Saturday, November 23, 2019

Who Are Those Composers ~ Ennio Morricone

By Richie Unterberger

Ennio Morricone is probably the most famous film composer of the 20th century. He is also one of the most prolific composers working in any medium. No exact figure is available, but he's scored over 500 films over several decades, plus many dozens of classical works. While his film scores have been in almost every imaginable musical style (and for almost every imaginable kind of movie), he is most identified with the "spaghetti Western" style of soundtracks, which he pioneered when providing the musical backdrop for the films of director Sergio Leone. Morricone's palette is extraordinarily diverse, drawing from classical, jazz, pop, rock, electronic, avant-garde, and Italian music, among other styles. Esteemed by such important figures in modern music as John Zorn (not to mention contemporary directors like Martin Scorsese), he is increasingly placed among not just the finest soundtrack composers, but the most important contemporary composers of any sort.

Morricone began studying music at Rome's Conservatory of Santa Cecilia at the age of 12. Urged to concentrate on composition by his instructors, he supported himself by playing trumpet in jazz bands, and then worked for Italy's national radio network after graduating from the conservatory. He didn't begin scoring films until the early '60s, and didn't begin attracting international notice until he began collaborating with Leone, starting with A Fistful of Dollars in the mid-'60s. (Morricone had previously worked on other Italian Westerns with other directors.) The spaghetti Westerns only comprised a phase of Morricone's career, but for many his work in this field remains his best and most innovative. Morricone amplified the film's plots and drama through ingenious use of diverse arrangements and instrumentation. Jew's harps, dissonant harmonicas, dancing piccolos, bombastic church organs, eerie whistling, thundering trumpets, oddly sung gunfighter ballads, and ghostly vocal choruses -- all became trademarks of the Morricone-Leone productions, then of the spaghetti Western genre as a whole. The influence of rock & roll was felt in the low, ominous twanging guitars, which reflected (intentionally or unintentionally) the sound of contemporary recordings by the Ventures, Duane Eddy, the Shadows, and John Barry. Morricone's most famous composition, the theme to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, made number two in the U.S. when it was covered by Hugo Montenegro.

Even while he was busy with collaborations with Leone, Morricone found time for various other film projects, such as the agitprop classic Battle of Algiers and Burn! By the '70s, Morricone was winding down his involvement with both Leone and the spaghetti Western, working with numerous other directors all over the world. Grand orchestration and memorable motifs were commonplace in Morricone's work; Warren Beatty, for instance, once told the Los Angeles Times that "there's nobody better than Ennio to create a haunting theme." His scores also began to utilize more contemporary electronic influences, with mixed results.

Age has not slowed Morricone in the least. In fact, the 1980s, '90s, and 2000s saw his commercial success and widespread recognition at an all-time peak. He garnered Academy Award nominations for The Mission, The Untouchables, Bugsy, and Malèna, and worked for such top directors as Pedro Almodovar, Brian DePalma, Roman Polanski, Mike Nichols, Oliver Stone, and Barry Levinson. Cinema Paradiso is probably the most renowned of his scores from that period. In his late eighties, he made waves with his work on the 2015 Quentin Tarantino western The Hateful Eight, which won him a Golden Globe and his first Academy Award for Best Original Score. In all he’s won two Oscars, received three Grammy Awards, three ‘Golden Globes’, six BAFTAs, ten ‘David di Donatello’, eleven ‘Nastro d'Argento’, three ‘European Film Awards’, and one ‘American Film Institute Award’ to name a few.

With such an abundance of recordings, collecting Morricone remains a daunting proposition. It's doubtful that anyone will collect all of his soundtracks under one roof; after all, the composer himself doesn't even remember how many films he's worked on. RCA's The Legendary Italian Westerns, Virgin's two Film Music volumes, and Rhino's Anthology are useful collections, and the DRG label.

MORRICONE, Ennio (aka Emil Morik Leo Nichols  Dan Savio) [11/10/1928, Rome, Lazio, Italy -     ] – composer, conductor, orchestrator, arran ger, songwriter, musician (trumpet), singer, married to Maria Travia (1956-    ) father of Marco Morricone [1957-
    ], Alessandra Morricone [1961-    ], composer Andrea Morricone [1964-    ], producer, director, assistant director, writer, actor Giovanni Morricone [1966-    ].
Gunfight at Red Sands* - 1963 [as Dan/Leon Savio]
      Song: “A Gringo Like Me” sung by Dicky Jones
      Song: "Gringo" sung by Mikaela (Micaela Cuesta)
Bullets Don’t Argue* - 1964 [as Dan Savio/Emil Morik]
     Song: “Lonesome Billy” sung by Peter Tevis
Fistful of Dollars* – 1964 [as Dan Savio]
For a Few Dollars More* - 1965
A Pistol for Ringo* -1965
     Song: “Angel Eyes” sung by Maurizio Graf (Maurizio Attanasio)
The Return of Ringo* - 1965
     Song: “Il ritorno di Ringo”, “La mia gente” sung by Maurizio Graf (Maurizio Attanasio)
     Song: “Il silenzio” sung by ?
     Song: “Mariachi 1”, “Mariachi 2” sung by ?
7 Guns for the Mac Gregors* - 1965
     Song: “March of the MacGregors” sung by I Cantori Moderni
The Big Gundown* - 1966
      Song: “Somewhere” sung by Cristy (Maria Brancucci)
      Song: “Run, Man, Run” sung by Cristy (Maria Brancucci) & I Cantori Moderni
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly* - 1966
     Song: “The Story of a Soldier” sung by I Cantori Moderni
The Hellbenders* - 1966 [as Leo Nichols]
The Hills Run Red* – 1966
     Song: “Un fiume di dollari” sung by Gianni Spangulo
     Song: “Home To My Love” sung by Gino (Gianni Spiachetti)
Fort Yuma Gold* - 1966 (co)
     Song: “Don’t Cry Cowboy” sung by ?
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly* - 1966
     Song: “Story of a Soldier” sung by I Cantori Moderni
The Hellbenders – 1966 [as Leo Nichols]
The Hills Run Red* - 1966 [as Leo Nichols]
     Song: “Un fiume di dollari” sung by Gianni Spagnulo
     Song: “Home to My Love” sung by Gino (Gianni Spiachetti)
Navajo Joe – 1966 [as Leo Nichols]
     Song: “Navajo Joe” sung by Gianni Spagnolo and I Cantori Moderni
Up the MacGregors! - 1966
Face to Face* - 1967
The Great Silence* - 1967
Guns for San Sebastian* - 1967
And for a Roof a Sky Full of Stars* – 1968
Blood and Guns* – 1968
     Song “Al Messico che vorrei” sung by Cristy (Maria Brancucci)
Death Rides a Horse* – 1968
     Song: “Death Rides a Horse” sung by Raoul
The Mercenary* – 1968 (co)
     Songs: “Bamba vivace”, “Estasi”, “Il Mercenario”, “Fiesta”, “Liberta”, “Paco”, “Canto a mia
                 terra”, “Notte di Nozze”, “Riccioli” sung by I Cantori Moderni
Once Upon a Time in the West* - 1968
The 5-Man Army* – 1969
Companeros!* - 1970
     Song: “Vamos a matar companeros” sung by I Cantori Moderni
Drummer of Vengeance – 1971 (co) [as General Music of Rome archive music]
Duck You Sucker* - 1971
Long Live Your Death – 1971
     Song: “Don’t Turn the Other Cheek” sung by Lynn Redgrave
What Am I Doing in the Middle of the Revolution?* – 1971
My Name is Nobody* - 1972
The Return of Clint the Stranger – 1972 [archived score]
Sonny & Jed* 1972
     Songs: “Sonny”, “Sweet Susan” sung by I Cantori Moderni
They Call Me Providence* - 1972
Another Try, Eh Providence?* – 1973 (co)
     Song “Ci risiamo, vero Providenza?” sung by  I Cantori Moderni
The Genius* – 1975
     Song: “Glory, Glory, Glory” sung by Catherine Howe
Buddy Goes West – 1981*
    Song: “Vaohanana manitu” sung by Ferruccio Amendola
Ennio Morricone: Music for the Eyes – 1990
Colt (TV) – 1994 [TV series was never made]
Le facce di face a faccia – 20?? [archive music]
Dreams are My Focus - 2001
Breathless: The Story of the Trumpeter of a Fistful of Dollars – 2007 (co) [archive music]
A History of Dollars – 2008 [archive music]
They Called Him Ringo – 2008 [archive music]
A Greek Western Tragedy – 2009 [archive music]
An Indian Named Joe – 2009 [archive music]
On Behalf of American Indians – 2009 [archive music]
Vengeance Rides a Horse – 2009 [archive music]
Giuliano Gemma ein mann der tat – 2012 [archive music]

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