Category: Black Sails

Black Sails – Season One Thoughts


The first season of Black Sails has come to a close and I admit I’ve fallen behind on my weekly blogs keeping up with the twists and turns, both narrative and musical. Here are my final three video blogs for the season, presented in a single blog entry.

First up, “Singers of Sails” introduces our pirate choir bellowing out a rowdy rendition of the theme in the Opening Title sequence. The group is comprised of myself, Brendon Small (creator / star of Metalocalypse and the band Dethklok), Brendan McCreary (Young Beautiful in a Hurry, singer / songwriter of BSG & Defiance) and Doug Lacy (who has played with McCartney, Billy Joel, Oingo Boingo and countless others).


I also discuss why I brought Doug in to record various sea shanties, including the infectiously catchy “The Golden Vanity,” the track that closes out the soundtrack album. (I’ve seen “The Golden Vanity” pop up on a few reviews of the record as a stand-out track, which makes me happy I included it. I think the song is the perfect dessert after you’ve listened to the album from the beginning.) (more…)

Black Sails – Piano Man

When looking for the musical soul of a new project, I frequently turn to unusual instruments. When you listen to Black Sails, one of the sounds that forms the foundation of the score is actually an instrument we are all familiar with: an upright piano. Along with my engineer Steve Kaplan and piano tech Doug Lacy, I put this piano through the paces, as you will see in my fifth Black Sails video blog:

This particular upright has a long history of music making.  It once belonged to acclaimed composer Miriam Cutler, where it had been in her family for three generations, before she bestowed to it to Doug, who eventually brought it into my studio.  “I wrote almost every song I ever wrote on that piano and lugged it around for 30 years until I finally had to accept it just couldn’t be played anymore and had to make space for one that could,” Miriam said. “Now my piano is a TV star! Thanks Bear for finding it’s hidden talents! What’s next for it’s career?! Should it get an agent?”


Miriam’s piano certainly is a star. The sound is powerful and piercing, and the perfect complement to the wailing hurdy gurdy, bouncing bodhrán and clacking bones. The piano is featured prominently on the Main Title, as well as throughout the score this season, most notably in this week’s new episode, “V.” (more…)

Black Sails – Hurdy Gurdy


If you’ve been reading my Black Sails blogs, you’ve heard a lot about the hurdy gurdy.  So what, exactly, is this weird instrument and how does it work? Check out my fourth Black Sails video blog and get to know the most important instrument in the score:

I never imagined that the hurdy gurdy would become an essential sound for any score, and I had fun exploring the various sounds the instrument can create. There were drawbacks, however, to relying so heavily on the hurdy gurdy. The instrument is finicky, cranky and sensitive to atmosphere and temperature changes. Los Angeles fell under a heat wave while I was scoring “IV.” and my poor instrument, which had been designed and built in the cold reaches of Northern Europe, had never been exposed to such conditions. The wood swelled in the heat and none of the keys would budge! (more…)

Black Sails – The Trio


The third episode of Black Sails has aired, and so I’ve posted my third video blog! This one introduces Ira Ingber (guitars, slide guitar), Paul Cartwright (fiddle, mandolin) and Ed Trybek (ethnic guitars), or as I like to call them, The Trio:

Episode III introduces a new character, Mrs. Barlow. To underscore her scenes, and the narrative thread she will come to represent, I composed the Barlow Theme: (more…)

Black Sails – Bodhrán & Bones


The second episode of Black Sails has aired, and I’ve released my second video blog! Allow me to introduce Bruce Carver and Brad Dutz, the percussion duo who bring the sublimely clackity rhythmic intensity to my score, playing Bodhrán & Bones:

Percussion tends to be a defining sound for all my scores. But, this particular combination for Black Sails was a creative risk for me. Going into the first episode, I really had no idea whether it would work at all. I normally have the security blanket of very meticulously notated percussion parts. Here, I went into the first sessions with only basic grooves and a few specific beats. I had to put an immense amount of trust in Brad and Bruce both as musicians and as storytellers. As I suspected, my faith paid off: they immediately brought a signature sound to the series and elevated my music at the same time. (more…)