[Pt. I Proj.2] ~Exercise~ Listening to music in film

[Pt. I Proj.2] ~Exercise~ Listening to music in film


Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’


Ennio Morricone’s original score for Sergio Leone’s film ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ was first published in Italy (and subsequently worldwide) in 1966 and the soundtrack was released alongside the film.

Ennio Morricone’s original score for Sergio Leone’s film ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ was first published in Italy (and subsequently worldwide) in 1966 and the soundtrack was released alongside the film.

The score 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: Amazon.co.uk (Accessed on 10 Jan 2017

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


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Various

Amadeus film poster

Sir Neville Marriner supervised and conducted Mozart’s music for the original score for Milos Forman’s 1984 film ‘Amadeus’. Mozart’s music was performed largely unaltered. Only some minor changes to some of Salieri’s parts were done by Marriner. The orchestra used was Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

The film itself is a masterpiece. It is a fictional account of the later parts of Mozart’s life, all set to Mozart’s own music. I watched it in the cinema when it was first released and was overwhelmed by the music. Watching the lasts scenes, depicting Mozart composing/dictating ‘Requiem Confutatis Maledictis’ inter cut with a racing carriage and culminating in his death, is on of the experiences which made me want to pursue writing film music.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Magic Flute K 620

the magic flute

More recently I went to see Ingmar Bergman’s film of the Magic Flute. I am from Sweden so I have seen a great many of Bergman’s films, but never this one. It depicts the staging of the Opera with such warmth and humour. It starts with a lengthy opening shot of the audience, zooming in on different faces, recording their reaction to the music. There are also ‘behind the scenes’ shots of the opera singers and what they do backstage. This peculiar and cheeky depiction of the Opera production gives it an impish quality which is very much in keeping with ‘The Magic Flute’ itself. I also found it both funny and odd hearing Mozart in Swedish. I wonder if my experience of the film would have been different if I’d had to read the subtitles?

Originally Mozart’s two act opera was premiered in 1791 in Vienna to huge success and became one of the best loved operas of all time.

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