Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Farewell to the Whistler

I can't let this week go by without saying farewell to one of the greats of European cinema. I'm talking about Italian soundtrack legend Alessandro Alessandroni, who died over the weekend at age 92.  If you like Spaghetti Westerns from the 1960's and 1970's (And at this point, is there anyone who doesn't like Spaghetti Westerns? And if not, why not?), you know the part he played in helping to create some of the greatest film scores ever done.  With childhood friend Ennio Morricone, he worked on such films as A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and Once Upon a Time in the West.  He contributed to a slew of non-Leone Westerns also, and movies in every other conceivable genre.  Alessandroni played guitar, mandolin, accordion, and a number of other instruments, and above all, he was a remarkable whistler.  In all those Spaghetti Westerns, the Leone films, for instance, when you hear whistling on the soundtrack, you're hearing Alessandroni. He's there, too, plucking on his guitar, and he very much helped come up with the guitar riffs one hears in films such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  In other words, Alessandroni is a central figure in inventing a sound that marks an entire era in movies (you can't think of Spaghetti Westerns without hearing the soundtracks in your head), and let's not forget that he himself composed the scores to over 50 films.

You can get the names of the movies he worked on at the Internet Movie Database and elsewhere. But the best way to remember a musician is just to play his music.  So here's a couple of things from him.  The first is the main theme from A Fistful of Dollars with Alessandroni whistling and playing guitar in a live acoustic performance, and the second piece is a track I happen to love, with odd haunting whistling on it, from the Sergio Corbucci film, The Mercenary.

Addio, Alessandro!

1 comment:

Elgin Bleecker said...

Scott – Thanks for this post. Some years ago, I read about Alessandroni and was amazed to learn about his whistling. I had always thought that sound was created by an instrument like an Irish penny whistle or a hollowed-out gourd that sounded like a man whistling.