Ennio Morricone, Grand Officer OMRI, (born November 10, 1928) is an Italian composer and conductor, who has written music for more than 500 motion pictures and television series, in a career lasting over 50 years. His scores have been included in over 20 award-winning films as well as several symphonic and choral pieces. Morricone is most famous for his work in the Spaghetti Westerns directed by his friend Sergio Leone, including A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), but his career includes a wide range of composition genres making him one of the world's most versatile, prolific and influential artists. Born in Rome, Morricone took up the trumpet as a child and attended the National Academy of Santa Cecilia to take lessons on the instrument at the age of nine. He formally entered a conservatory at the age of 12, enrolling in a four-year harmony programme. He received his trumpet diploma in 1946 and started working professionally, composing the music to "Il Mattino" ("The Morning"). Morricone soon gained popularity by writing his first background music for radio dramas and quickly moved into film. In the 1950s he received the "Diploma in Instrumentation for Band" (fanfare) where he won a diploma in Composition under the composer Goffredo Petrassi. In 1955, Morricone started to ghost write and arrange music for other, already established film composers. Morricone soon came to the attention of his former school friend Sergio Leone, who hired Morricone to compose the music to some of his best known films. Together they created a distinctive score to accompany Leone's different version of the Western, A Fistful of Dollars. In the 80s and 90s, Morricone continued to write the music for Leone's later films, including Once Upon a Time in America (1984). He also composed the music to Roland Joffé's The Mission (1986), Brian De Palma's The Untouchables (1987) and Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1988). His more recent compositions include the scores for Malèna (2000), Fateless (2005), and Baaria - La porta del vento (2009). Morricone has received two Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes, five BAFTAs during 1979–1992, seven David di Donatello, eight Nastro d'Argento, and the Polar Music Prize in 2010. In 2007, he received the Academy Honorary Award "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music" and has been nominated for a further five Oscars in the category of Best Original Score during 1979–2001, but has never won competitively.
Ennio Morricone was born in Rome, the son of Libera and Mario Morricone, a jazz trumpeter. Morricone wrote his first compositions when he was six years old and was encouraged to develop his natural talents. Compelled to take up the trumpet, he attended the National Academy of Santa Cecilia to take lessons on the instrument at the age of nine. Morricone formally entered the conservatory in 1940 at the age of 12, enrolling in a four-year harmony program. According to various reports, he completed it in either two years or six months (date approximate). He studied the trumpet, composition, choral music, and choral direction under Goffredo Petrassi, who deeply influenced him and to whom Morricone has dedicated concert pieces.
These were the difficult years of World War II in the heavily bombed "open city"; the composer remarked that what he mostly remembered of those years was the hunger. His wartime experiences influenced many of his scores for films set in that period.
After he graduated, he continued to work in classical composition and arrangement. In 1946, Morricone received his trumpet diploma and in the same year he composed "Il Mattino" ("The Morning") for voice and piano on a text by Fukuko, first in a group of 7 "youth" Lieder. Other serious compositions are "Imitazione" (1947) for voice and piano on a text by Giacomo Leopardi and "Intimità" for voice and piano on a text by Olinto Dini.
In the early 1950s, Morricone began writing his first background music for radio dramas. Nonetheless he continued composing classical pieces as "Distacco I e Distacco II" for voice and piano on a text by Ranieri Gnoli, "Verrà la Morte" for contralto and piano on a text by Cesare Pavese, "Oboe Sommerso" for baritone and five instruments on a text by Salvatore Quasimodo.
Although the composer had received the "Diploma in Instrumentation for Band" (fanfare) in 1952, his studies concluded in 1954, obtaining a diploma in Composition under the composer Goffredo Petrassi. In 1955, Morricone started to write or arrange music for films credited to other already well-known composers (ghost writing). He occasionally adopted Anglicized pseudonyms, such as Dan Savio and Leo Nichols.
Morricone wrote more works in the climate of the Italian avant-garde. A few of these compositions have been made available on CD, such as "Ut", his trumpet concerto dedicated to the soloist Mauro Maur, one of his favorite musicians; some have yet to be premiered. From the mid-sixties and onwards, he was part of Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a group of composers who performed and recorded avant garde free improvisations, even scoring a few films during the 1970s.
Well-versed in a variety of musical idioms from his RCA experience, Morricone began composing film scores in the early 1960s. Though his first films were undistinguished, Morricone's arrangement of an American folk song intrigued director and former schoolmate Sergio Leone. He hired Morricone, and together they created a distinctive score to accompany Leone's different version of the Western, A Fistful of Dollars (1964). As budget strictures limited Morricone's access to a full orchestra, he used gunshots, cracking whips, whistle, voices, jew's harp, trumpets, and the new Fender electric guitar, instead of orchestral arrangements of Western standards à la John Ford. Morricone used his special effects to punctuate and comically tweak the action—cluing in the audience to the taciturn man's ironic stance. Though sonically bizarre for a movie score, Morricone's music was viscerally true to Leone's vision.
As memorable as Leone's close-ups, harsh violence, and black comedy, Morricone's work helped to expand the musical possibilities of film scoring. Morricone was initially billed on the film as Dan Savio.
Morricone composed music for over 40 Westerns (the last was North Star (1996)), most of them Spaghetti Westerns. He scored Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns, from A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and including For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), as well as later films such as A Fistful of Dynamite (1971), My Name Is Nobody (1973), and A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe (1975). The collaboration with Leone is considered one of the exemplary collaborations between a director and a composer.
With the score of A Fistful of Dollars, Morricone began his 10-year collaboration with his childhood friend Alessandro Alessandroni and his Cantori Moderni. Alessandroni provided the whistling and the twanging guitar on the film scores, while his Cantori Moderni were a flexible troupe of modern singers. Morricone specifically exploited the solo soprano of the group, Edda Dell'Orso, at the height of her powers—"an extraordinary voice at my disposal".
In addition, Morricone composed music for many other, not so popular Spaghetti Westerns, including Duello nel Texas (1963), Le pistole non discutono (1964), A Pistol for Ringo (1965), The Return of Ringo (1965), Navajo Joe (1966), The Big Gundown, (1966), Face to Face (1967), Death Rides a Horse (1967), The Hellbenders (1967), A Bullet for the General (1967), The Mercenary (1968), Tepepa (1968), The Great Silence (1968), Guns for San Sebastian (1968), …And for a Roof a Sky Full of Stars (1968), The Five Man Army (1969), Queimada! (1969), Vamos a matar, compañeros (1970), Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), Sonny and Jed (1972), and Buddy Goes West (1981). Most of Morricone's film scores of the 1960s were composed outside the Spaghetti Western genre, while still using Alessandroni's team. Their music included the themes for Il Malamondo (1964), Slalom (1965), The Battle of Algiers (1965), and Listen, Let's Make Love (1967). In 1968, Morricone reduced his work outside the movie business and wrote scores for 20 films in the same year. The scores included psychedelic accompaniment for Mario Bava's superhero romp Danger: Diabolik (1968). The next year marked the start of a series of evocative scores for Dario Argento's stylized thrillers, including The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971), and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1974). In 1970, Morricone wrote the score for Violent City. That same year, he received his first Nastro d'Argento for the music in Metti una sera a cena (Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, 1969) and his second only a year later for Sacco e Vanzetti (Giuliano Montaldo, 1971), in which he had made a memorable collaboration with the legendary American folk singer and activist Joan Baez. In 1973, he scored a theme for the crime film Revolver (1973). Morricone composed the score for John Carpenter's science-fiction/horror movie The Thing (1982) as well as Brian De Palma's war drama Casualties of War (1989). Morricone has worked for television, from a single title piece to variety shows and documentaries to TV series, including the US TV Western The Men From Shiloh (1970), Moses (1974) and Marco Polo (1982). One notable composition, "Chi Mai" was used in the films, Maddalena (1971) and Le Professionnel (1981) as well as the TV series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (1981). It was a surprise hit in the UK, almost topping the charts. He wrote the score for the Mafia television series La piovra seasons 2 to 10 from 1985 to 2001, including the themes "Droga e sangue" ("Drugs and Blood"), "La morale", and "L'immorale". Morricone worked as the conductor of seasons 3 to 5 of the series. He also worked as the music supervisor for the television project La bibbia ("The Bible"). In the late 1990s, he collaborated with his son, Andrea, on the Ultimo crime dramas. Their collaboration yielded the BAFTA-winning Nuovo cinema Paradiso. In 2003, Ennio Morricone scored another epic, for Japanese television, called Musashi and was the Taiga drama about Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's legendary warrior. A part of his "applied music" is now applied to Italian television films. On October 15th, 1987, Ennio Morricone gave a concert in front of 12,000 people in the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium, with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra and the Italian operatic soprano Alide Maria Salvetta. A live-album with a recording of this concert was released in the same year. On June 9th, 2000, Morricone came to the Flanders International Film Festival Ghent to conduct his music together with the National Orchestra of Belgium. During the concert's first part, the screening of The Life and Death of King Richard III (1912) was accompanied with live music by Morricone. It was the very first time that the score was performed live in Europe. The second part of the evening consisted of an anthology of the composer's work. The event took place on the eve of Euro 2000, the European Football Championship in Belgium and The Netherlands. Since 2001, Morricone has been on a world tour, the latter part sponsored by Giorgio Armani, with the Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta, touring London (Barbican 2001; 75th birthday Concerto, Royal Albert Hall 2003), Paris, Verona, and Tokyo. Morricone performed his classic film scores at the Munich Philharmonie in 2005 and Hammersmith Apollo Theatre in London, UK, on 2006-12-01 and 2006-12-02. He made his North American concert debut on January 29, 2007 Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City and four days later at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The previous evening, Morricone had already presented at the United Nations a concert comprising some of his film themes, as well as the cantata Voci dal silenzio to welcome the new Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. A Los Angeles Times review bemoaned the poor acoustics and opined of Morricone: "His stick technique is adequate, but his charisma as a conductor is zero." Morricone, though, has said: "Conducting has never been important to me. If the audience comes for my gestures, they had better stay outside." On December 12, 2007, Morricone conducted the Roma Sinfonietta at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, presenting a selection of his own works. Together with the Roma Sinfonietta and the Belfast Philharmonic Choir, Morricone performed at the Opening Concerts of the Belfast Festival at Queen's, in the Waterfront Hall on October 17 and 18, 2008. Morricone and Roma Sinfonietta also held a concert at the Belgrade Arena (Belgrade, Serbia) on February 14, 2009. On April 10, 2010, Morricone conducted a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London with the Roma Sinfonietta and (as in all of his previous London concerts) the Crouch End Festival Chorus. On August 27, 2010, he conducted a concert in Hungary. Two other concerts took place in Verona and Sofia (Bulgaria) on 11 and 17 September 2010. On February 26, 2012, Morricone made his Australian debut when he conducted the Western Australian Youth Orchestra together with a 100 voice chorus (made up primarily of WASO chorus members) at the Burswood Theatre (part of Crown Perth (formerly known as Burswood Entertainment Complex)) in Perth, Western Australia. On March 2, 2012, Morricone conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at Elder Park, Adelaide, South Australia as part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts. On December 22nd, 2012, Ennio Morricone will conduct the 85-piece Belgian orchestra Il Novecento (Night of the Proms) and a 100-piece choir during a two-hour concert in the Sportpaleis in Antwerp. Morricone provided the string arrangements on Morrissey's "Dear God Please Help Me" from the album Ringleader of the Tormentors in 2006. Quentin Tarantino originally wanted Morricone to compose the soundtrack for his most recent film, Inglourious Basterds. However, Morricone refused because of the sped-up production schedule of the film. Tarantino did use several Morricone tracks from previous films in the soundtrack. Morricone instead wrote the music for Baaria - La porta del vento, the most recent movie by Giuseppe Tornatore. The composer is also writing music for Tornatore's upcoming movie Leningrad. In spring and summer 2010, Morricone worked with Hayley Westenra for a collaboration on her album Paradiso. The album features new songs written by Morricone, as well as some of his best known film compositions of the last 50 years. Hayley recorded the album with Morricone's orchestra in Rome during the summer of 2010. In 1956, Morricone started to support his family by playing in a jazz band and arranging pop songs for the Italian broadcasting service RAI. He was hired by RAI in 1958, but quit his job on his first day at work when he was told that broadcasting of music composed by employees was forbidden by a company rule. Subsequently, Morricone became a top studio arranger at RCA, working with Renato Rascel, Rita Pavone, and Mario Lanza. A particular success was one of his own songs, "Se telefonando". Performed by Mina, it was a standout track of Studio Uno 66, the fifth-biggest-selling album of the year 1966 in Italy. Morricone's sophisticated arrangement of "Se telefonando" was a combination of melodic trumpet lines, Hal Blaine–style drumming, a string set, a '60s Europop female choir, and intensive subsonic-sounding trombones. The Italian Hitparade #7 song had eight transitions of tonality building tension throughout the chorus. During the following decades, the song was covered by several performers in Italy and abroad—most notably by Françoise Hardy and Iva Zanicchi (1966), Delta V (2005), Vanessa and the O's (2007), and Neil Hannon (2008). In the reader's poll conducted by the la Repubblica newspaper to celebrate Mina's 70th anniversary in 2010, 30,000 voters picked the track as the best song ever recorded by Mina. Throughout the '60s Morricone composed songs for other artists including Milva, Gianni Morandi, Paul Anka, Amii Stewart, and Mireille Mathieu. On 13 October 1956, he married Maria Travia and had his first son, Marco, in 1957. Travia has written lyrics to complement her husband's pieces. Her works include the Latin texts for The Mission. They have three sons and a daughter, in order of birth: Marco, Alessandra, the conductor and film composer Andrea (Andrew), and Giovanni (a filmmake who lives in New York City).