Meeting Morricone: ‘It was essential that I change my style for every film’

Remember the showdown in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?" Well Ennio Morricone, one of the world's greatest living composers, wants you to tear your eyes away from the film's gunslingers and listen instead.

Meeting Morricone: 'It was essential that I change my style for every film'
Italian composer Ennio Morricone pictured during the interview. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

“In the cinema you cannot actively listen to the music – there's dialogue, noises, special effects, it all distracts the audience,” he told AFP as he prepared for the next stages of a world tour celebrating 60 years in the business.

“Music has to be listened to and the concerts allow the audience to listen to my music, and my music alone,” the 88-year old Italian said in an interview in his large Rome apartment.

Morricone's long-running collaboration with Spaghetti Western film director Sergio Leone saw him pen prize-winning soundtracks for everything from the “Dollars Trilogy” to “Once Upon a Time in the West”.

READ ALSO: Around Sicily in ten iconic Italian films

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The former trumpet player has composed over 500 scores for film and television – including Roland Joffe's “The Mission” and Quentin Tarantino's “The Hateful Eight” – and over 100 classical works.

He cites Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nonno and Aldo Clementi as composers who have influenced him – along with Goffredo Petrassi, who his dubs “my master” – but also has a fondness for Stravinsky and Bach.

'New film, new style'

But he shakes his head at the idea of being compared to prolific composers of the past like Mozart or Rossini and said he does not mind knowing that he is most famous for the film soundtracks, deemed to be catchier.

“I was able to compose music freely, and in such different forms, not only because I could rely on technology, but also because it was essential that I change my style for every film. Every movie required it,” he said.

The composer, who played in jazz bands in the 1940s before he started ghost writing for film and theatre, is considered a fine conductor too – though it is a title he rejects.

“I was asked to direct my music. The problem is that I am not a real conductor, I do not direct the music of other composers,” he said.

READ ALSO: How music is keeping one southern Italian dialect alive

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Morricone, who has worked with some of the most acclaimed Hollywood and arthouse filmmakers – from Roman Polanski to Bernardo Bertolucci and Pedro Almodovar – says his success lies in evoking thought patterns.

“I tried to create a way to write music with a lot of pauses, made up of almost monosyllables, or three syllables put together, and then a pause, a bit like a thought that comes and goes and repeats itself in a different way,” he said.

He says there is no secret recipe that he follows – “absolutely not” – other than being true to himself.

“I have always wanted to change, but at the end I remain myself”.

By Kelly Velasquez

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La Bella Vita: The best Italian-language podcasts, and unexpected foods you’ll find in Italy

From Italian podcasts to surprising delicacies and our favourite overlooked travel destinations, new weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: The best Italian-language podcasts, and unexpected foods you'll find in Italy

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

A cornerstone of Italian culture, the tabaccheria is used for much more than just buying cigarettes. In fact, these little shops are pretty central to everyday life and anyone who moves to or just spends time in Italy will need to become as familiar with them as they are with the local coffee bar.

From paying bills to purchasing bus tickets, here are just some of the services you should know about and a few tips for your first visit.

Why the tabaccheria is essential to life in Italy – even if you don’t smoke

For Italian language learners: listening to podcasts is a great way to immerse yourself in a new language. Luckily there’s a vast range of audio shows for people wanting to learn Italian, whether you’re studying at an advanced level or learning from scratch. Here we’ve selected a few of our favourites, plus readers’ suggestions:

Some of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

Italy is known worldwide for pizza and gelato, but Italian cuisine is incredibly diverse and visitors are often surprised by some of the local delicacies on offer. I know rustic Tuscan cuisine didn’t exactly match my expectations when I first arrived in Italy. I quickly learned to love it – but my mother-in-law’s homemade chocolate cake made with pig’s blood (sanguinaccio is a delicacy in Puglia…) was a step too far!

So, from fried brains and tripe to suggestive desserts that you definitely wouldn’t expect the local priest to approve of, here’s a look at some more of the traditional foods loved by Italians – but not always by foreigners.

From fried brains to ‘sexy’ cakes: The Italian foods you might not expect in Italy

Visitors can find more than they bargained for at a traditional Italian food market. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

As regular visitors know, there’s much more to Italy than just the glamour of Rome, Venice or Florence, but some destinations suffer – we think unfairly – from negative reputations. From Caserta to Reggio Calabria and beyond, here are some of the overlooked Italian towns that are home to incredible sights that everyone should see at least once.

Nine overlooked Italian towns you should visit

If you’re planning a visit to Italy (or to another part of Europe from Italy) this year but want to cut down your carbon footprint, train travel is a great option and there are more routes than ever connecting Italy’s major cities to other parts of the continent.

Here are some of the main direct international train services you can use for travel between Italy and other European countries this year.

The train routes connecting Italy to the rest of Europe in 2023

Remember if you’d like to have this weekly newsletter sent straight to your inbox you can sign up for it via Newsletter preferences in “My Account”.

Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]