Ennio Morricone OMRI (born November 10, 1928), is an acclaimed Italian Academy Award-winning composer. He composed and arranged scores for more than 500 film and television productions. Morricone wrote the characteristic soundtracks of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). His more recent compositions include the scores for The Thing (1982), Once Upon A Time In America (1984), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Cinema Paradiso (1988), Lolita (1997), Malèna (2000), Mission to Mars (2000) and Fateless (2005). Ennio Morricone won five Anthony Asquith Awards for Film Music by BAFTA in 1979-1992. He was nominated for five Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score in 1979–2001, winning none of them. Morricone received the Honorary Academy Award in 2007 "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music". He was the second composer in the history of the award.
Morricone was born in Rome
and was educated at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia
in the trumpet
, composition, choral music
and choral direction under Goffredo Petrassi
, who deeply influenced him and to whom Morricone has dedicated concert pieces. Impelled by his father Roberto to also take up the trumpet, he had first gone to Santa Cecilia to take lessons on the instrument at the age of 9. Ennio formally entered the conservatory in 1940 at the age of 12, enrolling in a four-year harmony program at a music conservatory. In various reports, he completed it in two years or six months (date approximate). These were the difficult years of World War II
in the heavily-bombed "Open City": the composer remarked that he mostly remembered the hunger. Many years were spent in study, giving him the extraordinary level of technical ability that his music exhibits. His wartime experiences influenced many of his scores for films set in that period.
After he graduated, he continued to work in uncompromising classical composition and arrangement. Initially influenced by John Cage — particularly the American's use of silence — he wrote more in the climate of the Italian avant-garde. Few have been made available on CD and some have yet to be premiered.
The elderly maestro has spoken to the Italian press about his ostracism. Those who concern themselves with "serious" music have been unable or unwilling all these many years to esteem someone who made a living by making soundtracks for Westerns. Slowly, interest and acceptance are coming. The championing of his work, particularly Voci dal silenzio (his response to the September 11, 2001 attacks) by the renowned conductor Riccardo Muti has helped reduce that snobbery. Nevertheless, Ennio Morricone continues to compose as he always has, not at a piano, but writing everything in longhand directly onto a full score "with few mistakes"; he "remains baffled" by other composers' use of professional orchestrators, almost the norm in Hollywood.
Early pop arrangements
In 1956, married with three children, Morricone started to support his family by playing in a jazz
band and arranging
pop songs for Radiotelevisione Italiana
. He was hired by RAI
in 1958, but quit his job on his first day at work when he was told that broadcasting of music composed by employees was forbidden by a company rule. Subsequently, Morricone became a top studio arranger at RCA
, working with Renato Rascel, Rita Pavone
and Mario Lanza
. A particular success was one of his own songs, "Se telefonando
". Performed by Mina, it was the standout track of Studio Uno 66
, the 5th biggest selling album of the year 1966 in Italy. Morricone's arrangement of "Se telefonando" featured melodic trumpet lines, Hal Blaine
-style drumming, a string set, a sixties Europop
and intensive subsonic
-sounding trombones. The Italian Hitparade #7 song had eight transitions of tonality
building tension throughout the chorus.
Leone film scores
Well-versed in a variety of musical idioms from his RCA experience, Morricone began composing film scores in the early '60s. Though his first films were undistinguished, Morricone's arrangement of an American folk song intrigued director and former schoolmate Sergio Leone. Leone hired Morricone and together they created a distinctive score to accompany Leone's different version of the Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964). As budget strictures limited Morricone's access to a full orchestra, he used gunshots, cracking whips, voices, Sicilian folk instruments, trumpets, and the new Fender electric guitar, rather than orchestral arrangements of Western standards à la John Ford. Morricone used his special effects to punctuate and comically tweak the action, cluing in the audience to the taciturn man's ironic stance. Though sonically bizarre for a movie score, Morricone's music was viscerally true to Leone's vision. As memorable as Leone's close-ups, harsh violence, and black comedy, Morricone's work helped to expand the musical possibilities of film scoring. Morricone was initially billed on the film as Dan Savio.
Ennio Morricone scored all of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns and later films from A Fistful of Dollars to Once Upon a Time in America, including For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once upon a Time in the West (1968). The collaboration is considered one of the examplary collaborations between a director and a composer.
With the score of A Fistful of Dollars
, Morricone started his ten-year collaboration with his childhood friend Alessandro Alessandroni
and his Cantori Moderni. Alessandroni provided the whistling on the soundtracks. Alessandro Alessandroni's Cantori Moderni were a flexible troupe of modern singers. Morricone specifically exploited the solo soprano
of the group, Edda Dell'Orso
at the height of her powers — "an extraordinary voice at my disposal".
Other film scores
Most of Ennio Morricone's film scores of the 1960s were composed outside the Spaghetti Western genre, while still using Alessandro Alessandroni's team. Their music included the themes for Il Malamondo
(1965) and Listen, Let's Make Love
(1967). In 1968, Morricone reduced his work outside the movie business and wrote scores for twenty films in the same year. The scores included psychedelic accompaniment for Mario Bava
's superhero romp Danger: Diabolik
(1968). The next year marked the start of a series of evocative scores for Dario Argento
's stylized thrillers, including The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
(1969), The Cat O'Nine Tails
(1971), and Four Flies on Grey Velvet
(1974). In 1970, Morricone wrote the score for Violent City
. In the same year he received his first Nastro d'Argento
for the music in Metti una Sera a Cena
(Giuseppe Patroni Griffi
, 1969) and his second only a year later for Sacco e Vanzetti
(Guiliano Montaldo, 1971) where he had made a memorable collaboration with the legendary American folk singer and activist Joan Baez
. He received his first nomination for an Academy Award
in 1979 for the score to Days of Heaven
, 1978) and another in 1986 for The Mission
, 1986), 1987 for The Untouchables
(Brian De Palma
, 1987), 1991 for Bugsy
, 1991) and 2001 for Malèna
, 2000). Morricone composed the score for John Carpenter
's science-fiction/horror movie The Thing
(1982), although most of the musical cues Morricone composed did not end up in the finished film.
Morricone has worked for television, from a single title piece through variety shows and documentaries to TV series, including Moses (1974) and Marco Polo (1982). He wrote the score for the Mafia television series La Piovra seasons 2 to 10 from 1985 to 2001, including the themes "Droga e Sangue" ("Drugs and Blood"), "La morale" and "L'immorale". Morricone worked as the conductor of the seasons 3 to 5 of the series. He also worked as the music supervisor for the television project La bibbia ("The Bible"). In the late 1990s he collaborated with his son, Andrea, on the Ultimo crime dramas. Their collaboration yielded the BAFTA-winning Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. In 2003 Ennio Morricone scored another epic, for Japanese television, the Taiga drama about Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's legendary warrior. A part of his "applied music" is now applied to Italian television films.
Since 2001 Ennio Morricone has been on a world tour, the latter part sponsored by Giorgio Armani
, with the Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta, touring London
(Barbican 2001; 75th birthday Concerto
, Royal Albert Hall 2003), Paris
. Morricone performed his classic film scores at the Munich Philharmonie in 2005 and Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in London, UK on 2006-12-01
. He made his North American concert debut on 2007-02-03
at Radio City Music Hall
in New York City
. The evening before, Morricone had already presented at the United Nations a concert consisting of some of his film themes as well as the cantata Voci dal silenzio
to welcome the new Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. A Los Angeles Times
review bemoaned the poor acoustics, and opined of Morricone "His stick technique is adequate, but his charisma as a conductor is zero." Morricone, though, has said: "Conducting has never been important to me. If the audience comes for my gestures then they better stay outside."
Morricone conducted the Roma Sinfonietta at the Wiener Stadthalle
presenting a selection of his own works.
Together with the Roma Sinfonietta and the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, Morricone will perform at the Opening Concert of the Belfast Festival at Queen's, on 2008-17-10
, at Belfast's Waterfront Hall.
Morricone received an honorary Academy Award
from Clint Eastwood
"for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music." With the statuette went a standing ovation. Although nominated five times, he had not previously received an Oscar. In conjunction with this, Morricone released a tribute album, We All Love Ennio Morricone
, featuring as its centerpiece Celine Dion's rendition of "I Knew I Loved You" (based on "Deborah's theme" from Once Upon a Time in America
) which she performed at the ceremony. Behind-the-scenes studio production and recording footage of "I Knew I Loved You" can be viewed in the debut episode of the QuincyJones.com Podcast. The lyric, as with Morricone's Love Affair
, had been penned by Oscar-winning husband-and-wife duo Marilyn
and Alan Bergman
. Morricone's acceptance speech was in his native Italian tongue and was interpreted by Clint Eastwood, who stood to his left. Eastwood and Morricone had in fact met two days earlier — for the first time in 40 years — at a reception. On that occasion, Eastwood explained to the journalists that in "the minds of many, we [Morricone and Eastwood] are linked together, but in the process of making movies, we really never interacted much, and thus never really saw each other". In interviews, Morricone has claimed that Eastwood had called him several times to request his services, but he had always turned him down, decisions which Morricone has subsequently regretted.
Prizes and awards
Top worldwide film grosses
Ennio Morricone has been involved with eight movies grossing over $25 million at the box office:
|| Gross |
|| The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
|| Sergio Leone
|| $25,100,000 |
|| Exorcist II: The Heretic
|| John Boorman
|| $30,749,142 |
|| The Untouchables
|| Brian De Palma
|| $76,270,454 |
|| Barry Levinson
|| $49,114,016 |
|| In the Line of Fire
|| Wolfgang Petersen
|| $176,997,168 |
|| Mike Nichols
|| $131,002,597 |
|| Barry Levinson
|| $214,015,089 |
|| Mission to Mars
|| Brian De Palma
|| $110,983,407 |
Morricone's film music was also recorded by other artists. Hugo Montenegro
had a hit with a version of the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
in both the United Kingdom and the United States. This was followed by his album of Morricone's music in 1968. John Zorn
recorded an album of Morricone's music
, The Big Gundown
, in the mid-1980s. Lyricists
have helped convert some of his melodies
into a songbook. Morricone collaborated with world music artists, like Portuguese fado
singer Dulce Pontes
(in 2003 with Focus
, an album praised by Paulo Coelho
and where his songbook can be sampled) and virtuoso
cellist Yo-Yo Ma
(in 2004), who both recorded albums of Morricone classics with the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra and Morricone himself conducting. Metallica
uses Morricone's The Ecstasy of Gold
as an intro at their concerts (shock jocks Opie and Anthony
also use the song at the start of their XM Satellite Radio
and CBS Radio
shows.) The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
also played it on Metallica's Symphonic rock
used the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
as a concert intro. The theme from A Fistful Of Dollars
is also used as a concert intro by The Mars Volta
. His influence extends from Michael Nyman
. He even has his own tribute band, a large group which started in Australia, touring as "The Ennio Morricone Experience". In 2006 Morricone made a guest appearance on the Morrissey
album Ringleader of the Tormentors
, scoring the string part for "Dear God, Please Help Me", recorded in Rome's Forum Music Village Studios, Morricone's regular recording and mixing venue, previously known as the Orthophonic Recording Studio, which is located beneath a church. In 2007, the tribute album We All Love Ennio Morricone
was released. It features performances by various artists, including Andrea Bocelli
, Celine Dion
, Bruce Springsteen
- Ciarán Farrell was one of Ennio Morricone's students.
- In 1990 the American singer Amii Stewart, best known for the 1979 disco hit "Knock On Wood", recorded a tribute album entitled Pearls - Amii Stewart Sings Ennio Morricone for the RCA label, including a selection of the composer's best known songs. Since the mid 1980s Stewart resides in Italy, the Pearls album features Rome's Philharmonic Orchestra and was co-produced by Morricone himself.
- The asteroid 152188 Morricone was named in Morricone's honour on 2007-06-01.
- Famous singer, Jade Villalon of Sweetbox, incorporated "La Califfa" as the theme music into her pop ballad "For The Lonely".
- NBC Sports borrowed Morricone's theme from The Untouchables for use during the closing credits of their coverage of the 2000 American League Championship Series. This was accompanied by a video montage commemorating the network's final Major League Baseball telecast.
- Jay-Z recorded the song Blueprint 2 sampling Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold" in 2002.
- Mr. Bungle have covered several Morricone songs live including Muscoli Di Velluto from Malamondo and Main themes from Citta Violenta, Una Lucertola Con La Pelle di Donna and Metti, Una Sera a Cena.
- Fantômas did a cover of the main theme to Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto) on their album The Director's Cut — an album of film soundtrack covers.
- Chico Buarque recorded an album with Morricone in 1970 called Per Un Pugno di Samba when the former was exiled from Brazil.
- Wall of Voodoo, of "Mexican Radio" fame, would perform medleys of famous pieces by Morricone at early live shows, as heard on their EP/Live Album The Index Masters
- The music of Ennio Morricone, amongst other popular composers such as Francesco De Masi, was used in the 2004 videogame Red Dead Revolver.
- Jackass Number Two uses his song "Ecstasy of Gold" at the beginning of the movie.
- Rapper Immortal Technique samples "Ecstasy of Gold" in his song "Land of the Gun"
- Italian thrash metal band Schizo recorded a cover of Morricone's "The Sicilian Clan" original soundtrack song for their 2007 album "Cicatriz Black".
- One of Ennio's pieces from the soundtrack of the 1986 film The Mission, entitled "Brothers", was used in one of the final scenes of the memorable series finale of the hit 1988-93 ABC-TV series The Wonder Years.
- The Vandals, in their 1984 Album "Peace thru Vandalism," play their own version of the famous theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the introduction to the "Urban Struggle" track.
- Hans Zimmer's Parlay in The Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End Soundtrack is a tribute to Ennio Morricone's Man with a Harmonica.
- British band Muse cites Morricone as an influence for the songs City of Delusion, Hoodoo, and Knights of Cydonia on their album, Black Holes and Revelations.. The band has recently started playing the song "Man With A Harmonica" live, as an intro to Knights of Cydonia.
- The 5th track off of Murder by Death's latest release, Red of Tooth and Claw, is titled Theme (for Ennio Morricone).
- The ambient electronic act The Orb sampled Morricone's "The Man With The Harmonica" (from the film Once Upon a Time in the West) in the opening to their 1990 single "Little Fluffy Clouds".
- The final installment of the massively popular video game series, Metal Gear Solid, uses Morricone's song "Here's to You", taken from the film Sacco e Vanzetti.
- The generic of Italiques 70's show produced by Marc Gilbert on french television used the soundtrack of Dio è con noi of Ennio Morricone, with a motion picture of Jean-Michel Folon that stayed the generic of the public channel for twenty years.
- On the 16th of August 2008 at the V Festival, Christopher Wolstenholme of Muse Played Ennio's "Man with the Harmonica" on harmonica before the band ended their Chelmsford set with Knights of Cydonia (A song with Morricone's classical influence).
In 1956, Ennio Morricone married Maria Travia, who has written lyrics to complement her husband's pieces. Her works include the Latin texts for The Mission
. They have three sons and a daughter, in order of birth: Marco, Alessandra, Andrea [Andrew], and Giovanni.
- Horace, B. Music from the Movies, film music journal double issue 45/46, 2005: ISSN 0967-8131
- Miceli, Sergio. Morricone, la musica, il cinema. Mucchi/Ricordi, 1994: ISBN 88-7592-398-1
- Poppi, R., M. Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film vol. 3. Dal 1960 al 1969. Gremese, 1993: ISBN 88-7605-593-2
- Poppi, R., M. Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film vol. 4. Dal 1970 al 1979* A/L. Gremese, 1996: ISBN 88-7605-935-0
- Poppi, R., M. Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film vol. 4. Dal 1970 al 1979** M/Z. Gremese, 1996: ISBN 88-7605-969-5
- Poppi, R., M. Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film vol. 5. Dal 1980 al 1989* A/L. Gremese, 2000: ISBN 88-7742-423-0
- Poppi, R., M. Pecorari. Dizionario del cinema italiano. I film vol. 5. Dal 1980 al 1989** M/Z. Gremese, 2000: ISBN 88-7742-429-X