Mondadori Libri is pleased to announce the publication of Inseguendo quel suono. La mia musica, la mia vita, an autobiography in the form of a dialogue written by Ennio Morricone together with the young composer Alessandro De Rosa. The italian version of the book is available in hardcover and eBook.
How this book was started?
I first encountered the music of Ennio Morricone many years ago. I don’t remember when exactly, because in 1985, the year I was born, many of his compositions had already been around for decades. But I do remember watching The Secret of the Sahara with my parents as a child – I think it was a rerun, because I was definitely older than 3 – or Buddy goes West with Bud Spencer… I also remember a few images from La Piovra… so I’m sure I heard the soundtracks for those films and series.
Me and my family never went to the cinema.
I discovered later that those soundtracks had been composed by Morricone, along with who knows how many other songs that had already slipped into my head before I was able to connect them to a name.
I was bored at school, so I started studying guitar with my dad, then with others, but it wasn’t enough: I wanted to create something of my own. It was a need, a necessity.
I thought I could do it with music. I went from teacher to teacher, but I was looking for the right one, a real master.
On May 9th 2005, my father Gianfranco came home from work, and that evening he had one of the papers you find in the subway, Metro. “Ennio Morricone will be at the Spazio Oberdan in Milan later… You and Francesco might be able to make it in time”.
Francesco is my brother.
I ran to my room and burned a CD of some of the music I had composed on my computer, wrote a letter and put it in an envelope addressed to Morricone. Without getting into too much detail, I asked him to listen to the CD, and one track in particular: The flavours of the forest (I really liked – and still do – Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, so I had tried to reproduce that same texture, partly by ear and partly with a score I had somehow gotten my hands on). It was track 11. I added that I would like to know what he thought of it, and that even more I wanted to take lessons with him.
Yes, I asked him if he wanted to become my teacher.
Francesco and I arrived at the Spazio Oberdan a bit late, there were no parking spaces and the conference had already started. There were no longer any seats, so we waited outside. Next to us some guys were complaining, they were real characters…
I remember that after about an hour a middle-aged man – distinguished looking in his jacket and tie – got impatient and left in his red car, with the windows open and Nino Rota’s Amarcord playing at full volume: it was funny. A few minutes later, someone opened a service entrance door to leave. I slipped my foot in the door before it could close, and that’s how we got in.
The conference was about to end. The room was packed.
I managed to hear the last exchange.
Someone: “What do you think of new composers?”
Morricone: “That depends, they often send me CDs at home; I usually listen to a few seconds and then through them away!”
I told myself he was in a bad mood, but still got in the line-up of fans waiting for his autograph.
I had almost reached the stage when Morricone got up to leave, but the only exit from the room was in my direction since there was no backstage. I thought “No! Not now…” As he was coming down from the stage, I pushed through the crowd and managed to intercept him. I blocked his path and said I had a CD for him. At first he thought I wanted his autograph and got out his pen. I explained that the CD was for him to listen to. He told me he didn’t know where to put it, but I insisted and politely pointed out that a CD doesn’t take up very much space.
I specified that I wanted to know what he thought of track 11. He took the envelope, sighed, and disappeared.
When I got home I told my parents what had happened. They were already in bed. I cut the story short, concluding “Oh well, in any case he said he throws everything away. Good night.”
The next day the unthinkable occurred. I was in Vercelli for a harmony lesson with Stefano Solani – which I never ended up finishing – when suddenly my mother called me. Morricone had called and wanted to talk to me. He had even left me a voicemail, which I later recorded and still save.
He said it was May 10th and he had listened to my piece: he recognised I had great qualities but that I was an autodidact. I needed to find a good teacher. He didn’t have time to give me lessons, but I needed to study composition. “You can’t help it. It’s a good piece, but if you don’t study composition you’ll always imitate other people.” It was a serious problem, because I didn’t know any composition teachers.
I called him back a week later to thank him and ask for advice: “Can you recommend someone?” He said he could give me a few names, but that all the teachers he knew were in Rome. He advised me not to go to the Conservatory but instead to follow my own path, to study the fugue at least. I thanked him and answered that I would definitely move to Rome.
And I did. From that moment on I began studying composition, and my life became decidedly more complicated. But I learned a lot, especially from Valentina Aveta, my partner during all those years, and, close to Rome in Cantalupo in Sabina, from Boris Porena – who became my teacher –, Paola Bucan, Fernando Sanchez Amillategui, and Oliver Wehlmann, together with whom I did a lot of good thinking, from Jon Anderson of Yes, with whom I started a professional collaboration, and from all the people I met in the course of my work who have sustained me. Without those relationships, this book probably wouldn’t exist.
From time to time Morricone and I would speak on the phone. I would send him my reflections or ask him a question in a letter, and he would call me the next day to give me his perspective. Those encounters, if only by phone, were important: they gave me perspective and courage.
I stayed in Rome for six years, and when I decided to move to Holland to continue my studies, I wrote to him again to explain why I had decided to leave. He called me, as he always had, and told me the story of how he got started, having to pay his dues, the difficulties he encountered… “As soon as you come back to Rome I’d like to give you a short piece of writing on my experiences as a composer” he said.
That text was called The Music of the Cinema in the Context of History. I discovered it only in the summer of 2012, when we met again at his house. As promised, he gave me a copy and asked me to tell him what I thought. I was flattered and took a few careful notes. And that was the beginning of this project.
These pages represent only the tip of the iceberg of all that I discovered. Our conversations began in January of 2013; I lived in Holland then, but returned to Rome often.
Since that time, I worked with the goal of delivering the complete text to him before the 10-year anniversary of our first meeting. And I did. On May 8th 2015 I left Solaro – where my parents still live today – and went to Ennio’s house, hoping for his approval. I left four hours later with the feeling that a large, heavy wheel was turning on itself inside of me, slowly completing its cycle.
So that’s how these conversations began, from my strong determination and from Ennio Morricone’s trust, which allowed me to pursue this adventure. I have lived it as a precious opportunity and a great responsibility.
I would like to thank him and Maria – his wife, always so attentive and helpful –, their family and all those who have dedicated their time to me, often more than just an afternoon, to gather additional information. In particular: Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuseppe Tornatore, Luis Bacalov, Carlo Verdone, Giuliano Montaldo, Flavio Emilio Scogna, Francesco Erle, Antonio Ballista, Enzo Ocone, Bruno Battisti D’Amario, Sergio Donati, Boris Porena, and Sergio Miceli.
This book cannot discuss everything, nor does it seek to. It’s impossible to recount every single detail of one of the most influential musical personalities of the 20th century. Morricone is too complex and rich for that. But I think the reader, whether they are a musician or not, will find questions here that are relevant to him or her. At least, that is my hope.
Alessandro De Rosa
“It is curious to observe and re-examine one’s life through a process of this nature. To be honest, I never would have thought I would do such a thing. Then I met Alessandro, and this project developed so gradually and spontaneously that I re-established contact with the facts that arose almost without realizing it was happening. I can now say I have taken on new positions with respect to certain events, those same events that typically in the course of a lifetime simply occur without one taking the time reflect on or put them into perspective. Perhaps this long exploration, this long reflection, was important and even necessary at this point in my life. As I later discovered, coming into contact with your memories doesn’t only entail the melancholy of something that slips away with time, but also looking forward, understanding who I am now. And who knows what else may still happen. Without a shadow of a doubt it is the best book ever written on myself, the most authentic, the most detailed and well-finished. The most true.”
Ennio Morricone is indisputably one of the greatest composers in the history of cinema. He received an Oscar for his score of the most recent Quentin Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight, won a Golden Globe and six Bafta awards, and has been included in the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame, the mythical sidewalk in Los Angeles commemorating the greats of performance arts. But that’s not all. Fortunately for us, Ennio Morricone has also decided to recount his art, his music, and his experiences in a book. Inseguendo quel suono. La mia musica, la mia vita is the product of meetings with the composer Alessandro De Rosa, a type of long dialogue, in-depth and rich with information, anecdotes, and reflections that allow Morricone’s fans to enter the studio of the legend, to understand the stories and thoughts that are behind some of his most beloved music.
This book is the result of years of meetings between Ennio Morricone and the young composer Alessandro De Rosa. It is a dense and profound dialogue, but at the same time clear and exact, discussing life, music, and the marvellous and unpredictable ways that life and music come into contact with and influence each other.
Morricone offers a rich account of the path he has followed: the years of study at the Conservatory, the professional debut with RAI and RCA, where he wrote and arranged numerous songs that achieved success – including among many others Se telefonando performed by Mina – and his collaboration with the most important Italian and international directors, from Leone to Pasolini, Bertolucci, Tornatore, De Palma, Almodóvar, and Tarantino with the recent Oscar win.
In pages that are dizzying for any music and art lover, the master opens for the first time the door of his creative laboratory, introducing the reader to the ideas at the heart of his musical thought that make him one of the most brilliant composers of our time.
Alessandro De Rosa describes his experiences in authoring this book with the following words: “From the very first moment, I sensed that talking to Ennio Morricone about Ennio Morricone would produce materials that spoke to a variety of audiences. Morricone has remained in limbo between multiple socio-cultural worlds that rarely come into contact with one another; he is in a truly unique borderline position. So how can one be clear without being superficial, be technical but also communicative? How can one speak to people from varying generations and cultural backgrounds, combining biography and musicology, anecdote and the nuances of composition? How can I unite his and my personal identities with the story to be narrated? These were the challenges. I decided that I would need to create a polysemous text that established communication between multiple levels of interpretation. But how? Then, during our conversations and my parallel research work over the course of the last four years, I realized that all we needed to do was respect what had naturally emerged. The relationship between myself and Ennio was made of the same stuff as that need for multifaceted communication; our synthesis simultaneously encompassed and resolved all those challenges”.