Monday, 9 January 2017

WTF (Weird tho' fabulous): part 3

Title: Teorema (Theorem)
Year: 1968
Composer: Ennio Morricone

This is going to be another multiple score release by a Swedish record label Fin de Siècle Media. The films are unknown and there’s very little information to be found about them online. Judging by their descriptions they seem to contain many genres and hence can’t really be categorized. All the scores by Maestro Morricone are versatile and even the soundscapes don’t really give you the clue what’s happening on screen.

The first score is the shortest of the three with only about 15 minutes of music and it’s probably the most well-known title of the bunch. Teorema is directed by the controversial filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and it tells a story of a supernatural entity that comes to change the life of an upper-middle class Italian family. The score begins with two abstract, atonal pieces. The first one utilizes the chamber-sized orchestra and choral voices of I Cantori Moderni. The soundscape that is created is completely otherworldly and sterile and it’s stripped down of any emotion. It’s extremely difficult music and reminds me of Maestro’s absolute music compositions but the effect is similarly oddly engaging. The following Frammenti drops the choir and what are left are only the little fragmented notes from the orchestral instruments that sound like they form an aleatoric composition.

The rest of the score includes 3 melodic cues beginning with an original song performed by a group called Trio Junior. It has to be one of my all-time favourite Morricone songs. The melody has a classical quality to it and the harmonizing of the vocals reminds me of medieval singing even though they are accompanied by a pop beat. The uneasiness isn’t far though because the track also includes eerie wind sound effects that make the song sound like it is played somewhere in the distance. L’ultima corrida is a comical piece featuring a Mariachi trumpet and electric guitar solo over choral voices singing “bombom” . The last track is a danceable beat track with rather mellow harmonies that close the score peacefully. It may be hard to rate a score this short but based on these cues I’m happily surprised by the variety that is apparent in all the 5 tracks and thus Teorema gets a high rating from me.

Rating: ****

Title: La stagione dei sensi (The season of the senses)
Year: 1969
Composer: Ennio Morricone

The next title La stagione dei sensi is a psychologic tale about seduction of naïve teenage girls on a secluded island. The film opens with a brutal original song Gloria that’s performed by Patrick Samson with a rock’n’roll attitude. However what makes the song stand out is the unusual arrangement by Maestro that features ear-piercing brass section lead by crystal-clear trumpets that sound like they’re welcoming the four horsemen of the apocalypse. After the exciting opening the mood changes immediately to a Latin-flavoured cue Una voce allo specchio with an incredibly beautiful vocal scat solo by Edda dell’Orso. The track is just a bliss to listen to and comes completely out of left field. The reprise in track 12 replaces Edda’s voice with a sensual harpsichord. The psychedelic aspects of the story are addressed in the following Sytar that features the Indian instrument sitar but the backing orchestral arrangement is very impressionistic which makes the overall mood surprisingly somber.

The second original song sung by Samson isn’t as successful as the opening track. It has 2 versions, Tell me tell me in English and Laila laila in Italian. The trumpets are once again featured heavily but this time in a more 60s pop music style which is fun but nothing special. Edda has another incredible solo in a dreamlike Sospendi il tempo which acts as an interlude between the two rock tracks. There’s also a track of pure insanity called Dinamica per 5+1 which has to be one of the greatest atonal tracks I’ve heard from Morricone. It’s written for a chamber ensemble that consists of a constant walking electric guitar line, percussion hits, screeching/barking trumpet, occasional clarinet and completely mad organ lines that sound like someone just smashing the keys blindly. The piece has no clear structure but that’s what makes it intriguing in a way. The sound has to be created in a sarcastic way because nobody would create a cue this bizarre without any sense of humour. The score ends with a beautiful classical waltz for the string section that is again a complete mood change compared to the preceding madness.

The contrast between different musical styles is even more evident in this score than Teorema. There’s only a bit more oomph missing that prevents it from getting five stars. Nevertheless the mixture sounds fresh and the constant changes keep the listener on his toes.

Rating: ****1/2

Title: Vergogna schifosi (Dirty angels)
Year: 1969
Composer: Ennio Morricone

The closing 23 minutes of the album are dedicated to Vergogna schifosi which is nearly a lost film according to the description. It is centered on blackmail of previous crimes and Morricone has taken a rather playful approach to the serious subject matter. Namely the main theme, which is a children’s round game tune but the choral lyrics include far more ominous words such as “matto” (= madman) and “morte” (= death). The theme is a pinnacle of Maestro’s theme writing ability. The playful tune forms the basis but in addition to that there are two counter melodies that arise over the choral voices. The first is a long-lined soaring melody that is solely performed by Edda dell’Orso’s wordless vocals. The second motif is a sung wah-wah similar to Morricone’s spaghetti western writing which is featured heavily in Ninna nanna per adulti which then variates the round game melody in an impressionistic orchestral version. The score is mostly monothematic and all the material arises from the opening track Matto, caldo, soldi, morto… girotondo. The Edda melody gets its purest version in Una spiaggia a mezzogiorno without the other choral voices. The last track reprises all the thematic ideas in a neatly packed and compact way and it’s probably the greatest single track on the album.

There are two exceptions to the monothematic nature of the score. Guardami negli occhi is a laid-back beat track that is pleasant enough but doesn’t just quite reach to the level of the other material. Another original cue is the 6.5-minute Un altro mare which is a waltz that has harmonies similar to some of Maestro’s giallo scores. The track consists of alternates between the chorus with wah-wahs and different verses utilizing both the choral voices and orchestra. There’s a constant feeling of forward momentum and the 6 minutes just fly by like a light summer breeze.

The score is clearly the best one of the bunch and a pleasant listen throughout even though it’s monothematic. The strength of the melodies and the colourful orchestrations prevent it from never becoming dull.

Rating: *****

All in all the album is one of the best collections of short Morricone scores that’s floating around. Each one is highly enjoyable and interesting though there are challenging moments as well. But what I love most is that even though the scores are very short, there’s a clear vision to them and they feel like separate little journeys even though there aren’t that much cohesion between the contrasting styles of each score. That’s a sign of true artistry to me and I can wholeheartedly recommend this album!

1. Teorema (04:15) *****
2. Frammenti (02:29) ***
3. Fruscio de foglie verdi (Cantato) (02:22) *****
4. L'ultima corrida (02:38) *****
5. Beat n. 3 (02:45) ****

“La stagione dei sensi”
6. Gloria (03:31) *****
7. Una voce allo specchio (02:56) *****
8. Sytar (03:33) *****
9. Tell me tell me (03:03) ***
10. Sospendi il tempo (01:57) *****
11. Laila laila (03:10) ***
12. Una voce allo specchio (01:05) *****
13. Dinamica per 5+1 (04:53) *****
14. In tre quarti (02:08) *****

“Vergogna schifosi”
15. Matto, caldo, soldi, morto... girotondo (03:22) *****
16. Guardami negli occhi (02:15) ****
17. Ninna nanna per adulti (02:42) *****
18. Una spiaggia a mezzogiorno (03:37) *****
19. Un altro mare (06:31) *****
20. Matto, caldo, soldi, morto... girotondo (04:51) *****

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