In this rare and illuminating look into the creative process of legendary soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone, exclusive excerpts from his work diary reveal the sublime genius of Il Maestro as he undertakes his most unusual and challenging project to date: composing a musical score to accompany the daily life of Phil Andersen, C.P.A.
Composer’s Notes: Cues for Tuesday, May 8th
P awakened by alarm clock. This morning I think a tender tema d’amore for strings and woodwinds as P snuggles with his wife. Throbbing bass and percussion softly emerge as P begins to stroke her hip gently, crescendo as he grows more vigorous and slips his hand into her nightgown. Music halts abruptly in playful comment as she roughly elbows him away.
Reprise of tema d’amore in ironic counterpoint as P masturbates in shower.
Stabbing violins to heighten suspense as P, in his Saturn Ion, frantically circles the parking lot of the suburban train station in search of a parking space.
A waltz played patetico as P parks in a handicap space and, with an exaggerated limp, begins to hobble pitifully towards the platform. Tempo increases, becomes burlesco as P limps faster, breaks into a jog and finally a mad sprint to catch the train.
P exits the downtown train station and brushes past panhandlers and vaguely threatening street hustlers. Ominous strings to underscore P’s underlying urban dread.
P arrives at the office. As on previous days, a monotonous, ambient synth loop to accentuate the soul-crushing irrelevancy of the next eight hours, with random, discordant electric guitar and percussion to create tension in the manner of Chinese water torture.
The new temp secretary, Theresa, introduces herself to P. Che bella donna! Like a young Claudia Cardinale. For her I will compose the most beautiful theme, a recurring leitmotif for her every blessed appearance.
Theresa’s theme as P, on pretext of searching for a printer cartridge, stops by her desk.
Theresa’s theme as P, on pretext of clarifying a few key points on the charts he’s asked her to type, stops by her desk.
10:53 a.m., 11:27 a.m.
Same as above.
Cunningly timing his lunch break to coincide with hers, P emerges with Theresa from the elevator into the downstairs lobby. Here I think a breezy, Euro-jazz number recycled from one of my late-sixties projects. Key of D major, breathy, wordless vocals, bossa nova shadings. P and Theresa stroll the city plaza in the warm afternoon sun and P gallantly offers to buy her lunch at—Mamma mia!—Popeyes. Key shift to F minor to accentuate the priceless moment when Theresa offhandedly mentions she has a fiancé, an investment banker.
Back in the office. Theresa’s theme in minor key as P rudely demands to know why the overheads for his presentation aren’t ready yet.
Showdown in the boardroom. Close-ups of steely-eyed P and his brutish, squinting boss facing off down the length of the crowded conference table. Wailing harmonica, bleeding guitars, shrieking strings. The whole tired pastiche of spaghetti western clichés as P heroically presents his proposal to save the corporation $47,000 a year by switching to a cheaper bathroom disinfectant in the company’s 972 national and international employee restrooms. Whip-crack sound effects as his boss feigns interest, suppresses a yawn and checks his BlackBerry for messages. Mio Dio! Not even poor dead Sergio Leone could have wrung suspense from such a sorry scene.
Reprise of waltz patetico as P emerges from train to find his car has been towed.
A rousing, soaring overture à la Untouchables as P, coach of his son’s Pee Wee soccer team, the Cheetahs, sends them onto the field to do battle with hated rivals the Mastodons.
A somber elegy for strings and choir over a montage of the Capone-ish thugs of the Mastodons blasting in sixteen unanswered goals.
The family dinner table. Warm strings, perhaps with mandolin as P, his son and two young daughters sit and wait in eager anticipation. P’s wife reaches into the oven and removes what must surely be a succulent feast. Dio santo! But what is it? What is she calling it? Pigs in a blanket? Cazzo! Disgustoso! How can I work with such material? There are no notes in all my musical vocabulary for such a scene. Think, Ennio, think. Yes, of course. Amplified, rhythmic chewing sounds to be synchronized with close-up images of the family masticating this foul swill. Repulsively evocative. Bravissimo! Truly you are the Maestro.
Bedtime. P climbs into bed beside his wife, gives her a kiss on the cheek, turns out the light. A brief lullaby for piano and then grazie a Dio the day is over. But wait, what is this? Her head has disappeared beneath the covers. P begins to moan. Quickly, an erotic tango, the emerging crescendo of throbbing bass and percussion as P throws back the sheets, pushes up her nightgown and mounts her. Rhythmic, pumping guitars, pulsating organ, breathy vocals, and perhaps a … Mio Dio! He is finished already?
And now the brief lullaby for piano as P rolls off his wife and pulls up his pajamas. He leans over and sets the alarm clock for … 5:20 a.m.?! Bastardo! Figlio de puttana!