Tribute: Ennio Morricone

Posted on July 6, 2020 at 4:18 pm

The great movie composter Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. Adam Bernstein’s superb obituary in the Washington Post captures not only what he did but why it sounded so gorgeously perfect.

Mr. Morricone was a boldly adventurous composer who saw himself as a full partner in telling stories on-screen. He thrived with directors known for their visual excess, including Tarantino, Sergio Leone and Brian De Palma.

But Mr. Morricone, whose scores could be gritty, unsettling or exquisitely gentle, was impossible to categorize. His portfolio seemed to span every conceivable mainstream genre, including comedy, drama, romance, horror, political satire and historical epic.

Some examples:

And to understand better the embrace of film and score, see this very knowledgeable essay by Bilge Ebiri about the best pieces as they were used within the context of individual scenes in the films themselves. For example:

Though much of A Fistful of Dollars’ score is quite spare, for the final showdown, Morricone gives us something altogether more melodic and traditional. This ornate trumpet dirge popped up earlier in the film as well, but here, it fits perfectly — as the clouds of dynamite smoke and dust blow away to reveal Clint Eastwood’s character, seemingly back from the dead to exact retribution on Ramon Rojo and his gang. This has become established as one of Morricone’s signature pieces, which is somewhat ironic, as it’s also an homage to Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Howard Hawks’s John Wayne Western Rio Bravo.

Morricone was a giant in the history of film. May his memory be a blessing.

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