something that really had a presence. The release is being handled by Out of Season, and it’s been great so far. The label is fantastic, too, with some really amazing releases under their belt. I definitely recommend checking them out!
When not composing long dreamscapes under the worship of 12th century English poets, what can you be found doing to occupy the time?
I’m constantly composing and listening to music. Lately, it’s been a lot of jazz, as I’ve needed a bit of a break from Dungeon Synth after pouring my soul (and many weeks) into such a huge project. Jazz is very rejuvenating and inspiring for me. As soon as I listen to some, I need to start composing! Aside from music, I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons very much, as well as watching movies. I also write articles online and for various publications as a freelance writer.
Dungeons and Dragons you say? Well then, I am holding a large game with all of the other dungeon synth musicians I interviewed. You are playing a character in whatever system you want. What are you playing and how are you overcoming obstacles in my game?
I love playing a monk, and 3.5 is my preferred system. The way I overcome obstacles is to change the rules, as core monks really suck in 3.5! Allow for full BAB, and no penalty on Flurry of Blows, and I’ll overcome any obstacle just fine. Allowing some use of Unearthed Arcana or the Tome of Battle helps a lot too!
What does the rest of 2016 look like for you? Can we expect anything else from Chaucerian Myth in the near future?
I hope so! In terms of Dungeon Synth, I’m composing some stuff for a concept album based on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, as well as the Margery Kempe project I mentioned earlier, but these are all coming at a pretty slow pace, so who knows? I’d love to put something else out in 2016, but if not, expect something in early 2017 at the latest!