Ennio Morricone: a composer with a thrilling ability to hit the emotional jugular | Peter BradshawJuly 6, 2020
With his brilliant, haunting scores for Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino and dozens more, Morricone was the master of film music
The film industry has its elite squad of composers who can produce a complete orchestral score at the request of a director – and if necessary conduct it too – intuiting almost by magic what is needed and doing this with miraculous fluency and speed. These are composers who are sometimes trusted simply to compose the music without sight of any screenplay draft, composers whose work really is the screenplay, and around whose music the film is partly shaped in the edit suite. There are great names like Hans Zimmer, Alexandre Desplat, John Williams, Mica Levi and Lesley Barber.
But the great ancestor of the modern film music is the Italian master Ennio Morricone, who created a staggering 500 scores over a passionate and inexhaustibly creative career spanning 50 years – working with directors such as Gillo Pontecorvo, Terrence Malick, Roland Joffé, Brian De Palma, Giuseppe Tornatore, Barry Levinson, Quentin Tarantino and of course, Sergio Leone, with whose epic, mythic westerns he will be forever associated – although he would often sharply remind interviewers that these constituted just a fraction of his output. It was a surprise that his first Oscar for best original score only came in 2016 when he was 88 (11 years after he was presented with his honorary Oscar, the point at which film grandees are assumed to have gone into retirement). This was for Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. It was a glorious achievement, as his score for that movie was so striking and catchy.