The Music of Ennio Morricone

On Sunday (Feb. 25th) Ennio Morricone will receiving an Honorary “Lifetime Achievement” Oscar at this years’ Academy Awards ceremony to celebrate his contribution to the art of film music. It’s unbelievable that it’s taken the Academy so long to recognize Morricone’s incredible contribution to cinema, but thankfully they’re going to try and make up for past mistakes on Sunday night.

Unfortunately it seems that during the Oscar show Celine Dion will be performing a tribute to Morricone, which I can’t understand. The talented Edda Dell’Orso, who has contributed amazing vocals to countless Morricone tunes is still alive and performing, so it seems really strange to me that Dion will be performing at the Oscars to honor Morricone instead of Dell’Orso. I also think Dion’s vocal abilities pale in comparison to Dell’Orso’s.

Ennio Morricone has long been one of my favorite film composers. I grew up in a household where Hugo Montenegro’s Music From ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ & ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ & ‘For A Few Dollars More’ got a lot of play and even though it wasn’t exactly Morricone’s original score, the record made a huge impression on me and helped shape my deep appreciation of film scores. When I started collecting soundtracks in the 1980s, Morricone’s original score for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly was one of the first ones I bought and it’s still my favorite western score.

Trailer for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (music by Ennio Morricone)

When I think about my favorite westerns, Ennio Morricone’s music immediately comes to mind. It’s hard not to be moved by the somber sounds of wailing harmonicas, Spanish horns, echoing whistles and Edda Dell’Orso’s haunting vocals that manage to perfectly bring to life the dirty, dusty and violent west that lives in my imagination. It’s tough to pick a favorite when it comes to Morricone’s soundtracks for spaghetti westerns because he composed so many great ones, including the scores for A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Death Rides A Horse (1967), My Name Is Nobody (1973), and A Bullet for the General (1966) but The God, The Bad and The Ugly holds a special place in my movie-loving heart. I’m also really fond of Morricone’s score for The Great Silence (aka Il Grande silenzio) which he recorded in 1968.

The Great Silence is an incredible westerns directed by Sergio Corbucci and it stars Klaus Kinski in one of his most memorable roles as a vicious bounty hunter who’s being tracked down by a gunman out for revenge called Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant). Morricone’s score for The Great Silence perfectly captures the mood of Corbucci’s film, which is set in a small dirty town as well as the snow-covered mountains of Utah. The main character of the film is called Silence because he can not speak due to having his tongue violently cut out when he was a young boy so the film has very little dialogue compared to some other westerns. The “silence” in the film gives Morricone’s score room to really breath and come alive in ways that are extremely powerful and often very moving. It’s an incredible score for an exceptional film that is filled with many beautiful as well as brutal moments.

Trailer for The Great Silence (music by Ennio Morricone)

Besides Italian westerns, Ennio Morricone has created some incredible scores for some of my favorite Italian horror films and thrillers including Nightmare Castle (1965),The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Fifth Cord (1971), My Dear Killer (1972), Who Saw Her Die? (1972), Bluebeard (1972) A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) and Mario Bava’s action-packed Danger: Diabolik (1968).

I think Morricone’s giallo scores are among the best film scores he ever recorded and I find myself listening to them more then any other soundtracks that I own. These scores really show off his diversity as a composer since they often include a wide variety of musical styles. From jazzy beats to haunting melodies, Morricone’s giallo soundtracks are filled with memorable music that is often complemented by the vocal stylings of the great Edda Dell’Orso.

One of Morricone’s greatest giallo scores was composed for Massimo Dallamano’s film What Have You Done to Solange? (aka Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?) recorded in 1972. This complex soundtrack features moody instrumentals, unusual rhythms and sharp horns. It also includes some surprisingly playful pieces of music as well. His score for What Have They Done to Solange? is one of Morricone’s most experimental and it’s also one of his darkest, which makes it extremely complimentary to Dallamano’s deeply disturbing film.

Trailer for What Have You Done to Solange? (music by Ennio Morricone)

Another one of Ennio Morricone’s best giallo scores was created for Luciano Ercoli’s Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (aka Le Foto proibite di una signora per bene) recorded in 1970. Ercoli’s fascinating film is more mystery then horror and has lots of bare skin and very little bloodshed. The score showcases Morricone’s Bossa influences and pop beats while highlights the sexier aspects of Ercoli’s giallo but still manages to be extremely suspenseful at all the right moments.

Trailer for Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (music by Ennio Morricone)

I have a lot of favorite Morricone scores and this post only highlights a few of them. Hopefully it has introduced a couple of people to scores they haven’t heard or at least encouraged someone to seek out his more obscure work. He’s composed hundreds of amazing scores for films and I’ve only heard about 30 or 40 myself so I’m looking forward to discovering a lot more gems hidden away in Ennio Morricone’s incredible discography. I’m also looking forward to seeing Clint Eastwood (I hope!) present Morricone with his long overdue Oscar on Sunday night.

Ennio Morricone’s Offical Website –

Fan Run Music Blog – Morricone Lover

For lots more Oscar talk and links to more Morricone related articles stop by Dennis Cozzalio’s great film blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule

4 thoughts on “The Music of Ennio Morricone

  1. I’m in general agreement with you. Morricone’s most interesting scores were for the westerns and giallo for the most part. One of my favorite scores though, not mentioned, is for 1900. Congratulations on Cinedelica by the way. I hope to check out Kommisar X soon.

  2. I was really disappointed that the Academy basically ignored Morricone’s horror film scores and gave his westerns very little attention during last nights show. 1900 got some play and it’s a terrific dramatic score. I also really liked his score for Days of Heaven which got some play last night as well. It seems like Morricone’s scores started getting overly dramatic in the 1980s and he stopped experimenting a lot, which is a shame but he’s an amazing composer and it was great to see him except his award last night from Clint Eastwood.

    I did enjoy the show a lot last night, but I was disappointed that Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t win Best Foreign Film. I really like Guillermo del Toro and his enthusiasm and love for movies is really heartfelt.

    Last but not least – I hope you enjoy the Kommissar X flicks! I think they’re a lot of fun.

  3. The Oscars take themselves and the movies far too seriously — comedy is rarely honored, for example. Same for low-budget films or the horror genre…

  4. My mind changes constantly regarding who I feel is the best film composer–Ennio Morricone or Bernard Hermann are the usual top contenders–but I am still awestruck by how MANY films Ennio has contributed to. I believe the number for the maestro is currently around 500! Just unbelievable!

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