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 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 2:00 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

MOSES THE LAWGIVER

Desert Morricone
#46


This series is inspired by a controversy thread where someone posited the idea that besides THE MISSION and some Sergio Leone westerns Ennio Morricone hasn't written anything great. Rather than making my usual comment that most of Morricone's great scores are from Italy and trying to get Americans to listen to them is like getting them to see movies with subtitles, I decided to take another tact. Since I am at an age where I will only be able to make my case a finite number of times I decided to turn this into a series presenting each great score one at a time, sort of like recordman.

I chose to label this desert Morricone because anyone who has seen this mini-series knows that is the most vivid thing in it, even predominant over the religious aspects which are many. BTW if you feel the need to see this make sure you see the complete edition. Not only does the 2 hour version of a 6 hour presentation removes the guts from the series it takes away the entrails and skin so you are left with a nonsensical skeleton that you can't help disliking. Like his other desert scores, IL DESERTO DEI TARTARI, IL PRINCIPE DEI DESERTO, THE SECRET OF THE SAHARA, etc. the score is spare, slow and quiet and reveals it's beauty slowly like the virgin desert itself. But the main theme translates Ennio's Italian passions into heartrending Hebraic ones, albeit with a female voice:





This may be a forerunner to those wailing woman themes, here done by Gianni Spagnulo, that seem to be detested these days but as you can hear this time it has have none of the agonizing boarderline screaming that could be an offshoot to that. This is probably one of the simplest scores Morricone has ever written. Many of the pieces use single instruments like flutes, harp or vilola. Some are literally labeled monodies which comes down to having a single unaccompanied melodic line. These pieces not only have a simplicity but a certain quiet elegance. However when the power of God enters, during the plagues and the Red Sea, this version interprets that as a force of nature instead of the large orchestra symphonic church music we have been used to in Hollywood epics. So the cacophany of sounds that might be appropriate for floods, winds, tornadoes, and a skyfull of locusts is what accompanies these scenes. Morricone delivers the right score for the right film and I'm sure even Elmer Bernstein would lean this way for this particular telling. BTW When I first heard "the voices in the desert" cocophany it reminded me of when I first heard such a thing, in a Porky Pig cartoon where he has desert hallucinations. I'm sure it was borrowed from some film of the time.

There is one piece I have a problem with, it is titled "Israel". Morricone came up with a primative escalating choral piece for the film BURN! It was very powerful and he used it a number of times after. For me this last time was the most misguided but maybe it sounded good on paper. First he substituted a more Hebraic pattern for the simpler African one that does not fit as easily. And to make matters worse he imposes the word Israel on this pattern forcing a weird extension of the word EEEEEEEES-ra-el that is not only difficult to sing it personally grates on me. Finally towards the end of the piece he adds the Oh to Israel which normalizes it but restores the African pattern to it. Amazingly I found a few on the BURN! thread who prefer this one. Thank goodness Ennio prefers BURN! and plays that one in concert.

This mini-series did gather some praise for Burt Lancaster as Moses, the score and the desert cimematography. But everyone deemed the special effects cheesy. Which is ironic because Mario Bava who did the effects actually helped develop further many of the photograhic techniques that Cecil B. Demille used to do his original silent version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that led to up to his second one. But glowing blue haloes around figures that are in our most familiar version probably seem more colorful than the simpler in-camera effects Bava came up with.

This once expensive set has been re-issued at popular prices!


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 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 2:12 PM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Mario Bava who did the effects actually helped invent and develop many of the photograhic techniques that allowed Cecil B. Demille to do his original silent version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

When he was nine years old?

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 2:26 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Mario Bava who did the effects actually helped invent and develop many of the photograhic techniques that allowed Cecil B. Demille to do his original silent version of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

When he was nine years old?


Thanks! I usually correct these things in the minutes after I post. But you were on my biggest gaff pretty fast. I think I'll refine it again.

BTW How am I doing?
Do you still not "get" Morricone at all or have I made it to "somewhat".

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 3:02 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

This was the score which turned me off the works of Maestro Morricone for many years. In my teens I had purchased a few albums ... the usual Italian ~ Western titles ... and then, aged about 20 (I was at Uni, I recall) I borrowed the single LP release of this score from the library. I tape recorded the main theme and Exodus I and II - which I loved - and thought the rest was noise (not helped by the crackle and pops!)

For years afterwards I bought only compilation albums and apart from getting a copy of Bugsy - this time a CD - from the library, which I loved, I purchased only half-a-dozen (3 double-headers) scores until the late 1990s.

I've since acquired the double CD for Moses - a bit pricey! - and I enjoy it though it's rarely played. I still find much of it dissonant and hence can't group it with the other desert orientated scores you mention (they are each far more melodic in structure - and you should include Sahara - to my ears).

I also think the title track is beautiful - I, for one, much prefer it to anything from Quiemada but I admit to never noticing the similarities.

Another film (TV series) I've not seen and don't expect ever to watch.

 
 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 3:39 PM   
 By:   Peter Greenhill   (Member)

Really enjoyed the ATV series.

Bought the LP in the mid 70s, some lovely stuff on it but there was also a lot of unlistenable noise.

However my tastes have changed since 1976 and so I'm pleased to have preordered the recent re-release on CD.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 4:23 PM   
 By:   Miguel Rojo   (Member)

A contentious score Henry, but love it or loathe it, this is a key one from Morricone and a good choice for your list.
Like Peter, I quite liked the series. Shown over 6 weeks on Sunday nights in the UK, from memory. Lancaster was good - I remember that huge thicket of beard that was grey and always seemed to be covered in dust! I got the LP at the time but like MusicMad said, outside the main themes it was a difficult score to warm to.

This is the project where Gianna said her throat ached after the recording and was sore days afterwards. They were in the studio for days because there was so much music to do for 6 hours of film. And she had nothing but praise for Bruno Nicolai and on the lengthy hours he did in putting it all together. They were all exhausted afterwards.

Someone has been busy putting them right because imdb lists Nicolai as conductor and Gianna as "singer main theme" and the Coro e Orchestra dell'Unione Musicisti Romani.

 
 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 5:25 PM   
 By:   George Komar   (Member)

BTW How am I doing?
Do you still not "get" Morricone at all or have I made it to "somewhat".


You're doing just fine.

This enterprise of yours is the equivalent of an on-line college course.
Do we get certificates or diplomas at the end? wink

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 20, 2011 - 7:46 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

BTW How am I doing?
Do you still not "get" Morricone at all or have I made it to "somewhat".


You're doing just fine.

This enterprise of yours is the equivalent of an on-line college course.
Do we get certificates or diplomas at the end? wink


Actually Rozsaphile was one of the earliest to encourage me in this endeavor even though he admitted not "getting" Morricone. That is why I have been adamant in keeping plenty of traditional scores in the mix. Just to establish how this classically trained "wunderkind" could go oldschool at the drop of a hat. METELLO, MARCO POLO, EL GRECO, CANONE INVERSO and a number of other projects ventured into Rozsa territory and he wrote those in a style that was closer to the Golden Age composers. I would like to get a semblance of recognition for his work. Something that says "yes, there is something interesting here even if it isn't my cup of tea."
These entries are not exactly scholastic treatises. More like sloppy gushings from a fan. And as Rozsaphile caught me doing, I got fuzzy about the line between Mario Bava's and his father Eugenio's accomplishments. Not the first time I've been fuzzy.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 21, 2011 - 12:30 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

I've always been fond of this score - it was one of the last series we watched as a family before my father died (I was 18, he was 47) and so I associate it with him. I bought the LP and later got hold of the 2 disc CD.

My good friend MusicMad mentioned the main theme. This is one of Morricone's "perfect" melodies, and should be on more compilations. I too prefer it to Quiemada/Burn/Abolicao. The difficult music arises out of the lamentations and the plagues, the latter being the best example I can think of to illustrate Morricone's aleatoric music. In contrast to Henry, I also love "EEEsrael"! I hadn't thought of it in terms of African or Hebrew rhythm, which was interesting. I see this as being a concert pice, rather than having a clear place in the series, but so much time has lapsed that I might be wrong.

I'd be thrilled to find that the series were available on DVD/BR.

TG

 
 Posted:   Mar 21, 2011 - 12:51 AM   
 By:   Chris Rimmer   (Member)

I've always been fond of this score - it was one of the last series we watched as a family before my father died (I was 18, he was 47) and so I associate it with him. I bought the LP and later got hold of the 2 disc CD.

My good friend MusicMad mentioned the main theme. This is one of Morricone's "perfect" melodies, and should be on more compilations. I too prefer it to Quiemada/Burn/Abolicao. The difficult music arises out of the lamentations and the plagues, the latter being the best example I can think of to illustrate Morricone's aleatoric music. In contrast to Henry, I also love "EEEsrael"! I hadn't thought of it in terms of African or Hebrew rhythm, which was interesting. I see this as being a concert pice, rather than having a clear place in the series, but so much time has lapsed that I might be wrong.

I'd be thrilled to find that the series were available on DVD/BR.

TG


Here it is;

http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?products_id=376

 
 Posted:   Mar 21, 2011 - 12:51 AM   
 By:   Loren   (Member)

...BTW How am I doing?
Do you still not "get" Morricone at all or have I made it to "somewhat".


you're doing great.

 
 Posted:   Mar 21, 2011 - 8:04 AM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

There is one piece I have a problem with, it is titled "Israel". Morricone came up with a primative escalating choral piece for the film BURN! It was very powerful and he used it a number of times after. For me this last time was the most misguided but maybe it sounded good on paper. First he substituted a more Hebraic pattern for the simpler African one that does not fit as easily. And to make matters worse he imposes the word Israel on this pattern forcing a weird extension of the word EEEEEEEES-ra-el that is not only difficult to sing it personally grates on me. Finally towards the end of the piece he adds the Oh to Israel which normalizes it but restores the African pattern to it. Amazingly I found a few on the BURN! thread who prefer this one. Thank goodness Ennio prefers BURN! and plays that one in concert.



I think the 'Israel' music for the Exodus scenes works quite well. The 'EEEEs-ra-el' you're talking about clearly is in Italian accent from the Rome Musicians Union chorus. But it happens that the proper pronunciation in ancient Hebrew would be 'YEESH-ra-AYL' with a 'yodh' or 'y' to open with, and the main stress on the final 'Ayl'. So it sounds actually spot on, and totally correct. Remember too that the 'Negro spiritual' element that is indeed slightly African is a very good reference, as the slaves of Egypt were a constant inspiration on the plantations. Even Elmer Bernstein used some of those influences in his intervals in Ten C..

Does it really end in 'Oh to Israel'? I can't recall hearing that, I'd need to replay it. Israel was not a 'place' at the alleged time the events were supposed to be happening, it was Canaan. 'Israel' refers to a race of Jacob's descendants there.


I loved the series, and I thoroughly agree that anyone going for DVD gets the full 2DVD, and not the truncated and castrated cinema cut, which the critics hated, and which scarred the reputation of the full series in the eyes of the hand-me-down syndicated 'critics'.

The screenplay was largely by Anthony Burgess, no less, who based a novel on it later. It's a great screenplay, the contrast between the Egyptian 'closed' system and the 'open' progress of the slaves (I'm not sure if we can say that's historical, but it works in the biblical context) is very well brought out, even in, for example, the scenes of Moses' step-mum and her 'closed' lung problem. It manages to capture a feel of ancient Egypt that seems authentic, which is a tough act. And the full biblical narrative gets in there, every event, even stuff like the Daughters of Zelophehad feminist bit. Ingrid Thulin gets a great run as Moses' sister Miriam. And the 'Red Sea' thing, 'Yum Suph' ('Sea of Reeds') gets treated in a nicely ambiguous way, so you can take it how you like.. Very unusual editing too.

Morricone's piece 'Exodus 1' (which I wonder might be a misnomer?) is the best of the 'wailing' pieces, very beautiful, more so even than the title.

The 2DVD has a great interview with Burt Lancaster that he gave for the late Russell Harty's UK chatshow, where he discusses it and other current projects.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 21, 2011 - 10:28 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)



I also think the title track is beautiful - I, for one, much prefer it to anything from Quiemada but I admit to never noticing the similarities./endquote]

Well yes, that's the track I gave as an example that I think is quite beautiful.

It is "Israel" that I not only found similar and inferior to BURN but even the other uses he has made of that form since, like in I CANNIBALI. WILLIAMDMCCRUM makes a wonderful case above about the rationale for the use. But to my ear it seems forced.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 21, 2011 - 11:40 PM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)


I'd be thrilled to find that the series were available on DVD/BR.

TG


Here it is;

http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?products_id=376

I'm thrilled!

Thanks, Chris - much appreciated.

TG

 
 Posted:   Mar 22, 2011 - 2:51 AM   
 By:   Chris Rimmer   (Member)


I'd be thrilled to find that the series were available on DVD/BR.

TG


Here it is;

http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?products_id=376


I'm thrilled!

Thanks, Chris - much appreciated.

TG


It's a pleasure TG. smile

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 22, 2011 - 2:05 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

There is one piece I have a problem with, it is titled "Israel". Morricone came up with a primative escalating choral piece for the film BURN! It was very powerful and he used it a number of times after. For me this last time was the most misguided but maybe it sounded good on paper. First he substituted a more Hebraic pattern for the simpler African one that does not fit as easily. And to make matters worse he imposes the word Israel on this pattern forcing a weird extension of the word EEEEEEEES-ra-el that is not only difficult to sing it personally grates on me. Finally towards the end of the piece he adds the Oh to Israel which normalizes it but restores the African pattern to it. Amazingly I found a few on the BURN! thread who prefer this one. Thank goodness Ennio prefers BURN! and plays that one in concert.



I think the 'Israel' music for the Exodus scenes works quite well. The 'EEEEs-ra-el' you're talking about clearly is in Italian accent from the Rome Musicians Union chorus. But it happens that the proper pronunciation in ancient Hebrew would be 'YEESH-ra-AYL' with a 'yodh' or 'y' to open with, and the main stress on the final 'Ayl'. So it sounds actually spot on, and totally correct. Remember too that the 'Negro spiritual' element that is indeed slightly African is a very good reference, as the slaves of Egypt were a constant inspiration on the plantations. Even Elmer Bernstein used some of those influences in his intervals in Ten C..

Does it really end in 'Oh to Israel'? I can't recall hearing that, I'd need to replay it. Israel was not a 'place' at the alleged time the events were supposed to be happening, it was Canaan. 'Israel' refers to a race of Jacob's descendants there.


Thanks for all the info, which for me helps the film and score come more "alive" and hence more interesting.

BTW The last stanza is not 'Oh to Israel' but as I stated 'O Israel' which for me still makes it flow better rather the extended syllable on previous refrains.

 
 Posted:   Mar 22, 2011 - 2:23 PM   
 By:   plindboe   (Member)

MOSES THE LAWGIVER

Not a score I would have chosen. Perhaps it testifies to Morricone's greatness though that my list of Morricone favourites would have been completely different from yours.

Peter smile

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 23, 2011 - 4:08 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

MOSES THE LAWGIVER

Not a score I would have chosen. Perhaps it testifies to Morricone's greatness though that my list of Morricone favourites would have been completely different from yours.

Peter smile


So far I've found everybody's list different.
But understand these are favorites of mine indeed but random favorites. I started with the first film I appreciated Morricone on and then just chose the contrastiest score I could come up from then on.
So #40 is really much more a favorite than #13.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 26, 2011 - 4:49 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

Morricone has done so much good stuff, many favorites of his will be so different from one person to another, possibly more then any other composer, anyway for our new member who likes Morricone and so many others i thought i would put, one of the best threads ever[understandably]

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 26, 2011 - 10:11 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

Revolver was called Blood in the streets on video in America, great main theme for a run of the mill action film.

 
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