Pirates On Stranger Tides: The Score

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Today sees the release of Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Score. The fourth installment of Disney’s series, and the third album attributed to Zimmer. Technically, it’s his fourth as he wrote and contributed on the first movie’s score, but due to contractual obligations wasn’t allowed to put his name on the project, instead giving credit to Klaus Badelt.

From what I’ve read, the scripts for Pirates 5 and 6 have already been written to complete this newest trilogy.

When I first saw the trailer for 4, I really wasn’t super impressed. I mean, yeah it had Penelope Cruz, and Ian McShane, but it was hard to not feel like the series was played out. The score for the 3rd movie was so epic and had so many themes, how could you keep putting fireworks on top of explosions.

After hearing the score for 4, my worry was unfounded.

Instead of chasing the epicness of it all, Zimmer decided to pull back and create a more subdued vibe. Truly, with the addition of guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela, the score, at times, takes on some very intimate tones.

The soundtrack has quite a few tracks, but only 11 of those are score, the rest filling out the album are remixes. However, the 45 minutes of score we do get is chock full of awesome.

The album starts with a track called “Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow.” A very light opening with Jack’s theme coming in solo string, and repeated in the violins. Soon the percussion and brass show up to elevate the intensity, but they don’t push it to 11, they keep it nice and relatively calm.

The next track, “Angelica”, begins with a very crunchy cello playing a tango rhythm. Soon joined by our Spanish guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela, the tango becomes more complicated and filled out. Portions of the orchestra accompany the guitars and solo cello to complete the track. This cue works very well for how Penelope’s character will be portrayed in the film, and the addition of the guitarists creates a nearly unassailable authenticity. The instrumentation that Zimmer uses, and the genre (tango) really remind me a little of Zimmer’s score for Sherlock Holmes, except, without the flair.

The first track to truly feature Rodrigo y Gabriela is “The Pirate That Should Not Be.”

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Yeah. These guitarists are amazing! And I love that they are on this score. When they start rocking out on their classical axes, I can’t help but be reminded a little of Apocalyptica, the group of four cellos that play covers of heavy metal songs.

The track immediately following is called “Mermaids.” Immediately, high, ethereal voices are present, with some interesting orchestral colours. Not sure what the female voices represent though… kidding. But seriously, the quality of the choir and the space they are in sounds amazing. I would venture to guess that this is the track that Eric Whitacre worked on for the score, as reported in his blog back in January. There are some great vocal things happening with voices fading in and out with (almost) creepy feelings… siren-esque. Probably one of my favorite representations of the mermaids alluring voices.

On the score, Rodrigo y Gabriela have three tracks that feature them almost exclusively, “The Pirate That Should Not Be”, “South of Heaven’s Chanting Mermaids”, and “Angry and Dead Again”. I have a very difficult time deciding which one is my favorite because they are really great. They did a great job of working in the old pirates and Jack Sparrow themes within their pieces. I’m going to be very interested to see how these pieces are worked into the film itself.

Another new theme for the score comes in the form of “Blackbeard”, Ian McShane’s character. The theme is very plodding, but it includes a little bit of distorted electric guitar. The way Zimmer wrote and had it orchestrated fits in really well with the Pirates idiom. At times the theme even almost sounds like a variation of the pirate themes that came before. I daresay that this track is potentially the biggest, breadth-wise, of any other on the score. Full orchestra and choir combine to make it quite huge, and the descending theme moving higher and higher doesn’t hurt very much either.

I definitely love this score. I may be biased here, but the fact that Rodrigo y Gabriela are major contributions to this score, not to mention the little bit of Whitacre that I can hear, this score has quickly become my favorite Pirates score. If Pirates 5 ever does get made, I’ll be very interested to see where Zimmer takes it next.

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