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Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Black Death
Music by Christian Henson
MovieScore Media MMS-100011
21 Tracks 50:33 mins

Composer Christian Henson's third collaboration with director Christopher Smith is for the dark historical movie Black Death which, as the title suggests, is set at the time of the first outbreak of the bubonic plague in England, and stars Sean Bean.
I have to say from the outset that this is not an easy score to warm to, but then one perhaps shouldn't expect winning melodies for such a dark scenario. Henson mixes modern elements and techniques with conventional orchestra, employing a guitar quartet, and also using instruments in an unusual way, like singing through a tuba.
Running through the score is Henson's questing main theme, initially heard in the album's opening track "Pestilence," accompanied by religious chanting. "Lovers" follows, offering some delicate string playing, though there's still an underlying hint of that same questing theme. Indeed, much of what follows has a feeling of forward motion, sometimes partly propelled by choir, and religious chanting is regularly heard, as well as eerie dissonances, and moments of sheer hopelessness; sometimes with quite agonised string playing. Contrasting the darker passages are lighter moments, like towards the end of "Mercy," with the delicate string playing returning, and more expressive passages like the opening of "Banquet."
Highlights, for me, are "Brotherhood," which is quite an affecting track, building as it does to a passionate choral crescendo, whilst maintaining that questing feel, courtesy of the guitar quartet. Some quite raw percussion adds power to the quartet in "Company;" whilst "Dalywag," the lengthy "Ulrich" and "Osmund" all offer intense and impassioned conclusions.
Finally, the spiritual "Flight" and "Epilogue" offer rare moments of choral beauty.
Not an easy score to listen to, as I said, but one that rewards with repeated playing and, undoubtedly one of the more original efforts I have recently heard.
Go to for samples, a trailer for the film, and ordering details for CD or digital download.


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