Author: Chris Wickham
Ashenvale Forest is an ancient woodland located to the south of Darkshore in western Kalimdor. It is the ancestral homeland of the mystical Night Elves, who have established numerous settlements in the area which include Astranaar and Maestra's Post. Hordes of creatures such as satyrs, furbolgs, wolves, and bears have thrived within the woods, making the forest thicket itself a dangerous place. While Ashenvale is a place of magic and spirituality, the Horde have expanded into Ashenvale's borders following the cataclysm, establishing settlements such as Splintertree Post and deforesting the sacred wilderness. The forest itself is now considered to be contested, with frequent attacks on faction settlements and smaller conflicts taking place within the wilds.
Ashenvale's sonic landscape remains largely unchanged from the original release of World of Warcraft, despite the increased presence of the Horde in the area. The music commonly heard in this region is Jason Hayes' Enchanted Forest compositions, which are commonly associated with the elusive Night Elves, most notably in Teldrassil. All of these pieces share a mystical quality through prominent use of circulating harp arpeggios, soaring string lines and indistinct vocal lines covered in a blanket of reverberation. The harmony wanders between major and minor, capturing both of the harmony and potential danger of the forest itself. The harp arpeggios often extend these major harmonies into augmented triads; a naturally unstable combination of notes that produce a wondrous yet unsettling impression.
These compositions, like much of Jason Hayes’ work on the original release, are regarded with a fond nostalgia by long-term players, who continue to reminisce over levelling their first characters here. Hayes' use of delicate string, woodwind and vocal arrangements creates an overwhelmingly warm ambiance which long-time players regard with fondness, complementing the beautiful green and violet hues of the otherwise treacherous woodland. Any brass instruments that are heard are performed softly as not to overpower the more delicate performance of the rest of the ensemble. This aids Enchanted Forest in maintaining a serene, tranquil aura, but also helps to reflect the epic scale and density of the sacred groves of Ashenvale.