SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT FIFTEEN

Don’t you just love film music, it’s a genre of music that really has no boundaries, by this I mean the composer can if he chooses and the director agrees of course score a movie in either a conventional, inventive or even off the wall fashion. Providing the musi fits the scenes and elevates them and enhances them giving them a greater impact. This could be in the form of laid-back vibes or up-tempo hip-hop orientated interludes or even via totally sampled or synthetic means. What matters in the end I suppose is that any music works for the films in question.

 

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In soundtrack supplement thirteen, I mentioned the score for BERSERK by composer Jongnic Bontemps, an outstanding work and one that I have to say has remained at the top of my listening library since I first heard it. Well the composer has another score out, COLLEGE BEHIND BARS like his music for BERSERK is excellent, albeit quite different in its sound and overall style. But this displays the composer’s adaptability and his talent to work in different genres and rise to the challenge. I would say that COLLEGE BEHIND BARS is probably a more melodic work, it has within it many affecting themes, which are rich with melancholy and ooze a more relaxed musical style and persona. Saying that however there are a handful of cues as in COURSE WORK that for me evoke DR. DRE or maybe TIMBALAND with their up-beat foundation on which the composer builds. It has a hook that I defy anyone not to be drawn in by. The score as a whole is a delight, the composer utilising pizzicato strings, that are supported by more strings and piano at one point in the cue THE DEBATE TEAM to fashion a delightful cue that again is haunting and entertaining, the composer adding cello and woods to create a delightful and light sounding piece. This is a score that you must check out, it is lilting, attractive, and uplifting.

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Next we move onto PROXIMITY, I came across this quite by accident, the movie was on TV late one night as a SY movies premiere, straight away I was attracted to the score, it is a fusion of both symphonic with additional electronic or synth support, but for the most part this is a fully orchestral work that also contains chorale work, and what a score it is. John Williams meets Jerry Goldsmith and for the more melodic parts John Barry.

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PROXIMITY is an action score so lots of pulsating themes with booming percussion, slicing, and driving strings, rasping brass and flyaway flutes and other woodwind is the order of the day here. Composer Jermaine Stegall has created a strong, vibrant and powerful soundtrack, it is an imposing and at times foreboding sound that we hear throughout save a few lighter moments which are welcomed. Its one of those soundtracks that you cannot resist, and just have to listen to, filled with as I say action cues, but these have to them a richness of thematic material and also are fresh and inventive. This style and this sound for me epitomises the action score, its bold, at times brash and even relentless but always absorbing and alluring, highlight cues, no there are none because they are all brilliant.  Certainly, one to add to the collection, no questions asked, just go get it and catch the movie as well to see how the score elevates the action and supports the narrative.

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Another action score is THE TAX COLLECTOR with music by Michael Yezerski, this is a mix of conventional instrumentation and synthetic sounds, with the latter having the upper hand, however the composer utilises the electronic components well fashioning catchy themes and within these, introduces a handful of solo performances via guitar etc. The percussive elements within the work form a solid base for the remainder of the score and carry it along at pace when necessary as well as acting as punctuation and giving it greater effectiveness within the context of the movie. Female voice is also brought into the equation, giving the work a slightly romantic feel in places, and also adding a sense of mystery. Its something that I feel you should give a chance and check it out, like the two previous releases THE TAX COLLECTOR is available on digital platforms such as Spotify.

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THE PALE DOOR is an interesting movie, it’s a horror western,   the plot focuses upon the Dalton gang who rob a train, but things don’t quite go to plan with their leader being wounded they have to make a quick getaway and end up in what they think is an uninhabited ghost town, they however could not be more wrong, to their surprise and delight initially they come across a brothel in the town square, which is filled with beautiful women.

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It transpires however that this bevvy of beauty is a coven of witches who have designs on the futures of the gang. Sounds a little bit Tarantino to me, the music score is by Alex Cuervo, again this is a compelling and alluring soundtrack, the composer making effective use of percussive elements both conventional and synthetic.

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This is not your normal western score, it is one that has to it a atmosphere of the apprehensive, and also has an underlying sound that is virulent and at times vexing. The composer’s deployment of inventive instrumentation gives the work an appealing and strangely attractive sound with cymbalom and subtle harmonica being called upon to create an eerie and malevolent atmosphere. One to take time to listen to and to savour and appreciate.

 

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As is another score by Cuervo, SCARE PACKAGE is again horror but this time its comedy and horror that are combined to bring us an entertaining movie, Chad Buckley is a horror fan, a fan to point of being obsessed for the subject of horror. But Chad is lonely, I wonder why? He spends most of his time at his video shop that stocks, yes you got it Horror films. He has one regular customer Sam who he delights in arguing with about their favourite subject. When a new person shows up taking an interest Chad decides that he will teach him the rules of horror and of his store, which is something that Sam does not like one bit.

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The film meanders in and out of various hilarious horror scenarios, as the newbie is taught everything, each of the shorts are aimed at different horror scenarios. As the newbie becomes familiar with the way things are done, he has suspicions that Chad is up to something sinister, but maybe he is hiding a secret of his own?  The score is suitably creepy, but also has that mischievous and impish sound about it.

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In some ways I felt it evoked the style of composer Pino Donaggio, when he worked on movies such as THE HOWLING and PIRAHNA, there is certainly an air of the tongue in cheek present here, its an effective work, with numerous atmospheric levels which is also a bit of fun that is a collection of themes and musical scenarios that are tantalising and delightful.

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Turkish born, Pinar Toprak is a composer I followed for a while now, I was so pleased when she scored CAPTAIN MARVEL her score being a commanding one and also it was an opportunity to display her obvious talents as a film composer. Her most recent work is for the TV series STARGIRL, again the composer steps up and delivers the goods, this score for season one of the series is outstanding, like CAPTAIN MARVEL Toprak pulls out all the stops, and delivers a knock em down and drag em out work, its driving and robust, with lush and romantic interludes that are brought to fruition via sweeping strings wistful woodwind and proud anthem-like brass, with the composer creating effective and memorable themes as well as heartrending musical nuances that complement the more vigorous elements of the score.

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Electronic support is present throughout, but the synthetic and the symphonic fuse seamlessly. This is an essential purchase.

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The score for RON HOOPERS MISFORTUNE was released this week by Movie Score Media, as we all know MSM is a label that champions lesser known composers but also releases scores by already established Maestro’s. Ivan Palomares came to notice of many last year when his beautiful score for EN LAS ESTRELLAS was released, he was the MOVIE MUSIC INTERNATIONAL, Breakout composer of the year 2018 and also won the MMI recognition for best original score in the same year for EN ESTRELLAS.  The score for RON HOOPERS MISFORTUNE is a mix of symphonic, voice and electronics, it is filled with an affecting aura that is suspenseful and exciting. The composer also fashions a delicate and fragile sounding theme that is the romance feature of the score and forms the grounding for the remainder of the work. This is in my opinion an accomplished soundtrack, overflowing with descriptive and colourful compositions that are haunting and affectual. Recommended.

TALKING TO COMPOSER SID DE LA CRUZ.

Sid De La Cruz, is a composer who I think we will be hearing a lot of in the come years.  His score for HELL ON THE BORDER is excellent and one that everyone should own, it brings together the styles of the more traditional western score and has to it hints of the Italian western sound as well as the composers own individual musical fingerprint. My thanks to the composer for taking time to answer my questions.  

 

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What are your earliest memories of any kind of music, were any of your family musically inclined and at what age did you start to think that music would be a career for you?

 

Music was always around me at a young age. My parents used to play music all the time, in every situation. Family gathering or just simply being in the house relaxing. My older brother was a DJ and my uncle used to be in a band with Carlos Santana before Santana became famous.  The thought of music being a career came late for me. It was during college when I decided to change my focus from becoming a doctor to becoming a composer.

 

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Your first assignment was according to IMDB, SMILE which was a short released in 2011, how did you become involved on this?

 

I met the director through a mutual friend. We discussed our passion for film and told me that he was working on a film. Several months later I get a message from the director asking if I would be interested in scoring the film.

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What musical education did you receive, and when did you decide that writing music for film was what you wanted to do?

 

I received my bachelor’s degree in music composition from San Jose State University. After graduating, I was offered a fellowship to get my master’s degree in composition at Claremont Graduate University. During my last semester at Claremont, I simultaneously attended the UCLA Extension Film Scoring program, where I was fortunate to have received the BMI Jerry Goldsmith Film Scoring Scholarship. I believe the scholarship is awarded to 1 student every year.

 It was during my time at San Jose State University, when I knew I wanted to writing music for film. In fact, we had a composition teacher who was a film composer but school didn’t offer a film scoring classes. I asked the composition teacher, if he would be willing to teach a course. He said, if the school offered the class, then yes. I went out and petitioned for a film scoring class. I got enough signatures and the next semester; film scoring was offered.
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PRAYER NEVER FAILS I like a lot there is a great atmosphere within the music that is pure tension, but you still maintain a rich thematic presence that purveys hope.  What size orchestra or ensemble did you use for this, and how long were you given to work on the project?

 

I had about a month and a half to work on the score. For this film, the director wanted me to specifically use strings and piano for the score. He didn’t mind me using woodwinds, brass and percussion for support but really wanted the score to feature strings and piano. The score also has songs, which I also produced myself.

 

You have worked on a number of shorts, compared with a feature film are these short movies more difficult to score, as you have less time to establish a sound or style?

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I think so. I think they are a bit more difficult because there is less time to develop an idea. Also, it becomes more obvious when there is a slight change in style or approach. With a feature, you can slowly change the style over the course of several scenes. With the short, not so much.

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I loved HELL ON THE BORDER, how many times do you like to see a movie before getting any fixed ideas about the score as in style or where music should be placed to best serve the movie?

 

Thank you so much. Thank makes me happy to hear that you enjoyed the music. I liked to see the film just once in its entirety. I start to think of ideas as I am watching the film. I also make notes on my sequencer in specific spots to help remind me of my ideas

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Was HELL ON THE BORDER temp tracked with anything and did you receive any specific instructions regarding the score from the director?

 

Hell On The Border did not have a temp track. Well, it had maybe about 3 scene that did have temp music but a good 95% of the film did not have a temp track; however, I did get very specific instructions from the director, Wes Miller. He wanted the score to have a western sound. I composed something similar to, The Magnificent Seven. He liked the music but he didn’t feel the character of the music fit well with the film. So, I made another piece of music. This time, it was more along the lines of, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. He also liked it but still did not feel that it was the right choice. He then sent me a piece of music that had western music mixed with hip-hop. It was a very cool and fresh sound to the western genre. I made something along the same lines and he loved it. Even though the score is not all western and hip-hop, Wes wanted to make sure that I was able to do something like that for specific scenes in the film. The mixture of orchestra and hip-hop reminded me a lot of the Black Panther score.

 

Staying with HELL ON THE BORDER, there are a handful of solo performances, which bring the score to life, do you perform on any of your film scores at all?

 

I try to perform when possible. I feel that a live performance brings so much more emotion to the music than just a digital version of a performance. The imperfections of the human touch elevates the music.

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What is your opinion of the use of soundscape in film scores nowadays rather than composers writing themes?

Ahhh, soundscapes. I think they all have a place in film. Creating soundscapes has become a bit easier because of technology. With the press of a key, a beautiful sound is made. I prefer themes but maybe that is because I grew up learning to write music with manuscript paper and a pencil. For me, a theme is far more memorable, sing-able and more enjoyable. On the flip side, I do understand the requests from the directors and the “less is more” approach.

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ATONE is an interesting score, its powerful and quite full on, what percentage of the soundtrack was realised via electronic or synthetic instrumentation?

 

Atone had a good amount of electronic instruments. I think it 60% orchestra 40% electronic or something very close that. The director wanted to have a hybrid score.

 

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Going back to the Temp track, is this something that you find helpful or is it a tool that filmmakers use that can be counter-productive?

 

I know most composer do not like temp music. I actually do like it. It helps me get into the mind of the director and see the vision they have for the film. The good thing is that, most of the films that I have worked on with temp music, the temp music was just a guide and never a, “Okay Sid, make me something exactly like this”. For the most part, I’ve had creative freedom.

 

What is the normal routine that you employ when working on a movie, by this I mean do you tackle the smaller cues first or do you like to develop a core or central theme first so that you can then build the remainder of the score around this?

 

I actually like to work linear. I know most composers, either do the climax scene or smaller scenes first. Some even compose a collection of music pieces even before getting the film. I like to compose linear. My inspiration comes from the film, the acting, the visuals, etc

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What composers or artists would you say have had an influence upon you or maybe have inspired you?

There are many and not just from the concert and film world but from mainstream as well. Let’s see, where should I start. I know I won’t be able to list all of them but here are some that I can remember at the moment

Concert

Tchaikovsky

Brahms

Copland

Debussy

Ravel

Chopin

 

Film

John Williams

Hans Zimmer

John Powell

Trevor Morris

Michael Abels

Junkie XL

Michael Giacchino

 

Mainstream

Pharrell Williams & Chad Hugo (The Neptunes)

Timbaland

Dr. Dre

 

I think it is safe to say that all of these composer sound very different. They all bring something different to the table. I really enjoy their music and have been inspired and influenced

 

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How do you bring your musical ideas to life, keyboard, pc or straight to manuscript?

 

Because of tight deadlines, I typically start on the computer. I use my keyboard and or guitar to come up with my ideas.

 

Do you think that orchestration is an important part of composing music, and do you conduct at all?

 

Oh yea, orchestration is very important. Orchestration can provide different colours to your music. It can help from preventing the music sounding repetitive, it can help provide a certain mood, colours, emotions. For example, if there is a piece of music composed for solo piano but orchestrated for the pipe organ, the music will have a very Gothic and perhaps even sinister feel.

Orchestration is not only for adding colour, mood, and overall feel to a piece of music, but it will also help balance the sound of the orchestra or any ensemble. For example, let’s say the string section wants to play very very quietly. Without orchestration, someone might just decide to make the string section smaller, so the overall volume is quieter. By doing that, you lose the size of the sound. What should happen is, increase the size of the string section and have them all play even quieter. This way, you get the dynamics of a very quiet string section and not lose the size of the sound. Also, overlapping, interlocking, instruments brings a very different sound than just instruments layered on top of each other.

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To be honest, I don’t do a lot of conducting but I have and will, if need be.

 

HELL ON THE BORDER is one of the best scores this year so far, it has everything I heard a Goldsmith vibe and this was also mixed with a nod to Morricone.  Did you set out to do this or did it just develop as you created the score?

Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me. It makes me happy to know that you enjoy it. Once I knew that the director wanted a western score, I set out to create that type of sound. Aaron Copland is probably the composer responsible for creating that Americana sound. The sound that when we hear his music, we think of western music. Because I champion his music, I have studied several of his scores in the past. I also looked at popular Western film music and studied that as well. When I began to compose the music, I composed 2 different western styles, one being like Elmer Bernstein, The Magnificent Seven and the other being Ennio Morricone, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. The director settled on the 3rd version I made but all 3 versions were very much a western sound. So, I had a good idea of what I wanted the music to sound like.

 

 

 

What is next for you, and do you see film scoring being affected by Covid in the future?

 

I think I might have another western film coming up, a drama, maybe a documentary, I just started to get into commercials / ads so I might be doing some of those. When will I start to work on these projects, I am not sure? Are these projects a sure thing? No not really.

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I do see film scoring being affected by Covid. I do not think it will be good or bad but different. Because many musicians were not able to go into the scoring stages and record, they must figure out a way to get work done and still be safe doing it. Many of them learned how to record at home. Yes, it’ not the same and the recordings will not have the same sound because people were recording in their living rooms, instead of a giant scoring stage but the musicians did learn a new skill, home recording. With recording at home, the sound of the orchestra has / will change. A big part of the orchestra sound is the room. Yes, we can try to simulate the reverberation of a room with digital effects, but it is not the same.

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CAM’s SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPAEDIA

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Do you remember when compact discs first took off, and every record company began to swiftly transfer all their old recordings into this format. We saw so many classic albums on CD for the first time, with some CD’s having two albums on them, this sent collectors rushing to the shops to see if they could replace their old scratchy sounding LP record with a nice shiny and clear sounding disc. It was also something that happened in the soundtrack market as well, one label from Italy, decided to release a set of one hundred soundtracks, in what they called a soundtrack encyclopaedia. CAM records in Rome embarked on a mammoth re-issue programme and selected a hundred of what they deemed to be their most popular soundtracks, many of which had been deleted for years, the label had been founded in 1960, by the Campi Brothers,  and was in essence the first soundtrack specialist label, established long before the likes of Varese, Intrada, Silva Screen etc. CREAZIONI ARTISISTICHE MUSICALI to give the company its full title, decided to release all one hundred discs at once, but I don’t think that they really took into consideration that many collectors would be unable to finance the purchase of these one hundred titles, the early sets even came with a stand and storage to house them, but it was rare that a collector would buy the complete set, in fact a number of fans would buy them as individual CD’s and some were not even going for completion, but just simply buying the scores that they wanted.

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The first release in the series was in fact a double CD entitled TUTTO FELLINI which featured the music of Maestro Nino Rota, then followed the one hundred discs, which were later joined by a further twenty-five single compact discs. The titles within the encyclopaedia were all good scores and were also an Italian film music collectors dream come true.  It was great to see CORRI UOMO CORRI by Bruno Nicolai, THE PRICE OF POWER by Luis Bacalov, MAN PRIDE AND VENGEANCE by Carlo Rustichelli and scores such as VENERE IMPERIALE by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, SEDUCED AND ABANDONED by Carlo Rustichelli, INCONTRO by Morricone, LOS AMIGOS or DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS as it was known outside of Italy. by Danielle Patucchi, the list was literally endless. However because of the volume of releases and the cost of having to buy the set, the series was sadly soon deleted, and started to appear in a number of second hand shops in the UK, not sure how that happened, but I remember going into a shop in Soho and finding sixty of them at just one pound each. Did I buy them, what do you think?

 

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The other problem with the series was that many of the scores were very short in duration, don’t forget back in the 1960’S CAM were releasing double soundtrack LPS which featured two soundtracks on one album, so instead of adding any music that they had to the recording they just put it out as it was,  A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN for example was less than thirty minutes, and if you had to pay full price which was around twelve pounds it was expensive, staying with A MAN A HORSE AND GUN also, the version on the CD was different from the original LP record as released by CAM, the opening theme was missing the downtempo section that was introduced just before the end of the cue, plus there were some sound problems with the recording with one of the best tracks on the score FACCIA A TERRA sounding as if the tape had got caught up and pulled through and these had been re-mastered and had dolby surround sound. However the Soundtrack Encyclopaedia has since become a sought after item, but since CAM was taken over by Sugar music a few years back we have seen many of the soundtracks that were in the set re-issued on budget labels, which is good for collectors. The soundtrack encyclopaedia seemed like a good idea at the time, but sadly it was one of those items that did not work or sell that well and this was only due there being so many, I think if CAM had staggered its release and presented it in batches of five or even ten it would have been more popular. Many of the scores in the set have been re-issued again and again, but a handful have been re-issued by other labels who have listened to collectors and included extra tracks, one of these I am glad to say is Stelvio Cipriani’s A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, which was released by Hillside/GDM, who not only included extra cues but presented the soundtrack in a clear and restored sound, with the original opening cue also being included.

 

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They also used the original LP record art-work which is stunning. CORRI UOMO CORRI too was re-issued by Digit movies and included a great deal more music and the Tomas Milian version of the films theme song. Other soundtracks in the original series included DEAD MEN RIDE which was paired with DJANGO SHOOTS FIRST both by Bruno Nicolai, ESCALATION by Morricone which was in the first one hundred received a re-issue with improved sound.  Don’t get me wrong if you do happen to see any of these CDs in the shops or online and they are a good price, then do not hesitate to snap them up.

ENNIO MORRICONE. INNOVATIVE AND INVENTIVE. PART THREE, THE 1970’s.

 

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As the 1970’s dawned, Morricone showed little signs of slowing in his musical output, an output that has to be recognised the work of a genius, although the composer would probably have disagreed with anyone calling him a genius. Referring to the likes of Mozart and Bach and their prolific compositions. 1970, was a relatively quiet year for the composer, with him scoring ten movies and providing the already popular American TV series THE VIRGINIAN with a new theme (THE MEN FROM SHILO). Films that the Maestro worked on in 1970. Included LA CALIFFA, CITTA VIOLENTA, LE FOTO PROIBITE DI UNA SIGNORA PER BENE, HORNETS NEST, LA MOGLIE PIU BELLA, GIOCHI PARTICOLARE and the American produced western TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA.

 

The latter titles score having just been re-issued by American label La La Land records, on a double compact disc, that includes the film score and the original LP record edition but remastered.

 

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1970, may have been a relatively quiet year for Il Maestro, but the 1970’s as a whole were to prove as interesting for Morricone fans as the 1960’s were, and maybe at times even more so. The composer scored nearly one hundred and fifty films from 1970 through to 1979, and began to work with non-Italian directors and producers, the composer also re-united with a number of Italian filmmakers such as Sergio Leone, Sergio Sollima, Sergio Corbucci, Elio Petri, Damiano Damiani, Duccio Tessari and Bernardo Bertolucci, to name but a few.

 

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CHRISTOPHER SLASKI shares his memories of Il Maestro.

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REMEMBERING MORRICONE.

 

I must have been around 15 when I first became aware of the music of Ennio Morricone. The film was Cinema Paradiso.

Some years later, shortly before going university, I was accepted onto Morricone’s composition summer course at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena. For three weeks, I attended his classes entitled “Musica per Film” which included lectures, interviews, film screenings, musical analyses and composing music for a short film. The Accademia Musicale Chigiana was founded in 1932 and is situated in the Gothic Palazzo Chigi-Saracini.

 

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Like so many historic buildings in Italy, its ornate splendour is breath-taking. On the first day, I arrived with everyone else, a group of mainly young Italian music students, all hoping to become professional composers. We waited outside the imposing carved wooden doors of the hall where the classes were to be held, in an atmosphere of nervous anticipation.

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Having never seen a photo of Morricone, I had no idea what he looked like but, in my mind, I had created an image of him: a kind of human embodiment of his music to Cinema Paradiso. Punctually at 9am, a group of men arrived, surrounded by press photographers and TV cameras. The person whom I had assumed was Ennio Morricone, a professorial man with a grey beard and glasses, I soon discovered was the Italian musicologist Sergio Micceli. Next to Micceli, stood a serious looking man, simultaneously reserved yet confident, somewhat formal with half smile, dressed in a light blue polo; quite youthful and robust for someone in their mid-60s, thick-lensed glasses magnifying his eyes in a rather endearing way. He appeared to me slightly uncomfortable by his own celebrity, even slightly uneasy with all the attention, as though he didn’t believe he merited such a fuss. It certainly didn’t help matters that he was permanently surrounded by a crowd of over-enthusiastic public officials, journalists and students, making it almost impossible to find a moment to introduce oneself. Even though his star may not have yet reached the peak of its ascendance internationally, in Italy he was clearly and rightly considered to be a legend and treated as such.

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“Educate yourself with the entire history of western art music”, Morricone would tell us aspiring composers. This was what his teacher at the conservatory, Petrassi, had told him: “With Maestro Petrassi, we had to try to compose as they used to do in the past, starting from the year 1100 right up to modern times.” Armed with this encyclopaedic knowledge of music history and technique, Morricone hand-picked from the centuries of western music all the ingredients that appealed to him the most: the polyphony of Palestrina, the counterpoint of Frescobaldi and Bach, the theatre of Monteverdi and Vivaldi, the melody and verismo of Puccini, the harmony of Mahler, the impressionism of Ravel and Satie, the modernism and wit of Stravinsky, the dodecaphony of the Second Viennese School, the sonic-experimentations of the Darmstadt avant-garde, the sensuality of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Burt Bacharach and Bill Evans, adding to that a sprinkling of 60s and 70s Italian pop, big band jazz and psychedelic funk, and fused them together to create a totally unique style. 

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A lesser composer might have satisfied themselves with imitation, but Morricone’s immensity as a musician, whose talent was matched only by his Herculean work ethic, succeed in distilling all these musical ingredients into a musical language all of his own. 

If I had to take one memory away from those unforgettable weeks in Siena, it would be the sight of Morricone writing out a cue from The Mission – the moment in the score where all the different themes and motifs come together in miraculous combination: the oboe melody, the various ethnic choral chants, the Palestrina-inspired motet, the groups of percussion rhythms and the orchestra. Morricone had no piano and no computer, just a pen and paper and the hall was noisy and reverberant. So, just as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven had done before him, but which today is so rare, here was a composer writing down directly onto paper the music inside his head. Even the commotion around him didn’t seem to bother him at all and he notated a full orchestral score, just as easily as if writing a shopping list, and with equal speed. As if proof were needed, the hand-written pages were passed around the room, each student no doubt wishing they could hold onto them as a memento. The notes leaned slightly to the right, the result of his writing so quickly. It was at that moment that it suddenly dawned on me, the vast chasm that separates the merely talented from the truly brilliant. 

Alessandro Alessandroni
Alessandro Alessandroni

Some years ago, I was introduced to Alessandro Alessandroni, the composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist who had worked closely with Morricone on numerous occasions. Though a fine composer in his own right, Alessandroni was best known as the whistler on Morricone’s western soundtracks and director of I Cantori Moderni, the mixed chorus that can be heard on so many Italian soundtracks and whose star vocalist was Edda Dell’Orso. Her extraordinary voice became one of Morricone’s most characteristic solo instruments, and her vocal abilities have not been rivalled to this day. For his own interest, Alessandro made a point of transcribing most of the western scores from the records. During this exercise, he came to know Morricone’s methods quite well. His conclusion was this: 

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“Morricone’s musical nature is so vast that it allows him to write quite differently according to the theme of the film. Apart from more commercial themes that he writes in a conventional way, his film scores are mostly invented specifically for each film. For example, in a film [I don’t remember the title–in which I whistled] he used the 7th in place of the fundamental bass.

 

 

Sometimes he used the dodecaphonic method. In my opinion, he does not have a pre-ordained method, formula, theory or framework. Each time he writes, he invents a new “method” which seems like a formula, but it is actually invented specifically for each piece of music. With Takemitsu, it is easy to discover a general formula.  In “River Run” for instance: he has this huge overlapping from the lowest to the highest sound. Morricone, however, is completely intuitive. He has an amazing instinct, always inventing a new way to harmonise. This is why he writes differently every time he finds a film in front of him. His musical fantasy is dictated by the story.”  Having spent years transcribing and analysing Morricone’s music myself, and given that we now have access to his own writings and interviews, I am not convinced by the notion that he was purely intuitive, as least not in the sense that everything came to him spontaneously. I can see that he was a highly cerebral composer whose meticulous and rigorous compositional processes can be traced back to the late 1950s and 60s; experiments which he developed and refined gradually throughout his career and which pervade all his subsequent work. No doubt, he had intuition in bucket loads, but his extraordinary facility disguised a concentrated, organised and highly sophisticated musical mind. The music he wrote, the result of years of trial and error, experimentation and analysis, utilises all the sophisticated techniques of western art music from intervallic manipulation, motivic cell generation, canonic and imitative contrapuntal techniques and so on. He was a professional level chess player, after all, who had played against Kasparov. 

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Despite the intellect behind them, Morricone’s themes seem so natural, as if they had always existed and just needed to be plucked out of the air, yet when you analyse them more closely, they prove to be little studies in intervalic and motivic relationships and exercises in tonal patterns and permutations. When I asked him about melodic writing, it became apparent that he had spent a great deal of time contemplating the subject. His principal aim was always to avoid the predictable.  Although the first few notes of any one of his melodies might start fairly predictably, it’s in the second, third and fourth phrases where his gift lies. Just as you expect the melodic line to fall, it rises, when you think the phrase will end, it continues, when your brain tells you it’s going to resolve, it modulates.

 

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Consider the themes from Cinema ParadisoThe Mission and Jill’s Theme (from Once Upon a Time in the West), or indeed any number of his themes. The melodies are like waves, they undulate, back and forth, often moving by step and using a few selected intervallic leaps (the 6th in the case of Jill’s Theme) returning frequently to their tonal centre before resuming once again. Often, over a held pedal note, Morricone introduces pauses, like natural breaths in a conversation, creating a sense of expectation. More often than not, the melodic line rises to a point of maximum tension before finally resolving.

This tension and release leave’s the listener on an emotional high because, in music just as in other things, it is the broken expectation that gives rise to the greatest emotional response. This supreme gift for melody alone would be sufficient to raise Morricone’s music out of the ordinary into the realm of the exquisite but underpinning it are all the other characteristic musical fingerprints: the baroque-like harmonisations with their stepwise bass lines, the countermelodies, the striking chordal voicings, unexpected key changes, the avoidance of four-square phrases, the use of counterintuitive instrumental combinations to create timbres that, once heard, cannot be forgotten and the Mahlerian suspended harmonies. In his liner notes that accompany his homage album “Cinema Italiano”, Henry Mancini writes of the powerful influence of Mahler on Morricone. I assume he was referring in particular to Mahler’s Adagietto from the 5th Symphony

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A further striking element of Morricone’s music is a harmonic technique he adapted from dodecaphonic or 12-tone music to suit tonal music. As a result of marrying the tonal requirements of film music with his own personal and artistic need to express his modernist tendencies, he invented something quite new. Oddly, the technique I am referring to is rarely mentioned, let alone analysed in writings about his music, possibly due to its inherent complexity, although it is explored in the wonderful book “Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words [Inseguendo quel suono], conversations with Alessandro De Rosa. Even there, though, the explanation is not easy to fully understand. Morricone first used it in his 1964 arrangement of the song Nel Corso on an album by Gino Paoli. Put simply, it consists of staggered entries by sustained strings, producing harmonic suspensions which cloud the tonal harmony and disguise the sense of pulse. It is a highly characteristic means of harmonisation that can be heard over multiple scores after 1964. It is particularly beautifully rendered by the strings in his score for Lolita for instance.

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 In Croce d’amore (From Metti una Sera a Cena) the same technique is used, but the effect is far more strident when played by the brass. For me personally, this way of harmonising is one of the most characteristic aspects of Morricone’s compositional style and, as far as I know, has not been attempted by anyone else. I will try to explain in greater detail for the more analytically minded:

 

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Instead of using all 12 notes of the chromatic scale, such as Schoenberg or Webern would have done, he uses just 7 notes at a time, namely the major or minor triad, plus the added 6th, major or minor 7th, 9th and 11th notes of the harmony in various octave transpositions. He “dirties” the resulting harmony by introducing a note from the subsequent chord a fraction early, thereby introducing a temporary dissonance into an otherwise diatonic background. In other words, he uses “added notes” to enrich the basic triadic harmony and in this way, produces the most sublime inversions of diatonic harmonies which evolve vertically and continuously, like a harmonic mist that, when played by the strings, floats around the melodic line. The effect is an impressionistic haze, a kaleidoscope of harmony, and if you have the chance to see a score page, you will notice dots of notes spread over the sheet, suspended across bar lines, which make up the ensemble –  that is a uniquely Morriconian sound. I have attempted to replicate it in some of my own music as a homage (eg. CamaleonCarol of the BellsSuzanne’s Theme)  and although I am able to do a fairly good impression of it, I have not discovered a formula with which to generate this effect automatically. I am, however, convinced that one exists, because the results that Morricone achieves are always so recognisably similar, independent of the piece of music to which he applies this technique. Some musicologist, far cleverer than me, would need to study Morricone’s music to work out exactly what is going on.  

 

Never to be underestimated, is the effect that collaborating with film directors can have on a composer’s musical development. Morricone’s initial attempts at scoring films were relatively undistinguished and didn’t exhibit much evidence of the marvels to come. Indeed, Sergio Leone hadn’t been overwhelmed by Morricone’s previous efforts and had apparently rejected the initial musical ideas that Morricone submitted for A Fistful of Dollars. It seems that Morricone’s genius was lying in wait but required a fuse to be lit, so to speak. 

Had Leone not suggested it, would Morricone have considered scoring the film A Fistful of Dollars with a version of his own 1962 arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s Pastures of Plenty including whip cracks, bells, male chorus and electric guitar? Personally, I very much doubt it. Morricone’s arrangement was totally unrelated to the film, but Sergio Leone liked it so much that he asked Morricone for this arrangement to form the basis of the music for his film. So, Morricone replaced the melody with one of his own and that laid the foundation for what we know today as Italian-Western-Music. 

 

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Without the prodding and cajoling of Leone and the other hundreds of film directors he worked with, without the visual and emotional stimuli of all those striking images and stories he worked with, I wonder whether Morricone’s greatest gifts would ever have been discovered. From my own experience, I have been amazed how film makers, even though they are primarily visual artists, are often able to spot opportunities for unconventional audio-visual pairing. A composer left on their own, will often come up with something rather conventional and safe, unless they are pushed and given the green light to spread their wings. Leone encouraged Morricone to step outside the box and fortunately, due to his years of studying and composing sophisticated western art music and as a brilliant arranger of pop and light music, Morricone had the practical experience and the technical knowhow to rise to the challenge. 

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Though I attended almost all his concerts in London and some in Spain and Italy, including his very last in Lucca in June 2019, the last time I met Morricone personally was in Rome in 2001. I was, by then, already working as a professional composer myself and I had been sent by a film production company to visit the studio Forum Village, with the intention of recording there. I was invited to attend a recording session for La Ragion Pura, directed by Silvano Agosti. Morricone would have been 73 by then, but was totally in command (and was even paying for the sessions out of his own pocket, such was his loyalty to the director and his desire that the music be recorded properly, despite the low budget). I suspect, had I told him that he still had 20 years of work left ahead of him, that he would gain two Oscars, conduct dozens of major concerts all over the world and in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators, be awarded France’s Legion d’Honneur, Spain’s most prestigious Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts, perform at the United Nations and at the Vatican in the presence of the Pope, I doubt he would have believed me.

For some reason, that day, there was a rather ‘delicate’ atmosphere in the studio, and everyone was slightly on edge. It appeared, from my understanding of the situation, that a journalist from the press who had not been officially invited, had somehow managed to Gatecrash the studio and try to initiate an unscheduled interview. When Morricone realised what was happening, he was, understandably, not amused. After a few stern remarks, the journalist and his camera were hastily ejected from the control room and the recording resumed. So, when the time came for me to re-introduce myself to Morricone and to thank him for allowing me to attend, I was a little nervous. Fortunately, there was no need. He was as gracious and as friendly as could be.

 

Now, just a few days after Morricone’s death, I am still in shock. I am gradually coming to accept that Morricone, the man, is no longer with us. For me, this leaves a huge, gaping hole. He had become a huge musical figure for me, and also for thousands of other composers around the world. He has been a role model whom I have admired and whose music has inspired me for 30 years, perhaps more so than any other composer. Fortunately, his work remains with us and for us, in all its glory. We can continue to listen to it, to study it, to perform it and to be inspired by it. 

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With time, I had come to discover that beneath the slightly forbidding exterior, there was a man of warmth, generosity and modesty who showed to the world a dignified humanity befitting of his status as an artist. Age it seems, increasingly reduced his capacity to disguise his emotions, and it was when he walked onto the stage to collect his first Oscar that I first saw the amour crack. As his eyes welled up with tears and he expressed, in a tremulous voice, his love for his wife and family, this now frail and elderly man was allowing us a glimpse into the soul at the heart of all that wondrous music. Finally, there he was, the man whose image I had created in my mind all those years ago – the composer of Cinema Paradiso. 

 

Christopher Slaski, Composer, arranger and conductor. July 2020

 

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A PERSONAL NOTE.

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My memories of Maestro Morricone, are not as up close and personal as many, my memories are more about when I discovered his music, when I got my first LP when I really knew that this was a composer who was so special, I am in no way qualified to talk of this giant of film music, no way am I even able to speak of him in the way many others do because they have met him encountered his ways or even had the honour of being in close proximity to him. As I say my musical memories are just that, memories personal to me, like when I first heard THE BIG GUNDOWN in the cinema, the music straight away impacted upon me and I knew before the credits revealed it that it was Ennio Morricone. I think I was 14 at the time, cant be sure, but I know it was close to my birthday because I got the album of the soundtrack from my parents  after a long search that ended in Bellman’s department store in Brighton UK on a wet Saturday afternoon. It was also the memories of Morricone that I still associate with day trips to London and to the record shops in Soho, flicking through endless albums looking for something that was maybe rare or something that one did not even know existed, Morricone again linked me to Michael Jones, 58 Dean street, Harlequin records and all the other shops that were spread across the Capital. It was also via Morricone that my love of the Italian western grew, and also the discovery of so many other Italian composers, it was also because of this Maestro that I met Lionel Woodman, who introduced me to Sandro Alessandroni, he in turn put me in touch with BEAT records, Franco and Danielle De Gemini, Nico Fidenco, Armando Trovajoili, Franco Micalizzi, GDM records, Cinevox records, Claudio Fuiano, Piero Piccioni, Nora Orlandi, Sir Christopher Frayling, Laurence Staig and so many more. Thank you, Maestro, thank you.

John Mansell. 2020.  

 

 

 So, to the 1970,s where the composer would continue to astound and amaze with his musical excellence, his flawless soundtracks often supporting movies and television projects that to be honest were not worthy. But of course, there were just as many that were wonderful examples of filmmaking and a source of entertainment for many. As I briefly mentioned the titles that were key works for the Maestro in 1970, I will move to 1971, previously (in part two) we discussed Giallo films such as CAT O NINE TAILS and FOUR FLIES OF GREY VELVET, both directed by Dario Argento, and there was also Leone’s DUCK YOU SUCKER in this year, Morricone however continued to work on smaller productions during this period and sometimes these would include movies produced in Italy that would not receive a release outside of Europe or if they did, this would not be for a few years after their initial release, FORZA G, VERUSCHKA, OCEANO, SACCO AND VANZETTI were all key works in the composers growing body of work for the cinema. INCONTRO, LE CASSE, MADDELENA, MIO CARO ASSASSINO and many more were movies that all benefitted from the composers musical Midas touch in 1971, which again just shows us how prolific Il Maestro was.

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The distinct and ever evolving sound of Morricone, would take a greater leap in the 1970’s. With the composer beginning to work with more and more non-Italian directors, John Badham for example on EXORCIST ll-THE HERETIC being one of these. But even though the movies or projects he scored were not always the best, his music remained of a high quality. One score in 1971 stood out for me, this was the composers nerve jangling and atmospheric soundtrack to, SENZA MOVENTE or WITHOUT APPARENT MOTIVE, this may not be his most dramatic or romantic score, but it has to it an intense sense of tension which the composer constructs via, the fusing of electronic and symphonic sounds, he also includes a haunting whistle courtesy of Alessandro Alessandroni. It is at times apprehensive but also contains a reserved and melodic consistency. The composers use of subtle woodwinds, is affecting and tantalising, Morricone building his score around the central theme that opens the proceedings. Elements of this theme can be heard throughout the work, which holds the score together, giving it a sound that is not uniform as in all the same, but perpetual and complimenting. Other scores that stood out in 1971 included SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS directed by Aldo Lado and VERUSCHKA POETRY OF A WOMAN directed by Franco Rubatelli, the latter being a somewhat off beat and at times psychedelic experience, which as a film really did not achieve anything, but again the score was inspired and memorable.

 

Also, in 1971, Morricone penned one of his most emotive and sensitive scores, INCONTRO, was directed by Piero Schivazappa. And starred Massimo Ranieri, Florinda Bolkan, Claudio Giorgi, and Mariangela Melato. It is a tale of passion, deceit, and love where a young man and a married woman embark upon an affair. Bolkan’s character is married to a successful businessman who is neglecting her. She decides that she should leave her husband but becomes worried about the age gap between her and her lover (Ranieri). Although INCONTRO only contains approx: 40 mins of music, it is an affecting score, the composer introducing the simple and delicate theme with solo piano, to which he adds violin, and slight sounding underlying strings that give it a comforting and luxurious sound. Subdued percussion is brought into the equation as the Maestro begins to develop the central theme which is romantic and literally oozes fragility. The delicate and emotive theme builds slightly but soon melts away and returns to its beginnings with solo piano and supporting strings which are low key, which brings the cue to its conclusion. It is without a doubt one of the composers most emotive sounding pieces for film.

 

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Also, in 1971 THE FIFTH CORD was released, but Morricone’s score was not to see the light of day on a recording until 1996, with just one track from the score being included on his COLORI album on the General Music label back in the 1970’s. An album that at the time of its release was already rare. As always, the score was excellent with the composer relying upon the unique voice of Edda Dell Orso whose quivering and sinister vocalise brought a greater sense of apprehension and created an uneasy atmosphere.

 

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Another score by the Maestro from 1971, was Damiano Damiani’s THE CASE IS CLOSED FORGET IT!  This is a very brief score by the composer, who was instructed by the director to not write a lot of music for the picture, the soundtrack also included a cue by Luis Bacalov and electronic music by Walter Branchi.

 

 

One of my personal favourites from the 1970’s is ADDIO FRATELLO CRUDELE (TIS PITY SHE’S AWHORE) which starred Oliver Tobias, Fabio Testa and Charlotte Rampling, based upon the play by John Ford it is thought that the earliest performance of this story took place during the 1600’s. Morricone’s score is exquisite, the music was issued on CAM records as a double LP set which also included INCONTRO, but it was an album that did not seem to interest the fans, with cover art that was said to be drab and uninspiring.

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 LIZARD IN A WOMANS SKIN or UNA LUCERTOLA CON LA PELLE DI DONNA again is classic Morricone, but never received a release at the time of the films release, even though a record company had planned a release which included the entire score. It was not until a few years later that Italian label Dagored released the score on both LP and then Compact disc, this is a soundtrack that is fairly typical of the style of Ennio Morricone during this period, with the composer fusing dramatic and an easy melodic sound to great effect.

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1971 was also the year of OCEANO, THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA, THE WORKING CLASS GO TO HEAVEN, GLI OCCHI FREDDI DELLA PAURA and IL DECAMERON.

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1972, was another busy year for the composer, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE, MY DEAR KILLER, BLUEBEARD, L’ATTENTATO, WHO SAW HER DIE, LA COSSA BUFFA, DEVIL IN THE BRAIN and A MAN TO RESPECT being just a few films that contained atmospheric and memorable music written by Morricone. One score that I always find is overlooked from 1972 is ANCHE SE VOLESSI LAVORARE CHE FACCIO? Which I think I am right when I say was the first score that was not conducted by Bruno Nicolai since FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, with Nicola Samale taking up the baton.

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Released on the Cinevox record label, it was for me a great find as I had not heard anything about it or indeed had not heard any discussions concerning it between fellow collectors at the time. It was brought to my attention by Michael Jones who was at the time running the Italian soundtrack side of things from 58 DEAN street records. The film which was a dramatic comedy told the story of a group of friends who turn to a life of crime and decide to steal archaeological treasures from tombs and sell them to private collectors for vast sums of money. The police of course are always one step behind them and never quite manage to catch up with them. This is a hilarious Italian comedy romp that contains numerous gags and a lot of visual comedy. Directed by Flavio Magherini who had up until this point in his career been a set designer but decided to have a change of direction in the industry and helm the film making process on this occasion. Morricone’s score is in a word CLASSIC, by this I mean it contains every musical trademark that we associate with the Maestro, quirky and jaunty backgrounds, romantic and poignant melodies, infectious and haunting musical interludes and emotive and heartrending passages that just melt the listener.  The CD re-issue was also on Cinevox, and the company released it in the November of 2003, it contains a little more music than the LP recording in fact there are four extra cues included but these only have a combined running time of 5 mins 43 secs, but I suppose it’s better than a straight re-issue of the original album. The first of these is just 22 secs in duration and is a romantically laced few seconds that is performed by the string section.

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Track number 12, is an alternative take on the scores central theme and is slightly slower in tempo and there are a few pieces of instrumentation absent but there again there are also a few little trills and stabs present that are entertaining and interesting, track 14, is also another version of the central theme, this time entitled FINALE it is again slightly different with Alessandro Alessandroni being given more whistling to carry out within the cue, and there seems to be more quirky things occurring in the background on this occasion as well. There is a story attached to this score for me personally, I was doing some work for GDI on Hammer film music and they decided maybe they should branch out and do other film music, I saw this as a chance to see if they could do an Italian score and what better composer than Morricone. I had known Cinevox before via my collecting, so I just picked up the phone and got Carlo Bagnola who was gracious and very helpful.  I explained the situation and asked about this particular score, I remember he laughed and said something on the lines of “GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE”, he told me the CD was due for release, and he would send me a copy, so GDI never got their Italian soundtrack but Cinevox re-issued this gem (he sent me five copies). The compact disc opens with LEI SE NE MORE, which is a plaintive and emotive composition, faint piano ushers in sliding strings that are augmented and punctuated by harpsichord flourishes, the tempo is then increased as the composer adds a laid back beat to the proceedings and enters into a highly melodic but easy listening type interlude, this halts and after a brief pause continues with the laid back backing, the composer then introduces choir and syrupy romantic strings the two elements combining to create a track made in heaven and one that is pure Morricone. jumping forward to track number 3, TRAMONTO (VERSIONE 1), again a magical infusion of the style and sound that can only be Morricone, Celeste punctuated by bass guitar introduce a flawless whistling performance courtesy of Alessandroni, it is a piece that conjures up an early morning in Rome with its familiar skyline shrouded in early morning cloud and tinged with the orange and pinks of the sunrise, in other words mesmerizing and stunning.  Track number 4, ANGHINGO (VERSIONE CON CORO)  is an energetic and fun piece light in its style with a jaunty background that acts as support for a pleasing choral vocal performance with a descending whistle being added in places, this is a feel good cue, filled with positive and vibrant vitality.

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The four cues that open the CD are in fact repeated in tracks 7,8,9 and 10. But in different manifestations, they have different instrumentation, vocals are orchestral etc etc, all in all this is a wonderful soundtrack and I am so pleased that Cinevox did re-issue it as I think if it did not get a compact disc release it might have fallen into the dusty vaults in Rome and stayed there forever.

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1973, this was the year of REVOLVER, LE SERPENT, MASSACRE IN ROME, SPACE 1999, WHEN LOVE IS LUST, LE DUE STAGIONE DELLA VITA, SEPOLTA VIVA, GIORDANO BRUNO, PROPERTY IS NO LONGER A THEFT, CRESCETE E MOLTIPLICATEVI and many others. SEPOLTA VIVA, is a score that I think stands out from this year, it is a soundtrack that I have had in my collection for years, firstly on a BEAT LP record, and then with a CD release from the same label that paired it with two sections from Morricone’s THE ANTICHRIST score (1974) which had been released as a 45rpm single on BEAT. SEPOLTA VIVA is Ennio Morricone at his emotive best, the score is filled with melancholy and overflowing with a rich and tender abundance of themes. This fully symphonic and classical sounding work is a must have item for any Morricone fan and even now stands as one of the Maestro’s finer works from the 1970’s. There are so many themes within the score, each containing their own unique sound and musical persona, but at the same time all having the unmistakable musical stamp of Morricone. We are treated to lush and rich love themes, chamber slanted works, and a scattering of dramatic and mysterious sounding pieces. The composers utilises solo piano, melodic and romantic sounding woods which are underpinned by light use of organ and sliding strings in the opening of the first cue ROMANZA A CHRISTINA, this slight but affecting introduction soon builds and the swelling string section begin to become even more protuberant. The strings then take on fully the central theme and enhanced by piano start to develop it to a greater level, the strings rising and bringing to life the haunting and eloquent theme. There is an intimacy and a fragility to the work which makes it even more endearing and affecting. The subtle nuances and delicate tone poems being perfect for the storyline and various scenarios and again as with most of the composers romantically laced works highly listenable and entertaining away from the images on screen. Within the work we can hear that this is undeniably Morricone, a sound that has been utilised in numerous other scores, a sound that is instantly recognisable and one that is also totally absorbing. There is no choral work within the score, but beautiful piano work and heartrending violin solos, are featured throughout. It is another one of Morricone’s evergreen scores.

 

 

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 1974,  ITV in the UK aired a six part series entitled MOSES THE LAWGIVER, the mini-series was divided into six one hour episodes and shown every Sunday early evening, I think this was the only time it was actually screened in the UK although later an edited version did appear which was cut down to just two hours, in many ways this edited version seemed to be more powerful and also because of the four hours of film that was shed easier to watch and understand. The series starred Burt Lancaster in the title role and his son William as a younger version of Moses. The RAI television production all had an all-star cast, with the likes of Anthony Quayle, Ingrid Thulin and Irene Papas taking key roles, the series was narrated by Richard Johnson, and had a dramatic and highly emotional soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone. Directed by Gianfranco De Bosio who also had a hand in writing the series this was a superb telling of the story of Moses and his early life and his quest to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and slavery. The series also had some convincing special effects which were courtesy of famed Italian film maker Mario Bava. The musical score proved to be challenging for Morricone as he said at the time of the production that he struggled to create music for a story ages old using what was essentially a modern musical palette. However, what the composer did produce was a stunning and remarkable score, filled with drama and overflowing with poignant and effecting themes. The music was issued onto LP record on RCA in Italy and got a release via PYE records in many other territories including the UK. Sadly, not all the music was included on the LP recording, simply because there was just far too much to fit onto a conventional LP. Morricone had written well over two hours of music for the series with the work including additional music by Dov Seltzer. A compact disc was released by RCA (OST 113 (2) in 1992, which was a double CD containing nearly one hour and forty minutes of the score, which according to the sleeve notes is the complete soundtrack save one cue of just over six minutes which the composer felt was unsuitable o include. As far as I know this is the only CD release to date of this score. I think this is another case of a Morricone soundtrack that is overlooked and rarely spoken of and one that is overshadowed by the composer’s other works. I did notice on the CD release that Morricone is credited for conducting the score, however on all the LP releases and also on the credits of the series the conducting was credited to Bruno Nicolai, which makes sense as Nicolai was still collaborating as a conductor with Morricone during this very busy and fertile period of the composers career.  The choral work was excellent as always and performed by IL CANTORI MODERNI, with solo performances by Gianna Spagnola whose distinct vocals added so much depth and authenticity to the proceedings.

 

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One of the many stand out cues is ISRAEL (track 3, disc 1) in which we hear IL CANTORI MODERNI performing just the word ISRAEL underlined by a mix of percussive instrumentation that builds and grows as the voices increase in volume, in many way it is similar to ABOLICA from QUEIMADA, which Morricone scored some five years before, it is a joyous and celebratory sound that is achieved with a sound and style that can only be Ennio Morricone. Gianna Spagnola features many times within the score for MOSES THE LAWGIVER, and LAMENTAZIONE PRIMA and LAMENTAZIONE SECONDA are both what I would call classic sounding Morricone, being both emotional and at the same time somewhat foreboding. Violinist and viola player, Dino Asciolla, also featured on the score and produced some of the most heartfelt performances.

 

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SPASMO, THE ANTICHRIST, FATTI DI GENTE PERBENE, THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, THE HUMAN FACTOR, LEONOR, SESSO IN CONFESSIONALE, IL SEGRETO, LA CUGINA, are all credits from 1974, and AROUND THE WORLD WITH THE LOVERS OF PEYNET, which had a theme by Morricone and a score penned by Alessandro Alessandroni. The 1970.s was certainly fruitful decade for the composer who continued to invent musical genres and create inventive and innovative music for the cinema, in 1976 he scored NOVECENTE (1900) for filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci. Creating the haunting composition ROMANZO for the movie, with Bertolucci saying “That without knowing it Morricone had probably created more than one national anthem for Italy during his career”.

 

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Also, in that year he conducted and arranged, Cesare Andrea Bixio’s score for DIVINE CREATURE, aswell as writing the highly emotive music for L’ AGNESE VA LA MORIRE and the atmospheric score for DESERT OF THE TARTARS.  1977, saw Morricone scoring, ORCA KILLER WHALE, IL GATTO, AUTOSTOP ROSSO SANGUE, IL PREFETTO DI FERRO, the TV series GOTHIC DRAMAS, 122, RUE DE PROVENCE and the ill-fated EXORCIST ll THE HERETIC. As the 1970.s drew to a close, Morricone worked on films such as ORGO, IL PRATO, IL VIZIETTO, COSI COME SEI, L’IMMORALITA, I COME ICARE and DAYS OF HEAVEN, the latter being for director Terrence Malick in 1978, which earned the composer his first Oscar nomination.

 

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In the 1980’s more American assignments would follow, and Morricone would also become more in demand than he was in the 1960’s and 1970’s if that was at all possible.

SAVING LENINGRAD.

 

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Yuri Anatolievich Poteyenko, was born on  December 5, 1960,  he is a Russian composer of film music and  has been the recipient of the Golden Eagle Award for best original film music no les than four times, he won the awards in 2010,2013, 2016 and 2018.  His scores for motion pictures which are produced in The Russian Federation are vibrantly thematic and filled with overwhelming and highly emotive compositions, his style evokes what many of us film music collectors look upon as being grandiose and symphonic as opposed to containing numerous samples and electronic instrumentation. His works for cinema among some of the most melodic and lush that I have heard in many years. A lot of his scores are available on KEEP MOVING RECORDS, who themselves have an impressive and varied catalogue of film music. Poteyenko, scored the Russian made SAVING LENINGRAD in 2019, the film which was directed by Aleksey Kozlov, is an action packed movie set in 1941 and based upon true events which took place at Lake Ladoga.

 

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During the evacuation of people from Leningrad, a barge was bombed by Nazi warplanes and sunk sending it to the bottom of the lake, taking with it more than 1,000 souls most of whom were civilians. At the same time, nearly 500 more people  were killed on a barge that was being towed by the gunship, “Selemdzha”, which was carrying fuel and military supplies to Leningrad. Few were saved. The film takes place during the fight on the Eastern Front and builds up to start of the German Siege of Leningrad. The musical score is robust, vibrant and most of all affecting, it contains a number of action led pieces, but also has within it emotive and sensitive compositions, which the composer blends flawlessly into the more dramatic cues and underlines the storyline with these perfectly. This is a large-scale score with the music being performed by The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia. There are also a few synthetic sounds within the work, but these are minimal as the composer relies upon the symphonic rather than the drone like synthetic. This for me is what a film score should be, it is not just supportive of the movie, but also has to it an aura and a musical persona that as a collector of movie scores have not heard or experienced for a while, this is a breath of fresh symphonic and luxuriously thematic air and I ask you to check it out, you will not be disappointed. Recommended, available from Keep Moving records.

https://keepmovingrecords.com/product/saving-leningrad/