L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo

Ennio Morricone

" L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo employs the talents of Edda Dell'Orso to perform the mother of all la-la-la scores. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the expanded release

L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage,1970) was the debut of director Dario Argento, who had previously made valuable contributions as a writer to films, of which some were scored by Ennio Morricone (C'era una volta il West, Metti, una Sera a Cena,Comandamenti per un Gangster...).The film continued the genre of Giallo films, which is foremost a murder mystery surrounding a serial killer, with elements of horror and eroticism,visually baroque and much more bloodier than usual. Another element that defined the genre is a typical kind of music. Ennio Morricone had previously scored one horror film, Amanti d'oltretomba, and one Giallo called Un Tranquillo Posto di Campagna in 1968. L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo was the first of the Argento´s Animal Trilogy,followed by Il Gatto a Nove Code (The Cat o' Nine Tails, 1971) and 4 Mosche di Velluto Grigio (Four Flies on Grey Velvet,1972), all aided by wonderful scores of the composer. Due to a dispute with the producer of these films,the father of Dario, who felt all the music of the trilogy sounded the same, Morricone wasn't asked for other films,replaced by other excellent composers such as Golbin, Pino Donaggio and Giorgini Gaslin. However, it wasn't until La Sindrome di Stendhal (1996) and Fantasma dell'Opera (1998) he was reunited with Dario Argento.

Ennio Morricone has been known for a lot of beautiful themes, righteous pathos, creative ideas and typical dissonance and much more. I think he truly ,excelled the most in the genre of horror, like a lot of other Italian composers, especially in the 1960´s and 1970´s. In the beginning of the Giallo films the music was rather conventional in its approach, anonymous at times, while slowly beginning to adopt the elements it was famed for. Groovy, laid back melodies and female wordless vocals were the first to enter, but things significantly changed gear when Morricone joined The Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza. It did not only take their experiments to a whole new level, embracing a broader musical texture, but their influence became apparent in film music.The landmark score is without a doubt Morricone´s Un Tranquillo Posto di Campagna (1968), for which he introduced the group in experimenting for a score.The result was arguably the most exciting and insanely funny Giallo score ever written, with a lot of original ideas and innocent wordless singing by Edda Dell'Orso. The offbeat and dissonant banjo, crazed whistles,vocals, offbeat strings and other elements created an appropriately rural sound, it kind of sounds like a dissonant score for a cartoon. Never again has any composer been able to write an overall more creative Giallo score than Morricone did for this film. Bizarrely, it has never received the praise it deserved, even though a local Italian restaurant holder, of all people, agrees with me completely. Surely, a lot of standalone or even multiple cues from a variety of Morrcone scores capture the dissonant brilliance, but percent wise they form a minority. I sometimes pity the fact that the harmonica dissonance of L'Ultimo Treno Della Notte, which is rather brilliant, is too repeating and lacks more daring and varied use.

L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo became the film that did not only redefine the genre, but also introduced the much famed standard for such scores. Giallo music is usually best described as a unique mixture of groovy/jazz/lounge, creative dissonant experiments, female wordless vocals and soothing and erotic lyricism. The experimental parts of these scores usually became an element of surprise in the sub genre, while similarly creative ideas were put into effect in a lot of the 'common' Italian horror scores of that time.

L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo employs the talents of Edda Dell'Orso to perform the mother of all la-la-la scores. The use of such vocals became a vast component of Giallos and spread to other genres, but the composer certainly did not invent them. In the opening cue, Violenza inattesa (04:08), her la-la-la settles for a nice lullaby theme, sometimes with a sudden gear change, accompanied by a male voice and groovy element. It gives the score a rather soothing and strong theme of innocence and warmth, while the wind chimes give it just enough of an unsettling, appropriate crystal feel on the background. There´s even a great bossa nova style cue and, off topic, a drinking song (Se sei stonato).Other places use variations of her singing, with different nuances, pace, or preserving pauses and echoing her voice. The most iconic are the breathing tones, hissing, moans and especially the moments that sound erotically arousing, which is evident in a brilliant orgasm cue L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (01:23). In this cue, we hear Edda groaning and moaning sexually, supported by the sound of a heartbeat that ends with her voice reaching an orgasm. The wide range of her voice, as described above, also mixes well with the experimental dissonance.

Dissonance and idiosyncratic ambience are remaining key words that define this Giallo score. After having heard countless of (Italian) scores that rely mostly or partly on dissonance, portions of the score to L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo may seem rather conventional at first. I have become to understand that within the greater scope of his career, some of the scores that rely much on dissonance, really lack the true creativity of works such as L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo.Rarely do any of the maestro´s scores become pure experiments of dissonance and abstractness. Ecco Homo is the only score I can think of. Then again, that particulair score isn't as challenging as dissonant portions of other ones. For the greatest endeavors, some of his chamber works and ´Gruppo´ music are highly recommended.

For the score he surrounded himself with the members of Gruppo, seeing the film and simultaneously trying to react to it musically, experimenting. It explains the chaotic sense of the music and how the music sounds. Corsa si Teitta is a very good example of that. It mixes frenetic drum solos, percussion, harpsichord, sharp tones of brass, offbeat strings, excelled echoing la-la-la and moaning vocals, to such an extent it becomes a unique and nightmarish composition. The wind chimes, with its appropriate glass-like sound, is another element that gives the score a personality of its own. The unsettling sound easily interchanges between cues with a more soothing sound and the experimental pieces.

L'Uccello Dalle Piume Di Cristallo is a notable score seen from its iconic status for a Giallo, which I rarely take into account for my final verdict. Status is such a subjective thing and I don't care much for it, and rarely agree with it. It is not one of his very best, but it is extremely close. Yet, I feel a '' one in a million'' comprise is very much deserved for this almost perfect musical work. The Cinevox 36 minutes and expanded release are the two cds I would recommend most of all.

Track list

1. Piume di cristallo (05:12)
2. Non rimane piu nessuno (03:17)
3. Corsa sui tetti (04:59)
4. Se sei stonato (00:48)
5. Svolta drammatica (02:43)
6. Frasseggio senza struttura (04:16)
7. La citta si risveglia (03:09)
8. L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo (01:25)
9. Silenzio nel caos (02:12)
10. Violenza inattesa (04:08)
11. Frasseggio senza struttura (02:26)
alternate version
12. piume di cristallo (02:08)
alternate version

Total Duration: 00:36:43

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Released by

Cinevox (regular release 2008)