Saturday, 21 January 2017

WTF (Weird tho' fabulous): part 4

Title: L’istruttoria è chiusa: dimentichi (The case is closed, forget it)
Year: 1971
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Though I tend to enjoy or at least respect Maestro Morricone’s efforts of creating experimental film scores, there are limits to everything. The name of this series is Weird tho’ fabulous and this score definitely fits into the first word of the title. The fabulousness though comes in the daringness of the ‘music’ and the guts behind it. This is undoubtedly the most experimental Morricone score I’ve ever heard and it’s very hard even to label as music.

This political film tells a story of a prisoner witnessing firsthand the grimness and corruption going on behind the bars. The whole score is avant-garde in nature and it’s clearly inspired by Karlheinz Stockhausen’s compositions. The cues consist of sound design and effects that appear seemingly out of nowhere and disappear as they please. Bulk of the score contains radio noise playing either patriotic marches (the extract is by a fellow film composer Luis Bacalov and it’s called Una banda per un assassinio) or pop cues that sound like Tom Jones singing. The album actually says that Morricone orchestrated and conducted the music. I would have loved to be a fly on the ceiling when the score was recorded because I have no idea how one would orchestrate or notate this kind of abstract ‘music’, or whether there were actual radios being turned on and off during the recording session like in an avant-garde music installation. Or it might just be a typo.

The score is presented in a 27-minute suite divided into four sections plus the album also includes two alternate takes at the end. The titles of the sections show no hope for our protagonist: ‘Memento’ – ‘Orders’ – ‘Riot’ – ‘Life sentence’. The score opens with a buzzing electronic effect and then first faint radio signals appear soon to be interrupted by metallic clanging. Ordini on the other hand begins in a much quieter manner with several long pauses between the twangs. There are some real instruments to be heard from time to time such as a piano or small string quartet. However those moments are short-lived as the madness starts to sneak in. The track introduces highly disturbing whispering voices and creaking prison doors amid atonal piano chords. And then out of nowhere we hear screams that sound like someone getting assaulted. Around 7-minute mark out of the silence arrives an actual musical motif, a minor third interval for some plucked instrument that reminds me of time ticking by. Astoundingly the motif is actually reprised in track 6. Overall this 11-minute cue is the best section because it actually includes some real instruments and almost none of that irritating radio noise.

Well I spoke too soon as Disordini is full of that. However it also includes some rhythmic string and piano chords which are made unbearable by the constant interruptions provided by shouting prison guards, screeching electronics and happy march music that cuts and twists and bends like someone was messing with the signal. Ergastolo introduces actual screeching woodwind instruments before the atmosphere cools down and those aforementioned string chords make their return. Surprisingly a steady piano rhythm appears at 3.5-minute mark perhaps giving us this score’s version of forward momentum. During the last few minutes the track reaches a sort of climax as it unleashes all kinds of rattles and clangs and the electronic effects intensify for a short fleeting moment. The last two cues don’t bring anything new to the table though the film version of Memento has to be the worst track in Maestro’s entire career as the electronic manipulation of different radio signals is just that annoying and unbearable.

This is what a nightmare sounds like. The score knows how to establish an atmosphere though: bleak prison scenery fully realized by sounds echoing in the vast hallways and cramped, claustrophobic cell blocks. Some might wonder why I gave a high rating to a Morricone score with music by an avant-garde group Nuova Consonanza. At least their music was fun, this one isn’t. The score will never be a classic and I find it nearly impossible to recommend to anyone. However it once again shows the creativity of a Maestro who didn’t bow to anyone else and crafted a score unlike anything we’ve heard before. And that is an accomplishment on its own right.

Rating: *

1. Memento (02:34) *
2. Ordini (11:03) **
3. Disordini (05:49) *
4. Ergastolo (07:23) *
5. Disordini (titoli versione film) (02:14) *
6. Ordini (versione alternativa) (03:29) *

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