Ennio Morricone, Movie Composing Legend, Has Passed Away

Ennio Morricone attends the Bernardo Bertolucci Memorial at Teatro Argentina on December 6, 2018 in Rome, Italy.
Ennio Morricone attends the Bernardo Bertolucci Memorial at Teatro Argentina on December 6, 2018 in Rome, Italy.
Photo: Franco Origlia/Stringer (Getty Images)

Ennio Morricone, one of the most beloved movie composers of the 20th century, has died. The legendary Italian artist, who was 91, passed after suffering complications from a recent fall.

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Morricone’s filmography numbers well into the hundreds, a body of work over seven decades that, much like his most famous soundtracks, speaks for itself. But while he will be best remembered for aurally shaping the spaghetti western as we know it—penning legendary scores for everything from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Fistful of Dollars, all the way up to his recent, Oscar-winning collaboration with Quentin Tarantino for The Hateful Eight—Morricone’s contributions to the horror genre are likewise iconic.

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From haunting organs on giallo works like Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Spasmo, Morricone’s talent for the eclectic and weird could truly shine in horror, with some of his most experimental compositions and combinations of synth, vocals, and obscure instrumentation on display. But for the grandiose, baroque nature of much of his horror work, one of his most memorable scores in the genre is perhaps one of his most deceptively, hypnotically simple: his soundtrack for John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of few Carpenter film scores the director didn’t create himself.

Morricone famously reflected in the past that Carpenter gave him very little direction on The Thing’s soundtrack when he first saw an early cut in Rome, leading to the composer creating a wild variety of pieces, some of which were eventually released as “lost tapes” and on soundtrack albums—and some of which even managed to make it into The Hateful Eight. But what was used is forever burned into the horror genre as legend: the simple, yet dread laden recursive synth beats of Morricone’s Thing title theme. Stark, tense, and hypnotizing in equal measure, its slow-burn build is a perfect encapsulation of the unease and paranoia that drives The Thing in the first place.


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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

devillesinthedetails01
Speak of the Deville

I’m just going to leave this here.

If you were to ask me to pick one scene that perfectly demonstrates the the magic that comes when a director, actors and score are so well in sync, this would be the one I’d pick. There’s a 6 1/2 minute stretch where the music and photography, along with Van Cleef, Wallach, and Eastwood using only body language and facial expressions, tell the entire story of this epic, final encounter. The music highlights every single story beat and ratchets up the emotion and tension all the way to it’s almost too sudden and ignoble end. Ennio and the orchestra are undoubtedly the most important performers in a scene packed with legends in front of, and behind, the camera.

This movie came out when my father was a kid, and he introduced me to it when I was little. It’s still something I’ve watched what feels like 100 times in my own lifetime and this scene still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.