- Composed by Bear McCreary
- Sparks and Shadows / 2014 / 79m
A new tv show set in what the publicity material calls the “golden age of piracy” (one day perhaps there’ll be a series set in the “golden age of murder”), Black Sails focuses on a pirate crew in the Caribbean in the early 18th century and is intended to serve as a prequel of sorts to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The music is by the prolific Bear McCreary. It would be easy to think, in the post-Jack Sparrow era, that a tv show about pirates would get a Zimmer / Pirates of the Caribbean type score. Think again. McCreary’s music sounds just perfect – he puts it far better than I could by describing it as “raw – filthy – salty” – the sort of music you could imagine a pirate crew improvising on whatever instruments they have lying around. The main theme is magnificent – dynamic and catchy but deliciously dirty, it’s destined to become a McCreary classic I’m sure.
Everything stems from the unorthodox ensemble – string quartet, guitar trio, hurdy-gurdy, accordion, mandolin, other assorted pipes, winds, guitars, percussion. McCreary encouraged an unusual amount of improvisation, also took much inspiration from actual folk music of the time (like the terrific love-theme-of-sorts, “Wondrous Love”). The results are terrific – lending not just an authentic-enough sound, but (perhaps harder) at the same time achieving dramatic momentum. It treads darker, choppier waters sometimes, always with great energy; there is a constant sense of motion – the 79-minute album positively flies by. This is distinctive music of real character, another triumph by a composer who seems to relish stretching himself and finding individual solutions to problems rather than following the crowd. Great stuff.