Monday, 6 July 2020

Ennio Morricone

(Cross-posted with Stereo Sanctity.)

Of course we knew this day would come, but still.

So, let’s get straight to the point here – Morricone IS film music, so far as I’m concerned. Even if he didn’t contribute to it all directly, a vast swathe of the cinema I love would sound very different without his influence.

Years before I actually saw any of the Leone films, hearing Morricone’s themes from them pop up on the radio (which they sometimes did in those days) was an event. My Dad (who, like many dads, had a yen for all things cowboy-related) would turn up the volume, and for a few minutes we’d soak it in. The drama, the atmosphere, the wild sounds were just completely intoxicating. They didn’t need any context – as always, Morricone’s music creates its own context. That was almost certainly the first time I stopped to think about music in films, about a kind of musical vocabulary which extended beyond lyrics and pop songs, and about the different ways in which sounds and images can combine to create emotion and excitement. Thirty years later, I’m still thinking about those things.

The medium by which I enjoy the Leone scores has moved over the years from radio, to parental vinyl, to CD, and back to my own vinyl, and during my adult life I’ve of course hovered up all the other Morricone I can find within my price range (which of course still only represents the tiniest fraction of the monolithic range of his total achievement).

From what little I know of Morricone’s beliefs and personality, I think it’s probably safe to say that he would wish to be remembered to the world for his work rather than his biography, so instead of rabbiting on further, I’ll share a swiftly cobbled together mix of fifteen (which could easily be thirty, or one hundred) personal favourite smash hits from his vast catalogue, assembled in no particular order. I’ll keep commentary to a minimum, because otherwise my responses to most of these tracks would just be variations on a theme of holy fucking shit.

Though the magic which Nicolai, Dell’Orso, Alessandroni and so many others brought to his recordings cannot be overlooked, Morricone remains a giant – one of the greatest composers and musicians of the 20th century, no questions asked.

For ease of ad-free listening, I’ve compiled these fifteen cuts into a mix on Mixcloud (embed below), but will also go through them one-by-one via Youtube links for those who wish to pick and choose.

1. ‘Titoli’ from ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964)

Here’s where it all began.

2. ‘Il Grande Silenzio (Restless)’ from ‘Il Grande Silenzio’ (1968)

3. “Valmont’s Go-Go Pad” from ‘Danger! Diabolik’ (1968)

4. ‘Svolta Definitiva’ from ‘Violent City’ (1970)

5. ‘La Lucertola’ from ‘A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’ (1971)

6. ‘Guerra E Pace, Pollo E Brace’ from ‘Grazie Zia’ / ‘Come Play With Me’ (1968)

7. ‘Giorno Di Notte’ from ‘A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin’ (1971)

8. ‘Magic and Ecstasy’ from ‘Exorcist II: The Heretic’ (1977)

9. Main theme from ‘The Thing’ (1982)

10. ‘Canzone Lontana’ from ‘Il Serpente’ (1973)

11. ‘Fraseggio Senza Struttura’ from ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’ (1970)

12. ‘Ballabile No. 2’ from ‘La Cosa Buffa’ (1972)

13. ‘Titoli’ from ‘A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof’ (1968)

14. ‘Astratto 3’ from ‘Veruschka’ (1971)

15. ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ from ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (1968)

This theme makes me involuntarily break down in tears each time I hear it. Really, every time, like clockwork. Which has proved quite embarrassing whenever I’ve watched the film in company.

My reaction has nothing to do with any personal/biographical connections, or anything in the film itself (incredible though it is). The sound of the music is just completely overwhelming.

It is simply one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded, and any classical buffs who want to fight about that are welcome to. Everything that is worth feeling within the human experience, I can hear in this.

R.I.P. Il Maestro.


zeroid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zeroid said...

I totally agree with your comment regarding the "Once Upon A Time In The West" title theme, but would add that the tears are a mix of sadness and joy. I love that although being older and cynical, I can still be moved deeply by great art!

Ben said...

Thnak you for your comment Zeroid! I completely agree. And in my experience thus far, the older and more cynical one gets, the more the true greats shine through.