After scoring Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, Ennio Morricone readies world tour
Veteran film composer best known for 1960s ‘spaghetti westerns’ to go on the road with celebration of 60 years in the business. With 500 cinematic scores to mine, he won’t be short of music to play
The maestro has a bad back and his memory may not be what it was, but the man behind some of the most famous film music ever can still keep Quentin Tarantino waiting.
Ennio Morricone said he had initially ruled out writing the soundtrack for the US director's western The Hateful Eight, which premiered in London this week.
“I immediately refused,” said the 87-year-old Morricone. “He then came to my house to talk to me and told me about his appreciation for my work, for cinema. He convinced me to compose for him.”
Morricone, who won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2007, is best known for the so-called “spaghetti westerns” – he dislikes the term – directed by his childhood friend Sergio Leone in the 1960s.
Morricone’s theme tune to Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
But he draws a line between his latest composition and those works starring Clint Eastwood, which famously featured coyote sounds, whip cracks and gunshots.
Tarantino “has done a beautiful, interesting, original film and I treated it differently from what I did for Leone, not like a western but like a free film.
“I wanted it to have its own sounds. I didn't want the music to be the leftovers of what I did for Leone.”
For someone with around 500 film scores to his name, the irony is that cinema was not his first calling.
“My real purpose was to write classical music. Since the conservatoire, that was my ambition. Then, of course, you have to live – and you can make money from film music,” he said. “That's just how my life went.”
As a child, Morricone played the trumpet with his father in 1930s Rome. After attending music school there, he went on to compose hit Italian pop songs, and then got into the Italy's film industry in its heyday in the 1960s.
He has since composed music for films like Once Upon a Time in America (1984) as well as The Mission (1986), both starring Robert de Niro.
Morricone’s theme tune for The Mission
The variety of directors he has worked for reflects the differences in his work – from Oliver Stone to Pedro Almodovar, and Brian de Palma to Bernardo Bertolucci.
In January 2016, he embarks on a world tour to celebrate 60 years in the music business, with plans to play in London in February and Paris in May.
“It will almost all be film music – the scores that interest me for their compositions, for the discoveries that they yielded, not based on the film or the director.
“It is an attempt to be myself, despite what I call my service to the public, to the director and to the film.”
Known for introducing unusual sound effects into his music – he once wrote an entire song based on the sound of a typewriter – Morricone is still keen to experiment.
“I use normal, important, historical instruments but to make different sounds, completely different.
“I think the human voice makes the strangest sounds, more than any instrument. I can become a little devil or angel for example, whatever sound suits the occasion,” he said, distorting his voice into a devilish snarl.
At London's Abbey Road Studios – made famous as the preferred recording venue for The Beatles – Morricone picked up his baton this week to direct an orchestra for part of The Hateful Eight score, which was being recorded for a limited edition release.
Suddenly animated, he conducts with vigour and rehearses again and again with the orchestra – his words in Italian translated to the other musicians by a violinist.
“It didn't go well. Let's do it again,” he told them during the recording of an ominous-sounding passage, filled with double basses and oboes.
“Be angrier!” he told the choir, rolling his eyes when a voice interrupts the recording. “We'll be here till midnight,” he huffed.