Assignment One [Pt. I Proj.2] ~ Revised (after Formative Feedback) – Exercise~ Listening to music in film


‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’


Morricone’s score for ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ is absolutely crucial to the story telling and atmosphere of the final picture. It has achieved iconic status and become synonymous with the genre of Spaghetti Westerns.

The main theme consists of short, catchy melodic phrases. The use of the natural minor, rather than the melodic or harmonic minor is his trademark. Dispensing with the resolving function of the leading note creates a mysterious tonal ambiguity. He frequently uses the Dorian mode to similar effect, often leaving out the 6th degree thus creating uncertainty. (Leinberger, 2004:73)


The title music also serves as a leitmotif. All three main characters share one melodic theme, but with different instrumentation. Clint Eastwood’s  ’The Good’ motif is played on a Soprano Recorder. Eli Wallach’s ‘The Ugly’ is played an octave lower by ‘coyote’ sounding effected male vocals. Lee Van Cleef ’s ‘The Bad’ is played two octaves lower on a bass ocarina.T

Compositional devises favoured by Morricone are tremolo string underscoring to denote a high state of anxiety and the use of dissonance and chromaticism to express tension. In many cues you can hear influences from modern classical music and Musique Concrete.

extasy of gold ostinato
Ostinato from ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’

Ostinato is used to great dramatic effect. In ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ scene a four note piano ostinato plays under a horn melody creating a frantic paranoid state. The pace of the ostinato so closely follows the film edits people presumed the scene was cut to the music. This was according to Morricone not the case. (Leinberger, 2004:101)

Gunshots, acoustic guitars, harmonicas and mariachi style trumpets all give a sense of the Old West. There are historically accurate bugle calls during Civil War battle scenes. These bugle calls, although not in shot, are by the viewer perceived as diagetic music.

commence firing
‘Commence Firing’ bugle call


Leinberger, C. (2004) Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. United States of America: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Morricone, E. (1966) The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. [MUSIC SCORE] U.S Miami FL: WARNER BROS PUBLICATIONS U.S INC.

Morricone, E. (2014) The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Soundtrack, Original recording remastered. [CD] New York: EMI Music Publishing Ltd.

Morricone, E. Micelli, S (2001) Composing for the Cinema The Theory and Praxis of Music in Film Translated by Anderson, G. (2013) [Kindle edition] From: (Accessed on 10 Jan 2017

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (2016) [television programme online] SKY GO player. At: (Accessed on 10 Jan 2017)