Damien on… Ennio Morricone
This KINDA follows on from the end of the piece on Pop and Dance…
… which bemoans the lack of MELODY in today’s music. So where does Morricone figure in this? Read on, reader…
You are probably familiar with Ennio Morricone as that guy who wrote the scores for those “spaghetti westerns” in the Sixties, right?
But he was much more.
In fact, Morricone had already established his spaghetti-western style when he’d done the backing for a cowboy-style country record a few years earlier and merely extended it, when he wrote the scores for “A Fistful Of Dollars”, “For A Few Dollars More”, “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” and “Once Upon A Time In The West”.
But these films are just four of around four HUNDRED films that were scored by Ennio, from 1962 right up to the present, which include ALL genres of movie, from romance and drama, through horror to farce.
And which, using his collaborators – Bruno Nicolai; arranger and conductor (who has a number of scores to HIS credit) – Alassandro; whistles – and the great Edda Dell’Orso, whose passionate, three-octave vocals enhanced almost all of Ennio’s scores from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies – run through all genres of MUSIC.
Back in the late Sixties, when the legal wrangles were settled (the makers of “Yojimbo” sued over “Fistful” and the producer of “Fistful” sued over “Dollars More”) and Leone’s first three movies opened outside Italy, Hollywood recognised Morricone’s genius and welcomed him into their number with awards and commissions (they even offered him a villa in Bel-Air, which he declined).
But what no-one outside of Italy (apart from a few film-nuts like this scribbler) knows, is that Morricone has a SLEW of music, that enhanced a plethora of (mostly unremarkable) films, to his credit. And they include some of the most beautiful melodies you will ever hear. Which brings us back to the point this writer made at the top. These pieces were written in the Sixties and Seventies.
And therein lies the problem. As stated in the piece on Pop and Dance, modern music first emerged immediately after WW1. And most of the great melodies – tunes that get inside your brain and which you find yourself humming or whistling – were written by the likes of Cole Porter and George Gershwin, during the Twenties and Thirties.
Still more was written after, but as you go through the Forties, Fifties, Sixties and Seventies – the flow of great MELODIES lessens. Until in the Eighties, it all but DRIES UP.
Oh sure, there were some great SOUNDS around in the Eighties, but most were based on complex CHORD-CHANGES – not melody.
How many GREAT TUNES can YOU think of, that were written after 1980?
The problem is with the format of Western music. It uses just twelve notes – seven white ones and five black. And any melody that is going to sound “right” has to have logical PROGRESSIONS – not just be random notes. Which is somewhat limiting.
As far back as 1964, when John Barry first played the opening three notes of “Goldfinger” to lyricists Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, they both simultaneously sang, “…wider than a mile!” This was because “Moon River” shares the same opening three notes – albethey phrased differently.
These days, to avoid charges of plagiarism, a composer has to make sure that no FOUR successive notes of their melodies coincide with another. And after NINETY YEARS of compositions, which have been greedily assimilated by movies, stage musicals, radio and television – not to mention the Pop record industry – that’s TOUGH.
ALL THE NOTES HAVE BEEN USED UP.
So if YOU want to hear great melodies you haven’t heard before – go to YouTube and punch in “Ennio Morricone Edda Dell’Orso”. Then listen to ALL of the FORTY-ODD entries listed. And enjoy them.
Because they may be the LAST NEW (to YOU) melodies – THAT YOU WILL EVER HEAR!!