Ennio Morricone, Genre-Defining Film Composer, Dies at 91
By Etan Rosenbloom, Director & Deputy Editor, Marketing & Communications • July 6, 2020
Maestro Ennio Morricone, one of the towering figures in the history of film music, passed away on July 6, 2020 in his lifelong hometown of Rome, Italy.
In a career spanning more than six decades, Morricone composed the scores for over 500 films and TV series, wrote and arranged songs for an international roster of jazz and pop artists, and was a prolific composer of concert music.
Morricone’s range was astonishing. He composed for comedies (the La Cage aux Folles trilogy; Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), period dramas (The Mission; Days of Heaven), thrillers (The Disclosure, In the Line of Fire), crime dramas (The Untouchables; Bugsy), war dramas (The Battle of Algiers) and horror films, both in Italy (Dario Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”) and America (Exorcist II; The Thing). He wrote sweeping melodic themes (Cinema Paradiso, co-scored with his son Andrea) and crafted spare, strange soundscapes (his work with Sergio Leone); he was comfortable with the tonal language of classic Hollywood film scoring, and the modernist dissonance of early 20th century classical music. There was no mood he couldn’t portray through his music.
While Morricone’s work across the genre spectrum has influenced filmmakers and composers for generations, he is most renowned for defining the sound of the “spaghetti Western” through his 1960s work with Italian director Sergio Leone. His music for “The Dollars Trilogy” (“A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) combined unorthodox instrumentation, sound effects and a mesmerizing sense of space and silence to evoke the hallucinatory vibe of Leone’s stylized vision of the west. Morricone’s music did more than just support the narrative. It was just as important as Clint Eastwood’s stoic stares or the films’ sun-bleached vistas in setting the tone. Following 1981’s Buddy Goes West, Morricone left behind the Western genre for 34 years, until Quentin Tarantino hired him to score The Hateful Eight. The score earned him his first competitive Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award and the ASCAP Composers’ Choice Award for Film Score of the Year - 22 years after he earned the ASCAP Golden Soundtrack Award, the predecessor to the Henry Mancini Award.
The Maestro’s impact on American cinema and film scoring cannot be overstated. But he was that rare successful composer that never felt compelled to move to Hollywood for work, never learned English, and only rarely gave concerts in the United States. He is a beloved cultural hero in his native Italy, where loving tributes poured in from Italian President Sergio Mattarella ("Both a refined and popular musician, he has left a deep mark in the history of music in the second part of the 20th century”) and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ("We will always remember, with infinite gratitude, the artistic genius of the Maestro #EnnioMorricone…It made us dream, move, reflect, writing memorable notes that will remain unforgettable in the history of music and cinema”).
Morricone is survived by his wife Maria and their four children Alessandra, Andrea, Giovanni and Marco.
Visit him online at www.enniomorricone.org