Greetings from Cutthroat Island

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.

If you want to hear more, Thunder Island is available on streaming services already and also on this page.

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