“I was the one who came up with the idea of an electric guitar on Sergio’s first western, A Fistfull of Dollars. Of course, humor and parody were voluntary and we kept going with it but I didn’t realize I was reinventing the western genre.”
Cinema lover or not, It is very hard not to be familiar with this legendary name, Ennio Morricone. Great composer, conductor and Italian pianist, he left his mark in cinema music history. Born in 1928 in Rome, Morricone started his musical career by studying the trumpet at the city’s conservatory. He then pursued composing studies and started working as a composer for the big screen in the 50’s, which marks the beginning of a fascinating musical journey.
It’s in Italian western that Ennio Morricone dedicates his life for a long period of time, charmed by the film dynamic and the appeal of beautiful adventures. A whole panel of musical possibilities present themselves to him and he manages to cease them. We can witness his musical precision in the suspense of “A fistfull of Dollars” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” by Sergio Leone dubbed one of the best generic ever. His work within this mythical genre allows a new spark to the italian western, transforming the classic western conquest story into something filled with poesy and intensity. That way, he leaves a mark in people’s minds and already established himself as one of the best composers in cinema's history.
Although the western is the genre that made him popular, his adaptability forces admiration. He exploited the horror genre as well as fantastic with “The Exorcist II” by John Boorman or John Carpenter’s “The Thing” with a soundtrack mixing instrumental and experimental styles. He also intervened in action movies, drama and comedies. During his career, he worked alongside many famous directors starting in Italy with Lucio Fulci on “The Maniacs” or Giuseppe Tornatore on his masterpiece “Cinema Paradiso”, the drama film with a soundtrack perfectly capturing the pictures, between nostalgia and torment. He will then broaden his contact book internationally with productions such as “The Hateful Eight” by Quentin Tarentino. He even contributed to “The Mission” by Roland Joffé. Morricone’s musical universe goes far beyond westerns, through horror, comedies and modern pop.
His work on the modernisation of orchestras destined to popular music built his reputation. His music is defined by an atypical style often characterized by minimalistic melodies, brass and choir arranged in an innovative manner. The art of detail we observe in his work, where a whistle and harmonica can take a massive dimension just like in “Once Upon a Time in the West”, soliciting the most intense emotions within the spectators. We dive into a cinema where every element is separated and distinctly audible, in which we, as an audience, can isolate the music from the rest of the film to the point of humming it when leaving the theater.
His work can be heard in more than 500 films total and numerous awards were attributed to it, paying a well deserved tribute to an exceptional career, culminating with the Oscar for best film music in 2016 for the “Hateful Eight” soundtrack, one of many regular collaborations with legendary director Tarentino. Seen by many as one of the best and most influential movie music composers in cinema history, he died on July 6th 2020 at 91 years of age, leaving behind him an undeniable mark on the world of cinema and music.