A partial transcript of Episode 16 of THE ART MOVEMENT. To listen to the full radio show, CLICK HERE.
Ennio Morricone passed away during the week. And we all know of him as one of the greatest film composers who ever lived. Incredibly prolific and creator of some of the most memorable music that ever graced the big screen.
Celebrated for his long standing collaboration with Sergio Leone, which truly was a one of a kind type of collaboration in the history of cinema, and for creating music for an endless number of films including Cinema Paradiso, The Untouchables, The Hateful Eight and countless others — I’m not just about to list all the memorable films that he worked on because it would take the full length of the show.
Of course, The Hateful Eight was the film that he finally won the Oscar for a handful of years ago, after getting an honorary one years before then. Crazy to think that he could have been one of the most important figures to have never one one of those god awful statuettes, given the fact that he truly helped elevate the status of film music to something that suited the tastes of both the highbrow audiences and the pop audiences. That’s very rare indeed for a film composer.
One of the interesting facts about him is that while composing and conducting was his favored occupation, he was also a brilliant trumpeter and in his early years, he played jazz in various ensembles in Rome. And you would think that a guy like him would have no time for improvisation but actually, he worked with a major ensemble for two decades that specialized in avant-garde experimental music that was named Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, which comprised other celebrated composers of ’60s through the ’80s from Italy.
In fact, I believe that his work with this particular group is what inspired the amazing opening sequence from Once Upon a Time in the West — a close collaboration between Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone that represents time coming to a standstill — the power of which is not only represented by the images but also by the sounds, which construct a one-of-a-kind experience that was very unusual to see in a major motion picture of the time. By the way, Once Upon a Time in the West, I would consider my favorite film of all time.
I’m not sad about his passing. The man lived a great life and was active until the very end, which by the way came at 91 years of age. Not bad! In fact, he must also have died a good death, surrounded by the people he loved, proved by the fact that he was able to write his own short obituary right before his death. You don’t hear of that happening much.
So, by all means it sounds to me that he lived a great life, celebrated as an international treasure, particularly by his own country of Italy, which also happens to be my country of birth. I am sure that many streets will be named after him over the next few years in that country and I am sure that several Ennio Morricone statues will be erected around the world, hopefully replacing some of the more controversial ones.
I’m not going to give you a biographical account of the man and his art here on this show, because I feel that has been done extensively but I do have to say that his music meant quite a lot to me. I do believe that in our lifetime we grow to love the works of countless artists but that there are finally only a few who really become a part of us.
And for me, Morricone was one of them, not only because it is the music of the birth of my own cinephilia but because it helped me connect with my own father, who also shared a love for Spaghetti westerns and Ennio Morricone at large. One of the few things that we could agree on.
I did get to see him a handful of years ago live in Dublin and despite the fact that I was sitting at the back, and it was an outdoor gig so it was raining, it was a deeply powerful experience for me. I remember at some point, while his orchestra played the main theme of Cinema Paradiso, I was so overwhelmed by memories that I just cried.