|www.chimai.com||This Week's Special 13/12/2002|
Translated from French by Didier Thunus for www.chimai.com
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Morricone used again some of the ingredients used for the previous Leone westerns, and in particular the idea to associate a musical theme to each character. The most outstanding theme was that associated with the character of Harmonica played by Charles Bronson. There was an "interior" element since this character really played the harmonica on screen. One can't really say he was actually playing a precise theme, he rather produced a haunting complaint on the basis of 3 notes, E, C and D#. Besides, when Franco De Gemini, the musician who really played this harmonica, showed up in the recording room, he was surprised to not have a written score to play. Morricone asked him simply to improvise on these 3 notes by giving him indications about the type of each scene: threatening, sad, etc…
On the harmony of those 3 notes, Morricone developed a fabulous theme, L'Uomo dell'Armonica (The Man With The Harmonica), with a melody first played by Bruno Battisti d'Amario's electric guitar, then by the chorus of I Cantori Moderni and the chords of the orchestra. This theme was composed for the scene of the final duel between Harmonica and Frank, played by Henry Fonda. It is in fact common to both characters linked by an event of the past: out of revenge, Harmonica challenges Frank who had formerly assassinated his brother. This same theme was incidentally presented in two preceding scenes for the one or the other of the main protagonists, once for Frank during the massacre of the McBain family, and once for Harmonica in the posada lost in the middle of the desert. The melody will be heard again with other arrangements thoughout the movie, once played by the English horn, once by a harmonic horn and once by the trumpet in a "Deguello" style for the piece Come Una Sentenza (Like A Sentence) accompanying the majestic scene where Fonda arrives on horseback for the final confrontation.
For the picaresque character of Cheyenne played by Jason Robards, Morricone proposed several themes, all very beautiful, but which didn't suit what Leone was looking for. However, Morricone stood up for a specific theme and asked Leone to wait for it to be recorded with the orchestra to better realize. In vain - it did not correspond to the romantic character of robber Cheyenne had to be. Then, in his picturesque way of describing the characters, Leone asked Morricone to think of the wandering dog from Lady And The Tramp. Morricone sat at the piano and the right theme came out immediately. The definitive version was performed by Alessandroni's banjo and whistle.
But this score benefited from something more which took it slightly away from the pure line of the wild western style which Morricone had developed at the beginning: the romantic theme of C'era Una Volta Il West in an unforgettable performance by Edda dell'Orso, associated to the female character of Jill played by Claudia Cardinale. This logic followed Leone's approach, who also added a good amount of romanticism in his movie, due to the importance of the female character, and also giving a rather nostalgic tone to the old disappearing West, carrying with him a certain kind of men like there will no longer exist anymore.
Leone significantly used Morricone's music on the set, so much so that Henry Fonda asked for the music to be systematically played to help him to find the right tone. Leone also took into account the tempo of the music to adjust the movements of the camera. One of the most outstanding examples of this was the scene where Jill arrives at the Flagstone station. Morricone had already recorded Jill's theme, which began in a soft way with an introduction on the harpsichord and celesta. Leone had this passage synchronized with the shot where Jill looked at her watch (perhaps a wink to the watch of Per Qualche Dollaro In Più?) before entering the station. In this piece, Morricone had inserted a sort of crescendo musical bridge with the whole orchestra announcing the return of the theme. Leone had the brilliant idea to shoot the scene in one single sequence, synchronizing the rise of the camera (on a "dolly" crane) revealing the town of Flagstone with Morricone's musical crescendo.
It must be noted that the majority of the themes present in discographic edition are not heard exactly as they are in the scenes of movie. They are in fact the original themes as they were written by Morricone before shooting, and which were then modified in length (shortened, lengthened, slowed down or accelerated) to be synchronized with the scenes after editing.
Subsequent to this lyrical vein initiated by C'era Una Volta Il West, other scores followed, like for example Guns of San Sebastian, for which Henri Verneuil insisted towards the producers of the MGM to have Morricone and no-one else, otherwise he would refuse to make the movie! There was also the remarkable score for Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence, 1968), without doubt Corbucci's most beautiful western. This western was different as well by his environment of cold and snow, which strongly contrasted with the usual Mexican border sets of the Spaghetti westerns, as by the downright pessimistic tone of the story, since the hero was assassinated at the end. Morricone wrote a very original score mixing sad romantic pages with unsettling moods using among the most abstract tones such as for example the Indian sitar.
The second part of the Leonian trilogy of the 'Once Upon A Time', Giù la Testa (Duck You Sucker - A Fistful of Dynamite, 1971) took advantage of an approach slightly similar to that of C'era Una Volta Il West, with a lyrical theme for the flashback scenes, again sung by Edda Dell'Orso. There were also themes of a more traditional form for a Leonian movie, like a ballad whistled by Alessandro Alessandroni - Dopo l'Esplosione, or the sad melody on the guitar, Messico e Irlanda. But for the rest, it wasn't really a western anymore and consequently, the other elements such as for example the electric guitar disappeared completely.
The most remarkable piece was doubtless the one used over the credits, Invenzione Per John. This long piece was not used in its entirety (more than 9 minutes) in the movie. It was a complex assembly of various musical modules which intertwined to create a sort of unreal atmosphere associated with the almost magical appearance of the character of Sean, played by James Coburn, who emerges on his motorbike from a cloud of dust after a strong explosion. This piece explored various sound frames, for which the contribution of the Cantori Moderni was really remarkable. Moreover, at the same time, Morricone tried out several of these long pieces with a floating atmosphere for other cinematographic genres, such as in Addio Fratello Crudele ('T Is A Pity She's A Whore, 1971).
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