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Dream Whistler
by Richard Jack Smith

I was at school and just completed an exam which went rather well. I felt so good memories of a triumphant movie theme came to mind. It was “Victorious” from Ennio Morricone’s The Untouchables. The theme suited my emotional state. Such memories are unique. Fair to say, the composer made a huge impression on me. So it was very sad to hear of his passing at the age of 91.

Morricone’s catalogue was vast. I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of reviewing his output. According to the Internet Movie Database, he worked on 520 movies and assorted projects. Like any artist, his work could be polarising. I remember watching Mission to Mars and being distracted by Morricone’s odd sounding music. Also, his theme for Orca was far from revolutionary.

On the bright side, when he could share the emotional heart of a film through music, the results were stellar. Check out Nostromo and the female vocalist who adds extraordinary depth to Joseph Conrad’s story.

Inevitably, it’s the trifecta of A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly which defined his style. Working for director Sergio Leone first under the pseudonym Dan Savio then his true name allowed the composer to harness various harmonic elements which have been parodied and copied to death. From the “WAH WAH” vocals to the whistling, crack of a whip and gun shots, every theme felt specific to its given movie while forming the musical language of the trilogy.

For the 2015 western The Hateful Eight, Morricone received a well overdue Academy Award. I believe it was a career recognition for his many decades of hard work and innovation. Ultimately, he leaves behind a stunning legacy which will doubtless inspire legions of fans, composers and imitators.

Farewell maestro.

Ennio Morricone


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