Last week marked the passing of Ennio Morricone. Although the death of someone is always a sad thing, over his 91 years he managed to pack a lot in. Composing for cinema and television, as well as classical and avant garde composition, he created over 500 scores. Its a mammoth achievement that is only matched by its level of quality, experimentation and, at its highest points, some of the greatest compositions ever made.
Probably best known for his iconic spaghetti western compositions, Morricone continued to push the boundaries of classical composition by adding his interest in avant garde music into them, but for me his greatest achievement was his ability to turn these unconventional approaches into tracks that seemed so natural they resonate with anyone.
From the choice of instrumentation, which blended modern and orchestral, to the track structures that used current and traditional techniques, his scores always managed to both enhance the scenes they accompanied and be incredible pieces of music in their own right.
With so many tracks that are worth mentioning it’s hard to pick one but as I’ve already given my favorite (Gabrielle’s Oboe) a previous track of the week I decided to go for “The Man with the Harmonica“ from “Once Upon a Time in the West.”
Maybe not as well known as his more iconic tracks from the Dollars Trilogy, “The Man with the Harmonica” is a sinister track that slowly escalates with its slow string arpeggios, which have become a staple of many tension building scenes in modern cinema. The piece also exemplifies his ability to blend different instrumentation with electric guitar and harmonica intertwined into the more classical orchestration.
The piece both aids the story in “Once Upon a Time in the West” and works on its own as a piece of thrilling music worthy of your time: