Ennio Morricone — Addio.
Ouch! This one hurts.
To sum up Ennio Morricone’s work, let alone its impact on our culture, is an almost impossible task to put down here. It’s not just that he was one of the greatest composers for film who ever lived or the incredible emotional impact and technical fidelity of his work but also the sheer range and variation of his music which, for me, surpassed anything by any other composer or any of his peers.
You can understand why Leone would get Morrincone to compose the music first and then shoot according to the rhythm of the music, something usually done the other way around in film scoring. This meant it was his music which often led the images, helping to give the films he worked on an often dreamlike feel. This is called magic.
Like most people I grew up loving his work for Sergio Leone but having composed over 400 film scores and a huge range of classical work I am still, to this day, discovering work by him I’d never heard before and which floors me, lifts me or leaves me in tears. Some of his most beautiful work was in the Giallo genre with his scores to ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ (1970), ‘The Forbidden Photos of A Lady Above Suspicion’ (1970) and ‘Vergogna Schifosi’ (1969) being particularly memorable, and this is still just a small example of what he achieved.
He could provide muscle and power — ‘The Untouchables’ (1987) — humour — ‘My Name is Nobody’ (1973) — and sweeping passion and grace — ‘Moses The Lawgiver’ (1974). And I haven’t even touched on his sci-fi scores.
But it is possibly his main theme to ‘Cinema Paradiso’ (1988) that immediately reduces me to tears as soon as I hear the opening bars. Combine that with the emotional impact of the ending of the movie and it’s a recipe for emotional devastation and a sensation in your heart that stays with you for years.
It was Morricone’s background in everything from jazz to pop to classical and the avant-garde which allowed him to switch between such extreme styles with panache and seemingly effortless ease. This, for me, is best illustrated with his score to ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’ (1971), specifically the piece ‘Invenzione Per John’ where a jaunty, quirky rhythm on the lower end of the piano mixes with whistling and strings before most of the instrumentation drops out to be replaced by the shimmering texture of a dulcimer and female vocals. Again, Morricone has turned a film into a dream.
The passing of Morricone is heartbreaking but the sheer body and quality of his work is also a cause for a life worth celebrating and the realisation that we are all extremely lucky to have had this guy on the planet in the first place. His impact on culture is almost incalculable and I think, for me, the emotional shock is a combination of extreme gratitude with the fact that, from now on, the world is never going to be quite the same ever again.