Ennio Morricone -L'estasi dell'oro
The Ecstasy of Gold is a musical composition by Ennio Morricone, a part of his score for the 1966 Sergio Leone film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". It is played while Tuco (Eli Wallach) is frantically searching a cemetery for the grave that holds $200,000 in gold coins. Sung by Edda Dell'Orso, it stands as one of the most renowned themes composed by Morricone.
The Ecstasy of Gold begins with a quick piano melody. At the start it's clear that Morricone's arrangements are highly influenced by Italian music. He has a distinctive Main Theme which simulates a howling of a coyote, which is carried by an ocarina (an ancient wind musical instrument), flute, nativist drums, whistling, gunfire and wordless vocals. Its "A" Phrase offers two sets of four passages with counters, the first set consisting of a high register ocarina whereas the second set offers a low register ocarina with a whistle. The "B" Phrase is carried by electric guitar and wordless vocals, and includes an additional melodic construct that offers both drama and passion.
One thing that's great about Morricone's work is how he incorporates varied instruments into his scores such as harmonicas and trumpets. Morricone manages to emphasise these musical textures beautifully and allows each instrument to stand out significantly in the mix as well as enjoy a variation of the main melody.
Two other themes are also introduced which support the film. The first theme offers an expressive trumpet composition, which is used as a motif for defeated and dying soldiers. In the bridge the violins play the solo. This is to unleash tension after which the intensity then rises once more and begins to builds its layers from the harmonica and Dell'Orso's powerful vocals. It offers one of the score’s most moving and emotional statements. Equally brilliant and moving is the second theme, which achieves a perfect union of word and melody. The heartfelt song speaks of the distress, futility, and tragedy of war. It is a lament written by Morricone with deeply moving lyrics by Thomas Connor. It's captivating when The Ecstasy of Gold pulls all of its instruments together for the last section. The piece finishes on a big crescendo and includes acoustic guitars performed by Alessandro Alessandroni, harmonicas by Franco de Gemini, castanets, drums, gunfire, and the metallic twinkling of gold coins.
For those who have a love for heavy metal, the piece has long been associated with Metallica, and through this affiliation countless metalheads were inspired to become Morricone fans. Two decades after the movie's release, it has taken on another entirely unexpected life, after Metallica adopted it as the intro music for their shows. More than merely a means of welcoming the band on the stage, it has become a major part of any Metallica gig: an indication for what is to come, setting the tone and atmosphere in a way nothing else could.
It's safe to say that Leone's films wouldn't have been as exhilarating without Morricone's score. Whenever you listen to any of Morricone's work, it's outstanding to listen to how he manages to capture the true essence of a film's narrative. It's still surprising to think that out of all the 500 films that he scored, a piece like The Ecstasy of Gold still remains as one of his most famous pieces to date.