SAE Film staff pay tribute to musical maestro Ennio Morricone

17 Jul 2020

Last week the film industry was rocked by the news that the Oscar-winning Italian film composer Ennio Morricone had died aged 91. 

SAE Film lecturers have commented on the legacy of this maestro, who scored more than 500 films over seven decades. 

The prolific composer soundtracked the ‘spaghetti’ Western trio that propelled Clint Eastwood to stardom, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Morricone also wrote music for Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. He won an Oscar in 2016 for his work on Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Before his Oscar win for The Hateful Eight, Morricone was nominated for the films Days of Heaven, The Mission, The Untouchables, and Bugsy and Malena.

SAE Liverpool Film Programme Coordinator Carl Copeland said: “It's very hard to sum up Morricone's work. However, he revolutionised the Western genre and his innovative use of instrumentation ranging from electric guitars, harmonicas, bells etc. His relationship with director Sergio Leone remains one of those lasting cinematic legacies and great collaborative partnerships. However his career is a lot more diverse: working with a host of key figures including Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, Terence Malick, Gillo Pontocorvo and most recently Quentin Tarantino across a breadth of genres.” 

SAE Glasgow Film lecturer Paul Mackie said: “Morricone was beyond legendary, yet many who would know his music might never have known his name, unlike the superstardom-esque following for the likes of today's Hans Zimmer. He scored far too many iconic film scores to even start to make a list, having associations over the years with so many brilliant directors, from Leone, to Carpenter, to De Palma and rounding it off more recently with Tarantino. He clocked up over five hundred films in his career and even bagged himself an Oscar at the grand old age of 87. He was a man who never stopped creating and his music will continue on inspiring younger generations of filmmakers and composers, hopefully instilling the message that you are never too old to continue to develop in your craft."

On BBC Breakfast on Monday Hans Zimmer said Morricone was "one of a kind" and "an icon".

The football club AS Roma paid a tribute to Morricone, who was a lifelong fan, with ‘Grazie Maestro’ written on their shirts for their game against Parma last week. 

SAE Glasgow Film Programme Coordinator Simon Parnham said: “One of my first encounters with Ennio Morricone was when I was around 10, and my dad had put on one of his favourite films, Once Upon a Time in the West. While there were definitely moments where my 10-year-old self struggled to stay focussed on the 3-hour long film, there was certainly something that resonated deeply with me while watching it. A good few years later when I started getting into behind-the-scenes featurettes on DVDs, I started to come across composers as part of the filmmaking process, and everyone would talk about this guy called Ennio Morricone. The power that effective music has on the storytelling process within film is incredible. If you manage to select the right track, at the right time, it transcends a moment on screen to something far beyond anything any of the other components parts could achieve without the music. Morricone's long-time collaborator, director Sergio Leone, famously decided that certain sequences in Once Upon a Time in the West would have Morricone's music play on-set while the actors were performing the scene, so as to enhance their performance and the overall atmosphere of the sweeping shots. They could achieve this as most of the film would be re-dubbed into English for wider audiences anyway. This speaks of how Morricone managed to capture the inarticulate quality of emotional beats in a story into music. Morricone was known for high-drama in his pieces, and most of his music isn't subtle. But where in lesser hands the scores would become overly bloated and garishly melodramatic, Morricone's sense of story kept the pieces grounded. And it was that that made 10-year old me stick around for a 3-hour film, and has meant I've returned to films Morricone scored many, many times. Grazie maestro.” 

SAE London Film Programme Coordinator Dino Jacovides said: “The passing of Ennio Morricone is one that book stamps the end of a cinematic history and for me personally, one of the greatest impacts of my childhood. I am not a musician but the music to the spaghetti Westerns composed by Morricone for school friend director, Sergio Leone, have left a lasting memory. I was so honoured to see him at the O2 last year. He created music that made films legendary. God bless."