There are certain soundtracks to films that from their first note have you reaching for your favorite whisky or that special cigar that you’ve been saving. And if you’re lucky enough, you’re able to savor both of them at the same time while listening and watching.
These soundtracks are few and far in between, but one composer in particular has been able to corral several classics under his belt – Ennio Morricone. His music for the Italian produced and directed westerns from the 1960’s are instantly recognizable.
This artist is credited with an astonishing number of completed works. He is responsible for arranging and composing scores for over 500 television and film productions since his career began in 1946.
The maestro is the author of some of the most iconic film soundtracks of the past five decades. He has worked with film directors from all over the world, but he is probably best known for his partnership with his former schoolmate Sergio Leone, with whom he collaborated on the infamous spaghetti western series that helped to define his signature sound in the mid to late 1960’s.
Beginning with A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), and continuing with For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) and Once Upon A Time In The West (1968), Morricone developed a style of soundtrack that was as brazen and as bold as the director’s extreme close-ups.
Morricone, reinvented how soundtracks were composed, and was not content to just orchestrate musical instruments. He threw everything into his compositions for these films: gunfire, the sound of whips cracking, coyotes howling and even whistling – a whistle that would eventually come to define a genre.
The soundtrack for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly became a bestseller and features several instantly recognizable motifs. It’s impossible to listen to the main title and not visualize a scruffy-looking Clint Eastwood squinting his eyes, dressed in his shabby poncho with a cigarillo clinched in his mouth.
The music for these films is far more than just complimentary to the screen action, which in some film composing circles is apparently what a soundtrack is “supposed” to do. Instead, Morricone’s compositions transform into an actual character, one that is integral and inseparable to the action on the screen.
If Morricone’s only accomplishment had been to give birth to the soundtracks for these re-imagined westerns, then his place as one of the greats would have been secured.
But, Dan Savio, as he is sometimes referred to, continues to work, composing scores that in many cases come dangerously close to eclipsing the films themselves.
One of his more memorable recent soundtracks is John Carpenter’s 1982 science fiction horror classic, The Thing, a film score that is immediately recognizable after the first two beats.
In 1986, Morricone wrote the sumptuous and haunting soundtrack for the Roland Joffe film, the Mission. This majestic movie deals with the struggles of a Jesuit missionary in South America in the 18th Century. The following year he provided the soundtrack for Academy-Award winning film The Untouchables.
There are far too many Ennio Morricone CD’s available to recommend any single one. The place to start with an artist as prolific as this is with any of his compilations or “best of” series. Given his body of work it would be a safe bet to pick-up at least a two-cd collection.
Whatever the choice, just make sure that a least one of the tracks is the main title to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Playing this piece will guarantee that you’ll be transported to a shoot-out with “Blondie”, hopefully with your cigarillo and six-gun in hand.
© Copyright 2010, Francis Litzinger. All Rights Reserved. For more work from Francis, check out Francis Litzinger’s Goulash Fiction.