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Ennio Morricone is complimentary but critical of John Williams in his new book

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He adds: “What seems hazardous to me is to associate a march, no matter how well written, to outer space."

 

Yet, billions of people do not find it hazardous in any way, but, I am sure you are right and they are wrong. 

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13 minutes ago, Lewya said:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/feb/23/ennio-morricone-composer-film-makers-directors-cliches-music

 

I think it's interesting that Morricone implies John Williams *is* talented but has happily turned out commercial dross for years.

 

Star Wars, Spielberg, Harry Potter etc etc.

 

You think Ennio is wrong?

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It's funny that Morricone thinks Williams has become a commercial sell-out, but every time I hear or read what Williams has to say about his own music for Star Wars is an honest artist applying his music to commercial films. It's not high art. Morricone can have every which way he wants about how he would score a space film, but you can't tell me the marches Williams wrote aren't powerfully suited to the films they're written for. 

 

Personally that fugue linked above doesn't conjure imagery of space at all.

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Morricone has been critical of the symphonic approach ever since Star Wars came out. Maybe he was jealous because Star Wars broke all record sales, or maybe he just doesn't like symphonic music as film music, as it could be seen as a step backwards. Film music should be its own thing.

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6 hours ago, Lewya said:

In his new biography Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words, Ennio Morricone is complimentary but critical of John Williams - Star Wars scores in particular.

 

"My criticism was not directed to Star Wars in particular, which I enjoyed a lot from the very beginning of the saga, but the scoring style which (especially Hollywood) composers and directors have made us used to. I attempted a new direction with my score for The Humanoid by Aldo Lado, in which I devised a six-voice double fugue based on tonal harmony (the six voices were split in half between the orchestra and the organ, with a double subject and a double countersubject). The piece was titled "Incontro a sei" (Six-Faced Encounter):

 

 

The work was grueling, but very stimulating at the same time. Although the production could not remotely compete with Star Wars, to me this piece seemed to somewhat mirrror the imaginary of the universe, the infinite spaces and the sky, without giving in to clichés. Obviously, such experiments were self-imposed necessities, rather than obligatory pathways. Still, speaking both as a composer and a filmgoer, I believe that a rather simplistic standardization of stylistic choices has made film music less interesting over the years, in terms of both conceptional depth and compositional methods."

 

Morricone said that Williams is “an exceptionally gifted composer whom I greatly respect”, but even he is criticised for making “a commercial choice” about the space epic franchise. It was, he says, “understandable, but still commercial. I could not have scored Star Wars in that way”.

 

He adds: “What seems hazardous to me is to associate a march, no matter how well written, to outer space. Oftentimes, solutions of this sort stem not so much from the lack of creativity or skills, but from mere commercial concerns – as consequences of the rules imposed by the film industry … Speaking both as a composer and a filmgoer, I believe that a rather simplistic standardisation of stylistic choices has made film music less interesting over the years, in terms of both conceptual depth and compositional methods.”

 

 

This is not a new statement from Morricone, although it was maybe published in an English translation just now. He said this in an Italian book about his approach to film music that was published in 2001. I think we have talked about that here, years ago. He was debating about that during a conversation with Sergio Miceli, a musicologist (who sadly passed away a few years ago) and a collaborator of his. Miceli answered by saying that Star Wars is not really about the mysteries and vastness of space, but more about a sort of romantic opera staged in space, so in his opinion the romantic approach pursued by Williams is more appropriate to the topic, rather than the more abstract approach as Morricone was hoping for (a fugue etc.). I see what Morricone means, but I completely agree with Miceli's point of view about Star Wars.

 

Just to say that this statement is an old one, which came much earlier than more recent statements, and the meeting at the Oscar celebration for Hateful Eight. Recently (probably also to soften the message that could have been associated with that interview), he has made clear that he has great respect for Williams, and he considers him an outstanding musician.

 

 

 

3 hours ago, SteveMc said:

How is a six voice double fugue (magnificent, by the way) any different? 

 

There is a general idea (that I don't share at all) among many composers that a fugue (or, more generally, any form of rigorous counterpoint) is "more difficult" to write, therefore less "commercial" and more "serious", than a romantic piece. I think Morricone has that feeling, its consequences turn out quite often in his production.  

 

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I hope when JW gets to 90 he decides he has no f***s to give anymore and starts calling out people.

 

I guess Ennio does have a point, but every film composer is going to approach a film in a different way. I doubt JW was thinking about the commercial potential of his music for Star Wars when he wrote it. He actually thought Star Wars was more of a B movie that people would quickly forget about. I think it frustrates Ennio that he’s written some really great stuff but I don’t think he’s ever got the credit he deserves. His finally got his Oscar at 87!

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4 minutes ago, Stefancos said:

You don't like Ennio? Aznavour never worked with him?

 

Yes he arranged some of his songs. Another prof that before his 40's, Morricone was still doing "really" anything to put butter on his pastas.

 

Now he sounds like an old senile frustrated man.

 

Sad.

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There is no music in space. Only eerie silence. Even a fugue is already a projection of humanity where there is none. Either embrace it, or deny any.

 

Morricone is worth  over $ 20 million. He could have proven the world quite some time ago that he could (it is implied) do the same things Williams does and only doesn't "because it is inappropriate". Until then, he just looks jealous.

 

Nice piece btw.

 

As for Hollywood music going in a bad direction... are there any quotes of his on Zimmerian trends of the last decade?

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Since Sen. Morricone was not involved in the making of STAR WARS, in any way, he has no "point", whatsoever. What he does have, is an opinion, which he is welcome to voice, anytime he wishes.

The decision to create a "classical" score for STAR WARS, was definitely not a commercial one. In 1976/77, orchestral scores (with few exceptions) were out of fashion. Lucas could have chosen something electronic (a la LOGAN'S RUN) or something avant garde (a la DEMON SEED). He didn't. He went with his instincts, which was to use an orchestral score to "ground" the film, thus offering an semblance of authenticity, and providing a nexus between what was seen, and what was perceived.

The decision to use the (arguably) greatest orchestra of the day (and in the UK, no less) was, also not commercial. Neither was the decision to release a 2-LP set, with the original score, at the risk of incurring massive repeat fees.

It should be noted that Sen. Morricone also redefined film music, in the 1960s, with a style that, although meeting with some opposition, netted him handsome returns, both artistically, and financially.

I have an idea: let Sen. Morricone rescore STAR WARS, as he would have, in 1977. The film can then be rereleased alongside a version with the JW score - a score which is often cited, by critics, and public alike as THE GREATEST EVER WRITTEN - then let the public decide which version it prefers.

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2 hours ago, Ludwig said:

But it's also probably worth mentioning that Morricone regards tone colour as one of a film composer's greatest resources, and of course this is one of his own greatest achievements. So he probably hears old-Hollywood orchestral scoring as more backward-looking than other composers might even if it includes significant modern qualities in the realm of harmony.

 

Honestly, I do not believe that most of the people who criticize the SW score have ever heard the whole thing separated from the movie (i.e., I don't see Morricone going to buy the 1997 complete release of the SW score and listening to it, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong), and if they express their opinion based solely on the movie's viewing, they might simply not have noticed all the subtleties of the music. Even whole cues might escape attention during the movie's viewing. As you say, harmony-wise it is very modern, surely more modern than most of the pieces for which Morricone is famous. I mean, a score like "Once Upon a Time in America", which is very beautiful for sure, is much more "commercial" and risk-free than any of the Star Wars scores.  

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2 hours ago, Ludwig said:

Funny thing is, there's actually a lot of modernism in Star Wars that is somehow never mentioned despite its very prominent role, e.g., Luke's theme and the use of "quartal harmony", the Stormtrooper chords and their use of "bristling" notes that don't agree with the rest of the chord, or the use of polytonality by having the bass disagree with the chord above it.

 

That is funny. Have you by any chance elaborated on these aspects on your website?

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I mean, Morricone's observation is true as far as it goes, but judging by that statement it appears that his opinion of Williams rests largely on a single score or two (and probably only one or two cues from them). I hope that this quote was taken a little out of context, since it would be unfortunate for someone of Morricone's statute to fall into the common trap of treating Williams as a one-dimensional march-writer (although even in that aspect I think there's a lot to admire about JW's writing). 

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3 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

Really, Morricone seems to me to be more critical of Star Wars as a film series and a cultural phenomenon. His issue with the scores seem to be that they're attached to that product.

 

Right, perhaps I didn't state as clearly as I intended, but I was saying that some see it more as a symbol rather than an entity judged on its own merits.

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