Morricone in Denmark with a little Clint and Sergio

Michael Stuart Kelly

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Morricone in Denmark with a little Clint and Sergio

I am charmed beyond belief by the following video of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra playing "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly."

Seeing all these ultra-cultured Nordic Danes being conducted by the lady Japanese-born American conductor with hillbilly name, Sarah Hicks, in the theme for a Spaghetti Western caused a post-modern wheel to spin like a fractal of multi-colored fragments in my head and dazzled me with reflection of reflections of reflections--but in an integrative way, not in the dismembering way of normal post-modern crap.

This is the way to put odd things together that normally don't belong together.


Also, I got to pondering the trajectory of how art comes into being from humble beginnings. Many roads led to this concert. I riffed off that theme in my head for one such path.

We started out with hammy dime-novel cowboy and gunslinger stories of the 1800s, which later turned into pulp fiction. That turned into the schlock Westerns of Hollywood for decades. Right as that was going away, Leone took it up in Italy and turned it into vicarious-level storytelling that elevated the American West frontier with well-chiseled mythological archetypes and went universal. That spread through the culture of the world like a virus and morphed and grew. Now we have a sophisticated European symphony orchestra not only playing the theme song, but embracing the aesthetics.

There is even a bound man hanging by his neck from the roof inside the concert hall in horse opera justice style and a gigantic Clint Eastwood two-toned black-and-white silhouette in the back of the audience looking like a Wild-West version of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Oh yeah... and Ennio Morricone is a goddam genius...

What a trip.

I love it.



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What a bummer.

I posted that marvelous video three days ago and now this.

Ennio Morricone, Legendary Composer for the Movies, Dies at 91

Oh, well.

Rest in peace, Maestro. I will be studying and loving what you left behind.

I even got his bio (actually a year-long interview) and will read it shortly (Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words by Alessandro De Rosa).

Here is a gorgeous video I saw the other day mixing a scene from the movie "The Mission" with Morricone's theme for the same. This is not as Morricone set it to the movie, but it works wonderfully. Somehow it seems fitting to post this along with the news of his passing.

The situation is that one monk must carry a large and heavy burden up a mountain as penance for some really nasty things he did--and to be accepted by the other monks and the Guarani Indians. And even if he completed it, there was no guarantee he would be accepted.


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Klaatu: I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We of the other planets have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in space ships like this one ?and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us; this power can not be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is that we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.

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Where to put news from the beach? How about here in the sand? About thirty miles north east of me, 15 life guards on or around Rehoboth Beach, Delaware have tested positive for Covid-19 but only 2 of them had symptoms. I am guessing they were all younger people.

People with current passes can visit Disney now just to look at what has changed and I think they are opening to the general public “with restrictions” this weekend. When my kids were young we visited Disney in Orlando and we all had a good time. I think I may have gone on a half dozen rides and saw some shows. I doubt the kids missed riding many rides.  

2 to 3 inches of rain and flash flooding are expected from a developing tropical disturbance / cyclone which may be named “Fay,” if she gets bad enough. Some computer programs are saying we may get 4 to 5 inches of rain with the storm center around Wallops Island in the morning.

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Well there is a lot of sand in Spaghetti Westerns. Where did the Italians film it? In the Sahara? I suppose i was looking for a place where the originator of the thread would not mind if I deposited my short response into said  badlands. "Wah wah wah" from  the theme to "The Good, The Bad,, and The Ugly."

Tropical storm Fay has just reached us at  one in the morning. And so to bed.

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You can post whatever you want anywhere.

It's just odd that you chose a thread in the Music section devoted to the film composer, Ennio Morricone, to talk about Rehoboth Beach, a visit to Disney in Orlando, flash flooding, Wallops Island and COVID-19.

I don't see a connection, but I do admit, it's got a nice postmodern feel to it.


(Just poking you in the ribs. 🙂 )


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What a charming video about Ennio Morricone's life and music.

I am definitely becoming a serious fan.


I am particularly interested in two things, at least for now.

1. Morricone took the natural sounds of the scenes he was writing to in movies and turned them into musical motives and textures. For example, think of the very opening of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. Once someone points out to you that this is similar to the sound a coyote makes, you can never go back to your innocent state before. 🙂 How about the sporadic whip cracks in the music during duel scenes. Gunshots anyone? Or a single chime for a church bell implying an upcoming funeral? 

2. He borrowed elicited emotions from well-known musical situations outside the film, then grafted them onto the scenes he was scoring when he needed more emotion than effect. He did this by using similar musical textures. An obvious example is the church music (strings) in The Mission or choppy Indian songs (in this case, the Guarani Indians).

There's actually a third thing, too, but this is more technical. Morricone definitely used a Wagnerian form of lietmotif for specific characters and situations. The really interesting part for me is how he did it.

He did not write any old thing for a character or situation's lietmotif. He wrote a simple phrase or texture for an instrument (or instruments or voices or whatever) that sounded totally natural to it and was easily recognizable in a stand-alone earworm manner.



I just wrote that off the top of my head and "earworms" is the word I've been seeking for a long time when thinking about musical composition.

Morricone wrote earworms. He wrote them on purpose like a painter who only uses contrasting bold colors. And he wrote them for adults with complex parts to them, not just nursery-rhyme simple tunes.

He also made sure his earworms related somehow to the audio world--not just the visual world--of the character or situation. And when he had several characters and situations, he made damn sure his lietmotives to represent them were as different from each other as beer and wood and lightbulbs are, yet made sure they could be combined when needed. 

I really resonate with this approach.

What a world. It has taken me a lifetime to unlearn the avant-garde approach (for which I have no words to express my contempt--"shit" doesn't even scratch the surface) that was rammed down my throat for three years in my youth studying musical composition at Boston University.

But now that I am looking at stuff like Morricone's work on my own (quite by accident in this case, for that matter), from this distance and independence I feel like a kid walking into a candy story. Wow... just wow. I recently turned 68, so that's a wonderful feeling. 🙂 

May a similar experience happen to you. It doesn't have to be music. The feeling is unique, trance-inducing, and joyful and playful and rejuvenating and so much more--it's unlike anything else I have experienced.


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