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Black Hawk Down
Co-Composed and Co-Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Co-Composed by:
Rachid Taha
Denez Prigent
Michael Brook
Craig Eastman
Hector Pereira
Martin Tillman
Mel Wesson

Vocals by:
Baaba Maal
Joe Strummer
Lisa Gerrard
Rachid Taha
Denez Prigent

Co-Produced by:
Pietro Scalia
Bob Badami


Release Date:
January 15th, 2002

Also See:
The Thin Red Line
The Peacemaker
Pearl Harbor
Beyond Rangoon

Audio Clips:
1. Hunger (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

5. Still (0:32):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

7. Synchrotone (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

12. Tribal War (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

Regular U.S. release.


Black Hawk Down

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Sales Rank: 26528

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Buy it... if you appreciate challenging scores that take radical chances in the area of cross-cultural conflict.

Avoid it... if the fifteen minutes of harmonious vocal and instrumental beauty on the album cannot compensate for the extremely difficult electric guitar-laden action material.

Black Hawk Down: (Hans Zimmer) Director Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer combined efforts to create a frighteningly realistic account of the American soldiers' fight for survival during the botched 1993 kidnapping mission in Somalia that led to the deaths of several of those soldiers. The critical acclaim surrounding the film is based on the severely true to life account of the gruesome accident and rescue that ensued during the event. That success takes a page from the harrowing realism captured in films such as Platoon and Saving Private Ryan, placing the viewer in the midst of a battle environment that's intended to extend the soldiers' adrenaline rush to the audience. The film came under harsh fire from other critics who identified Scott's inaccuracies in the depiction of the people of Somalia (who were not actually used in the creation of the film), and that same disdainful response extended to Hans Zimmer's music for the production. Spreading his wings to take flight into another unexplored method of scoring, Zimmer's score for Black Hawk Down is like nothing film music fans had heard before. Instead of attempting to portray the ethereal aspect of wartime conflict with a classical approach or allowing the sound effects to replace a score in many parts, Zimmer's work is mixed as a central piece of the film. Still riding the success of Gladiator with Scott, Zimmer's Hannibal and Pearl Harbor continued his strong popularity with mainstream film score fans in 2001. In nearly ever way possible, though, Black Hawk Down is the exact opposite of his previous score, Pearl Harbor. Rather than reprising the underplaying of a historical event with soft, thematic writing, Zimmer unleashes a wretched dose of hell in his music for Black Hawk Down. To understand the disparate tones in this work, all you have to do is realize that the film itself is not meant to be a pleasant experience. Zimmer intentionally approached the assignment with brutality on the mind, seeking to accompany the overpowering and detailed human account of the event with music that is also at war with itself. The resulting mix is competent and intermittently effective, but it's extremely incongruous on album.

Zimmer indeed tackled this score with a admirable sense of experimentation. There is nothing pleasant about the vast majority of this material; it is a necessarily painful experience that can test your endurance in parts. Those who dismiss this score as merely incoherent noise are missing the point. The precise culture clash between African and American elements produces an interesting environment even if it's largely unlistenable in some cues. Heavy electric guitars and African voices are not what you'd expect to hear together in a piece of music, but when they're intentionally fighting each other in the sonic spectrum, it is successful if only because of its uniqueness. Zimmer joyfully explained at the time that Black Hawk Down was a project for which he wanted to create a score that had never been done before. He and a seemingly infinite team of Media Ventures artists tinkered and experimented with all sorts of different electronic samplings in their effort to create a foreign setting. All you have to do to grasp the scope of the project is attempt to understand the liner credits on the album, and you'll realize that literally dozens of people contributed small compositional input into this score (not including the orchestral players, which are minimally realized in the work). Because of this eclectic base, and when considering that the orchestra was contracted for only a handful of minutes to perform underscore for the synthesizers, the Black Hawk Down music is understandably a very inconsistent listening experience. Zimmer adequately balances the American (and slightly Scottish?) elements of the score with the African ones, though he was criticized by nationals from Somalia who were offended by the employment of Senegalese and Moroccan vocalists and instruments. This lack of precision in the ethnic balance is indeed a curious aspect of Black Hawk Down, though the vast majority of American listeners won't know enough about world music to notice the difference. It doesn't, however, give detractors of Zimmer's methodology a legitimate avenue of attack when claiming that his music is strikingly inappropriate for a multitude of settings, a problem that plagued Pearl Harbor far more than this effort. Ultimately, the basic culture clashes in the score, regardless of precise representation, sufficed for the picture.

The setting of Mogadishu, with its famine and unknown quantity of militants, is represented by African voices set often to a modern, percussive rhythm. When the American cowboy attitudes and superior technology are displayed, the synthesized sounds of machine gun fire, jet afterburners, and the slow, deliberate swooshing of helicopter blades accompany guitars of varying electronic harshness. While no theme really prevails in Black Hawk Down, the final significant score track on album, "Leave No Man Behind," presents the only development of the score's broad patriotic theme that represents the sacrifice of the soldiers (a short, more ballsy variant on this idea was not included on that album). Its deliberate pace and melancholy nature could remind you of the heavy theme from Beyond Rangoon. For most listeners, this cue will likely represent the only easily accessible, non-vocal musical souvenir from the film. Otherwise, the vocals are truly the most engaging part of Black Hawk Down. The performances by Baaba Maal in "Hunger" and "Still" are very compelling, and the latter track is another reason to return to the album. Zimmer's long-standing love of African vocals, from The Lion King to Tears of the Sun and several others, is on full display here. The "Gortoz A Ran" vocal piece is a solemn and mournful, but even more beautiful duet between Denez Prigent and Zimmer's regular collaborator, Lisa Gerrard. Combined with "Leave No Man Behind," these vocal tracks provide at least fifteen minutes of redeeming music of only a moderate volume. The devastating action sequences, by contrast, will knock you down with their relentless and harsh pounding. In particular, "Chant" is an unforgiving, obnoxious piece with layers of crashing that could easily give you a headache. The scenes of the civilian suffering in Somalia will frighten you with their stark echoing of subsistence. The underscore will challenge your tolerance for cross cultural musical integration that was never meant to sound harmonious. Of the pulsating, straight-laced militaristic material, most Zimmer collectors find themselves enjoying "Synchrotone," a cue that was cut to pieces in the final version of the film but still manages to convey the mechanized madness of the Americans' capabilities.

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Just as the score for Black Hawk Down functions in its film in ways exactly opposite to Pearl Harbor, the same could be said about the album experience. It is an extremely difficult and disjointed one in this case, but it is hard to dismiss Zimmer's intentions. For many viewers and listeners, those decisions by Zimmer were masked by Scott's heavily rearranging editing of the music in the actual film. While Zimmer intended for the Americans to be represented by the heaviest music, the scene in which the convoy of helicopters approaches the coast is switched so that the shots of rioting civilians are given the bombast while the choppers are treated to silence. Whether moves like this were Zimmer's or Scott's, they ultimately defeat the purpose of the composer's definitions. Also at issue is the fact that Zimmer and his many associates (termed the "BHD band" for this occasion) recorded five hours of music for Black Hawk Down and less than a quarter of it appeared on the Decca retail album. Hefty 3-CD bootlegs have circulated around the secondary market for years, but its hard to recommend a score that is, at any length, difficult to enjoy on album due to its radical shifts in tone. Still, even if you absolutely cannot stand this music on album, you have to chalk up another few points to Zimmer for assembling the talent necessary to make the Black Hawk Down experiment into a moderate success. A vibrant sound quality assists the loneliness of the vocals in every track, a definite improvement over the many blockbuster scores by Zimmer in which the best solo elements get lost in the emphasis of the bass region (Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc). The cross cultural vocals in "Barra Barra," "Still," and "Gortoz A Ran" are enticing combinations of modern rock and new age electronic accompaniment for African and Middle Eastern voices, and these are the selling points of the commercial album. If you are a Zimmer fan hoping for another score along the same lines as The Peacemaker or Gladiator, then outside of "Leave No Man Behind" you may be surprised by how much it isn't like either of those scores. The score accomplishes everything it set out to do, and despite its intolerable sequences, you have to appreciate the conceptualization. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 2.98 (in 89 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3 (in 266,350 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.73 Stars
Smart Average: 2.75 Stars*
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 67:01

• 1. Hunger (6:35)
• 2. Barra Barra - performed by Rachid Taha (5:47)
• 3. Vale of Plenty (2:27)
• 4. Chant (2:33)
• 5. Still (4:48)
• 6. Mogadishu Blues (2:53)
• 7. Synchrotone (8:55)
• 8. Bakara (3:12)
• 9. Of the Earth (2:19)
• 10. Ashes to Ashes (4:43)
• 11. Gortoz A Ran - J'Attends - performed by Denez Prigent and Lisa Gerrard (5:51)
• 12. Tribal War (2:39)
• 13. Leave No Man Behind (6:18)
• 14. Minstrel Boy (Film Version) - performed by Joe Strummer/Mescaleros (5:42)
• 15. Still Reprise (2:12)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive credits and a long note from Danial Schweiger about the creative process of the score and all of its diverse elements.

  All artwork and sound clips from Black Hawk Down are Copyright © 2002, Decca/Universal. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 1/12/02 and last updated 1/3/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2002-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.