How Ennio Morricone won the West

Jul 08, 2020 678

BY: Jeva Lange

There is perhaps no single sound more immediately evocative of the American West than the lone ocarina wail from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, affectionately transcribed as "ah-ee-ah-ee-ah." But remarkably, its creator, the Italian composer Ennio Morricone — who died Monday in Rome, following a femur fracture at the age of 91 — didn't visit the American West until 2007, over 40 years after writing the score that would practically come to define it.

How, exactly, did a person, who famously never learned English, much less spent any time among the red mesas of Monument Valley or in the dusty borderlands of Arizona, so evocatively capture the lonesome, wild, and gritty spirit unique to the southwestern United States? 

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