More Morricone

Old style justice was served during this years Academy Awards ceremony when one of the great living film soundtrack composers, Ennio Morricone, finally received the honorary Oscar that had thus far eluded him (after 5 nominations!) for his entire career. Although most famous for the music of the spaghetti westerns of the 1960’s and the early 1970’s, Morricone also scored Dario Argento’s first three features – the infamous ‘animal trilogy’, consisting of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1969),  The Cat O'Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1972).  All three are very separate and distinct works, but they nonetheless contain the ethereal voices (here used to uncomfortable effect), atonalism, odd instrumental juxtapositions (church organs, electric guitar, a harmonica) and robust experimentalism that were especially prevalent in his works during this fertile period. His music for John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is a criminally underrated work because most of the avant-garde scoring he did for that project (in which he created an orchestral stasis – musical ice, if you will, that evoked the infinite, unyielding cold of the arctic environment in which the film took place) was embedded so low in the overall sound mix that the eventual CD release revealed a whole lot of music that isn’t even audible in the final film. Viewers fondly remember the bouncing minimalism of the electronic bass line that is used quite often in the film, but that’s only 5 minutes of the over 45 minutes of music he composed for this modern horror classic. Perhaps the reason the score is not more popular is that it’s an uncharacteristically dispassionate score from a composer quite well known for creating very passionate, beautiful music. It goes so against the normal grain of Morricone’s usual phrasings that one could almost say it’s passionately dispassionate! Anyway, you get the idea. Coincidentally, a new CD just came out with various famous artists covering some of Morricone’s most well-known and beloved pieces. Check it out, of course, but make sure you wrap your ears around some of the maestro’s original versions as well.