Assignment One- [Pt. I Proj.2] ~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. In my opinion it’s importance is on par with the actual film footage. It would not be the cult film that it is, without this score. 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 a trademark. Morricone dispenses with the resolving function of the leading note and the effect is a mysterious tonal ambiguity. He frequently uses the Dorian mode to similar effect, often leaving out the 6th degree thus creating uncertainty of what mode we’re in. (Leinberger, 2004:73)


The title music also serves as a leitmotif of sorts. All three main characters share one melodic theme, but with different instrumentation. Clint Eastwood’s character ’The Good’ motif is played on a Soprano Recorder. Eli Wallach’s character ‘The Ugly’ is played and octave lower by Coyote sounding effected male vocals. Lee Van Cleef ’s character ‘The Bad’ is played two octaves lower on a bass ocarina.

Morricone occasionally underscores using tremolo strings to denote a high state of anxiety. There is also use of dissonance and chromaticism to express tension. In these cues you can hear influences from modern classical music and Musique Concrete. Ostinato is another compositional devise used to great dramatic effect.

Instruments and sound effects very much give us a sense of location. Like acoustic guitars, harmonica, mariachi style trumpets and gunshots all giving a sense of the Old West. There are also historically accurate bugle calls during Civil War battle scenes.They give us a sense of the time and historical framework of the film.

by Sunny Lazic


Leinberger, C. (2004) Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. United

States of America: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

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