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E.M. CIORAN ~ ENCOUNTERS WITH PAUL CELAN



Precis de decomposition, my first book written in French, was published in 1949 by Gallimard. Five works of mine had been published in Romanian. In 1937, I arrived in Paris on a scholarship from the Bucharest Institut francais, and I have never left. It was only in 1947, though, that I thought of giving up my native language. It was a sudden decision. Switching languages at the age of thirty-seven is not an easy undertaking. In truth, it is a martyrdom, but a fruitful martyrdom, an adventure that lends meaning to being (for which it has great need!). I recommend to anyone going through a major depression to take on the conquest of a foreign idiom, to reenergize himself, altogether to renew himself, through the Word. Without my drive to conquer French, I might have committed suicide. A language is a continent, a universe, and the one who makes it his is a conquistador. But let us get to the subject....
The German translation of the Precis proved difficult. Rowohlt, the publisher, had engaged an unqualified woman, with disastrous results. Someone else had to be found. A Romanian writer, Virgil lerunca, who, after the war, had edited a literary journal in Romania, in which Celan's first poems were published, warmly recommended him. Celan, whom I knew only by name, lived in the Latin quarter, as did I. Accepting my offer, Celan set to work and managed it with stunning speed. I saw him often, and it was his wish that I read closely along, chapter by chapter, as he progressed, offering possible suggestions. The vertiginous problems involved in translation were at that time foreign to me, and I was far from assessing the breadth of it. Even the idea that one might have a committed interest in it seemed rather extravagant to me. I was to experience a complete reversal, and, years later, would come to regard translation as an exceptional undertaking, as an accomplishment almost equal to that of the work of creation. I am sure, now,  that the only one to understand a book thoroughly is someone who has gone to the trouble of translating it. As a general rule, a good translator sees more clearly than the author, who, to the extent that he is in the grips of his work, cannot know its secrets, thus its weaknesses and its limits. Perhaps Celan, for whom words were life and death, would have shared this position on the art of translation.
In 1978, when Klett was reprinting Lehre vom Zerfall (the GermanPrecis), I was asked to correct any errors that might exist. I was unable to do it myself, and refused to engage anyone else. One does not correct Celan. A few months before he died, he said to me that he would like to review the complete text. Undoubtedly, he would have made numerous revisions, since, we must remember, the translation of the Precis dates back to the beginning of his career as a translator. It is really a wonder that a noninitiate in philosophy dealt so extraordinarily well with the problems inherent in an excessive, even provocative, use of paradox that characterizes my book.
Relations with this deeply torn being were not simple. He clung to his biases against one person or another, he sustained his mistrust, all the more so because of his pathological fear of being hurt, and everything hurt him. The slightest indelicacy, even unintentional, affected him irrevocably. Watchful, defensive against what might happen, he expected the same attention from others, and abhorred the easygoing attitude so prevalent among the Parisians, writers or not. One day, I ran into him in the street. He was in a rage, in a state nearing despair, because X, whom he had invited to have dinner with him, had not bothered to come. Take it easy, I said to him, X is like that, he is known for his don't-give-a-damn attitude. The only mistake was expecting him.
Celan, at that time, was living very simply and having no luck at all finding a decent job. You can hardly picture him in an office. Because of his morbidly sensitive nature, he nearly lost his one opportunity. The very day that I was going to his home to lunch with him, I found out that there was a position open for a German instructor at the Ecole normale superieure, and that the appointment of a teacher would be imminent. I tried to persuade Celan that it was of the utmost importance for him to appeal vigorously to the German specialist in whose hands the matter resided. He answered that he would not do anything about it, that the professor in question gave him the cold shoulder, and that he would for no price leave himself open to rejection, which, according to him, was certain. Insistence seemed useless. Returning home, it occurred to me to send him by pneumatique, a message in which I pointed out to him the folly of allowing such an opportunity to slip away. Finally he called the professor, and the matter was settled in a few minutes. "I was wrong about him," he told me later. I won't go so far as to propose that he saw a potential enemy in every man; however, what was certain was that he lived in fear of disappointment or outright betrayal. His inability to be detached or cynical made his life a nightmare. I will never forget the evening I spent with him when the widow of a poet had, out of literary jealousy, launched an unspeakably vile campaign against him in France and Germany, accusing him of having plagiarized her husband. "There isn't anyone in the world more miserable than I am," Celan kept saying. Pride doesn't soothe fury, even less despair.
Something within him must have been broken very early on, even before the misfortunes which crashed down upon his people and himself. I recall a summer afternoon spent at his wife's lovely country place, about forty miles from Paris. It was a magnificent day. Everything invoked relaxation, bliss, illusion. Celan, in a lounge chair, tried unsuccessfully to be lighthearted. He seemed awkward, as if he didn't belong, as though that brilliance was not for him. What can I be looking for here? he must have been thinking. And, in fact, what was he seeking in the innocence of that garden, this man who was guilty of being unhappy, and condemned not to find his place anywhere? It would be wrong to say that I felt truly ill at ease; nevertheless, the fact was that everything about my host, including his smile, was tinged with a pained charm, and something like a sense of nonfuture.
Is it a privilege or a curse to be marked by misfortune? Both at once. This double face defines tragedy. So Celan was a figure, a tragic being. And for that he is for us somewhat more than a poet.
E. M. Cioran, "Encounters with Paul Celan," in Translating Tradition: Paul Celan in France, edited by Benjamin Hollander (San Francisco:ACTS 8/t), 1988): 757-52.

Spirit turns into music, music turns into spirit. At some scale.

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Jazz interview with jazz trumpeter Markus Stockhausen (Germany). An interview by email in writing. 
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Markus Stockhausen: – I grew up in Cologne mostly in my mother’s house. When I was 6 years my parents separated. Often we went to my father’s concerts, it felt normal to me to hear his cosmic sounds. At the age of ten I joined a specialized music high school, playing piano and later trumpet. We had regular lessons in ear training, theory, choir etc. This was extremely helpful for my later career. We founded a school rock band and I participated in all ensembles available, like brass quintet, big band, symphony band etc.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
I searched a lot with mouthpieces and different trumpets, sometimes getting crazy about all the choices and differences. But it helped me molding my sound. Also recording often was a good mirror. I still love recording to create the „ideal“ sound. Today, playing acoustic I use different equipment (lighter) than playing with a microphone. In large spaces I need heavier instruments.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm? 
I still practice about two hours every day (with the trumpet it is absolutely neecessary), warming up a bit and then mostly improvising freely, realizing my immediate ideas. Sometimes I play with metronome to test my timing. But the best practice are regular concerts. This is when I make the most progress, on stage.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
Well, listen to my last recordings and you know: ALBA with Florian Weber (on ECM), FAR INTO THE STARS with Quadrivium (on Sony / OKeh), ETERNAL VOYAGE live (also on Sony / OKeh). I don’t like too complicted harmonies or rhythms, I must be able to really feel them.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: ETERNAL VOYAGE live, how it was formed and what you are working on today. 
I love the sounds of the other musicians, the natural flow of the music, but read the liner notes … I put them below *.
My next project is WILD LIFE, a beautiful live viedo made by WDR / ARTE -tv is already online on youtube, and a CD with new material with the same ensemble will come out in 2019 also on Sony/OKeh.
Besides, I give many seminars combining music and spirituality. Healing through music is possible, especially healing the mind, which then effects the body also. My life is complex, many different challenges, but all beautiful situations. Only the travelling sometimes is too strenuous.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
That’s different for everybody. Intellectual people love intellectual music, heart-oriented people prefer simpler, more emotional music. The ideal is in between, the golden middle way. I try to find a got balance in this, but it is of course subjective. Each soul needs different food…
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Uff, so many …CD recording in Oslo for KARTA (ECM, 2000): the first time ever I played with Terje Rypdal, and immediately recording. Before recording the prepared compositions, I asked everybody to improvise intuitively, to arrive at something special, beyond imagination and mind. We did it for 90 minutes, out of which later we extracted 7 pieces. A fantastic experience of flow. Similarly this year with WILD LIFE, we recorded 2 days and then played the concert, which is on youtube. No words were spoken before about the music. Just intense listening and using our intuition – which of course includes all the musical experiences each of the musician ever made.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
Jazz today is a broad term encompassing all sorts of music. I guess the comon thread is the arte of improvisation. The standart tunes you refer to are indeed outdated – for me at least. They may be a point of departure for students, but then I encourage everybody to compose their own music as soon as possible and to propose something really original to the world. We don’t need repetitions of what has been done already excellent, we need a creative and curious spirit.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
Big question. If by spirit you mean the source of life, it manifests differently in each of us. For me also music is the most fulfilling activity I can imagine, it gives me the greatest satisfaction, and I think of all things I can do it best. But the Spirit sustains all life in all forms, whatever man /women feels inspired to do. I short, the meaning of life for me is to grow in our consciousness and in our ability to express ourselves, and to love.
God for me is the Source of all life, and the reason for Life is Love, Beauty and Joy.
Long ago I wrote a poem:
Rejoice (1989)
The time has come
that you shall remember
who you are.
Forever have you been
and shall eternally be.
You have come
to feel the joy of creation,
to see its beauty
and infinitely love
all there is.
For all is thyself
in myriad forms.
Each moment you create yourself
and a thousand worlds around.
Your being is bliss,
perfection and light.
Rejoice my friend,
Rejoice
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Enough concerts and income for all musicians. It is painful to see how many musicians are unable to make a living from their music.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
Mostly CDs of musicians I meet at concerts or festivals, CDs they give to me.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
The here and now is fine for me. Life is ever changing and the total wisdom of the Absolute is far more intelligent than my personal, limited consciousness. So I am glad to be here and now, follow my inspirations, meet my challenges and enjoy life.
JBN.S: – Which changes would you like to see in todays world?
An important question … I suggest just a few points for everybody:
  • Respect each other no matter what religion, nationality, race etc., humans respecting humans. We all have so much more in common than what makes us different – we all want to have enjoyable lives, shelter, enough healthy food, education for our children etc.
  • Stop of all wars, stop of all weapon making, which in the end always kill somebody. Immediate abolishment of all atomic bombs.
  • Each human being should feel responsible for the whole world, regarding nature, food, resources, pure water, energy, waste etc. We all inhabit one planet and we have to share it just and wisely.
  • Every child should already be tought how many people we are on earth and that more than 7 billion people do not make life easier on this planet, rather less would be better. We all should be conscious about this fact, especially when engaging in large families.
  • A moment of reflection, introspection every day would abolish many problems, prohibiting wrong actions.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan
Картинки по запросу Markus Stockhausen

The Ascetic Beauty of Brancusi

 by Hugh Eakin

 

Wayne Miller/Magnum PhotosConstantin Brancusi in his studio, Paris, 1946
Few artists encapsulate the story of the early twentieth-century avant garde more alluringly than Constantin Brancusi. The son of Romanian peasants, he arrived in Paris around the same time Picasso did, but on foot. Within a few years, he had somehow managed to apprentice with Rodin. Then, throwing out the master’s methods, he completely redefined what sculpture was. Cultivating an image as a black-bearded ascetic, he wore simple white clothes, lived alone, and cooked his own food on the home-made stove of his back-alley Montparnasse atelier, while turning his favorite subjects—birds, fish, and a remarkable string of aristocratic women—into stupefyingly beautiful abstractions in polished marble or sleek bronze.  
For years, Brancusi made hardly enough money to eat. In 1926, a version of one of his most extraordinary subjects, Bird in Space, was famously held up at the US border because customs officials didn’t think it was art. Sometimes, he even baffled his own cohort. Picasso (or perhaps Matisse) is said to have likened Brancusi’s 1916 Princess X, a glistening bronze torso of Princess Marie Bonaparte, to a large phallus. Yet, by the time of his death in 1957, the increasingly reclusive Romanian was regarded as one of the century’s greatest sculptors. (Peggy Guggenheim, who began buying his work in the 1940s and took artist-worship seriously, called him “half astute peasant and half real god.”) In recent years, he has been credited with paving the way for everything from mid-century abstract art to the postwar minimalists. And though he spent his entire life without a regular art dealer, he has finally conquered the art market as well: last year, a bronze version of his Sleeping Muse from 1913 sold for a staggering $57 million at Christie’s; that was quickly eclipsed this May, when a polished brass 1932 cast of La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée, his buoyantly curlicued “portrait” of British heiress and Montparnasse acolyte Nancy Cunard, sold for $71 million.
How to account for such a trajectory? This summer, two small New York shows—at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Guggenheim Museum—invite us to revisit Brancusi’s singular legacy. Both comprise objects from the museums’ own collections, and this is no accident. Though he spent almost all of his long career in Paris—working through two world wars he barely seems to have noticed—New York played an unusually large part in his story. According to the standard mythology, it was at the Armory Show in 1913 that Brancusi first exploded onto the international scene. His earliest and most important patron was a New Yorker. And by the final years of Brancusi’s life, top American museums were in intense competition for his work. “Without the Americans, I would not have been able to produce all this or even to have existed,” he said in 1955.
Featuring just eleven sculptures, the MoMA exhibition offers an elegantly concise introduction to Brancusi’s art. Included here are the early, totemic Maiastra (1910–1912), a long-necked mythical bird in white marble perched atop a column-like carved limestone pedestal; two different bronze renditions of his Bird in Space (1928 and 1941), and a seven-foot-tall 1918 oak version, the earliest that has survived, of his signature mature work, Endless Column. With the exception of Endless Column, which rises directly from the floor, all of the sculptures sit on Brancusi’s own bases. These wonderfully differentiated carved blocks, often in contrasting materials, he regarded as essential parts of the overall composition. (The pedestal of MoMA’s version of Maiastra actually incorporates a second sculpture, his Double Caryatid of 1908.)
What emerges here and in the Guggenheim’s display is the extent to which Brancusi was operating wholly outside the temper of his time, including the radical currents then stirring in Paris. Even a century later, a bronze version of the notorious Mlle Pogany—the tilted, bug-eyed, ovoid bust that, in classical white marble, so flummoxed visitors to the 1913 Armory Show—conveys much of the original strangeness of his approach. A depiction of his Hungarian muse, Margit Pogany, the piece cheerfully subverts everything portraiture was supposed to be, with facial features reduced to bewitching punctuation marks in an otherworldly but uncannily unified form. “He has thrown representation entirely overboard,” his first patron, the maverick New York lawyer John Quinn, observed at the time. “But he goes for effect, rhythm and force, not for realism or representation or resemblance.”
Within a few years, Brancusi had reduced descriptive features even further in works like The Newborn (1915), a streamlined ovoid mass that is hauntingly primal. Above all was his attention to form and surface, in uncompromising pursuit of the essence of his subjects and their movement in light and space. “What a pity it would be to spoil this beautiful material by digging into it little holes for eyes, hair, ears,” he retorted to a French journalist who asked about his controversial Princess X. “And my material is so beautiful in its sinuous lines which shine like pure gold and which embody in a sole archetype all the feminine effigies on this earth.”
Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ ADAGP, ParisConstantin Brancusi: The Cock, 1924; click to enlarge
In the MoMA show, this kind of reduction can best be observed in his bird sculptures, such as Young Bird (1928), which, while utterly avian in its small plump perched mass, is no longer defined by external features or appendages. The most spectacular work in this vein is his gorgeously aeriform Bird in Space (1928). A slender, light-catching polished bronze projection that lances into the sky from its cylindrical stone pedestal, this was the work that, in another rendition, US customs officials classified under “Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies” and subjected to a heavy import tax for commercial goods. Brancusi was a “wonderful polisher of bronze,” they allowed, but that hardly made him an artist. (After a protracted lawsuit, with testimony from Brancusi’s friend Edward Steichen and other supporters, the judge grudgingly conceded that, though the object didn’t resemble a bird, it was “nevertheless pleasing to look at” and might be considered “art” by some.)
Along with the oaken Endless Column, there are two other examples in the MoMA show of his work in wood. One is the playful Socrates (1922), a precariously top-heavy construction that may be a portrait of his friend the composer Erik Satie (they referred to each other as Socrates and Plato). More interesting, however, is Cock (1924), his remarkably compressed evocation of a rooster in cherry wood, which, as the late curator Carolyn Lanchner observed in her brief guide to MoMA’s Brancusi collection, shows the extraordinary “visual mnemonics” he was able to deploy. “A flash of recognition converts this elegant abstract sculpture into a likeness of the king of the barnyard,” she writes.
More of Brancusi’s large-scale wood sculptures are on view in the small Guggenheim exhibition, which is artfully arranged in one of the museum’s tower galleries. The highlights here are Adam and Eve (1921) and the later King of Kings (1938), which seem to draw on such disparate sources as Romanian folk carving and African sculpture. For all that, it is hard not to be seduced by the Guggenheim’s 1912 Muse, a female head and neck in white marble (likely inspired by his friend, the French Baroness Renée-Irana Frachon), which shows the young sculptor already at the height of his powers. Here he was in radical pursuit of form and archetype, yet with the slightest articulations also managing to meld this to an almost classical sensibility.
In showing such choice pieces from their own collections, MoMA and the Guggenheim also provide insight into Brancusi’s American following. With a single exception, none of the works at either museum was acquired until the Fifties or later. It was also in that decade that both museums staged their first Brancusi exhibitions. This pattern held as well for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the third great American center of his art, which acquired much of its large Brancusi collection, including Princess X, in that decade. (Peggy Guggenheim’s collection, which remained in her Venice palazzo, was first opened to the public in 1951.)
Indeed, the 1913 Armory Show, far from establishing a new public for Brancusi’s work, branded him—along with fellow provocateur Marcel Duchamp and the other “Cubistic” and “Modernistic” artists—as a symbol of all that was disturbing and “deranged” about modern art. For the next decade, his patron Quinn supported Brancusi virtually single-handedly, despite rapturous acclaim from fellow modernists such as Steichen and Ezra Pound (who was also on Quinn’s payroll). When Quinn died in 1924, there was so little American interest in his thirty-three Brancusis that Duchamp, together with Quinn’s art adviser and fellow Frenchman Henri-Pierre Roché, raised the money to buy them himself. Given the prevailing tastes, it’s little surprise that the US government mistook his work for high-luster kitchenware.
America’s eventual broad embrace of Brancusi had far less to do with his controversial pre-war exposure in the United States than with the mainstreaming of modern art in American culture after World War II. That the man who relentlessly reduced the material world to its purest forms is now not only a museum mainstay but a record-breaking emblem of conspicuous art-market consumption illustrates just how powerful, and strange, that turn has been.

Constantin Brancusi Sculpture” is on view at the Museum of Modern Art through February 18, 2019. “Guggenheim Collection: Brancusi” is on view at the Guggenheim Museum

Morricone: "If you just consider Bach, you will see that I’m practically unemployed"


John Doran asks the Maestro about heavy metal, his fearsome work ethic and his fusion of the avant garde and the mainstream. Translator: Roberta Rinaldi



Ennio Morricone is not a slight man. He is a slim man. A man of average height. But he is not slight.
It would be fair enough, perhaps, to say that he is unconcerned with being prepossessing. Perhaps less plagued with status anxiety than most. Certainly he is not a big head... not a man full of braggadocio. He probably has more right than most musicians and composers alive to be at least content with his position in the greater scheme of things. When you watch him conduct a full orchestra and choir – whether playing one of his neo-classical cantatas or one of his numerous film scores – he accepts the tumultuous, deafening, standing ovations that are thrust upon him with good grace mixed with a humorous grumpiness. After three or four encores in a venue with literally thousands of people stood on tip toe shouting "More Maestro! More!" He furrows his brow, points at his watch, then himself before striding off waving, not to return. It is as if he’s saying: ‘Come on. I am 81 you know...’
He is sprightly and energetic on stage and appears to be somewhere in the region of 20 or 30 years younger than he actually is. But despite his size and the way he carries himself, he casts a shadow that is long and wide across the music of the second half of the 20th Century and beyond. It is not surprising that when you watch him conduct, as a viewer you are overwhelmed with conflicting emotions. You are surrounded by adults weeping. The sober and normally staid shouting for more. What have we lost along the way with the way we enjoy music now? Have we lost something important? Something essential perhaps? There are certainly currently few things to compare with the visceral impact. Important season end finals conducted by Premiership football clubs. Certain concerts perhaps by Slayer, The Pixies or Leonard Cohen at a push.
The last time I had the privilege of watching the Maestro at work, I saw in front of me a handy metaphor for the reach of this jazz musician, OST writer, library music author, neo-classical powerhouse, pop hit maker, devotional composer... As soon as he gestured that there would be no more and the ten or fifteen minutes of wild applause died down a few rows in front of me feted graphic novel author Alan Moore and Brit rock singer from Kasabian Tom Meighan immediately turned to one another with mouths agape to discuss exactly how amazing the show had just been, like ten year olds after watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time.
Ennio Morricone was born in Rome in 1928 and never left. He wears it as a badge of pride that he never moved to America (specifically Hollywood) and never learned to speak English. Two things that probably helped his career and reputation in the long run. But given that he has always worked in a wide field of composition genres, from absolute music, which he has always produced, to applied music, working as orchestrator as well as conductor in the recording field, and then as a composer for theatre, radio and cinema, you get the impression, he’s never really cared that much about his standing in the eyes of Hollywood.
Since starting his career as film music composer in 1961 with the film Il Federale directed by Luciano Salce he has worked on over 500 scores. He is undoubtedly most famous worldwide for his astounding work on Sergio Leone’s Italian westerns: 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). But this is only a mere fraction of the story. His film scores have been used by directors as diverse and feted as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Brian De Palma (with whom he has a very close artistic bond), Dario Argento, Pedro Almodovar and Roland Joffè. And that is before discussing the 100 or more concert or absolute works he has written and not to mention the dizzying array of easy listening, jazz, lounge and avant pop he has produced. (Some great examples of which can be found on the Mike Patton compiled Crimes And Dissonance anthology on Ipecac.)
He has little in common with the popular image of him as a cantankerous interviewee. In fact one gets the impression that he’s pretty much a riot when not constantly being asked about The Good, The Bad And The Ugly or Clint Eastwood. He shouts, laughs and sings his way through the interview while his trusted interpreter Roberta has to regularly chide him for saying more than she can possibly hope to remember without breaking off for a pause.



Hello Maestro! How are you?
Ennio Morricone: Good evening! I am well.
As a rock journalist primarily, I’ve been aware for a long time that your influence is evident across the 40 year history of heavy rock and metal, from Black Sabbath and Babe Ruth in the 1970s through Mike Patton of Faith No More and Metallica and beyond. I was wondering if you had any appreciation of this genre and if you see a link between it and what you do yourself?
EM: There is not really much of a link other than for one thing: the simplicity of the form. That is, usually we would both use a three tone chord, say C major for example. That is what I use and that is what they use, so perhaps that is the link you were talking about.
Going back as far as 1968, you composed 38 original soundtracks in one year! But even now in 2010, you show little or no sign of slowing down. To what do you owe your fearsome work ethic?
EM: First of all, I’ve never composed 38 soundtracks in just one year! Let me explain, so you understand. It would be impossible to compose 38 soundtracks in just one year! I have never scored over 12 or 13 soundtracks in one year, but even this number as you understand is a big number already. Sometimes, you know, some of the films are not released in the year in which I am commissioned to write the scores. Sometimes the films are delayed so what happens is that, sometimes, they’re all released at once. So, for example, a number of horror films come out at once and people believe that I have composed all the scores for that year in one go but that is not always the case. Due to the distribution system the release dates change all the time.
Be that as it may, even if the number of film scores is 12 or 13 a year, that is still a large amount of work to be produced alongside other classical or jazz works, and you are still very prolific to this day, so what do you owe this amount of work to?
EM: EH!? NO! NO! NO! It is not much to compose 12 or 13 cantatas in one year because if you think about it Bach, for example, used to compose one cantata a week. He had to compose the music in time for it to be performed in church on Sunday so if you just consider Bach, you will see that I’m practically unemployed!
Ha ha!
EM: And if you consider that Bach did not just compose the music for the Sunday church but he actually used to composed for loads of different reasons. As you know his body of work is huge and of course he used to work right from the morning through to the evening, which is what I do. This is the only comparison to be made between me and Bach, however, that we both work all day and evening long. But if it is your job to be a composer then the one thing you must do is compose! You have to work and maybe there are some times when you don’t want to compose and you take a day off but that is it.
Is there a therapeutic element to what you do? If you had ever needed to take an enforced year or two off, would you have been lost without the work?
EM: You know what happens to me? When I finish off a project, whether that is a film soundtrack or a score for example, I always suspect that I am not going to be able to do it anymore. I always feel like I won’t be able to do it anymore, even if I only stop for a very short time. I feel like my creative flame might disappear. This question makes me think of great singers like Pavarotti. A great opera singer, like Pavarotti, would tell me that when he woke up every morning the first thing he would do is become afraid that his voice had gone and that he couldn’t sing any more. So the first thing that singers like him would do every morning, before even getting out of bed, is they would sing for their wives [imitates histrionic tenor] "Oooooh, Maria! Where are you!?" Just to check that his voice is still there!
In recent years, in Hollywood, you have also been linked with Quentin Tarantino - most recently on Inglorious Basterds. Now this happened in a slightly odd way, in that he took your music, which had already achieved fame through its association with other films, and added it to his own film. Did this seem strange to you?
EM: Actually, I was really happy with what he did and I thought it really worked well. The thing is that as what he did was take the different scores from different films and put them all together...what I think he did was just to put them in the right place and used them in the right way. But first, if you are talking about coherence, it was not really there in terms of ideas and conversation because those things are different and taken from different ideas and films. But I think it really worked well though.

A lot of the time your work is so specific that it actually works as a plot device. A good example of this, I would say, is that of the musical fob watch in For A Few Dollars More. Every time the bandit produces the watch it plays a slightly different tune and this helps the viewer judge his state of mind. I was wondering, in your opinion, which of your soundtracks helps push on the plot the most or helps the viewer of the film understand the psychology of the characters on screen the most?
EM: I need to explain a few things before I can answer this question. Say for example if you gave a scene from a film to ten different composers, you would get ten different compositions which would all be good but would all characterize the film in different ways. The differences would be according to the composer’s state of mind, their personality, their individual style and imagination...So actually when I’m given a scenario like that one, it is just my personality, my style, my ideas and my imagination that I use to depict and describe what is going on musically, in the way I see it.
But do you agree that with the watch in For A Few Dollars More, every time it is used in that film, it specifically tells you what is going through the bandit’s mind?
EM: Yes, I do agree with you and in this case the music that the watch makes transfers your thought to a different place because it is just a watch and of course every time the bandit winds on this watch this character, who is thinking about his life and all the difficult situations he has been in and has lived through, the rage, the violence, the fear, come out through this watch. The character itself comes out through the watch but in a different situation every time it appears.

For A Few Dollars More - Indio & Cuccillo

Tim Viper | MySpace Video

How difficult is it to express these profoundly fundamental human emotions that need to be expressed in a lot of films and that affect all of us, without resorting to musical cliché?
EM: That actually depends on when you’re writing something that you’re writing music with psychological complexity rather than in cliché or something predictable but this in turn depends on the composer and his way of feeling things and interpreting things. Because if he can write with psychology then he can hopefully tell you more about the thing that the music is describing. If he can disclose something different maybe it’s because he is a deep person or has studied music deeply or knows exactly how to use music from a psychological point of view. If he has a deep culture in music or a deep sensitivity he may get there but then it also depends on where he wants to get... it depends on who he actually is as a person...
Was there a palpable sense in the late 1960s through to the late 1970s that the avant garde had collided with the mainstream - especially in the field of soundtracks? And at the time, did it feel like the avant garde had taken a great leap forward for good?
EM: Well, actually avant garde music did not take over the mainstream. Speaking about myself, for example, I used the avant garde music when scoring films as an experiment. I wanted to experiment with going deep into the traumatic recesses of the film. And I used this music when I wanted to describe a certain kind of trauma, when the situation was very, very difficult or when something horrible had happened. For example, when I started to score for the film director Dario Argento and I went ahead with scoring other films which are not so well known or famous. But after a while, let’s say that I started hearing people telling me "Ennio, if you keep on writing this kind of music then ‘they’ won’t call you anymore." And that’s when I had to quit with the avant garde music!
If I were to be very coarse... and I only mean this in the broadest possible terms... but if you were to split your career into two halves as a film writer then the first half would be as an edgy, underground and experimental composer and the second half would be as a very famous international star. I was wondering which half of your career, in these terms, offered you more freedom? The underground and relatively unknown or the famous and mainstream?
EM: First of all, I would like to tell you that you have really understood my career, which I am pleased about! It is really nice and really interesting what you have said. I will try and give you a short answer but the question is quite complicated. First, I should say that I got to have my artistic career in both halves of my career but let me explain further. Let’s say that what I did was quite unique because I used tonal music which you might call melodic music. And I used this style and into this type of music I sneaked in some styles of avant garde music and this was unnoticed. No-one really realised I was doing this directly. At this time I was a student of the School Of Vienna. It was a unique historical process that I did at this time. And I just wanted my work to be based on that because I just thought that it was very interesting and important for me to be following this process. And this resembled a clock going backwards because I was taking new things and adding them to very old ways of doing things. It is not very easy to explain this process! To give you an example for your reference, if you watch the opening credits to A Fistful Of Dynamite, in that particular score you will be able to definitely understand what I am talking about, being a student of the School of Vienna and the rest of it. This was a mixing or a mingling of tonal music and avant garde music. Another example is that when you change chords, there is no verticality. The music shifts from left to right and that is exactly what I mean by music that was written in those days.
Roberta: I hope you are understanding this. His explanations are very complicated and I am trying to be as literal as possible.
No, this is really interesting. Thank you. When you used to write library music, did you invent your own narrative for these scores and if the answer is ‘yes’, did you find that this made the transition to writing film scores, easier or more difficult?
EM: When I was arranging and composing library music in the early part of my career, what I used to do was give my music a kind of autonomy. I wanted music to go on by itself. To have a life of its own. And it was very useful for me when I was doing arrangements and things because listening to an orchestra in this way was very useful for when I went on to composing for films and actual musical composition for piano or for orchestra. This experience really helped me a lot.
Roberta: I think we’re almost there, sorry to interrupt...
When you composed ‘Se Telefonando’ for Mina, you had a massive hit with 'In Italy' in 1966. Did you feel like a pop star? Were you treated like a pop star?
EM: [indignant] The pop star was Mina. She was a proper pop star. I was not.
Did you meet Morrissey before working on some of the strings for Ringleader Of The Tormentors?
EM: I didn’t meet him personally, I spoke to the producer Tony Visconti before starting but you know, he did not use what I did for the album anyway. It was not his style.
Are you a fan of Miles Davis? And if so what is your favourite album by him?
EM: Miles Davis is a great artist and I love him. There is him and a handful of other American jazz artists that I feel a great emotional depth for. His music makes me happy. I love him.
It was a pleasure and an honour to speak to you.
EM: Thank you very much, it was a great interview, it was really interesting and you really had me work very hard to answer some of those questions!