He did put one limit on himself. Out of concern for his father, who still was not able to play professionally, he kept trumpets out of his arrangements and compositions so he would not have to turn his father down for a job.
And then her got a call from spaghetti western director Sergio Leone. Their meeting turned into a reunion; they had been classmates in elementary school. And they began to work together. Eastwood, himself a jazz afficionado and composer, talks about how surprised he was when he saw the film and heard the unusual “operatic” score that included the sound of a cracking whip, an electric guitar, an anvil, and the iconic whistle. “This music helped dramatize me, which is hard to do,” Eastwood says.
Morricone began to be offered the composing jobs that his music teachers used to get. One admits, “We were archaic.” He preferred to work with first-time directors, who let him take more chances. His orchestrations included vocal soloists and choirs. Also coyote howls. His first American film score was John Huston’s “The Bible” in 1966.
The film is written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, whose film, “Cinema Paradiso,” features one of Morricone’s most beloved scores. The comments he gets from musicians, composers, and directors are mostly long on unabashed admiration but light on insight. When Tarantino and Quincy Jones say he is their favorite composer and Springsteen says, “I’m still learning from him,” we wish for more specifics and insights. It is interesting to hear from director Roland Joffé (“The Mission”) that Morricone attacks the music staff writing paper “like an athlete,” rapidly filling in the notes with furious energy, and from another that he does not actually need a piano when he composes; he can play imaginary keys and hear the music in his head.
There is a brief, intriguing section near the end showing Morricone’s influence on broader culture, coming full circle when his melodies are adopted by pop stars and even metal legends Metallica. More rewarding for the composer was finally winning a competitive Oscar in 2016 for “The Hateful Eight” after five nominations and an honorary Oscar in 2007. But what means the most to him is seeing his work performed in concert with full orchestras, transcending the category dismissed by his professors as less prestigious or legitimately creative. The music that adds so much to the images and characters on screen is just as meaningful on its own.