Like so many composers that were starting out in Italy during the 1960,s and 1970,s, Franco Micalizzi began his film music career by scoring an Italian made western. The movie entitled THE GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE, was basically a B movie of very little consequence, that received a very limited release outside of Italy, the score for the film was a joint effort between Micalizzi and fellow composer Roberto Pregadio, the style of the music in the score is very much like that of Ennio Morricone, and contains a distinctive theme which is everything that is now associated with the ‘SOUND’ of the Italian Western. Whistling, soaring trumpet solos and choir all go to make up a very haunting and somewhat rousing opening for the score. This was the first thing that I spoke about with the composer. ” GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE, was my initiation into film music, I composed the score with the help of my good friend Roberto Pregadio, we scored the film in late 1969, and it got released in 1970, later I worked with him again on I DUE VOLTI DELLA PADRA and LO CHIAMAVANO TRINITA. I must admit that we did write the score in a style that was similar to that of Morricone, but there again many Italian western soundtracks contained scores that were basically Morricone sound alike soundtracks. It was done with the greatest respect for the maestro; after all he was along with Sergio Leone the creator of the Italian Western sound. It was the hope of every producer and director in Italy to get Morricone to score their productions, but the great composer could only work on so many films, so the filmmakers tried to imitate Leone, and asked other composers to attempt to mimic Ennio Morricone, and this is what happened on GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE.
We even employed musicians and other performers that had worked with Morricone, to get the sound that we did. For example Alessandro Alessandroni whistled on the score, and the trumpet solo was performed by Michele Lancerenza, both of whom had played on Morricone western scores, we also had the IL CANTORI MODERNI providing the vocals”.
In the same year Micalizzi was offered the score for a comedy western entitled LO CHIAMAVANO TRINITA, the movie was really the first of its kind, as the mixture of spaghetti western and comedy had not been attempted before. The film was to be the first in a series of films that would star, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, it was this score that attracted attention to Micalizzi from soundtrack collectors, the score not only serviced the movie extremely well, but it also stood on its own as entertaining music. It was a little surprising after the success of TRINITY that Micalizzi did not return to score the films numerous sequels, instead the task was allotted to Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. I asked the composer why this was? ”When the score for TRINITY was completed and recorded there was unfortunately some mis-understanding about the publishing rights, this was between myself and the films producer Italo Zingarelli. This upset did sadly lessen our friendship, and I think that is why I was not asked to score any of the sequels. I am glad to say that this mis-understanding has thankfully now been cleared up, and our collaboration has now resumed which is better late than never as they say”. .
I continued on the subject of TRINITY and how the composer actually got the assignment? ” The big composers at the time were not relay interested in the film, the idea of comedy and the style of the Italian western being combined did not enthuse anyone, apart from the films producers and myself, I think that many of the composers Morricone included were a little concerned that the film was going to turn out to be an embarrassment to the genre. So the producers decided to take a chance on me, and offered me the score”. One of the highlights of the score is the rather tongue in cheek title song, I asked the composer about the song and who decided that the film required a vocal? ”It was a joint decision between the director, E.B.Clutcher (Enzo Barboni), the producer and myself. We discussed the possibility of a song on the titles, and it was decided that a vocal would possibly attract more attention to the movie”. And why did the composer have the vocals sung in English? ” There was at that time in Italy an opinion that if American or English actors were in leading roles in Italian made westerns that the film would stand a better chance of success when and if it was released outside of Europe, and this opinion also applied to the music in films, so a song that was sung in English was thought to be much more advantageous to the films success. I suppose that to a degree this was true, and the single 45rpm release of the TRINITY song sold very well in Italy, and also many copies were exported to America and England. A very good friend of mine in England Lally Stott wrote the lyrics, he understood perfectly what I wanted, and what I wanted to achieve. Sadly Lally died a few years later in a boating accident in Liverpool, the song is a send up of all other western songs, as the film itself was a parody of other westerns, both American and Italian”.
The composer enjoyed a little limelight during the 1970,s outside of Italy, when he scored the romantically slanted tearjerker of a movie THE LAST SNOWS OF SPRING. The film did very well at the box office, and Micalizzi, s music was also something of a hit. For this soundtrack the composer employed a very rich and lush score, which again was very similar to the style of Ennio Morricone, selections from the film were released on RCA Original Cast in Italy and sold moderately well. Micalizzi followed this success with something in a similar vein, THE TREE WITH PINK LEAVES was also a weepy, and because of the films appeal a soundtrack album was issued in Italy on the Cinevox label. But apart from these two albums and the LP releases of TRINITY and the second rate Exorcist clone movie, THE DEVIL WITHIN HER, Micalizzi has been almost without representation as far as recordings of his scores are concerned. I asked the maestro if he felt a little disappointed that his music for film was not easy to obtain on any type of recording? ” I do feel that maybe more of my film scores should have been released onto disc, in fact RCA did issue a BEST OF LP, which had various themes of mine on it, this however has not been re-issued onto CD as of yet, but soundtracks I think are not a big profit maker for the record companies, and outside of Italy I think that you would find it difficult to get any of my records, this is because many of the films that I worked upon, did not get a release outside of Italy, so people did not know about them. It is only people like yourself that know of their existence. Also music publishers were not interested in soundtracks, when they could deal with more profitable things, such as popular music”. Many composers had released their music on their own recording labels, is this something that Micalizzi had thought about? ”No, not really, if I am totally honest I don’t think that I would sell many copies. Soundtracks have a very little market, and they are very expensive to produce. They are very complicated things to release, there are many things to consider, such as re-use payments, and it can become a nightmare in the end. It is better to leave such things to the larger companies such as RCA, CAM and BEAT. Although the two western scores that we have spoken about TRINITY and THE GUNMEN OF THE AVE MARIE. have just been released on CD by an English recording company that has links with Italy, and LUCREZIA GIOVANE got issued on BEAT, also my score for STRIDULUM has been released by RCA, but only in Italy. Over the past few years I have been concentrating on writing music for the ARIOLA music library, this will in the end consist of some 60 CD,s. I am also in the process of producing for my own production company which is called THE NEW TEA DANCE MUSIC COMPANY, a collection for a music library, this should amount to 20 CD,s.”. So as the composer had his own production company, did the rights to his film scores belong to him? “The music that I have written for the cinema is normally owned by the film company that has released the movie, or the music publisher who has financed the soundtrack. Again this can vary from project to project. But it is normally the music publishers that own the copyright on film soundtracks in Italy“. So what actually made the composer decide that he wanted to write music for film? ”I had always had a big love for the cinema, and also music was and is still important to me. So I obviously took particular interest in the music in films. Cinema was a very important source of culture for people of my generation, I was fascinated by how the music worked with the film, and this is what made me decide that I would like to compose music for the cinema. The idea of doing this intrigued me immensely “. I continued by asking the composer if any of his family were musical at all? ” No it was not a tradition in my family to be involved in music professionally, although I did show an interest in music from a very early age, I could only devote myself to study music privately, and this was at the end of my education at high school. I gained most of my musical knowledge by my own personal experience and also by studying and listening too the works of other important musicians and composers “. Was he influenced by any composers at all? ”Of course, I have been influenced greatly by all types of jazz, and also the romantic Russian composers, and finally I have been drawn from the styles and techniques of my friends and colleges such as, Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni and Armando Trovajoli. All of whom have been great points of reference to me”. Had Micalizzi ever written a score under an alias? ”No, I did not, but I know that this was something that other composers did from time to time in Italy. There were various reasons for this, the most common I think being that the composer was not happy with his work on the movie. I always signed my film scores with my own name, even if I thought that they were maybe not so good”. The composer worked with a number of soloist’s etc on his scores for the cinema, I asked him what it was like working with people such as EDDA and ALESSANDRONI? ”Edda, is an extraordinary talent, to work with her is wonderful, her voice and her great talent are unique in creating a sensual and lyrical atmosphere. Alessandroni, is a great talent also, he is so versatile, flawless whistling, precise guitar playing and a choir that is second too none. “.
Micalizzi seemed to excel at composing romantic music for the cinema. I asked him if he was more at home writing for any particular genre of film? ”The beauty of writing for the cinema is that you get the opportunity to work on all genres, one week you could be working on a western, and the next a love story or a crime thriller etc., every genre has its own stimulating opportunity for a composer. I do not think that there is any particular type of film that I am more or less happy working on, the real problem is to find the correct solution for every film, the right idea for music on any film is always difficult to find, and this requires work, concentration and of course talent”. Did the composer think that orchestration is a vital part of the composition process, and does he orchestrate all of his own music? ”It is a very important part of the composing cycle, and yes I do carry out all of the orchestrations for music that I have composed, I would never charge anyone with this refined work”. Did he also conduct his own music all of the time or did he employ a conductor on occasion? ”I do at times employ a conductor, but I also conduct myself, this depends on the film or the budget on the project”.
And how did he work out his musical ideas, on piano or did he use synthesisers at all? “At one time I would work out my ideas on piano, but now like so many other composers I sit by my computer, very age places the best instruments at a composers disposal, but since everybody knows that the only really important thing is the original idea it does not really matter how you arrive at the end product. Without ideas, no amount of computers or synthesisers can be useful “. A point that is spoken of on many occasions by film music composers, is the very tight deadlines for each project, I asked Franco Micalizzi what his feelings were on this subject? ” Here in Italy, a director or producer will tell the composer that he needs the music yesterday, and I am sure that it is the same in other countries, music is often the last thing that is considered, which is rather annoying because music at times can either make or break a certain scene in a movie, I have at times been given less than ten days to complete a score, and that is composing and actually scoring the movie, I am of the opinion that a composer should be given a lot more time than this, and also that a composer should be involved with a film as early as possible, right from the beginning with the script for example. This gives the composer a chance to find out what the film is about, and also get involved with the storyline, it gives him the opportunity to develop themes etc., for each of the characters in the film, and also music can also be played during the filming of certain scenes, which will obviously also help the actors and director create the correct atmosphere “. And what was his opinion of the use of a temp track on a film, did he think that this assisted the composer or did it maybe distract him? ”This I think is a pointless exercise, the use of a temp track is in my opinion a most destructive thing to do to a composer “. And what of the future? ” As I have already said, I am busy recording a lot of music for various music libraries, and this is taking up a lot of my time, in Italy the cinema industry is having a tough time, this is because of the development of television, there are now so many channels, offering such a variety of films, documentaries etc etc, so people tend not to go to the cinema as much as they used too. This has damaged the film industry considerably, and has effectively sunk the great Italian cinema. I hope that new laws may soon balance the further development of these forms of art and entertainment”