Films can stand alone without good music
The tour schedule of the well-known Italian composer and conductor Ennio Morricone is planned for several years ahead, as indicated on his website. However, this summer, he made an unexpected appearance at Minsk Arena, to the delight of Belarusian music lovers. His magnificent concert brought a storm of applause.
By Yuliana Leonovich
Before interviewing Mr. Morricone, we were warned that questions about film work might anger him. We also discovered that he dislikes the term ‘spaghetti westerns’ — as those by director Sergio Leone are often referred to; Mr. Morricone worked with Mr. Leone for many years. He also has an aversion for the word ‘soundtrack’, the number 17 and the colour purple, once refusing an interview because the journalist was wearing a jacket in a plum colour. There is nothing to be done; such famous people are allowed their whims.
Your capacity for work is legendary, as famously asserted by your old friend, Russian director of 72 Metres, Vladimir Khotinenko, who says you work from dawn until dusk. Today’s interview is scheduled for 8am.
It’s true that I dedicate a lot of time to work. I get up early in the morning, do some exercises, then have breakfast and read the morning newspapers. By 8.30am, I’m already at my desk and only stop after dinner.
I must mention your cinema work; how many films have you composed for?
At about 500 I stopped counting.
Are you afraid of repetition?
No. Before starting to compose, I talk to the director for a long time, to try and understand his thoughts, intentions, desires and ideas. If I find no common language with the director I won’t work with him.
Have you experienced failure? Some say that you didn’t like 120 Days of Sodom, by Pasolini.
Pasolini, for some reason, did not want to show me the scenario of the film. He only wanted me to create a complex piano composition. It was only at the premiere that I discovered the piece accompanies a scene in which a woman jumps from a window; I wasn’t pleased about that. I understand that music is not the main focus of a film and should rather supplement than dominate. Sometimes, a director creates a masterpiece, which is let down by poor music. However, the film loses nothing. Sometimes it happens the other way around and, no matter how beautiful the music, it cannot save a film.
Sicilian Clan is rarely spoken of, although your music, written for it, remains popular.
Wow, you know this film? The musical composition I wrote is a meditation on Bach: my favourite composer.
Mr. Morricone, have you changed your approach towards writing screen music over the last 40 years?
Many truly talented composers are working these days, so progress in this sphere has been considerable. Multi-channel surround sound has appeared also, which creates additional, incredibly inspiring, possibilities.
In 1978, you wrote the World Football Championship theme.
I love football so, when our national team was to play in the championship, in Argentina, I was asked to write a melody. I did so quite quickly but it brought incredible pleasure.
Mick Jagger once said that if he could read music he’d like to turn the pages of the score at one of your concerts.
Who is Mick Jagger?
Are you serious?
He’s the lead singer of The Rolling Stones.
He’s welcome; I’ll employ him with pleasure (smiles).