Saturday, March 2, 2013

Morricone Bits And Pieces [UPDATED]

It's been some time since my last post and I didn't find time yet to write about any of those subjects I've had on my mind a few weeks ago.

After giving introductory lectures on Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED and Sergio Leone's THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I am currently preparing one for a screening of Clint Eastwood's THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (March 26, 2013).

So before this here becomes a ghost blog with tumbleweeds drifting by, I like to direct your attention to three clips (only one of which was part of my Leone introduction) about some themes and motifs of Ennio Morricone's music for the dollar trilogy (aka "man with no name" trilogy):

"'For my first Western, I asked for a score which was like the deguello which Tiomkin used in Rio Bravo and The Alamo. It's an old Mexican funeral chant.' [...] But it didn't have the lineage Leone ascribed to it. The deguello was specially written and arranged by Tiomkin for Rio Bravo, as a dirge to Sheriff Chance (John Wayne) and his raggle-taggle team of deputies standing guard over the town jail.[...]
Morricone recalls: 'I had to say to Sergio, "Look, if you put that lament into the film, I won't have anything to do with it." So he said to me: "Okay, you compose the music but do it in such a way that a bit of your score sounds like the deguello." I didn't take very kindly to that either, so I took an old theme of mine, a lullaby that I'd written for a friend, [...]. Make no mistake, the theme was certainly far removed from the lament. What brought out a resemblance was its performance in a semi-gypsy style on the trumpet, with all the melismas - the flourishes played around single notes of the tune - which are characteristic of that style. But the theme itself was not, repeat not, the same thematic idea as the deguello.'" (Christopher Frayling: Sergio Leone - Something To Do With Death, 153f)
The following clip includes both Tiomkin's "Degüello" (literally a cut-throat song) from RIO BRAVO and Morricone's sound-alike arrangement of his theatre lullaby that became the main theme of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS:

Sergio Leone liked to "complete" his characters with short musical motifs that more often than not sound like an ironic commentary on the action. While Morricone's music for all three dollar films was based on whistling as an expression of the loner's solitude, Clint Eastwood's motif in the first film was a short descendent line played by flute (00:00).

In the second film (00:20), his motif has developed into something reminiscent of a recorder and his bounty hunter father figure rival Lee Van Cleef's piercing glare is reflected in a jew's harp twang (that is sometimes substituted by the metallic sound of an electric guitar or a purely electronic sound).

In the third and final film (0:40), there is only one single motif for all three characters which are supposed to represent three aspects of a single person. That motif is based on a coyote's howl and imitated by different instruments for each character.

The short motifs are followed by a sample of how they are incorporated into the respective theme track:

Demanded Re-Use
"The piece, a Woody Guthrie song called 'Pastures of Plenty', was arranged by Morricone in 1962 for American tenor Peter Tevis, and released in Italy as an RCA single in 1962. [...] The chorus is identical to the Fistful of Dollars theme (barring the latter's incromprehensible lyric), as are the strange instrumental sounds. 'Leone wanted that exact arrangement with a melody put over it,' says Morricone. [...] Leone remembered, 'I was absolutely smitten. [...] That's what I want. Just get hold of someone who is good at whistling.' The man for the job was thirty-nine-year-old Alessandro Alessandroni [...]. So Alessandroni provided and prepared the choir, played the guitar and did the whistling." (Christopher Frayling: Sergio Leone - Something To Do With Death, 156f)

In the final clip you hear Morricone's original "Pastures of Plenty" arrangement (00:00) followed by the same arrangement featuring various instruments played and whistled by Alessandroni for A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (01:00). It's intresting that even Eastwood's iconic flute motif (see clip above) is already part of the Woody-Guthrie-arrangement.

As kind of a bonus I have added the beginning of Morricone's newly composed song "Ancora Qui" (02:00) from DJANGO UNCHAINED - which like the Leone films is based on cinematic myths rather than reality - that sounds like a slowed down reference to the repetitive guitar motif from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS:

Bonus: The "Leone Close-Up" [UPDATE]
When people think of Sergio Leone, they think of the famous "Leone Close-Up" - a shot that fills the widescreen frame with only the eyes of an actor. Leone was able to induce his climactic confrontations in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST with an almost hallucinogenic quality through his use of extreme close-ups like the one below:

However, one of his heroes, the celebrated B-Western director Sam Fuller, had already experimented with such extreme close-ups in FORTY GUNS a few years earlier. Unfortunately, Fuller didn't seem to be to confident of this daring device and used the two shots (00:25) early on in the film and hardly to any effect that foreshadows Leone's confrontations:

German Summary / Deutsche Zusammenfassung [UPDATE]:

Deguello - Zusammenfassung auf Deutsch: 
Sergio Leone wollte für seinen ersten Western A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS ein Stück aus RIO BRAVO namens "degüello", das er für einen alten mexikanischen Beerdigungsgesang hielt. Es wurde jedoch von Dimitri Tiomkin extra für RIO BRAVO geschrieben und ist wörtlich übersetzt ein "Kehle-Durchschneide-Lied". 

Ennio Morricone weigerte sich, einfach ein Stück von jemand anderem zu kopieren und bearbeitete stattdessen ein Schlaflied, das er mal geschrieben hatte, und orchestrierte es für Mariachi-Trompete. Das Stück ist somit komplett anders, das Arrangement orientiert sich aber an Tiomkins "degüello".

Im Beispiel hören Sie beide Stücke, wie sie im jeweiligen Film verwendet werden. 

Sergio Leone "vervollständigte" seine Figuren gern mit kurzen musikalischen Motiven, die das Geschehen ironisieren. Morricones Musik für alle drei Dollar-Filme basiert grundsätzlich auf einer gepfiffenen Melodie als Symbol für die Einsamkeit des Einzelgängers. Im ersten Film steht ein kurzes Flötenmotiv für die Figur von Clint Eastwood.

Im zweiten Film (00:20) hat es sich zu einem Blockflötenmotiv verändert, während der stechende Blick seines Rivalen Lee Van Cleef vom metallischen Klang der Maultrommel (und später E-Gitarre) begleitet wird.

Im dritten und letzten Film (00:40) verwendet Morricone ein einziges Motiv für alle drei Figuren, die Leone als drei Seiten einer einzigen Figur gesehen hat. Das Motiv basiert auf dem Heulen eines Kojoten und wird von den entsprechenden Instrumenten imitiert. Im Fall von Eli Wallach von der menschlichen Stimme, die Morricone immer gern als Musikinstrument eingesetzt hat.
Nach den Kurzmotiven folgt der jeweilige Titelsong, wo sie eingeflochten werden: 

Wiederverwertung in eigener Sache:
Morricone hatte 1962 für eine Folkplatte des Tenors Peter Tevis einen Woody Guthrie Song auf seine eigene Art arrangiert. Leone war so begeistert von der Instrumentierung, dass er genau dieses Arrangement für seinen Film wollte und Morricone daraufhin zur identischen Begleitung eine neue Melodie komponierte. Pfeifen, Gitarre und Chor stammen vom 39-jährigen Alessandro Alessandoni.

Dieser Clip enthält Morricones ursprüngliches Arrangement (00:00) gefolgt vom Titelstück von A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (01:00). Interessanterweise ist sogar Eastwoods Flötenmotiv bereits Teil des Woody-Guthrie-Arrangements. 

Bonus: Die Leone-Nahaufnahme
Ein Markenzeichen von Sergio Leone war, dass er mit der Breitwandkamera ganz nahe an die Gesichter der Schauspieler ging und dadurch auf der Grossleinwand seinen Konfrontationen eine fast halluzinogene Wirkung verlieh.

Doch schon der experimentierfreudige B-Western-Regisseur Sam Fuller probierte die Extreme Nahaufnahme auf die Augen ein paar Jahre vorher in FORTY GUNS. Allerdings blieb es bei zwei kurzen Einstellungen (00:25), und leider hat er sie so früh im Film eingesetzt und nie mehr aufgegriffen, dass sie völlig "verschenkt" wirken. Doch Leone war ein Fan von Fuller und hat diesen Film gekannt.