Last summer, on 6 July 2020, Ennio Morricone died at the age of 91. I have been an admirer of his music since a very young age, so it was sad to hear of his passing. It was only later on, when I started reflecting on his life and work, that I realized how much of an impact the man had on my life. The extraordinary influence he had on other artists that would later on influence me, is incredible.
When I was young, my parents had a CD with the soundtrack of the legendary movie Once Upon a Time in the West. I can’t imagine anyone not being moved when the first notes of the main theme hit you. However, it is not only the breathtaking beauty that is worth noting listening to the soundtrack. Another trademark of Morricone’s work is his bold choice of instruments and orchestration. The unusual timbres in the orchestra are a key aspect of Morricone’s style which makes his music often instantly recognizable. Have a listen how he used the harmonica and electric guitar in what would become one of the most influential scores of all time.
I often admire (and envy) those composers who have a distinct compositional fingerprint. An Ennio Morricone score can often be recognized from the very first note. What is more impressive is that it always fulfills the expressive needs of the film in an effective, memorable and unique way.
Apart from being an admirer of his work, perhaps the way he had the most impact on my life is his impact on other musicians and composers, who in turn inspired me. Ever since the Lion King came out in 1994, I have been an admirer of Hans Zimmer’s music (although I didn’t know it then, I was five years old). Zimmer himself is known to be greatly influenced by Morricone. In his own words:
The first note I ever heard of his grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. I never decided to become a film composer. Ennio and Sergio Leone did that for me, letting me experience their magic.
Zimmer in an interview with NME in July 2020.
Zimmer paid tribute to Morricone many times in his scores. Just listen to this example of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, where he re-wrote his theme in a direct homage to Morricone:
One other major influence on me is the English rock band Muse. It is very interesting to me that the band is heavily influenced by both Zimmer and Morricone. I was unaware of this connection before, but it is remarkable how these artists who are all a major impact on my life, are directly influenced by each other.
Morricone’s influence on Muse can be heard on their album Black Holes and Revelations, mainly in the songs “City of Delusion, “Hoodoo” and Knights of Cydonia“. The influence of Zimmer on their work came only a few years later. You can hear it most directly on the tracks “Unsustainable” and “Algorithm (Alternate Reality Version)“.
Muse ends each of their live shows with a tribute to Morricone’s Man with A Harmonica, before they close their show with Knights of Cydonia, a song that has many Morricone influences.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about Morricone’s influence on me. Feel free to leave a comment below.