Playlist: Ennio Morricone
In his review of Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words in the March-April issue, Julien Allen writes, “Despite a classical upbringing as a trumpeter and a reputation for lavish, Mahlerian romantic melodies such as “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America, Ennio Morricone started his composing career as a member of one of the most radical 1960s avant-garde movements: the Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza. The furious sonorous innovation of his earliest film work, which catapulted him to notoriety, germinated in the musique concrète he practiced with Gruppo: the whistle in A Fistful of Dollars, screaming voices on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and electric bass guitar generally. He was soon in constant demand by directors eager for his music’s galvanizing effect… The list of important filmmakers he has not worked with would be shorter than the list of those he has. We are treated to observations that lift the veil on their approaches to film music (John Carpenter just used the synth demo for The Thing despite Morricone’s having delivered a full orchestral recording) and collaboration in general (Sergio Leone treated Morricone like a creative partner in a family business; The Mission’s Roland Joffé was a control freak). Morricone professes his admiration for Quincy Jones and John Williams, but rails against the American tradition of using third parties to orchestrate composers’ themes: for him, orchestration is where the genius lies.”
Julien helped us select some choice tracks from Morricone’s intimidatingly vast body of work for not one, but two(!) playlists dedicated to the maestro. From the shimmering theme from Days of Heaven, to the baroque menace of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, to the synth-pop theme to Frantic, these playlists dip into the full range of Morricone’s diverse and expansive repertoire.
Clinton Krute is Film Comment’s digital editor.