The decade of the 1980’s is an indicator to how popular and how much in demand Ennio Morricone had become 0utside of his native Italy. It is probably during this ten-year period that the composer was to score more non-Italian productions than he had ever done before. Yes, it is true to say that during the 1970’s Morricone did occasionally venture into scoring movies for American directors, but these forays into Hollywood scoring were few and far between. It was said that the composer felt that he was not held in enough regard or under-valued by non-Italian directors, and very often filmmakers outside of Italy had a totally different approach to making movies and also had a different attitude towards music in film. However saying this the 1980’s began with the composer working predominantly of Italian and French productions, early in 1980,


Morricone scored pictures such as IL VIZIETTO ll, THE LADY BANKER, THE GOOD THIEF and STARK SYSTEM, it was not until the year was drawing to a close that the composer worked on movies such as THE ISLAND directed by  Michael Ritchie and WINDOWS from filmmaker Gordon Willis.




In 1981 his theme CHI MAI became a chart topping single in the UK when it was utilised by the BBC for the TV series THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVID Lloyd GEORGE, the theme which was originally from the soundtrack to MADDALENA was released as a single 45rpm on the BBC label and featured a disco sounding arrangement of the central theme from MADDALENA. This would be the first time that Morricone or at least a composition of Morricone’s had entered the chart since the 1960’s when Hugo Montenegro covered his THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY theme, taking it to the top of the British charts in 1968.

Also in 1981, the composer collaborated with Bernardo Bertolucci on TRADGEDY OF A RIDICULOUS MAN and also with filmmaker, Michele Lupo on BUDDY GOES WEST or OCCHIO ALLA PENNA which was on of the last Italian produced westerns that Morricone would work on, the score was essentially a parody of his past western score triumphs. Il Maestro also collaborated with director Georges Lauter on THE PROFFESSIONAL. In all the composer worked on approx. eight projects that year.


In 1982, the composer scored two movies for director Matt Cimber, A TIME TO DIE and BUTTERFLY, both contained wonderfully atmospheric and lyrical sounding scores, and it was a case of the music being of a far higher quality than the movies it was written for. Also released in 1982 was THE THING.



This turned out to be something of a chequered assignment as in unusual, for Morricone. Director John Carpenter, had provided the music for many of his previous movies himself, Carpenters style being solely electronic or synth based, but this was something that worked in his movies, the filmmaker/composer very rarely developed a theme or had anything that was melodic, his previous scores including, THE FOG, SEASON OF THE WITCH, HALLOWEEN ll and lll, and ESCAPE TO NEW YORK to name but a few.

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For several years Carpenter collaborated with Alan Howarth, with Howarth realising the technical side of things whilst Carpenter composed the music. So, when it came to THE THING, I think it was obvious that Carpenter would want a say in how the score was written, placed and the overall sound and style that was deployed. Which is something that Morricone could be rather temperamental about, after all if you employ a composer to write a score, you should trust them, and have faith in what they will deliver. However, Morricone reflected in an interview about the time working on THE THING, he told the interviewer, that Carpenter went to Rome to show the composer the film, but he never gave him any instruction about the music that he thought the film required, and during the scoring process the director altered the cuts of the film, after Morricone had finished writing the score, Carpenter used just one single piece of music in the end, with some of the tracks that were not utilised ending up in Tarantino’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT.


John Carpenter said of Morricone and the score for THE THING.


“He’s just fabulous and just genius. All I said to him was, ‘Fewer notes.’ If you see The Thing, the ultimate theme is the result of our conversation: simple, synth-driven, effective.”


In the same year the composer scored films such as WHITE DOG for director Sam Fuller and The Giuliano Montaldo directed TV series MARCO POLO, which in my opinion contains some of the composers most haunting themes from this period in his career.  He also worked on the ill- fated TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS as well as THE LINK and LE RUFFIAN.



Morricone worked on ten movies in 1983, these included, HUNDRA which was a rather lack lustre sword and sorcery movie directed by Matt Cimber, again the only memorable thing about the film was Morricones score. He also provided scores for THE SCARLET AND THE BLACK, COPKILLER, THE KEY and SAHARA which starred Brooke Shields.



1984 was the year that Morricone was to be re-united with Sergio Leone, for the director’s epic gangster movie ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.


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Morricone’s score for this is considered one of his many masterpieces for cinema, again the chemistry between director and composer is evident, with much of the score for the movie being written before any filming had begun, Morricone’s music was also played on set to inspire the actors in the movie.

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And although it was met with a mixed reaction from critics it would soon prove to be an iconic and cult movie when it was restored to its full running time by the director. It is probably because of the composer’s involvement on this movie that he scored just four other projects in this year.


One feature entitled, THIEVES AFTER DARK, a documentary called DON’T KILL GOD and two TV scores which were WHO WAS EDGAR ALLAN POE? And THE FORESTERS SON.  In 1985 the composer slowed his scoring schedule considerably, working on just six projects, IL PENTITO, RED SONJA, LA GABBIA, IL VIZIETTO lll and VIA MALA amongst them.





Four scores followed in 1986, one of these being THE MISSION, a score that he should have won the Oscar and the BAFTA for, but sadly did not, THE MISSION is a fusion of the classic style of Ennio Morricone with ethnic undertones and textures that are further enhanced by a deep religious sound, the end result is stunning and probably one of his most accomplished works and also one of his favourite works for cinema.




Many thought that Morricone had been snubbed by the Academy, like he was twelve years previous on DAYS OF HEAVEN. Filmmaker David Puttnam was visibly surprised at the BAFTA ceremony commenting that he was disappointed that Morricone had not been given the award for the score. Also, in that year the composer collaborated with THE EXORCIST director William Friedkin on C.A.T. SQUAD a TV movie and worked with Mauro Bolognini on THE VENETIAN WOMAN. Films such as RAMPAGE, THE GOLD RIMMED GLASSES, LA PIOVARA 3, MOSCA ADDIO, CONTROL and THE UNTOUCHABLES followed in 1987.




With Morricone placing his unmistakable musical stamp upon the now classic Brian De Palma movie which starred Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia, Sean Connery and Robert De Niro.




The scene in the station being a masterclass in film scoring. In 1988, there were so many big movies, BEETLEJUICE, COMING TO AMERICA, SCROOGED, RAMBO lll, RAIN MAN and COCKTAIL are just a handful of movies that all weighed in at the box office getting great returns. In this year Morricone scored a movie that became associated with him nearly as much as his western soundtracks, CINEMA PARADISO is a heartrending soundtrack that contains so many poignant and pensive emotions, it is overflowing with rich and fragile sounding melodies, and is for me Morricone’s supreme achievement.


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The score laced the images perfectly and created a greater depth of emotion, it transported the watching audience to the projection room, and into the heart of the young boy who was marvelling at the moving images that came from it. It was as if the mu sic was the mind of the boy and was seeing through his eyes the wonders of cinema. It is for me personally Morricone’s most moving and emotive soundtrack. I would prefer to listen to his music for this and also watch the movie over and over rather than sit through some of the aforementioned so-called block busters.

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This was a marriage of images and music at its most supreme level, the director telling the story and the composer weaving haunting and affecting musical poems throughout it, underlining, supporting, and ingratiating each and every frame of film. It must also be mentioned that the Love theme from the score was a joint composition with Morricone’s son Andrea collaborating with his Father upon it. The partnership achieved with Morricone and director Tornatore, is an accomplished and special one, in my opinion maybe it climbs to a higher level than the collaboration that Morricone had with Leone, there seems to be more of an emotional connection and also one that brings to fruition affecting melodies that are as one with the scenes unfolding on screen, which is something that we would see in later collaborations between the filmmaker and the composer. Giuseppe Tornatore is considered as being one of the best Italian directors and has had thus far a career that has spanned three decades, he is credited with bringing the spotlight back upon Italian cinema with movies such as CINEMA PARADISO, EVERYBODYS FINE and MALENA all of which were scored by Morricone. This is just my opinion, but I think that Morricone’s music is not only integral and important within the films of Tornatore, but it is also an extension of the films storyline and can also be looked upon as an unseen character within the story as opposed to just being music that embellishes it.


Also, in 1988 Morricone scored A TIME OF DESTINY and worked with director Roman Polanski on FRANTIC as well as writing the wonderfully atmospheric and melodious soundtrack for the TV series SECRET OF THE SAHARA, from which I am certain Hans Zimmer took inspiration from for sections of his score for GLADIATOR.



1988 may not have been a year of many assignments for the Maestro, but it was a year of haunting themes and inventive compositions. In 1989, the composer worked on even fewer movies, but again these all contained notable scores, A TIME TO KILL being one of them.


It was also the year that the composer re-united with Roland Joffe for FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY and worked with Brian De Palma on the totally consuming CASUALTIES OF WAR, the composer also scored three TV projects one of these being ENDLESS GAME  which was directed by veteran British actor and filmmaker Bryan Forbes.


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Maybe the 1980.s was a period in film scoring where filmmakers were turning increasingly to the use of songs on soundtracks, but this did not slow that much the creative flow and innovative work of Ennio Morricone, the projects may have lessened compared with previous decades, but the musical excellence and the superbly innovative music thrilled, excited and enthralled all.

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CALEB, is a classy but at the same time gory horror thriller, the plot focuses upon a woman, Rebecca who is desperately searching for her sister, who has disappeared. Her sister is a journalist who set out to investigate a series of suspicious occurrences but has vanished. Rebecca who is her older sibling, tracks her down to a town called Timere, which is in a remote area of the countryside hidden away from the gaze of everyday life. She begins to make enquiries but soon discovers that the locals are not keen to speak to her. She also notices a fear there of dark and evil forces which force the towns folk to remain in their homes after dark. She however does encounter the church warden who is a writer and has an encounter with a handsome and beguiling man named Caleb. He is rich and charming, but she soon finds out that his outwardly elegant and gracious persona is concealing a dark and terrible truth. It is not long before a desperate battle between the forces of good and evil commence. Directed by Roberto D’Antona, who also takes the title role in the movie is an edge of the seat movie and has to it a virulent yet thought provoking aura running through it. Yes, it is a horror movie, and has at its core the subject of vampirism, but it is a film that is entertaining in a scary sort of fashion. It mixes contemporary with Gothic elements, that fuse together well. I think you will if a fan of horror be entertained by it. The musical score is a strong one, it is dark and foreboding and has a sense of the harrowing, menacing and chaotic.



The musical score is by young Italian composer, Aurora Rochez, and I have to say this is an impressive and extremely appealing work. As far as I can tell it is in the main made up of a foundation which consists of strings and piano, on which the composer builds the remainder of the soundtrack, layering synthetic sounds and electronic support to create a score that is effective within the movie and also is in many ways entertaining to listen to without any images or storyline. It has to it a luscious and opulent persona that seems to embrace the subject matter and fit the storyline like the proverbial glove. The apprehension and tension that the composer conjures up via sinister sounds and ominous but subtle layering and segueing of unsettling strings and icy and visceral synthetics is affecting. There is a feeling of dread and doom here, the music is mysterious and spine chilling, adding greater levels of horror and shock to the proceedings.


It is also a score that contains inventive use of percussive elements, at times percussion taking the lead in certain cues, and only after a while of the percussion laying down the style and creating the required atmosphere does the composer add to it in the form of dark stabs and low sombre strings. Solo piano raises its head every so often within the work, it is I have to admit a welcomed interlude that is at times calming but also at the same instant its calming element becomes an even more unnerving sound and fashion a mood that is even more unsettling and unpredictable.

The cue I AM A VAMPIRE is superbly urgent and threatening, it brings into the equation choral work brass flourishes and racing swirling and frenzied strings which al are driven along by percussion.  There are a few lighter sections, but these are few and far between, one track aptly entitled THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM is a delightfully delicate piece, synths and piano working together to create a Vangelis like sound that is restful and charming. But this is short lived as we soon return to the dark and the foreboding atmosphere. Certainly, worth checking this one out and whilst you are there also take a listen to her score for THE LAST HEROES which I think is also a worthy addition to any collection, both are available on digital platforms.


I sometimes get frustrated with film music collectors saying there is no new up and coming talent in movie music, many seem to see a new name and dismiss them before even listening to their music, Composer Jermaine Stegall, is in my opinion going to be a name that we will be seeing a lot of on credits for big movies in the not too distant future, he is talented, inventive and also most certainly able to create scores that range from intimate and electronic to full on driving lush and epic sounding symphonic. Which is displayed in one of his most recent projects PROXIMITY. The project has taken four years to come to fruition,  and whilst watching the movie, one can hear and also see just how a film score should work, it supports enhances and punctuates, but also it is a soundtrack that one can listen to without watching the film. My thanks to the composer for agreeing to speak to Movie Music International. JM. ©2020.



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What would you say is the purpose of music in film?


For me, I would say the purpose is to help tell the story. It’s to become the musical voice, and soul of the film.  Melodic, harmonic, however done, turn into another actor that is on the same page is the entire vision of the story and spirit of the film.




In 2011 you worked on GREETINGS TO THE DEVIL, which was a film produced in Colombia, how did you become involved on this project?

I met the director, Juan Orozco online and we started talking.  He has a great sense of visual storytelling and I felt like he would be someone that would create an amazing canvas for music with visuals and I was totally right!  After the film happened, he even helped finance an opportunity to do a concert of live film music from the film in Colombia at the Museum of Modern Art in Medellín, Colombia in 2011.  An amazing end to the journey which happened I believe the opening weekend of the film.


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I noticed you are credited with providing additional music on some TV series such as, SUPERNATURAL, LIV AND MADDIE, SUPERGIRL and STRETCH ARMSTRONG, when it says additional music is this the music that the producers decide that they need after the main score is done, or is it cues that they think will complement the series further and the composer of the main score maybe is not available?

Yes, those are basically cases where I was asked to supplement the composer’s original score and further the vision as well as be an extra set of hands creatively.


Is your family background a musical one, by this I mean are any of your family musical?

My mother did her fair share of singing, but my father was a bass player in the 70s and played in various bands and to my knowledge while my mother was pregnant she was around his music so that may have influenced me, but he stopped playing bass not too long after I was born and for my dad, it became more of a passion project to play live music.



Can you recall what your first encounter was with any kind of music and can you remember the first record or piece of music that you took notice of?

I made a not so serious attempt at learning violin in 3rd grade when I was 8-9 years old but quit after about 3 weeks.  In 5th grade I started playing saxophone (1988) and I was say a year later I remember hearing a song which I later learned was called “billie’s bounce” featuring Charlie Parker.  When I heard this, I was so into the sound and the vibe that I put my radio Walkman headphones up to another speaker to record the sound so I wouldn’t lose the radio station.  Then I listened to that cassette recording for years. 




PROXIMITY is a good film, I was kind of engrossed, but I was even more impressed with the score, it’s like a vintage soundtrack as in nods to  John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, but it’s a new movie. The music really caught my attention, it is so powerful and drives the action in the storyline relentlessly. Were you asked or given any specific instructions regarding the style and sound of the score by the director?




Thanks so much for the listen!  This was an important one for me and really, fun.  The director had a lot of ideas about music but, wanted a highly stylized score and initially thought he might want one with a John Carpenter-influenced sound.  We talked about electronics and orchestral elements and a reference to the 80s, then I pitched the idea of a more John Williams-influenced sound as the orchestral backdrop, however the electronics stayed as an idea to incorporate, but not necessarily John Carpenter-based.



PROXIMITY is a grand sounding work, what size orchestra did you utilise for the score and what percentage of the musical line up was made up of synthetic support, also was it recorded at Skywalker studios?

Thanks yes it was a pretty grand type of a sound that I was striving for and surprisingly since we had the time, I took years to produce the final result.  We had 17 brass players and we recorded at Skywalker Scoring stage and engineered by Grammy-award-winning Leslie Ann-Jones.  I also processed a Tuba player where we recorded 3 hours of samples and Tuba-based loops beforehand.  Most other elements were synthetic. 



Do you carry out all your own orchestrations on your film scores, or are there times when this is not possible, and you have an orchestrator?

When possible, I use an orchestrator, so I can continue to concentrate on all the last-minute expectations of preparing for recording as well as things that need to happen quickly after the recording session to deliver.  To be orchestrating would, require much more time than is generally allowed.



Similar kind of question but this time regarding conducting your scores, do you conduct all of the time or are there certain projects where you prefer to supervise from the booth and have a conductor?

I love to conduct my own scores.  I will ask for help in the booth from someone I trust always, but to that point, I will go into the booth if I think someone can get the job done faster and we would split the responsibility of conducting. 


PROXIMITY also contains a few vocal tracks, do you have any involvement with the placing of the songs at all, and when you first saw the movie, had the director installed a temp track of any sort, and do you find the temp process helpful as in it gives you an idea of what the director maybe looking for, or is it something you find counterproductive?

 I enjoy the idea of temp music and it’s a conversation-starter for most directors.  It really does not have to be the final thing (to me).  As far as songs, it was always a plan to have original songs written by a songwriter for the film and I loved that idea as well!


JAMESY BOY is a film you scored in 2014, it’s dramatic but also I thought it was intimate and quite personal, how long were you given to write and record the score, and do you perform on any of your soundtracks?

Very intimate much more personal vibe.  Much more of a purposely indie feel and true to life Biopic about an actual person James Burns who I’ve come to know.  He overcame lots of tragedy and obstacles in his life and a beautiful artist emerged at the end of it all. Yes, I tend to perform most piano passages on my scores, as was the case with that film.  



Your scores are filled with themes, even the action cues have a great thematic presence, what do you think of the use of the drone sound or soundscape approach that is being used in more recent movies, is it music or is it sounds that fill a place in a score to underline certain scenes?

I think drones and soundscapes can be fun to create, and when used as a story-telling tool, are quite effective.  It can also be very effective to use a musical or evolving drone or soundscape whenever picture lends itself to that possibility.  



What artists or composers would you say have influenced you in your approach to scoring films?

Lots of influence from John Williams as well as Marco Beltrami who I was able to intern with back in 2004.  I also grew up listening to and also buying scores by Danny Elfman. These have been my biggest score influences over the years for sure and probably in that order.




You are working on COMING TO AMERICA ll, Does Eddie Murphy have specific ideas about what route the music should be taking?


Actually, as we speak, this weekend I’m told that Eddie Murphy is watching the film for the first time and will weigh in with his ideas.  Possibly music ideas, we will see.  It would be awesome if he likes the direction it is headed in.



Are there many differences between working on a TV project and scoring a feature film?



I think mostly time frame.  Once T.V. shows get going, the expectation is that turn-around time is cranking away whereas sometimes a film can be going on in the background for a year or more.




How do you work out your musical ideas, do you sit at the piano and develop you ides that way or do you prefer to utilise a more technical and contemporary method as in computer etc?

Mainly piano sketch for me as well as saving midi ideas in different ways that I can save and review later or adapt.  Also singing out ideas can be a quick and visceral way of getting an idea out.


What musical education did you have and were there any areas of music that you focused upon more than others?

A Bachelor of music in saxophone performance from NIU (Northern Illinois University) Master of music from UNT (the University of North Texas) and from USC the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program certificate.



Going back to PROXIMITY, how many times did you look at the movie before you began to formulate any ideas about the music and where it should be placed to best serve the picture?

To be honest many times over the course of 4 years.  I even got to visit set while they were shooting, but I never read a script.  Only saw storyboards beforehand which for me was plenty.




Is it important for a score to have core theme, and do you work this out first and then develop the remainder of the score around it or does this vary from project to project?


I think a main theme is a great starting point and any additional themes that can be woven in for the most important characters and or anything that can only be explained through music or a feeling that is unspoken. 





COMING TO AMERICA ll, is next on your agenda, but after that what will you be moving onto?

 I’m jumping back into the digital series “Our Star Wars Stories” for Lucasfilm which stopped production at the beginning of the Covid shutdowns.