The Polar Music Prize 2010 is being awarded to Italian composer, arranger and conductor Ennio Morricone. Ennio Morricone’s congenial compositions and arrangements lift our existence to another plane, making the mundane feel like dramatic scenes in full Cinemascope. When, in 1964, Ennio Morricone scored the soundtrack for the Western A Fistful of Dollars (“Per un pugno di dollari”), budgetary constraints prevented him from using a full orchestra. Instead, he built up a brand new kind of music that set the tone for half a century of film music, but also influenced and inspired a number of musicians in the spheres of pop, rock and classical music.

Chapter: Maestro
Giancarlo Schiaffini, Antonello Neri, Robert Masotti, Ennio Morricone, Egisto Macchi and Franco Evangelisti (Photo: By Roberto Masotti (archivio giovanni piazza) CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Maestro!

Ennio Morricone was born in Rome on November 10, 1928. The son of a jazz trumpet player, the young Morricone started his musical career also playing the trumpet, receiving a diploma in the instrument in 1946. He began composing theatre music after this, and in 1954 received a diploma in Composition at the Conservatory under the guidance of Goffredo Petrassi. Morricone’s artistic career spans a wide range of composition genres, from absolute music to applied music, and has seen him working both as orchestrator and conductor in the recording field, as well as a composer for theatre, radio and cinema.

Morricone-Petrassi
Goffredo Petrassi (Photo: By Eugenio Loreti (Archive Eugenio Loreti) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Early works and collaborations
Main theme from The Untouchables at the Polar Music Prize ceremony 2010
Chapter: Instant Composition

Instant Composition

In 1965, Morricone joined the Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a collective of musicians devoted to pushing the traditional boundaries of music through avant-garde musical improvisations.

Olivier Messiaen (right) and Iannis Xenakis (left) , another Polar Music Prize Laureate involved in the same musical streams as Morricone and GDIDNC. (Photo: Les Amis de Xenakis)
Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza and their peers around Europe defined new musical structures during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
Director Luciano Salce (Photo: No copyright/Public Domain - via Wikipedia Italy)
Chapter: Claps & Whistle

Claps & Whistle

Ennio Morricone has scored over 400 films since he began his career as a film music composer in 1961. Among his most famous scores are the ones he composed for Sergio Leone’s Western classics A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966), Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) and A Fistful Of Dynamite (1971).

"A fistful of dollars" and "The good, the bad and the ugly" at the Polar Music Prize ceremony 2010
Chapter: Soundtrack as a genre

The soundtrack as a genre

The so called “Spaghetti” Westerns were often shot in Italy or Spain with low budgets. Since there was rarely much money left over for musical scores, Morricone learned to compose his scores using the simplest of means possible. Morricone recalls that he “reused realistic, concrete material, and everyday sounds” such as gunshots, cracking whips, whistles, voices, mouth harps, trumpets, and electric guitar in place of more “classic” orchestral arrangements. Though sonically bizarre for a movie score, Morricone was able to use his sonic effects to punctuate and comically tweak the action of the film, creating a soundtrack that was viscerally true to Leone’s vision. His trademark sound ushered in a new genre of popular film scores and became a new reference point for expressive film music.

Polar Music Prize campaign
Chapter: Legacy

A legacy of inspiration

Morricone’s memorable melodies and distinguished orchestrations have inspired many different musicians over the years. In the 1980s, his music received new recognition from outside the film music community when New York-based avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn offered up radical jazz interpretations of his classic film scores.

Do you recognize the original score?
Another Polar Music Prize winner inspired by Maestro Morricone (Photo: © Sony Music Entertainment)
The Big Gundown is an intriguing avant-garde jazz concept album by American composer and saxophonist John Zorn. The album consists of nine tracks built upon themes originally written by Ennio Morricone for Italian films, as well as Zorn's own "Tre Nel 5000." (Photo: © Tzadik records)
A prestigious and rewarded career!
Chapter: Classical music
Ennio Morricone at United Nations HQ, date unknown

Classical compositions

Apart from the movie scores that have made him famous in many different musical circles, Maestro Morricone has composed over 100 pieces of music over the course of his career. Some of these works include: Concerto per Orchestra n.1 (1957), Frammenti di Eros (1985), Cantata per L’Europa (1988), UT, per tromba, archi e percussioni (1991), Ombra di Lontana Presenza (1997), Voci dal Silenzio (2002), Sicilo ed altri Frammenti (2006), and Vuoto D’Anima Piena (2008). In 2001, Ennio Morricone began an active schedule of concert appearances, conducting his film music and concert works for symphony orchestras and polyphonic choirs in over 100 concerts across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Chapter: The Polar Music Prize

Stockholm August 2010

Maestro Morricone received the Polar Music Prize together with avant garde artist Björk in Stockholm, August 2010.

Barbara Hendricks and Ennio Morricone in Stockholm, August 2010 (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
The Laureates of the Year 2010 (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Ennio Morricone receiving the prize from His Majesty the King of Sweden
Ennio Morricone receiving the prize from His Majesty the King of Sweden (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Barbara Hendricks performing "Deborah's theme" at the Polar Music Prize ceremony 2010
Prize artwork by Karin Mamma Andersson and Jockum Nordström (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
"Gabriel"s Oboe" from the Polar Music Prize ceremony 2010