Video Production

Royalty Free Music Like O Fortuna

Learn how to pick the perfect music for your videos, without any copyright issues

Sound has an enormous impact on human emotions, as it can completely change and re-contextualise the feeling and perception of an event. Using the right track in your content is essential to convey the intended meaning; get it wrong and the audience will experience a completely different emotional experience.

A song commonly used for its bombastic drama and overwhelming grandeur is O Fortuna. This song, understandably, has been used to soundtrack epic and tense scenes in films, TV and advertising. It’s often used in serious situations, but can also work ironically in a comedic way.

Using the right sound can make a huge difference to a video, and you can learn more about how to use awesome immersive audio techniques here. However, there are a few things that need to be considered before you start loading your videos full of music. Playing copyrighted songs requires you to obtain permission from the original owner, usually through some form of licensing agreement.

Music Cellar is an exciting solution to this issue of licensing, currently in beta phase. By signing up to a free subscription you can have access to a library of royalty-free music to use in your videos and media productions. Music Cellar will contain a curated selection of pro-quality songs, with moods to fit comedy, lifestyle, science, travel and more.

What genre of music is O Fortuna?

O Fortuna was originally a Latin poem written in the 13th century as part of the “Carmina Burana” collection. 

In 1935–36 the poem was arranged to music by composer Carl Orff, as part of his Carmina Borana cantata (a vocally driven opera). It was written to be performed in an opera with instrumentation.

At the time, Orff’s Carmina was considered as “Modernist” music. Whilst this classification may be outdated now, back then it meant that it broke away from the traditions of Neo-Classicism and Neo-Romanticism with a new approach to theory and arrangement. Orff captured a medieval feel whilst moving away from the folk-ish conventions of that musical era.

The song provokes feelings of dread, impending doom, and action, leaving listeners gripping the edge of their seats in suspense. The poem it was based on criticises “Fortune” or fate, describing it as an inescapable, life governing power. So, it's no surprise that Orff wrote the music to be intense and forbidding.

What style of music is Carmina Burana?

The Carmina Burana is in the style of Gregorian plainsong, composed to be performed by choirs, orchestras and vocal soloists. 

Orff based the work on ancient poetic texts dating from between the 10th and 13th centuries. The texts were written by the Goliards, a group of wandering scholars who provided entertainment for the ruling classes of the day, traveling from courtroom to courtroom performing their poetry for kings and queens.

The lyrical content of Carmina Burana uses multiple languages: Secular Latin, Middle High German, and Old French. It’s unlikely you will understand the lyrics listening to the song, unless you’re an expert in translating obsolete languages!


This leads to the lyrics often being misheard, as the brain tries to make sense of the words being chanted. In the case of O Fortuna, this has led to some pretty comedic results.

The Carmena Burana is an epic piece – over an hour long total. This sprawling symphony fuses medieval flavours with the grand and cartoonish exaggerations of Wagner-esque modern classical music. Not all the songs are as dark and daunting as O Fortuna, some are more spritely and in other cases, romantic.

Epic sounding songs

What is it that makes a song epic? You know, that grand, exciting feeling. Is it pitch? Dynamics? Instrumentation? Maybe it’s all of the above, but let's break it down a bit further. 

The word ”epic“ originally referred to a type of long-form story or poetry, broken down into smaller sub-stories that often span generations of characters and events (like the structure of the Bible or other religious texts). These books were often thousands of pages in length, and involved many writers. Famous epics include The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and Beowulf. 

Epic sounding music conveys a grand sense of adventure, story and mystery. One way this can be achieved is through the instruments it's played by. 

Would O Fortuna be quite so impactful if played on an orchestra of xylophones? Or how about as a recorder solo? Not quite so dramatic, if we’re honest. Yes, it still retains some feeling, but it lacks the cataclysmic power that comes from large numbers of people singing together in unison.

This comparison demonstrates the impact of instrumentation and dynamics. A solo recorder won’t be able to create the same epic cacophony as a room full of people singing at the top of their lungs, accompanied by a full scale orchestra. 

Music theory also plays a role in the emotional register of a song, with the minor or major tonality of the piece creating a positive or negative atmosphere, but theory doesn’t strictly define the mood. The context of the instruments and performances of the musicians goes a long way to achieving that epic feeling.

What movie has the song O Fortuna?

O Fortuna has been used both seriously and ironically across cinema and TV screens. The song is usually used during tense climactic moments in the film, think battles and confrontations. 

It also works well in a funny, ironic way, when overlaid on scenes that don’t match it in terms of dramatic content. People have even claimed that the excessive use of the track has made it cliché, detaching the meaning from the original message.

Notable examples of O Fortuna in film and television include:


Check out this list for a run-down of some of the most iconic uses of sound in TV and film history, and see which ones you remember!

What movies is Carmina Burana in?

Aside from O Fortuna, other sections of the Carmina Burana haven’t seen much use in film, however the full work has been studied and reimagined by other musicians and ensembles. 

The most notable example of a modern musician using the work was The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who released a solo album under the name “Carmina Burana”, interpreting the piece in a new context.

Carmina Burana is protected by copyright, which is owned by Schott Musik International. The copyright includes the translation and lyrics.

To use parts of the Carmina Burana, including O Fortuna, in a project will require a license agreement with Schott Musik. This sync license could have a fee of between $5000 – $10000.

As it was published in 1935, it could become public domain in 2030, maybe even later if the copyright gets renewed.

O, Fortunately, there are other sources for similar music that are more affordable, and as effective. Music Cellar, for instance, provides a resource for video creators, podcasters and streamers, putting premium quality tracks at anyone’s disposal with a free subscription

O Fortuna similar songs

There are many other songs with a similar dramatic feeling to O Fortuna, listed below are a few examples. Some may have expired copyrights, meaning they are now in the public domain and free to use.

Where to find similar songs

Accusonus Music Cellar is a royalty-free music library that can be used in your creative projects, whether they are films, YouTube videos, live streams or podcasts. That means no legal issues – you’re welcome!

If you need dramatic music like O Fortuna, you’ll find it here. Music Cellar features many different genres and styles, with curations designed for specific themes. The benefit of this is that you can freely choose the right piece of music to suit the emotion or effect you are trying to achieve in your project.

Sit tight for the full launch, but in the meantime make sure to register to our blog to learn more about our subscription services, and how to properly use music in your content.

May 05, 2021
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