Cutthroat Island was released in 1995. I had been fond of Swashbuckler movies before, but those from the Errol Flynn era and those from the 70’s I felt were never quite up to the genre’s potential. Cutthroat Island revived the then almost dead pirates and though it felt kind of trashy at times (dialogue, acting, plot-wise) it had terrific moments as a movie and of course was elevated to an almost unbelievable degree by John Debney’s energetic music.
I remember that time very well because it was the start of my more serious composing ambitions. I had been composing before, orchestral music for synthesizers, but up to that point I had chosen the instruments rather roughly and I composed what I was able to record into my synthesizer. Much like many people nowadays do, (cough).
Then came Cutthroat Island and I entered the realms of Korngold and Rozsa, and I decided that I wanted to write music like that. I was deep in my law studies at that time and switching to composing studies was no option, so I developed my skills in my spare time. I bought books on instrumentation and orchestration and dug through them thoroughly, eventually getting an idea of how Erich and Miklos achieved their sounds.
By combining instrument patches from a Korg 01W in the ways suggested in these books I learned quite a lot – considering that this was pre-internet and studying resources were not even 1% of what’s available today. Aside of this I practiced placing notes concsciously and not just recording part after part. So came string and woodwind runs, harp glissandi and many other things that make a real orchestral composition. And you know what – synthesizer or not, you could hear all the difference!
Cut to present day: My style of composing has changed a lot since then, but I still consider the composition that emerged from that phase to be one of my best and most colorful. That’s why I sat down a few weeks and re-programmed the midi data (I’m so glad I kept them!) based on my current template using state-of-the-art samples and mixing effects.
If you’re a fan of Rozsa, Korngold, Steiner & Co, and if you love Cutthroat Island as much as I do, you might also like this little contribution of mine to the genre.