Although the CD’s liner notes are in Italian, it seems Tre nel mille was a comedic mini-series done for Italian TV in 1971, and Cometa’s release replicates the contents of their original LP (previously released in 1978 as a limited 1000-copy run), and adds 5 bonus tracks of alternate cues for this unusually quiet score by Ennio Morricone, written during his busy period when he was annually scoring westerns, gialli, and dramas.
For mille, his approach was to build the score around a gentle, strangely semi-tragic theme that’s the polar opposite from the experimental chaos of his giallo scores (Black Belly of the Tarantula), although there are some similarities to his soft, extended instrumental cues for westerns, and his tender, intimate music for the period drama 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore / Addio, fratello crudele.
Morricone uses a small orchestra, and for the main theme “Ballata trovatorica,” he cycles through streams of intersecting notes while a solo acoustic guitarist plays a slow, introspective phrase. “La vallata di Firenze,” in turn, is an eerie variation, with low strings meandering through unsettling swathes of whole notes.
“Elegia con interruzione” is a peculiar blend of bassoon, recorder, plaintive female voices, and whole-note chants by a male chorus paired with recorder during the cue’s propulsive midsection. It’s intriguing for the way Morricone switches to different orchestral and choral colorations, using the male voices as woodwinds, and female voices as strings, and interrupting long sections of tranquility with percussion taps, and solo, steady bassoon tones.
“Le voci dal liuto” is also fascinating for blurred vocal and instrumental sounds, over which an acoustic guitar plays a short intro statement. The cue’s midsection is comprised of solo woodwinds that are extremely expressive, evoking loneliness & uneasiness, and the cue offers no satisfying tonal resolution (although there is an attempt at melody between a guitar and strings in “La voce del liuto,” and the use of whimsical mandolin in “La grande zampogna”).
“Voci” however is indicative of the score’s design in which Morricone seems to have instructed the musicians to play their parts in a drift, free from a locked tempo, and as expressive as the natural sounds one would hear in a windswept desert. The echoing guitar is recorded from a distance, the woodwinds are piercing, and the voices tease the listener from afar. In “Maiali ed altri animali,” the vocal performances aren’t weird, guttural or violent, but they do mimic animal sounds, such as bullfrog groans, donkey and horse whinnies, and bird chirps.
A number the tracks seem to have been edited from shorter cues, but the album is well-sequenced, even with the bonus cues at the end. Cometa’s crisp, stereo CD is limited to 500 copies, which is a shame since this is a notable work of quiet experimentalism, and deserves to sit alongside Morricone’s classical works (which are equally powerful). The cover art replicates the striking art direction that graced the original LP.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan