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Movies will be a little quieter, and emptier, without Morricone / Pitchfork

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Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann. Steven Spielberg and John Williams. Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard. Every visionary filmmaker needs a composer they can trust-someone they can call on to accentuate their work with music. And from 1964 until well into the 1980s, there was no greater director-composer partnership than Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, the Italian film composer who died on Monday in Rome at age 91. It was through his long-term collaboration with the late filmmaker that Morricone created his most iconic scores and helped define the sound of the Spaghetti Western, the Italian film movement spearheaded by Leone and his so-called "Dollars Trilogy" starring Clint Eastwood: 1964's A Fistful of Dollars, 1965's For a Few Dollars More, and 1966's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Leone was hardly the only director to take advantage of Morricone's talents over the last 60 years. In fact, hundreds of filmmakers, among them Quentin Tarantino, Brian De Palma, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Terrence Malick, partnered with the composer in order to infuse their films with orchestral gravitas and vintage swagger. Morricone's prolific drive was astonishing: By the end of his career, he had scored more than 500 movies-an especially impressive number, considering how he refused to move to Hollywood and never learned to speak English.

Some film composers consider it their duty to write music that blends into the scenery or prioritizes tasteful subtlety. Not Morricone. His scores are expressive, grandiose, and undeniably audacious in their oddball instrumental choices, from the pan pipes he used in 1989's Casualties of War to the Haitian drumming and children's choir he incorporated into 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic. Such boldness was remarkably well-suited to the operatic scope and brooding emotional expanse of the Spaghetti Western. As Leone put it in an interview towards the end of his life, "I've always felt that music is more expressive than dialogue. I've always said that my best dialogue and screenwriter is Ennio Morricone."

Fittingly, on Monday, everyone from Chance the Rapper to Bon Iver's Justin Vernon to El-P mourned the indispensable composer. As the director Edgar Wright put it, "He could make an average movie into a must-see, a good movie into art, and a great movie into legend." Movies will be a little quieter, and emptier, without Morricone.

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