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The Musical Legacy of Italian Film Composer Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone

In popular culture, the name “Ennio Morricone” summons up images of cowboy hats, cheroots, and swarthy, dusty men dying in extreme close-up while a whistle sound dramatically pierces the background. Bang! Bang! Strum. Aaaaaaaaah! Clint Eastwood squints.

Morricone’s work for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western films is justly famous, but it’s only the very tip of an enormous mutant iceberg of musical genius. As an Italian film composer, Morricone worked within a huge number of cinema genres including Westerns, giallo, horror, and mainstream Hollywood productions like The Mission. His hugely influential compositions mix elements of classical music, jazz, and the avant-garde. Contemporary acolytes include artists from Radiohead to John Zorn to Jay-Z.

Exploring the music of Morricone quickly leads to more than the music of Morricone. He himself composed hundreds of scores for Westerns, horror, suspense, action, and every other pulp genre, but he was only one of numerous composers working in the idiom. Bruno Nicolai may have conducted the orchestra on Morricone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but he also famously composed his own soundtracks, including the blockbuster Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Other prolific composers of the period include Piero Piccioni and Piero Umiliani, the latter best known for “Mah Nà Mah Nà,” a song for a sexploitation film about Sweden which was covered and made famous by the Muppets.

Morricone however, having the household name in the Italian soundtrack world, stands in for numerous other composers. It’s no wonder that on Bandcamp, Morricone is not just an influence, but a subgenre. Bands with links to Italian soundtrack music, or inspired by Morricone’s Western goth, use his name as a shorthand for their style. The list below collects the best music by Morricone, his peers, and his disciples.

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