Nominated by Owen Earl
Even if you don’t know him by name, you are familiar with the work of Ennio Morricone. Perhaps no other film composer has captured the cowboy spirit quite as effectively or powerfully as Morricone. He’s written the music for countless films including Once Upon a Time in the West, For a Few Dollars More, and more recently the Hateful Eight. He is perhaps best known, though, for writing the iconic music for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which you can see being performed below.
One of the things that watching this music being performed makes me realize is what a strange and experimental composer he is. The music is so iconic that the decisions he’s making feel inevitable, but some of them are really weird. Like if you were to ask me to write some cowboy film music, I don’t think my first thought would be to use a recorder and some dude going “wah wah wah”. There are instruments I don’t even recognize in there, whistling, and it’s punctuated with groups of men shouting nonsense.
Perhaps this is why his music so well captures the essence of the cowboy. Cowboys are brave and free, and what’s more brave then writing some ridiculous, silly things into your serious film scores?
It’s also worth noting that Morricone is Italian. He is one of the most influential people in creating and defining cowboy culture, which is a very American thing, but he’s able to do so as a total foreigner to the US. Cowboy is in the heart and in the spirit and anyone can tap into that even if you aren’t American.
Morricone was the main inspiration for the song There Ain’t Room in this Town for the Both of Us, which is part of Songs of the Cowboy (Vol. 1). I hope to write many more Morricone-inspired pieces going forward.