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June 13, 2010

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A composer who likes to conduct on special occasions

Ennio Morricone, one of the most famous Italians in the world, conducted a concert at the World Expo on June 2, Italy National Pavilion Day.

He is chiefly a composer of absolute music, but he also conducts his own concerts.

His achievements in film scoring have brought Morricone to a worldwide stage. The 82-year-old musician has scored more than 450 films. Along the way, he has worked with household names including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Roman Polanski and Oliver Stone.

His long-term partnership with director Sergio Leone on many Spaghetti Westerns has led to many classic moments in film.

Their films include "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," "Once Upon A Time In America" (1984), "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), and "A Few Dollars More" (1965).

Morricone has earned more than his fair share of awards including a Golden Lion, an Honorary Oscar, three Golden Globes, one Grammy Award, seven David Di Donatello, and one European Film Award.

His concert in Shanghai consisted of music from his classic film scores. The repertoire included "Deborah" from "Once Upon a Time in America," title piece from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and the theme piece of "Casualties of War."

Q: You visited China almost 30 years ago while shooting the TV series "Marco Polo," how does it compare with what you see now?

A: It's enormously different. We visited Beijing at that time and met with the late Italian journalist and writer Tiziano Terzani. Thanks to him, one of the very few Western reporters in China at the time, we learned quite a lot about the unknown world of China. That was right before the reform and opening-up policy. We already foresaw that rapid changes would be taken soon in the country. We worried about the risks to such changes. Without appropriate policies, such rapid changes could have caused revolutions or disturbance. So, I'm right here, seeing China as it is now and I'm very surprised because you have been able to get through the development without causing disturbance. You have been able to achieve all this in 30 years, which probably would have taken other nations 100 years.

Q: You have done quite a lot of conducting in the past 10 years, which you didn't really do before. What was the reason behind this transformation?

A: I have to say I'm essentially a composer rather than a conductor and I only conduct my own music works. It was only because I had got invited to conduct concerts of my own works by many countries and events. But essentially, I'm a composer who does not only film scoring, but also absolute music. What you saw in my concert in Shanghai is not the conductor Morricone, but the composer Morricone who conducts his own music.

Q: Which parts of the film score do you like the most in "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?"

A: Sometimes, I'm not happy with feedback from audiences. For example, many people remember the parts with trumpet in this film, but that's not the most representative part. The part that makes this film scoring unique is where it has the percussion and whistles. People usually whistle when they are happy, not when they are sad, but I used it in a sad scene to be ironic and to create a tension with the beats. This is what makes that movie score characteristic.

Q: What's your opinion of today's pop music?

A: I like pop music quite a lot even though my career is mostly in absolute music. People in the pop music industry have very interesting ideas. Also, I find lyrics today much better than before.


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