A Fistful of Soundtracks: Remembering Ennio Morricone

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The tragic news of beloved composer Ennio Morricone’s death at the age of 91 has shaken movie and music lovers alike all over the globe. Known for his mesmerizing film scores and pioneering role in the evolution of the Spaghetti Western as a genre, his career spanned over fifty years, with humble beginnings writing music for radio shows in the early 1950s.

As tribute to an industry legend, Gadgets has identified a very few iconic soundtracks out of Morricone’s repertoire and listed them here, in no particular order.

Main Theme – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

 ▶️ Play it here

No Mexican stand-off would be complete without this iconic music. Imitated and emulated hundreds of times in different movies and TV shows, it is the quintessential cowboy composition, producing images of dusty plains, rolling tumbleweeds and men ready to clutch their pistols from their hip-holsters. Such is the legacy of this move that the title itself has become a linguistic expression when intricately describing all aspects to any particular, by referring to its good side, its bad side, and its ugly side.

Gabriel’s Oboe – The Mission (1986)

 ▶️ Play it here

The acclaimed soundtrack for the 1986 movie ‘The Mission’ earned Morricone a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. The oboe was used as an instrument by Father Gabriel to befriend the Guarani natives, and the waterfall scene has become iconic in its own right.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

 ▶️ Play it here

Morricone’s use of swells and vocal harmonies entrance viewers in the romantic image of an early New York, with migrant settlers moving in and trying to create new lives for themselves and their families. The beauty and romance is juxtaposed by the harsh realities of gangsters and criminal life.

The Ecstasy of Gold – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The main plot of the movie revolves around the desperate search for hidden treasure. The music plays while the titular ‘Ugly’ frenetically searches for the money in the graveyard, knowing that the treasure lies in an unmarked grave. The title of this masterpiece perfectly complements the slow and steady anticipation in the buildup to the ecstatic crescendo.

Main Theme – Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Another legendary western soundtrack, vocals provided by Edda Dell’ Orso conjure dream-like images of a sweeping desert landscape. An interesting factoid is that legendary director Sergio Leone would play the music on set, hoping for the actors to absorb the spirit of the movie through the music and improve their performances. In order to do so, Morricone had to compose the entire film score before shooting even started. 

Main Theme – For a Few Dollars More (1965)

The popular twang and whistle, combined with rough chanting and church bells set the scene for the perfect Western movie, with the twist of a bank heist. The sequel to ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, it is the second movie in the revered ‘Dollars Trilogy’, closing off with the afore-mentioned ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso – Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Not as popular as the other movies mentioned, this movie won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1989. This touching theme was composed by Morricone and his son, a fitting duo to compose music about the relationship between a young boy and an older cinema projectionist.

Morricone’s legacy will forever be intertwined with his work in the Western genre, re-defining soundtracks. His themes have left a permanent mark on music, and his reverence among great modern composers such as Yo-Yo Ma and Hans Zimmer is manifest testament to the musical footprint he has left on the movie industry.

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