Friday, 20 January 2017

Need for drama: part 3

Title: I figli chiedono perché (Why?)
Year: 1972
Composer: Ennio Morricone

I figli chiedono perché is a film supposedly about a friendship between a Jewish girl and a Muslim boy during the Arab-Israeli war. I said supposedly because I couldn’t find a synopsis in English and had to turn to Google Translate. As you can probably tell, the film has completely faded into obscurity but luckily one thing still remains and that’s the score by none other than Maestro Morricone who composed a hugely dramatic monothematic score for the film.

The 40-minute album opens with the main theme that provides a prime look to a musical structure called descending fifths. The melody just flows seamlessly because of the predictable chords but it’s still very pleasing though overdramatic. The track starts with a solo piano line that is joined by the unmistakable voice of Edda dell’Orso and descending swirling strings. The B section of the theme reminds me of other Morricone compositions, for instance a B section of his main theme for Addio fratello crudele the year before. You better like the theme if you want to enjoy the rest of the album because it’s basically everything you’re going to get. The following Angeli deconstructs the main chords into Morriconean string lines before the theme is reprised by the flute and backed by a classical guitar. Nuovi angeli changes solo to the guitar and lowers the atmosphere even more as the lines from the previous track start to become hazier and more somber in tone. Its second version includes the piano playing in a classically romantic way and Edda singing in a sort of lied-inspired fashion though without lyrics. The delicate harp and glockenspiel open I piccoli before Edda’s vocals make a sweet return even though the music becomes more and more introverted. The B section gets a fuller arrangement in I bambini before returning to the main theme. The rest of the thematic reprises vary in tempo and instrumentation balancing the theme from solo instrument to another. These include flutes, guitar, organ and cor anglais for instance.

There are a few exceptions to the monothematic structure of the score though. Some moments are possibly meant to be suspenseful or depicting the horrors of war. These are surprisingly composed for solo harp providing tinkling notes that float in the emptiness. The first version Arpa-fata morgana prima has eventually some variations of the main theme and similar notes also open its second version in track 10 before everything dissolves. The deconstruction is complete in track 19 with the harp notes almost sounding like they were tampered with electronics to achieve their echoy nature. Similar effects are also implemented into the main theme in track 18. The reason I really wouldn’t call these moments suspenseful is because they create a feeling of slight uneasiness rather than horror and are occasionally even beautiful in their simplicity.

There’s also another gorgeous theme called Fiaba per innocenti that appears a few times and reminds me of Maestro’s spaghetti western melodies or perhaps some religious music because of its harmonic language. The first version is fully orchestral, the second in track 12 has a solo recorder playing the melody and finally there’s a humming choir providing the harmonies in Fiaba seconda with an appropriate solo child vocalist (at least judging by the subject matter).

The album is certainly dramatic but there are several moments of beauty, especially the ones with the presence of Edda’s emotional vocals. Even the suspense is handled with very low-key effects and it doesn’t distract the listener away from the overall mood. I also love how the album begins dramatically but diminishes as it progresses becoming introverted and then rising through hardships back into the light.

Rating: ****

1. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Tema) (02:32) *****
2. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Angeli) (03:12) ****
3. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Nuovi angeli) (02:30) ****
4. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (I piccoli) (02:36) *****
5. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Arpa-fata morgana prima) (00:57) ***
6. Fiaba per innocenti (Intermezzo) (01:40) *****
7. I bambini ci chiedono perche' i piccoli (Versione II) (01:30) *****
8. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (I bambini) (02:29) ****
9. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Nuovi angeli versione II) (01:57) *****
10. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Arpa-fata morgana seconda) (03:57) ****
11. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Perduti nel sogno) (01:32) ***
12. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Fiaba prima) (01:17) ****
13. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Perché versione I) (01:34) ****
14. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Arpa) (00:47) **
15. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Perché versione II) (01:26) ***
16. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Fiaba seconda) (01:52) *****
17. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Angeli versione organo) (00:59) ***
18. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (I piccoli versione celesta) (01:26) ****
19. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Arpa versione arpe II) (03:57) ****
20. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Versione corno inglese) (01:48) ****
21. I bambini ci chiedono perche' (Finale) (02:33) *****

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