Have you been searching for the Our Flag Means Death soundtrack and been horribly disappointed to find nothing official? Me too. So here’s an unofficial list of notable music from the series!
There is a lot of music in Our Flag Means Death. Without an official soundtrack, we’re largely trying to get by on our own and compiling the music we recognize into personal playlists. There’s also a lot of original music to guide us through the story, which we’re unable to put on any playlists independently because they simply aren’t available yet. I’ll be purchasing those as soon as they are available, however. Which I hope is soon.
This list will focus primarily on three types of music in the series: featured songs that usually appear at the end of each episode and play over the credits, some notable original diegetic tunes (songs heard within the world of the show) played by several characters, and the introduction of certain leitmotifs (reoccurring musical patterns that accompanies certain people, things, or ideas). I will name all the featured music and give temporary titles to the leitmotifs and diegetic music as best as I can.
There’s a lot of instrumental music in the show that I can’t recognize. These may either be established pieces of music that I’m not familiar with or an original score. Many people have been helpful with identifying these songs, however, so if you recognize them, please drop a comment below and I’ll update the article accordingly.
The use of music adds a lot of layers to the series, and it’s been an absolute joy to put this list together.
Soundtrack Episode 1: Pilot
The use of music in this opening episode sets the tone for how music will be used throughout the series. It sets up the musical language that is used as a tool to reinforce the story through lyrical parallels, pacing, and just a general ‘vibe’ of each piece. The music is our emotional guide, so let’s start our journey.
The entire series starts with our lovely bard, Frenchie, singing a song about pirate life. It’s fitting that our first tune is a diegetic one regaling the story of the dysfunctional crew of the Revenge. He continues providing tunes about how they’re heading to their certain doom and other such things throughout the episode.
This episode has some other diegetic pieces, too, however. Another one comes up when we’re shown the ‘jam room.’ The characters are playing instruments that have been playing over a montage of the ship’s amenities. This one is pretty fun because you don’t realize the characters are playing the music until partway through the montage. I love it! Let’s give a round of applause to the jam room.
Concerto for Recorder and Viola da Gamba, TWV 52:a1 by Georg Philipp Telemann
This piece plays when Stede is trying to rally the crew about how dangerous their next mission is going to be. It’s a very dramatic moment, somewhat undercut by the lackluster response of the increasingly bored crew.
There is a lot of classical music playing in the background of basically every episode. If you hear one that isn’t listed here, please do let me know and I’ll add it to the list.
Added: 4/7/2022 Credit: Reddit User hazycrazydaze
Musical Offering Canon 1 a 2 by Bach
A reader has identified this song playing as the team discusses a possible mutiny.
High on a Rocky Ledge by Moondog
The series makes use of ‘featured songs.’ They usually play at the end of each episode and lead us through the end credits. The first featured song plays while Stede is staring out at sea, contemplating the choices he’s made that led him to this point. It continues to play as he reads his crew bedtime stories, Jim’s fake identity is revealed, and the collection of flags is shown flying above the Revenge. It establishes our crew of misfits and the personal rocky ledges they stand on.
The lyrics of this song are pretty deep and relevant when you look at them. The “Shy as a shadow, lovely as lace, and cold as ice, High on a rocky ledge, I pledge my love to her” is particularly thematic for Stede Bonnet’s trajectory. Being a pirate is paralleled to being ‘high on a rocky ledge,’ and the contrast between fine things like ‘lace’ and being ‘cold as ice’ is a running theme throughout the entire series.
The song choice here is pretty darn good.
Soundtrack Episode 2: A Damned Man
This episode introduces our first major leitmotif, and begins a reoccurring pattern of these motifs flowing into an episode’s featured song. This happens with a few episodes and is wonderfully done.
This reoccurring musical pattern is first noticeable at the end of episode two as we first lay eyes on Blackbeard’s ship. We don’t know whose leitmotif it is at the time, but the song sets a vibe. A few seconds later we are told that it’s Blackbeard’s ship and we pan up to show his flag as it segues into the episode’s featured end credits song. The subtitles first call this generically “ominous music,” but it’s fairly clearly a song associated with this specific character. It’s used quite a bit in the series.
This tune is more prominent at the end of episode three where it accompanies Blackbeard’s appearance (and, again, it segues into that episode’s featured song, as well). If you want to hear it more clearly I recommend giving that one a listen. It’s the one playing as he comes into focus as Stede is laying on the deck, severely injured.
This motif usually comes up in relation to Ed’s Blackbeard persona and, occasionally, Izzy’s attempts at bringing that persona back. It pops up during the duel in episode 6, which is an Izzy vs. Stede thing. But they’re fighting over Ed/Blackbeard, so it fits.
Air on a G String by Bach
A lovely reader in our comments has identified an instrumental piece I didn’t recognize. When Oluwande is explaining that he has someone on the ship he cares about, “just a friend,” this lovely piece by Bach plays. It continues playing as the crew prepares to leave until we transition away from their happy moment.
Messa da Requiem: Dies Irae by Giuseppe Verdi
This one was a little bit trickier to find than most as the subtitles merely call it ‘epic music.’ Which yeah, that’s accurate, but it has a name too. And that name is Messa de Requiem: Dies Irae. This song can also be heard when Pete is telling the story about how he used to be Blackbeard’s right hand man. We see the dramatically fictionalized version of the character, with a smoking head and floating red eyes.
In a weird way, this is almost an early Blackbeard leitmotif used specifically for the fictionalized version of him. Once we actually meet him, this song no longer has a use and we get the three leitmotifs I outline in the following episode soundtrack lists.
Soundtrack Episode 3: A Gentleman Pirate
The Gentleman Pirate makes his debut at the Republic of Pirates. In the usual Stede Bonnet way, things go terribly wrong. Because of course, it does. My boy is a delightful disaster and I expect nothing different.
Most of the music consists of unnamed jaunty pirate mood-setting tunes, but we do have our closing featured song, which is preceded by Blackbeard’s Leitmotif.
Our Prayer by The Beach Boys
This is one of my favorite uses of a featured song in the show. The prayerful choral sounding opening notes play just as Stede has learned that his reputation as the Gentleman Pirate has taken hold. Someone knows who he is. It’s like the heavens have opened up and graced him with the best news imaginable. The vibes this song puts over the first interaction between Stede and Ed (though Stede has no idea who he is yet) are absolutely pitch-perfect.
Soundtrack Episode 4: Discomfort in a Married State
This episode is heavy with the instrumental music. So much so that I’ve probably missed some motifs in here, but I’ll try to highlight the important bits.
Piano Sonata No. 3 by Beethoven
Thanks to a commenter, we’ve been able to identify this piece as well. This Beethoven tune plays when Stede is dreaming while recovering from his injury.
Gnossiene 5 by Eric Satie aka The ‘Fine Things” Leitmotif
When Ed first encounters the ‘rather exquisite cashmere’ in episode 4, a joyful leitmotif is introduced. This reoccurs at the end of the episode when they’re sharing marmalade. It comes up again in episode 5 when Stede assures him that he ‘wears fine things well.’ It comes up a lot in the show. Usually during the most emotional scenes.
This song is basically used whenever Ed feels good about himself, which is usually inspired by something Stede has done and usually involves fine things. It’s a sweet little tune that’s part romantic, part whimsical, and entirely gentle on the ears. The series left the two of them on a rather sour note, but when we hear this leitmotif again in a second season, we’ll probably break down crying because it’ll be Ed again, and not the new vengeful thing he has become.
Update 4/6/22: A lovely reader has pointed out that this leitmotif may be part of Eric Satie’s Gnossiene 5 so I’ve added that as a note. I’ll continue referring to it as the “Fine Things” Leitmotif through most of the rest of the article as this was written prior to identification. Drop more things you recognize into the comments!
Sonata in E Major, K 380 by Scarlatti
This charming little joyous tune plays as the crew celebrates their successful lighthouse ruse that turned the Spanish away. The cheery nature of the song transitions us from the previously intense team work montage.
Added: 4/7/2022 Credit: Tumblr user beaulesbian and Reddit user hazycrazydaze
The Empty Boat by Caetano Veloso
The meaning behind this one is pretty clear. The entire song uses boat metaphors to describe feeling empty, and Ed is struggling with his feelings regarding Stede and his Blackbeard persona. He feels empty with his current life, and the lyrics match up with that:
From the stern to the bow
Oh, my boat is empty
Yes, my heart is empty
From the hole to the how
Soundtrack Episode 5: The Best Revenge is Dressing Well
This particular episode doesn’t have any featured songs (that I can recognize at least), but it has a lot of unique pieces featuring instruments that aren’t prominently placed in most episodes. This includes a cheerful diegetic shanty played by Jeff the Accountant on a harpsichord. The harpsichord is heard a couple other times in the series, usually when Stede is feeling particularly out of place and inadequate as a pirate, but it’s much more obvious in this episode.
At the end of the episode, we are brought back to the music we are familiar with as the ‘Fine Things’ motif plays over Ed and Stede’s romantic moment on the deck. Once you recognize this tune, you won’t be able to unhear it. It’s everywhere. And it’s wonderful.
Arioso from Cantata 156 by Bach
A reader in the comments has pointed at that this piece of classical music plays while they are eating dinner in this episode. There’s a lot of classical music in this episode, so please let us know if you identify anything else!
Harpsichord Concerto in A major BWV 1055 3rd movement by Bach
Another lovely reader has spotted more Bach in this episode. This song plays when they first board the fancy party boat. This episode is very Bach heavy, it seems!
Soundtrack Episode 6: The Art of F*ckery
Like the previous episode, this one relies mostly on the instrumental score. It does, however, introduce a new leitmotif.
The Kraken tune is played at least three times throughout the episode, with a slightly different vibe each time. The first appearance is when Ed is recounting the story of how the Kraken killed his father and it’s simply dubbed ‘frightful music’ in the subtitles. It comes back similarly when he’s having flashbacks, and then a third time when he confesses to Stede that he’s the Kraken. This third one is followed by the “Fine Things” motif as Stede brings him back down from his devastatingly emotional moment.
You may notice Ed has a lot of leitmotifs. But this makes sense as he does seem to embody different ‘personas’ through the series. He’s Blackbeard (Blackbeard motif), Edward (the ‘Fine Things’ motif), and the Kraken (this one). It’s particularly poignant watching one of Ed’s songs blend into the other during the scene where he’s in the tub. Stede is essentially bringing him down from the terror of the Kraken and helping him become Edward once more.
Soundtrack Episode 7: This is Happening
Love is in the air and snakes are falling from the sky. Oh my god, this is happening.
Für Elise by Beethoven
This classical piece plays as Jim is looking out over the ocean and thinking about their history in St Augustine. A different commenter here on this article has stated this could be Brandenburg Concerto #3 by Bach. After listening to these two classical pieces and this scene, it sounds more like Für Elise to me, but I don’t have a trained classical ear. I could be wrong. So if you know definitively what it is, let us know in the comments!
This song then transitions into an as of yet unidentified tune played on a guitar. If you can identify this second piece, let me know!
Added: 4/14/2022 Credit: Twitter user water_violin
Cobra by Bailey’s Nervous Kats
This featured song plays over the ending credits and is a pretty clear callback to their whole snake-eating adventure earlier in the episode. The tune is also adequately eerie enough to follow the closing scene, where many of Bonnet’s greatest enemies came together to hunt him down as a team. Both the lyrics and the vibe are an absolutely perfect match. I was definitely left in a very worried state at the end of the episode (and promptly hit play on the next one immediately).
Soundtrack Episode 8: We Gull Way Back
This episode has some of my favorite uses of music in the entire series. Words cannot describe how absolutely phenomenal it is. So let’s jump in…
Button’s Moonlight Flute Song
The episode begins with some diegetic music just like the pilot did. This time it’s Button, who is celebrating the full moon in the nude while playing his flute. The song is more somber than much of the other diegetic tunes, which prepares us for the troubling direction this episode will go. So far the crew of the Revenge has been having a fair bit of fun with Blackbeard aboard, but something bad is coming. The moment the song ends, that bad thing makes an appearance.
Il Triello by Ennio Morricone
This song plays when Calico Jack and Olivia have a show down right before he gets taken out by a cannon ball. Calico Jack has a very obvious wild west flair about him, so using a tune from a Western film (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) is a perfect fit. The rapid back and forth cutting and close up shots is also a clear homage to the film and song.
Added: 4/7/2022 Credit: Reddit user hazycrazydaze and Twitter user @angelkized
The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
This entire closing segment is absolutely brilliant. The pacing, the editing, the colors, lighting, everything. I’ve watched it dozens of times. This is the song that inspired me to compile the list, actually, because it’s just that good.
And, just like the closing song for the pilot episode, the lyrics come back into play to reinforce some of the emotions associated with the episode:
Listen to the wind blow, watch the sun rise
Running in the shadows, damn your love, damn your lies
And if, you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
Damn, dude. That’s heartbreaking. But we also get the foot-touching moment here. Even though the preceding episode was focused on their likely break up, we end with Ed actually reaching out (with his foot) to repair that damage.
Soundtrack Episode 9: Act of Grace
Before we get into the featured song I just want to note that the “Fine Things” leitmotif plays over the kiss scene. Brilliant. Beautiful. Wonderful. In this case, the ‘fine thing’ is, quite simply, Stede. Truly, the finest thing of them all.
But let’s dive into some of the other songs for a moment…
Concerto for 2 Cellos in G Minor, rv 531 1st Movement by Vivaldi
As the crew is being interrogated by the second Badminton brother, we hear this Vivaldi piece. This specific piece both raises the tension, but has a whimsical quality about it, which perfectly encapsulates the experience of the Revenge crew.
Added: 4/7/2022 Credit: Tumblr user beaulesbian and Reddit User hazycrazydaze
Träumerei by Robert Schumann
As we transition from the crew dealing with Izzy being the new ship captain to Stede sitting on the beach, we hear this light piano piece play. It ends before Gnossiene 5 (aka, the “Fine Things” motif) plays during the kiss. Reddit user Lower_Pomegranate648, who gave us details about Reverie in Episode 10, has pointed out that “traumerei” also means “dream” in German, whereas “reverie” means the same thing in French. It’s interesting to note two different pieces leaning into dream thematic elements, though the two pieces have incredibly different vibes.
Goldberg Variations, Variation n°25 by Bach
Two readers have identified this song, with one of them offering the following analysis:
[The] use of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Variation n°25 during episode 9 is actually interesting. The variation 25 is one of the rare Goldberg Variations to be in minor (with 15 and 21) and the only one to use such a tense chromaticisms and harmony. Goldberg Variations are pretty chill and/or happy thing to listen to, but variation 25 just hit by how different it sounds from the rest. Wanda Landowska, a famous pianist, even described this variation as “the black pearl”. The fact that the variation is used during the Royal Privateering Academy moments just foreshadow what is about to come at the end and in the next episode. This variation also use a lot of enharmonic, which is very basically when two sound(s) (can be a note, a chord, anything) sounds the same but have different names depending on the context, like having different identities.
Perfect Day by Lou Reed
This melancholy tune plays as Ed’s heart is shattered into a million pieces after Stede stands him up at the dock. It was a perfect day up until that moment. The tune follows him as he rows away and boards the Revenge. There’s a brief break in music when the crew notices him and takes in just how different he is, but the song resumes when Stede goes home.
The lyrics “you’re going to reap just what you sow” play as Stede makes his first appearance to his wife and her widows group. And boy, isn’t that prophetic. Stede, what have you done. Season two (which is going to happen, I swear) is going to be so damn sad, y’all.
Soundtrack Episode 10: Wherever You Go, There You Are
The music in this episode is intense and largely follows Ed’s emotional journey. There are two songs written by him, and a featured song playing over a transformation.
It also features a second featured song, which is the only time that that happens in the show. But it’s the big emotional finale, so that makes sense, you know? Everything is different here.
Deus Arabesques L. 66 No. 1 by Debussy
This song plays as Mary is recounting her life as a widow and just how pleasant it is. It’s a light and airy piece, which matches with her light and airy take on widow life. The song plays peacefully in the background during her widow support group, but comes to an abrupt halt when Stede makes his appearance.
Added: 4/7/2022 Credit: Reddit User hazycrazydaze and Twitter user @angelkized
Ed’s First Breakup Song
This one maybe doesn’t count as it isn’t actually sung, but he does dictate the depressing lyrics to Lucius in the blanket fort. They are as follows:
By a thread
Shouldn’t let go
If I let go all will fall
Down to the bone now
Can’t let go
Nothing makes sense
Oh, honey. I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s okay. We all have an emo phase at some point. Just let it out, man.
Ed’s Second Breakup Song
Ed’s emo phase continues with his second breakup song, which is played with Frenchie’s accompaniment.
Just let go
Make yourself let go
Make it go away
Away, away today
Life’s a hard sad death
And then you’re
Reverie by Debussy
Reddit user Lower_Pomegranate648 has pointed out that right before Avalanche starts, we get some of Reverie by Debussy. The user had this to say about the piece:
“Reverie is a beautiful and intricate piece by Debussy with broken patterns and jarring chords (flowy arpeggio sections immediately followed by complex successions of chords). It is, in my reading, hugely fitting to Ed’s character (interally complex, beautiful, but jarring and unpredictable), but also queues him to be the “dreamer” (‘Reverie’ meaning ‘dream like state’ in French) of the two. The piece cuts half way on a discordant key before jumping into Avalanche, thus showing that Ed’s reverie has been broken in their stride (like the chord on which it ends).”
The song begins to play when Ed asks Mary what it feels like to be in love, which, honestly, adds even more to the emotional impact of the song’s inclusion. It’s well placed and very emotional.
The Four Seasons “Summer” 1st Movement by Vivaldi
As we pull back and get our first full look of the New and Emotionally Damaged Blackbeard, we hear this intense Vivaldi piece.
Added: 4/7/2022 Credit: Tumblr user beaulesbian
Avalanche by Leonard Cohen
This song plays when Ed transitions out of his emo phase into his angry phase. The vibe of the song feels very cowboy-like, which makes the whole brutal nature of this scene grip you pretty hard. This is a different version of Ed, seemingly even more brutal than his previous Blackbeard persona.
The lyrics are also pretty straightforward in how they relate to what he’s going through:
Well I stepped into an avalanche
It covered up my soul;
When I am not this hunchback that you see
I sleep beneath the golden hill
You who wish to conquer pain
You must learn, learn to serve me well
You who wish to conquer pain
You must learn what makes me kind;
The crumbs of love that you offer me
They’re the crumbs I’ve left behind
Your pain is no credential here
It’s just the shadow, shadow of my wound
This is the only featured song that isn’t in the scene immediately before the credits roll. Everything is a little different here at the end of the season, and that includes the language of the music as it defies the pre-existing patterns.
Miles from Nowhere by Cat Stevens
When I was in college, I went through a rather intense Cat Stevens phase. The second I recognized this song I just started crying. This song is also played during some incredibly emotional moments from Harold & Maude, so it hit me particularly hard. Like damn. I’m sad enough, guys. You don’t have to come at me like this!
The lyrics are all about setting out on a difficult journey to find something that makes you happy, which is basically exactly what Stede is doing. He doesn’t quite realize it yet, but the thing that makes him happy has gone through some pretty severe emotional transformations in his absence. This makes the contrast between him and his hopeful journey versus Ed’s descent into more cruelty even more pronounced.
Complete List of Featured Songs in Our Flag Means Death
For those of you who are wanting to make a Spotify or iTunes list, here are all the featured songs you can find (excluding my above analysis):
- High on a Rocky Ledge by Moondog
- Messa da Requiem: Dies Irae
- Our Prayer by The Beach Boys
- The Empty Boat by Caetano Veloso
- Cobra by Bailey’s Nervous Kats
- The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
- Perfect Day by Lou Reed
- Avalanche by Leonard Cohen
- Miles from Nowhere by Cat Stevens
Hot Tip: This is an excellent soundtrack to listen to as you work on some Our Flag Means Death season 2 activities. I’ve been doing that all week.
All the Music I Missed
Let’s be honest here: I am one person with one set of ears and a finite amount of time. That said, I’m sure I missed things. Some of the credits songs may not be as recognizable to me as they are to you, so if I missed one, drop the title below.
Likewise, if you noticed a leitmotif that I missed, I am absolutely dying to hear about it. It’s one of my favorite mood-setting tools and I’m always happy to find a new one! Even if I’ll never be able to unhear it. I actually kind of enjoy being cursed with recognizing leitmotifs, though, so bring it on!
What music stuck out to you? Leave a comment below.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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