To tell a story through music. Through symphonies, masses, songs, and movie scores over the centuries, composers and songwriters have been telling a variety of stories to
listeners, and we never forget the great ones. For me, as a composer and as a moviegoer, no one has told the story of the Old West better than Ennio Morricone. In his legendary scores for the Sergio Leone-Clint Eastwood "Spaghetti" Westerns- and "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" in particular- Morricone expanded upon the archetypes of the genre, sometimes with reverence, sometimes with humor, always with imagination, and did so well enough to spawn hundreds of imitators, who always nailed the feel (sometimes outrageously), but rarely the feeling which made it sing. Few pieces of film music have been as memorably mournful as Morricone's "Song of a Soldier," a touching tribute to the men who fought in the Civil War, and gave their lives in a way that is moving to Eastwood's Blondie and Eli Wallach's Tuco, both of whom have been double-crossed by the other at some point in "Ugly." In "For a Few Dollars More," the song played by the pocketwatch inspires memories of a love lost through brutality, while the theme for the young gun (Eastwood) and the old pro (Lee Van Cleef) as they break their partnership- heading off in different directions- leads one to believe both will carry the memory of the partnership to the last shot.
The stories told in this collection of "Visions" are not unlike the ones Leone & Morricone told in those classic films (including "Once Upon a Time in the West"). The mourning of friends and loved ones lost is once again expressed in "Ballad for the Beloved Departed" and its' reprise. The serenity found at the end of a long journey is at the heart of "At Peace Under the Stars." The deadly heat and terrain of the desert is given voice in "The Unforgiving Desert," "Danger of the Frontier," and "Heat of the Pounding Sun," while I'd like to think that the violent conflicts of gunslingers- and the moral reflections they can inspire- come through in "Cat-and-Mouse in an Old Western Town," "Prelude to a Showdown- A Confrontation," and "Walk to the Middle of Town." "Introduction to a New Old West" sets the stage for what is to come, albeit without the powerful originality of Morricone's main title themes, while "A New Old West" is a work intended to bring to a close all we have heard before with the scope of an epic story from that long lost time brought to life once more.
Of course, all of this is wishful thinking on my part. All I have just written is what I set out to do with "Sonic Visions of a New Old West," which began as a handful of pieces- inspired by the musical imagination of Morricone and others- written for a short film in the mold of "Kill Bill" (which contained some of the Italian Western music of Morricone and Luis Bacalov) back in early 2004, only to blossom into a rich musical work in its' own right. I don't pretend to say that this work matches the inventive spirit and mastery of Morricone's music, but it's a step in that direction, and though the Italian master was the original inspiration, I'm pleased to say that along the way, I think I found my own voice on the subject, which is probably the most fitting tribute to the composer I can provide.