Legendary Italian musician and composer Ennio Morricone has passed away today, having broken his femur in a fall last week and fallen into critical condition. He was 91.
Enrolling at La Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Morricone studied the trumpet in the conservatory at the age of 12, already a bright and curious musician. Continuing to learn the classics and instruments of every sort, Morricone fell into working in radio and television, eventually winding up in the film industry, where he had been working since the 1960’s. There he scored the early films of Italian auteurs such as Pier Paolo Pasolini (Teoroma) and Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle of Algiers, Burn!) before bursting unto the international scene, working on Hollywood productions such as Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven in 1978, and John Carpenter’s The Thing in 1982.
Morricone is perhaps best known for his work with fellow Roman (and former primary schoolmate) Sergio Leone, with whom he collaborated on six of his directed films, as well as others the two were involved in. Together, beginning with 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, Leone and Morricone pioneered the “spaghetti western,” the Italian-dominated style of western that would go on to influence decades of filmmakers, and frame the classic genre in a new light to this day.
Morricone’s work continues to be synonymous with the western genre, his iconic score for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly perhaps one of the single-most-recognizable pieces of film music ever created.
A major influence on the work of American auteur Quentin Tarantino, it was in 2016 that Morricone won his second Academy Award (after an Honorary Award in 2007) for his composition work on Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.
Morricone’s celebrity among composers is heralded by all, and his vast body of work speaks volumes for the effects a strong and thoughtful score can have on a film; so many of those long staredowns of Leone’s films go by without so much as a word, Morricone’s guitar twangs and wails the only sounds before the bullets fly.
The continued prominence of his work from 50 years ago should indicate the importance and impact of the music, and, no doubt, Morricone’s soulful ballads and harsh themes will be playing just as often 50 years from now.
Ennio Morricone, Prolific Italian Composer for the Movies, Dies at 91 [The Hollywood Reporter]