Ennio Morricone the oldest Oscar winner ever
The Italian Ennio Morricone – one of the greatest music composers of the last century –, has always been in love with the music he calls “absolute”: classical music. However, in 2016 – after writing the scores of some famous films for five decades – he has received, at the age of 87 years, an Oscar for what he calls “applied music” – applied to a subject, a story, a film script.
Ennio Morricone was born in Rome, in 1928. Italy was yet a peaceful country but the hectic nationalism times were just around the corner. During the war, he had studied the trumpet, and in 1954 he had graduated the composition class of the National Conservatory Santa Cecilia, in his town of birth. His first work, Il mattino, for voice and piano, was composed when he was 18 years old; afterwards he continued to search his path writing opuses for piano and chamber bands and also concerts for various instruments.
However, he would understand since the first years of his career that he is not able to make a living from classical music (“absolute music” as he called it), so he moved forward to a sort of music that is more accessible to the public, thus creating adaptations for radio and television or composing songs. Morricone always talked about two types of music: “absolute music” (concert or classical music according to the common understanding) and “applied music” (meaning the music that is applied to a certain subject, film script, etc.)
He made his debut with film music in 1961, for Il federale, but the important successes didn`t come until the year 1964, when he started the 20 years collaboration with film director Sergio Leone. In the ’60s he invented the “spaghetti” westerns, a new face of a genre that seemed obsolete at that time; having an inspired film construction and a fine irony, he created some films that left their mark on entire generations of film lovers.
The couple Ennio Morricone/Sergio Leone has worked together for a series of films – A Fistful of Dollars (1965), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) or Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – everyone knows their music, despite the fact that the name of the composer always remained unknown. I imagine there are only a few people able to identify the composers of their cell phone ringtones. Do people remember the name of Henry Mancini? He had composed the music for Pink Panther. The music of Sergio Leone`s first “spaghetti” westerns had a unprecedented success in the history of music – more than 70 million discs were sold up to this moment.
A style that is difficult to define but seduces millions of fans
Since the first successes, the critics have talked about Ennio Morricone`s style which is difficult to classify; a style that is considered to be eclectic, a mixture of mysticism, sensibility, poetry, energy, strength and lyricism.
Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone, forms one of the couples that have left a mark in the history of films: Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock, Nino Rota and Federico Fellini or John Williams and Steven Spielberg. He composed music for more than 500 films, he refused to move to Hollywood, he wrote the official music of the 1978 FIFA World Cup Argentina 1978 and collaborated with some of the most important film directors, from Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuseppe Tornatore to Roman Polanski, Pedro Almodóvar or Quentin Tarantino.
He received several awards: the Oscar for the music of The Hateful Eight (2016), but also a honorific Oscar in 2007 (plus five nominations), the Golden Lion, five BAFTA awards, three Golden Globes, a Grammy Award and the music of The Bad and The Ugly was included in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.
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