The Grand Master of Music

The most important thing is quality. I hope people remember that my music was quality. Sometimes they ask me to write something simple, as the story of the film is simple. But I always try to create something unique.

The legendary composer, who wrote music for almost 500 films, died at 91. He was one of the greatest composers of our time, the author of soundtracks to hundreds of films, 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.

Morricone wrote his own obituary, which was read out by his lawyer, Giorgio Assumma “I, Ennio Morricone, am dead. Thus I announce it, to all my friends who have always been close to me and also to those who are a little far away, whom I greet with great affection,”. He says goodbye to his family and friends, recognizing that it is “impossible to name everyone” but mentions members of his family and close friends, closing with words for his wife: “I renew to you the extraordinary love that has held us together, and I am sorry to abandon you. To you the most painful farewell.”

Here are some interesting facts about his life.

1. First composition, at the age of six. Ennio Morricone was born November 10, 1928 in Rome in the family of a jazz trumpeter and a housewife. He wrote his first composition at the age of six, and at 12 he entered the Conservatory of St. Cecilia. After graduating from the conservatory, he began to write arrangements for songs and work on TV and radio, as well as in the theater.

2. Rome4Ever. Morricone was proud of the fact that he never moved from the capital of Italy on a permanent basis, although he often received attractive offers from Hollywood studios.

3. Chess talent? His passion for chess began when he was a kid, but his father noted that chess was interfering with his music studies, so he put an end to this new hobby. Morricone would not play again until he was already a consecrated musician. But, he definitely was a talented player, he succeeded to draw with the former world champion, Boris Spassky. But, he also competed against giants such as world champions Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, Judit Polgar, and Peter Leko. In 2006, he composed the “Inno degli scacchisti” [Chess Players’ Anthem] for the Chess Olympiad from Turin. Football? Not really! But in 1977, wrote the official theme for the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina.

4. So experimental, that he even collaborated with Pet Shop Boys. He is well known for his contribution to Westerns. But he always said that he works on so many genres. He liked to push boundaries and collaborated with Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a group of experimental composers. On the other end, he wrote for pop artists such as Françoise Hardy and Demis Roussos, and even Pet Shop Boys. The Ecstasy of Gold from the Western “Good, Bad, Evil” was often used as introductory music at concerts of Metallica.

5. His big disappointment. Morricone admitted that one of the main disappointments in his career was that he was unable to write music for Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange.

6. Oscar came late. Only after more than 50 years in the industry, the Maestro received an Oscar in 2016 when he was 88 for his work in the film The Abominable Eight. Despite the legendary status and dozens of iconic scores for films, this is Ennio Morricone’s only victory in this category.

7. Most romantic moment. He considered that meeting his wife, Maria, was the most romantic moment. They were bond together by love and deep friendship. Their love was so strong that one he said that ideally, they would leave this world together. “Everyone must die. I’m not really afraid of that. What really scares me is if I die before Mary and leave her alone or vice versa. It would be ideal to leave together”. In his obituary, written by himself, he closes it with a kind word to Maria: “I renew to you the extraordinary love that has held us together, and I am sorry to abandon you. To you the most painful farewell.”

8. The film industry, the cornerstone. The turning point in his career came when he entered the film industry. Film director Sergio Leone hired Morricone, and together they created a distinctive score to accompany Leone’s different version of the Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964). An interesting fact was that Leone and Morricone were colleagues in elementary school, but did not recognize each other.

9. Lack of budget unleash creativity? Not sure about the answer, but definitely this was not an obstacle for Morricone. A Fistful of Dollars did not have a huge budget, and Morricone did not have access to a full orchestra. But he instead used gunshots, cracking whips, whistle, voices, jew’s harp, trumpets, and the new Fender electric guitar. Though sonically bizarre for a movie score, Morricone’s music was viscerally true to Leone’s vision.

10. The story of the famous Dan Savio. So, who is Dan Savio? For the American release of A Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone decided to adopt American-sounding names, so they called themselves respectively Bob Robertson and Dan Savio.

Ennio Morricone did so many things, that one might ask from where he got so much inspiration? And here comes his great secret: “Inspiration does not exist,” Morricone said. “What exists is an idea, a minimal idea that the composer develops at the desk, and that small idea becomes something important”. Definitely, an entire world can be grateful for his ‘ideas’!