“The best film music is music that you can hear.”
July 6, 2020 2:38 AM   Subscribe

Italian composer Ennio Morricone, best known for his scores to over 500 films and television programs, has died in Rome at the age of 91. Winner of numerous awards, including two Oscars, six BAFTAS, four Grammys, and three Golden Globes, he gained international recognition in the 1960s for the music he wrote for a series of spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone. Over the next five decades Morricone worked with some of the world’s most acclaimed directors and many others who were lesser known. In addition to his film and television work, he also composed music for advertisements, collaborated with singers, and recorded avant-garde improvisational music as a member of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza.

Some of Morricone’s better known film collaborations include:

A Fistfull of Dollars (1964 Sergio Leone)
For a Few Dollars More (1965 Sergio Leone)
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966 Sergio Leone)
The Battle of Algiers (1966 Gillo Pontecorvo)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968 Sergio Leone)
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975 Per Paolo Pasolini)
1900 (1976 Bernardo Bertolucci)
Days of Heaven (Terence Malick 1978)
The Professional (Georges Lautner 1981)
The Thing (1982 John Carpenter)
The Mission (1986 Roland Joffé)
The Untouchables (1987 Brian De Palma)
Cinema Paradiso (1989 Giuseppe Tornatore)
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990 Pedro Almodóvar)
The Nymph (1996 Lina Wertmüller)
The Hateful Eight (2015 Quentin Tarantino)
posted by theory (92 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by slimepuppy at 2:54 AM on July 6


To call him the greatest film composer of all time is both true and also doesn't do him justice. One of the greatest composers of the 20th century and he managed to keep producing memorable work into the next one. Just an incalculable loss.

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posted by HunterFelt at 2:56 AM on July 6 [14 favorites]


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posted by mfoight at 2:56 AM on July 6


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posted by Cardinal Fang at 2:57 AM on July 6


I loved his soundtrack to Danger: Diabolik!

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posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:01 AM on July 6 [4 favorites]


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posted by Faint of Butt at 3:03 AM on July 6


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posted by drworm at 3:09 AM on July 6


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I love IMDB profile which observes gnomically on his profile "Known for Composer of The Hateful 8" but rather hides the 519 other composition credits, 344 soundtrack credits and 82 awards he picked up in 60 years of professional work. Absolutely nobody else like that.

I wonder if being a trumpet player gave him a particular affinity for focussing on a great melody.
posted by rongorongo at 3:10 AM on July 6 [6 favorites]


./~
posted by flamewise at 3:28 AM on July 6


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Really an astounding body of work.

It took me quite a few years (pre-internet) to realize that the guy who had written those cool soundtracks for those spaghetti Westerns before I was born hadn't faded into obscurity or rested on his laurels but just . . . kept going.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:29 AM on July 6 [7 favorites]


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posted by awfurby at 3:37 AM on July 6


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posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:53 AM on July 6


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posted by KTamas at 3:57 AM on July 6


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posted by SystematicAbuse at 3:59 AM on July 6


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posted by eclectist at 4:02 AM on July 6


I’m going to go ahead and skip past all the greatest hits and recommend the mostly forgotten Grand Slam. In addition to being a great heist movie, it has one hell of an earworm theme by Morricone.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:05 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


He gathered and distilled Goosebumps from another dimension and made them music for us

Listening to Carolina Eyck perform "The Ecstasy of Gold" for theremin and voice is a rare, rare joy

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posted by lalochezia at 4:07 AM on July 6 [6 favorites]


Ecstacy of Gold needs to be inscribed on diamond discs and launched into space to preserve it's genius after the Earth gets swallowed up by the Sun.
posted by PenDevil at 4:09 AM on July 6 [11 favorites]


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posted by triage_lazarus at 4:22 AM on July 6


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posted by Pendragon at 4:22 AM on July 6


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posted by valkane at 4:37 AM on July 6


We blended early Calexico instrumentals and various Morricone themes for the background music during our wedding reception. My wife's uncle came up to us all serious, "I have one question for you: did I just hear the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Diabolical!"

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posted by notsnot at 4:48 AM on July 6 [8 favorites]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 4:55 AM on July 6


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posted by nzero at 5:11 AM on July 6


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posted by Foosnark at 5:19 AM on July 6


I'll be listening to the soundtrack for Sacco & Vanzetti for the rest of the day. Such a loss. There are just too many films for which his music is so linked and associated in my mind.

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posted by Fizz at 5:19 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]



posted by Gelatin at 5:20 AM on July 6


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posted by nightrecordings at 5:22 AM on July 6


wah wah wah.

In my house, we speak movie. Morricone is the only composer whose music is part of our language. Death comes for us all eventually, but that incredible music will remain. So, we've got that going for us.

RIP Ennio.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 5:23 AM on July 6


He did such amazing work.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 AM on July 6


The Once Upon a Time in America soundtrack is also amazing.
posted by Sand at 5:37 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


What a wonderful legacy.

I was just listening to this rendition from Cinema Paradiso the other day, which I always felt was one of Morricone's best works.

Thanks, Ennio. RIP.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:38 AM on July 6


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posted by Sphinx at 5:43 AM on July 6


My favorite
posted by growabrain at 5:44 AM on July 6


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A body of work that set the standard for film scores.

RIP
posted by Pouteria at 5:53 AM on July 6


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posted by acb at 6:03 AM on July 6


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posted by Splunge at 6:05 AM on July 6


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He has so many wonderful melodies. The first one that I listened to, on hearing this news, was Yo-Yo Ma's performance of Gabriel's Oboe from The Mission.
posted by gauche at 6:07 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


In my youth, I would listen to Le Vent, Le Cri from The Professional for hours. Drove my father nuts.
posted by gauche at 6:11 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


[hears whistle in the distance]

[waits]

[harmonica answers]


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posted by Halloween Jack at 6:19 AM on July 6 [7 favorites]


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Adonai from Il Giardino Delle Delizie
posted by cazoo at 6:36 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Italy's La Repubblica published Morricone's farewell note.
posted by chavenet at 6:49 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


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posted by May Kasahara at 8:00 AM on July 6


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posted by sallybrown at 8:11 AM on July 6


The Danish National Symphony Orchestra did a rather fantastic tribute concert a couple years back, "The Morricone Duel". Most of it's on Youtube, and very worthwhile. (Some videos availability varies by country)

I think I'm going to put that on for the day.

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posted by CrystalDave at 8:20 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


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posted by Going To Maine at 8:27 AM on July 6


When I worked at a Nature Company store in the early ‘90s, we had the soundtrack to “The Mission” on heavy rotation. What a genius. Thank you sir.

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posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 8:42 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


He also wrote the theme from 'Peter Gunn,' which is so rock-solid that it's the only song covered by both Emerson, Lake and Palmer and The Cramps [citation needed].
posted by box at 8:58 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]




A Talk with Ennio Morricone [via twitter]
[Donald] Fagen: Your music has always had a life here in America apart from the films. In the past few years, though, your influence has surfaced in a lot of rock music and in the works of "avant-garde" composers. Why is this music from 25-year old Italian westerns the talk of the town?

Morricone: I don't know. You tell me.

Fagen: Well...

Morricone: But I have a hypothesis. When I begin a theme in a certain key, say, D minor, I never depart from this original key. If it begins in D minor, it ends in D minor. This harmonic simplicity is available to everyone.

Fagen: But isn't it true that the Leone films, with their elevation of mythic structures, their comic book visual style and extreme irony, are now perceived as signaling an aesthetic transmutation by a generation of artists and filmmakers? And isn't it also true that your music for those films reflected and abetted Leone's vision by drawing on the same eerie catalog of genres - Hollywood western, Japanese samurai, American pop, and Italian Opera? That your scores functioned both "inside" the film as a narrative voice and "outside" the film as the commentary of a winking jester? Put it all together and doesn't it spell "postmodern", in the sense that there has been a grotesque encroachment of the devices of art and, in fact, an establishment of a new narrative plane founded on the devices themselves? Isn't that what's attracting lower Manhattan?

Morricone: [ shrugs ]
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:07 AM on July 6 [20 favorites]


Glad someone already mentioned the soundtrack for Once Upon A Time In America.

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posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:13 AM on July 6


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posted by Silverstone at 9:25 AM on July 6


𝄻
posted by mcmile at 9:29 AM on July 6


Morricone: [ shrugs ]

The best response possible to that question.
posted by bonehead at 9:33 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen "The Mission" in thirty years but I can clearly recall at least one section of the score.

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posted by Songdog at 9:39 AM on July 6


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posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:47 AM on July 6


Morricone’s work has obviously been re-appropriated for many films because it’s such a perfect motif, but I love the recurring use of clips from the score of Navajo Joe in Election. Here’s an interview with Election’s editor talking about the choice.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:00 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


So many great works, but if forced to pick one, I have to go with Cinema Paradiso. If you're not crying in the final scene, you're not human. Movie moments just don't get better than that.

Godspeed, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:13 AM on July 6 [6 favorites]


The Sicilian Clan is one of my favourite pieces of music, such a poignant, evocative melody. From the film of the same name.
posted by mokey at 11:00 AM on July 6


My wife's uncle came up to us all serious, "I have one question for you: did I just hear the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Diabolical!"

I've DJ'ed more than a few weddings in my time. I always have some Morricone on hand, including Good-Bad-Ugly. Nobody's ever accused me of diabolicism for it.


He also wrote the theme from 'Peter Gunn,'


pretty sure that was Henry Mancini.
posted by philip-random at 11:49 AM on July 6 [3 favorites]


I occasionally perform in a show where opera singers sing cowboy songs. One of my favorite memories is the time the amazing piano player slipped that famous lick from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly into the accompaniment of “The Streets of Laredo.”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:02 PM on July 6


If I could attend one concert ever, it would be this one, with a rendition of Gabriel's Oboe that just CUTS INTO THE SOUL. I don't know who that soloist is, but he is an absolute BOSS.

It's one of the few pieces of music I regularly share that always seems moving to whomever I send it, regardless of whether they've seen the film. (Which few have, it seems?)

This morning my son, who is twenty and fully immersed in his own generation's touchstones, sent me a link about Morricone's death, with this link, also. It all meant the world to me.
posted by Caxton1476 at 12:07 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


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I most recently heard his work on the score of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. I wouldn't say I loved it but it was perfect. I suppose his score for The Mission has wrung the most pathos out of me all in all.
posted by fleacircus at 12:18 PM on July 6


He also wrote the theme from 'Peter Gunn'... [citation needed]

no tricks gooby pls
posted by fleacircus at 12:35 PM on July 6


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:42 PM on July 6


My introduction, way back when I was a kid, was actually the score to a TV series about Marco Polo. The gorgeous sweep of this theme piece (best bit about 1:30) was such that I saved up and bought the album.
posted by dnash at 12:43 PM on July 6


My personal favourite is his soundtrack to Fateless/Sorstalanság, the film adaption of the Nobel Prize winner author Imre Kertész. In my view this is perhaps the greatest film about the Holocaust, certainly of the Hungarian experience of it. His music fully captures the weight of the story, but never drags it down or makes it unduly somber. A terrific movie, and Morricone's music is part of its greatness, yet his score stands apart in its own right as a great work of art.
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posted by vac2003 at 1:09 PM on July 6


I can't even remember the title of one my favourite pieces. Just a mellow, lilting, french horn meditation from one of his many soundtrack comps.
posted by ovvl at 1:49 PM on July 6


Well, damn!

My first exposure to him was The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. It seemed to be on TV all the time back in the 70s and as a kid I had never heard anything like that music before. Such unusual choices from the tiny and delicate to the massive and pounding. It still holds a huge place in my heart, and I also think he will be regarded as a major composer over time.

Apparently Morricone already had parts of the score finished before filming started and his score actually influenced the filming of the movie which also might partially explain why it's such a perfect marriage of film and score.

Go with grace, you left an indelible mark on our collective enterprise.

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posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 1:53 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


One day, Enio Morricone was walking down the street as a painter folded up his scaffolding and lowered his aluminium extension ladder. The two sections of ladder, sliding against each other, made a haunting, ominous chord. Morricone moved heaven and earth to get the ladder into his recording studio, where they slid the sections back and forth. I believe that's the opening note for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
This is an apocryphal story, which means, "if it's not true, it should be."
posted by ohshenandoah at 3:08 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


I know the perceived wisdom is that when someone wins an Oscar, it's not for that particular film, but for the other, previous films they actually deserved to win. Which you could argue for The Hateful Eight, but I think both are true: Morricone deserved to win for previous scores, and The Hateful Eight score is nothing short of fantastic.
posted by zardoz at 3:13 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


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posted by dannyboybell at 3:17 PM on July 6


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The Ecstacy of Gold is one of my favorite musical works of all time. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performs a wonderful version that is both humorous and haunting.
posted by haiku warrior at 4:56 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


So much soaring music. It's some of the first I remember hearing as a child.

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posted by doctornemo at 5:18 PM on July 6


My first exposure to him was The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. It seemed to be on TV all the time back in the 70s and as a kid I had never heard anything like that music before. Such unusual choices from the tiny and delicate to the massive and pounding. It still holds a huge place in my heart, and I also think he will be regarded as a major composer over time.

I feel very much the same way. For me, the oddly jarring thing is the juxtaposition of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, which came at me as movies (and that I remember more for their music than anything) at completely different times in my life, in wildly different settings. The former, it was sitting on the floor in the familial TV room. The viewing of the latter was in less of a "family"-oriented setting, let's just say.

Sometimes one needs to peek at YouTube comments. The top one that I saw (regarding the Salò theme), was this:

I own a restaurant and I play this song on occasion over the PA system. No one's ever talked to me about it

That kind sums up the range of his composition, and the ways in which it seemingly ran counter to what it was used to score, but was also so right.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:22 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Caxton1476: If I could attend one concert ever, it would be this one, with a rendition of Gabriel's Oboe that just CUTS INTO THE SOUL . I don't know who that soloist is, but he is an absolute BOSS.

Thank you for pointing me to this.

Wow.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:03 PM on July 6


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posted by R343L at 10:51 PM on July 6


The Hulu series "Shut Eye" appropriated Guerra E Pace, Pollo E Brace for its promo, and hey it worked. The show was ok, too.
posted by whuppy at 10:27 AM on July 7


Not forgetting the theme to The Life and Times of Lloyd George - Chi Mai
[edit] Hadn't spotted and didn't know Chi Mai was also used on Le Professionel (above)
posted by Dub at 3:39 PM on July 7


Grazie, il Maestro, per sempre.
posted by myopicman at 6:05 PM on July 7


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posted by Coaticass at 1:38 AM on July 8


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posted by hydra77 at 10:11 AM on July 8


Morricone was a huge influence on and inspiration to composer John Zorn. Here’s Zorn’s tribute to him in the NYT.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:27 AM on July 9


As a late follow-up, DF Tram did a rather touching tribute mix to Morricone.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:37 AM on July 18


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