The Film Music of Ennio Morricone (RIP) Beautifully Performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra Play: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” & Much More

What we think of as “film music” today is a cre­ation of only a few inven­tive and orig­i­nal com­posers, one few­er of whom walks the Earth as of yes­ter­day. Though Ennio Mor­ri­cone will be remem­bered first for his asso­ci­a­tion with spaghet­ti west­ern mas­ter Ser­gio Leone, his career in film scores spanned half a cen­tu­ry and encom­passed work for some of the most acclaimed direc­tors of that peri­od: his coun­try­men like Michelan­ge­lo Anto­nioni, Bernar­do Bertoluc­ci, Pier Pao­lo Pasoli­ni, but also such com­mand­ing Hol­ly­wood film­mak­ers as John Hus­ton, Ter­rence Mal­ick, and Quentin Taran­ti­no. Mor­ri­cone did­n’t just write music to add to their films; he became a col­lab­o­ra­tor, with­out whose work their films would be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine.

The result, in pic­tures from L’Avven­tu­ra to Salò to Days of Heav­en to The Untouch­ables to The Hate­ful Eight, is a union of the arts that tran­scends indi­vid­ual cul­tures. It does­n’t mat­ter what coun­try you come from, what gen­er­a­tion you belong to, whether you enjoy West­erns or indeed cin­e­ma itself: you know the theme music Mor­ri­cone wrote for Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly the moment you hear it. 

Whether or not you’ve seen the movie, you’ll appre­ci­ate the espe­cial­ly rich per­for­mance by the Dan­ish Nation­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra at the top of the post, part of a 2018 con­cert called The Mor­ri­cone Duel, a cel­e­bra­tion of “a wide range of west­ern movies and mafia movies reflect­ing dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can movie and film music style.”

The Mor­ri­cone Duel’s Youtube playlist includes the Dan­ish Nation­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra’s ren­di­tions of pieces from oth­er Mor­ri­cone-Leone col­lab­o­ra­tions like A Fist­ful of Dol­lars, For a Few Dol­lars MoreOnce Upon a Time in the West, and Once Upon a Time in Amer­i­ca. Though the evening also includ­ed pieces from The Untouch­ables and Hen­ri Verneuil’s The Sicil­ian Clan, many in the audi­ence must have thrilled most when the musi­cians launched into the over­ture from The Hate­ful Eight. They could hardy be more ardent Mor­ri­cone fans than Taran­ti­no him­self, who used pieces from Mor­ri­cone’s exist­ing Spaghet­ti-west­ern sound­tracks in Kill Bill and Inglou­ri­ous Bas­ter­ds before mak­ing a west­ern of his own, which would­n’t have been com­plete with­out orig­i­nal Mor­ri­cone music. The Hate­ful Eight turned out to be Mor­ri­cone’s penul­ti­mate film score, but his influ­ence will res­onate through gen­er­a­tions of cin­e­ma to come — and out­last, no doubt, the west­ern and gang­ster gen­res them­selves.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear 5 Hours of Ennio Morricone’s Scores for Clas­sic West­ern Films: From Ser­gio Leone’s Spaghet­ti West­erns to Tarantino’s The Hate­ful Eight

How Ser­gio Leone Made Music an Actor in His Spaghet­ti West­erns, Cre­at­ing a Per­fect Har­mo­ny of Sound & Image

Ennio Morricone’s Icon­ic Song, “The Ecsta­sy of Gold,” Spell­bind­ing­ly Arranged for Theremin & Voice

Ukulele Orches­tra Per­forms Ennio Morricone’s Icon­ic West­ern Theme Song, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” And It’s Pret­ty Bril­liant

The Music in Quentin Tarantino’s Films: Hear a 5‑Hour, 100-Song Playlist

Why Mar­vel and Oth­er Hol­ly­wood Films Have Such Bland Music: Every Frame a Paint­ing Explains the Per­ils of the “Temp Score”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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