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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
2003 Disney

2007 Disney

Co-Composed and Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Co-Composed by:
Klaus Badelt
Ramin Djawadi
James Dooley
Nick Glennie-Smith
Steve Jablonsky
Blake Neely
James McKee Smith
Geoff Zanelli

Conducted by:
Blake Neely
Nick Ingram
Rick Wentworth

Orchestrations Supervised by:
Bruce Fowler

Labels and Dates:
Walt Disney Records
(July 22nd, 2003)

Walt Disney Records
(December 4th, 2007)

Also See:
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
The Rock
Muppet Treasure Island
Tears of the Sun
Cutthroat Island

Audio Clips:
2003 Album:

5. Swords Crossed (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

7. Barbossa is Hungry (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (241K)
Real Audio (150K)

10. To the Pirates' Cave! (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (234K)
Real Audio (145K)

14. One Last Shot (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

Both the 2003 album and the 2007 set are regular U.S. releases. The 2007 "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" initially retailed for $60 or more.


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

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Buy it... if you enjoy truly brainless film music that not only ruins the film for some viewers but also popularly ushered in an era of brute masculinity over style in the genre of swashbuckling music.

Avoid it... if you've already heard quite enough imbecilic regurgitation from the old Media Ventures production house of Hans Zimmer and seek intelligence, finesse, or savoir-faire in your high seas adventures.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: (Hans Zimmer/Various) When popular and successful action producer Jerry Bruckheimer was announced to be making a film adaptation of the legendary Disneyland New Orleans Square theme part attraction "Pirates of the Caribbean," fans of the swashbuckling genre erupted with joyful hope and anticipation. A strong cast catering to the masses of youths, a story worthy of chase and adventure, spectacular effects, and an intangible likeability all helped Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl earn spectacular gross returns in the summer of 2003 and eventually gave birth to a franchise of continued success for Disney. That franchise has become the definition of the summer blockbuster of the 2000's, though while its films remain a guilty pleasure for even many hardened viewers, few would argue that it's high-class artistry. A lasting controversy boiled over within the film score collecting community in regards to Pirates of the Caribbean, however, despite the initial score's immense popularity with mainstream movie-goers. There is no single film music composer alive today who is such an expert at the sea-faring piracy genre as Erich Wolfgang Korngold was in the Golden Age, although several modern composers have followed in his tradition and produced suitably swashbuckling scores. John Debney, Patrick Doyle, and Bruce Broughton, among others, have all given the genre their best, and, at the outset, Alan Silvestri would be called upon to raise the same spirit in Pirates of the Caribbean. Having proven his larger-than-life action scoring abilities with a range of films from Back to the Future to The Mummy Returns, Silvestri was well qualified for the job, especially having worked with Disney in the years just prior. Being a Bruckheimer production, however, there was always a funny, sneaking suspicion that the Media Ventures musical empire of Hans Zimmer would somehow envelope this score's creation, and, alas, it was to be so. Silvestri was fired after writing some material deemed unsatisfactory to Bruckheimer's ears, and Disney presented Zimmer with enough money to hack through some last minute ideas and unleash his Media Ventures artists on the project at the last minute.

A number of problems faced Zimmer, though. First, he couldn't contractually take credit for the score because of an agreement with another studio during that period of time. There are varying accounts of exactly how much of The Curse of the Black Pearl he actually wrote, with some claiming that the quantity is as much as in any of his other collaborative scores. Zimmer himself has since taken credit for all the major themes. For legal reasons, however, his contribution was technically restrained to some synthesizer programming and consultation. Primary credit was shifted to composer Klaus Badelt, a relative newcomer in the Zimmer gang who had been moving up the ranks of the organization since his involvement with Gladiator and who was known at the time for his two other summer blockbusters, The Time Machine and K-19: The Widowmaker (both of which highly derivative of other scores, but ranging from adequate to enjoyable in the context of their own films). Under Badelt, the list of regular Media Ventures artists composing snippets for the project included Ramin Djawadi, James Dooley, Nick Glennie-Smith, Steve Jablonsky, Blake Neely, James McKee Smith, and Geoff Zanelli. With one music supervisor, eight composers, nine orchestrators, three conductors, and Zimmer serving as the "overproducer," you immediately got the impression that this was a potentially frightening Media Ventures nightmare. The result of this frantic combined effort? A monumentally disappointing mess of a score that, more importantly, gave birth to a spirited debate about the larger implications that the popularity of this imbecilic work had on the industry. Stop for a moment and consider the days when a single man would write, orchestrate, conduct, and produce a score. Now imagine two-dozen people trying to do the same thing all at once on computers, and the product is a useless, meandering collection of stock action cues with few cohesive elements of any significance. There is a reason why scores like these are deemed ineligible to win Academy Awards. Zimmer and Badelt's coordination efforts serve as a sampler of Media Ventures cues from the previous seven years, with hardly any original ideas, no deviation from their norms, and no indication that they took Pirates of the Caribbean seriously enough to give it a personality of its own.

You can hear pieces of music in the contents of this work that remind of a few of the individual composers credited, but without detailed cue sheets for the score, then how is anybody to know who is responsible for the very few bright spots of the composition? Of greater importance is the debate that The Curse of the Black Pearl stirred about the electronic accompaniment and manipulation of orchestral players. In the mid-2000's, Zimmer was still actually writing scores to be performed primarily by live players, but their sound was so heavily mixed in the bass region that the brass and string players ended up sounding like their sampled counterparts. So when you mix the live players to sound like electronics and put a layer of synth elements into that mix to boost the bass (or some other aspect of the recording), then can you blame anybody for simply dismissing the entire result as synthetic crap? The Hollywood Studio Orchestra, whose involvement on the project is advertised, is drowned out (or simply doesn't perform) in every single cue, leaving the abrasive programming of the Media Ventures synthesizers to accomplish the scoring task by volume rather than class. Woodwinds are intentionally devalued (a standard Bruckheimer demand that endured into the following decade), meaning that the composers had no incentive to write with any sense of style or delicacy. What few solo fiddle or other elements there are in this score are mixed so far in the background that their contribution is useless. Outside of purely orchestral string performances in "Walk the Plank" and "Moonlight Serenade," the score is a pounding array of the usual staccato rhythms and synthesized orchestra hits that we have come to expect from these people. If you hear synthesized cellos in your nightmares, then be aware that they are relentless in Pirates of the Caribbean, chopping ceaselessly through extremely overused rhythms by the Media Ventures artists. Brief respites of thirty seconds or so in length break up these non-descript action explosions, leaving a person scratching his head and wondering if this music really does make Gladiator sound like a masterpiece. The underlying structures are ideas that expired years ago, a time capsule of The Rock that has been repackaged with a variation of its theme and combined with less than a minute of swashbuckling-oriented music heard only at the start in "Fog Bound."

The most disgraceful part of the pounding and shouting score for The Curse of the Black Pearl is that there is really nothing swashbuckling about it. If you remove the tepid little thirty-second jig from the start of the opening cue, then this score could easily accompany a movie about alien attacks, police force raids, chases for nuclear weapons, or any other militaristic setting. It immediately begged the question: Did none of these two dozen men at Media Ventures actually walk across town and get on the ride at Disneyland? Certainly, Zimmer and Badelt had both made America their residence long enough prior to this assignment to spare a few moments on the classic ride in Anaheim. Do your research, composers! If they had, they would have heard the kind of jolly bayou swing that the real tale of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" combined with its action music, courtesy of George Bruns' original "Yo Ho" composition. The entire concept of the jig, and the jolly rhythms that accompany the free spirited nature of these pirates, was lost on Zimmer and Bruckheimer, and therefore you get this ridiculously out of place, harshly modernized interpretation of the genre that has nothing to do with the original concept. The mark could not have been missed to any greater extent. As such, the lack of soul, spirit, and spit in Pirates of the Caribbean is a matter of a massive failure in conceptualization rather than instrumentation alone. A decent pirate score can be produced from this Media Ventures crowd and their electronics, and we know this because Zimmer himself wrote the more appropriate Muppet Treasure Island for Disney in the mid-1990's. While that score was able to benefit from the silliness of its characters, it still exhibited the "Yo Ho" spirit that is necessary in the genre. It is possible, perhaps, that a change in instrumentation would have saved this music, for every score collector knows that John Debney's Cutthroat Island stands as a classic because of the mere scope of orchestral power behind its swashbuckling rhythms. Concurrently in 2003, Harry Gregson-Williams' score to the animated film Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas used a real orchestra and combined it with snazzy, though stereotypical pirate rhythms to a very effective end. Some proponents of the first Pirates of the Caribbean score will argue that time did not allow Zimmer and his crew the luxury of exploring such avenues, but the franchise's sequel scores clearly indicate that unwillingness, not inability due to deadlines, is the villain here.

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In the end, however, Zimmer and his associates completely failed to take inspiration from appropriate places for The Curse of the Black Pearl. Instead, they took a cue (or two or three or twenty) from non-pirate related Media Ventures stock material. The themes that do appear in this score are not strong enough for the genre, nor do they exhibit any swing in rhythm themselves. The jaunty Jack Sparrow idea has some minimal spirit and the primary theme, constantly repeated and summed up with bravado in "He's a Pirate," has become a staple of college band performances. Both ideas would figure strongly in Zimmer's own sequel scores, the latter among the most famous film score themes of the 2000's. Still, these themes are all reminiscent of prior Zimmer and Media Ventures identities. The third minute of "One Last Shot" is particularly shameless, an example of poor engineering because its volume is so great that it causes high range distortion. Minimal distortion can also be heard in the atrocious "Swords Crossed" cue, an insufferable piece of music complete with electric guitars, which may indicate that the distortion is due to simply a bad combination of sounds rather than faulty mixing. The album, as a listening experience, suffers from badly rearranged tracks, though it also fails to include some of the more derivative cues from the film (indeed, the product could have quoted even more Zimmer themes from the past had a lengthier album been pressed). In 2007, Disney released the "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" containing the first three scores' original albums, a bonus music CD, and an interview DVD for $60 or more. The only addition to The Curse of the Black Pearl on this set is an early 4-minute demo from Zimmer (the endless remixes of "He's a Pirate" were all previously released on their own pitiful product), a tremendous disappointment for concept fans. On either the original or 2007 albums, this score is definitely to be avoided by the vast majority of film score collectors, for it will frustrate you with its total lack of respect for the genre. Zimmer would be able to take credit for the arguably better sequels, though they're all relatively simplistic and juvenile works. Fortunately, there exist plenty of accomplished swashbuckling scores that are 20,000 leagues ahead of what Zimmer, Badelt and his several associates produced for this franchise. The arguments of these Media Ventures (and later Remote Control) artists, as well as anyone who might defend this work, mean nothing if they haven't compared this piece of trash to the music of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland. This music is a socio-political disaster for the film music community equivalent to what Wal-Mart is to the world at large. * 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 266,330 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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 Track Listings (2003 Disney Album): Total Time: 43:37

• 1. Fog Bound (2:17)
• 2. The Medallion Calls (1:53)
• 3. The Black Pearl (2:17)
• 4. Will and Elizabeth (2:08)
• 5. Swords Crossed (3:16)
• 6. Walk the Plank (1:59)
• 7. Barbossa is Hungry (4:06)
• 8. Blood Ritual (3:33)
• 9. Moonlight Serenade (2:09)
• 10. To the Pirates' Cave! (3:31)
• 11. Skull and Crossbones (3:24)
• 12. Bootstrap's Bootstraps (2:39)
• 13. Underwater March (4:13)
• 14. One Last Shot (4:46)
• 15. He's a Pirate (1:31)

 Track Listings (2007 Disney Set): Total Time: 47:22

CD 1: (43:37)
• 1. Fog Bound (2:17)
• 2. The Medallion Calls (1:53)
• 3. The Black Pearl (2:17)
• 4. Will and Elizabeth (2:08)
• 5. Swords Crossed (3:16)
• 6. Walk the Plank (1:59)
• 7. Barbossa is Hungry (4:06)
• 8. Blood Ritual (3:33)
• 9. Moonlight Serenade (2:09)
• 10. To the Pirates' Cave! (3:31)
• 11. Skull and Crossbones (3:24)
• 12. Bootstrap's Bootstraps (2:39)
• 13. Underwater March (4:13)
• 14. One Last Shot (4:46)
• 15. He's a Pirate (1:31)

CD 4: Remixed and Unreleased: (76:58)
• 1. Pirates, Day One, 4:56AM (Original Hans Zimmer Theme from The Curse of the Black Pearl) (3:45)
• 2. Marry Me (Score Suite from At World's End) (11:36)
• 3. The Heart of Davy Jones (Score Suite from Dead Man's Chest) (3:13)
• 4. Lord Cutler Beckett (Theme from Dead Man's Chest/Score Suite from At World's End) (8:46)
• 5. Jack's Theme Bare Bones Demo (Hans Zimmer Piano Demo from Dead Man's Chest) (4:03)
• 6. Hoist the Colours Suite (Score Suite from At World's End) (5:42)
• 7. The Pirate Lord of Singapore (Score Suite from At World's End) (5:57)
• 8. Just Good Business (Score Suite from At World's End) (5:54)
• 9. He's a Pirate (Pete n' Red's Jolly Roger Mix) (3:10)
• 10. He's a Pirate (Friscia & Lamboy Tribal Treasure Mix) (4:36)
• 11. He's a Pirate (Pelo Verde Mix) (4:37)
• 12. He's a Pirate (Chris Joss Ship Ahoy Tribal Mix) (4:03)
• 13. Jack's Suite (Paul Oakenfold Mix) (3:34)
• 14. Jack's Suite (The Crystal Method Mix) (3:46)
• 15. Pirates Live Forever (Ryeland Allison Mix) (3:50)

(total time only reflects original score material from The Curse of the Black Pearl)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the 2003 album includes no extra information about the score or film, but the names of nearly everyone involved with the project are given pirate-related nicknames. The 2007 "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" contains extra notation about the music. Its DVD contents include "Making of a Score" (19:48), a general production overview of the scores, "The Man Behind the Pirates Music" (17:38), an interview with Zimmer alone with recording sessions footage, and "Hans Zimmer's Live Performance at Disneyland for the World Premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (8:37).

  All artwork and sound clips from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl are Copyright © 2003, 2007, Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Records. 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 7/22/03 and last updated 7/20/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.