In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

Ennio Morricone: “Man With A Harmonica”

The following is one of the greatest pieces of film music ever written, and it’s from the soundtrack for one of the greatest Westerns ever made. It’s the theme song for the mysterious character known only as “Harmonica” (played by Charles Bronson) in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). While it’s played several times over the course of the film, it most immediately evokes the tension of the film’s dark finale. This track never fails to give me gooseflesh, and it always makes me think of the Red Lord in His fearsome, terrible beauty.


6 responses to “Ennio Morricone: “Man With A Harmonica”

  1. katakhanas April 17, 2015 at 11:39 am

    I love when a film features such a musical leitmotif! One of the most richly composed, evocative ones I’ve heard in a while comes from the dark family drama (is there any other kind?) “When the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” starring the late (great) Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, and Marisa Tomei. It’s absolutely an artistic descendant, in my mind, of a classic Greek tragedy, and the film’s recurring musical leitmotif builds in intensity to prepare you for the pity and the terror (the two ingredients, according to Aristotle’s “Poetics,” that define a tragedy) at the apex of catharsis. When I find myself in an epic clash of wills at my job I hum the leitmotif to myself; it’s become something of a battle cry.


    • G. B. Marian April 25, 2015 at 2:47 am

      It’s funny how music like this can pop into your head at the weirdest moments. This song in particular pops up a lot when I take showers for some reason, and I realize that’s totally weird. It also pops up when I walk home from a hard day of work on a hot summer day, but I suppose that probably makes more sense.

      Incidentally, John Carpenter cites Once Upon a Time in the West as one of his favorite films and one of his greatest inspirations. Different as the music in Morricone’s and Carpenter’s films may be, you can hear a lot of Morricone’s influence in Carpenter’s, and especially of his work in OUATITW in Halloween. I realize that probably seems crazy because the two scores are really nothing alike in tone, but trust me; if you take the two scores and play them together in a mix, it works for some strange reason. Then again, I suppose all of Carpenter’s films are really “Westerns in disguise,” so perhaps it makes sense in a way. Maybe that’s why he uncharacteristically chose Morricone to score The Thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rev. Dragon's Eye April 17, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    The Bitter-sweet sounds of a well-played “harp”.

    BTW: I just started picking up playing the harmonica again, myself. Such a beautiful instrument, and so forgiving (sometimes).

    – Rev. Dragon’s Eye


  3. Sekhtet April 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    A perfect tune from a perfect film. This is one of the songs I need to listen to every now and again to reset my inner whatever. Thanks for the reset. It was very well timed.


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