On February 26, 2016, Ennio Morricone received his star for “his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of music for film” on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This unequivocal declaration of the composer from Rome’s brilliance speaks volumes of Morricone’s personality and fierce charisma. He’s known as of one of the greatest composers, if not the greatest ever, of film scores.
“I need to create a score that the director, the public, and especially myself will like, otherwise I won’t be happy. I have to be happy before the director is. I can’t betray my music.”
Another anecdote, recently told by Dario Argento at the Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, is on the same page. Argento recalls their collaboration for his debut movie ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’:
“I went to see Ennio with a pile of rock music albums under my arm, as we used to do at the time. However, I immediately realized that he was looking at me in a strange way, sideways ― he was giving me a dirty look.”
Morricone clearly didn’t want Argento to suggest any kind of music other than his own to take inspiration from for his scores. He considered it an insult to his integrity as a creator, an unseemly and disrespectful act.
For better or worse, he himself had to be the keystone of his own creation ― to the extent that he could not possibly accept that a director, especially a first-time one, dared to even try to influence him.
This inflexibility certainly contributed to feeding the stature of the composer, who developed his own personal touch by nurturing his unlimited inspiration. He created his own internationally-recognized “brand” of sorts.
“He has always moved within the closed circuit of his own imposing style, creating the adjective ‘Morriconian’ and gaining a reputation for not being afraid of repetitiveness, of obsession, and of the mannerism of those who look at the mirror only to see themselves reflected.”
His partnership with Sergio Leone for his Spaghetti Western ― Morricone’s most famous and celebrated collaboration during his long and glorious carrier ― turned into a brand. This was thanks to the composer’s combination of traditional, and unusual (for the time) elements that very soon became iconic: the harmonica, the mouth harp, the use of strings, and the human voice.
These elements worked together, shaping an audiovisual heritage consisting of sounds and images that are impossible to separate.
Leone’s films wouldn’t probably have been the same without the soundtracks by Morricone: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, followed by ‘For a Few Dollars More’, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’, ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’ and finally, ‘Once Upon a Time in America.’
The scores fit perfectly from an emotional, iconic, and passionate standpoint with Morricone’s music, seeming as if the composer stole the soul of Leone’s films, just to pour them back into musical notes and let the seed germinate again and again.
The elegance of Ennio Morricone, an eclectic composer, is nourished by a Baroquism in all possible aspects. This can be seen in the score he created for Giuseppe Tornatore, one of his greatest friends, and from the soundtracks, he made for various international directors (John Carpenter, Brian De Palma, Mike Nichols, Oliver Stone).
“A six-time Oscar nominee, Morricone won the Academy Honorary Award in 2007 and another Academy Award in 2016 for the score of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’, the last macroscopic proof of his greatness and of his aesthetic intelligence.”
In particular, ‘The Last Diligence of Red Rock’ is a track which, coherently with the tone of the movie, escapes the Western genre to meld into the long, black and disturbing shadows of a macabre and ghostly movie. A beautiful and spectral score that Morricone, reluctant at first, made at 87 years of age with the freedom of the youngest of experimenters.