Il Grande Silenzio

Ennio Morricone

" Il Grande Silenzio is a classic Morricone score, the best he wrote to the genre of the Italian western. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence) is a 1968 Italian western directed by Sergio Corbucci. The subgenre was at it peak in betweenv 1960 and 1978, in which Ennio Morricone was the most important voice, setting a new standard, but composers such as Luis Enrique Bacalov, Francesco De Masi, Carlo Savina, Nico Fidenco and Carlo Rustichelli made vital contributions as well. The Italian western scores that made Morricone famous were quite operatic, not at all representable of the subgenre. The composer clearly disliked the exuberant attention drawn towards his collaboration with a certain director and didn't like it when someone called them spaghetti westerns. While my love for Morricone started with these titles, I have become to dislike the Vox Popoli, and the endless amount of odes/pastiches, which is the reason why I won't even mention the name of such titles and its director. It is iconic and brilliant music, but any mention simply infuriates me, which is also evident in a few other works, that unlike these westerns, are really insignificant in the overall career of the composer. I wonder why Morricone, who has been interviewed a million times, always had clear instructions on paper prior to each meeting, yet he never made the decision to prohibit questions about the clichéd examples entirely. Having said that, Il Grande Silenzio, while it is an Italian western, is by the greatest music he wrote to the subgenre, even greater than the clichéd titles.

The film tells a typical Italian western story, in which morals and ethics are quite different from the traditional western. A group of bounty hunters, under the guidance of ferocious, cold Loco (played by Klaus Kinski) is attempting to hunt down outlaws in the snowy environment. When the husband of Pauline gets killed by Loco's gang, she is decisive to seek revenge and hires the mute gun for hire Silenzio (played by Jean Louis Trintignant) to defeat them, while Pauline and Silenzio become romantically involved with one another.

Its main theme is breezy, conventional composition, exemplary of the sound that Morricone created for the genre, with rhythmic guitar, soothing strings, woodwinds and occasionally aided by Alessandro Alessandroni' I Cantori Moderni choir, providing a great musical tone for the snowy, wide surroundings. The composer doesn't necessarily contrast the surroundings, he only compliments the wide scope of it and provides a good narrative. Musically, there is nothing extraordinary about the theme, but it gradually becomes a more than a likable theme, as it undergoes dramatic renditions for choir only and evocative strings, which gives the theme considerably more weight, while the more upbeat variations do provide a strong contrast to the overall suffocating and somber atmosphere.

A secondary theme is a hugely conflicting love theme for Pauline and Silenzio, but it also serves as a theme of grief for Pauline. At first, there are several small hints by the cello and string solo, which have solemn quality, but as the two characters share a very intimate moment, an hour into the film, the theme is finally fully developed in the cue Invito All'Amore. It is a baroque Bach-like string adagio, that starts out hesitantly, but slowly develops with sweeping strings, choir and tremolo guitar (which signal the conflicting nature. This is the blueprint cue that started the sweeping strings (for a love theme), one of Morricone's trademarks, present in dozens of following scores. However, the most interesting resemblances are found in La Monaca di Monza, which shares the Bacherian strings and the same contrasting tremolo guitar. Breathtaking, emotional material in a film that is overall very unemotional. The emotional, expressive core is briefly revisited in the finale of the film, which I will discuss later on.

While there are two recognizable themes, the remainder of the score is nothing short of ice-coll music, the best of its kind. The most brilliant is an aggressive, slightly dissonant motif, which uses relentless electric guitar, woodwinds, tense strings, an abrasive trumpet solo, sharp sitar, occasional eerie voices and tablas, heard in cues such as Passaggi Nel Tempo. It recurs in differently orchestrated disguises and variations, which are all pure genius. All instruments are used tor a significant amount low-key musical moments that signal the overall suffocating feel and increases the tension, also helped by the tremolo guitar of the love theme.

In 1971, Morricone reintroduced several key ingredients of this score for the documentary Oceano: the main theme lacks the lyrical melody, but the rest is virtually the same and a considerable portion of the musical palette, the primal percussion (tablas) and sitar foremost, were also reinstated.

Then there is the finale, which in terms of the ethics and morals of the subgenre is one of a kind, and presents an unequivocal, surprisingly moving and downbeat ending.. L'Ultimo Grito builds a wonderful tension, culminating in the second slightly expressive variation of the love theme melody, chilling choir and strings, and with the tremolo guitar. Still, the ending is so good, that even is unparalleled by the music of Morricone.

Il Grande Silenzio is a classic Morricone score, the best he wrote to the genre of the Italian western.

1. Il grande silenzio (Restless) (02:29)
2. Gli assassini e la madre (03:21)
3. E l'amore verra' (01:58)
4. Barbara e tagliente (02:02)
5. Prima che volino i corvi (02:31)
6. Immobile (03:32)
7. Viaggio (01:54)
8. Voci nel vento (02:42)
9. Passaggi nel tempo (02:25)
10. Invito all'amore (Silent Love) (04:00)
11. Nel vecchio saloon (01:11)
12. L'ultimo gesto (04:27)
13. Dopo il martirio (01:41)

Total Duration: 00:34:13

(written 12-07-2020)
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Released by

Parade (regular release 1968)