Friday, June 10, 2016

The Cat O' Nine Tails (Morricone, 1971)


     Ennio Morricone's second collaboration with director Dario Argento resulted in his score for 1971's "The Cat O' Nine Tails" (Italian: "Il gatto a nove code"), again conducted by Bruno Nicolai and featuring contributions from the siren-like vocals of Edda Dell'Orso.  This film is probably not quite as vivid or stylistic as 1970's "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage", but it still has a fascinating and fun score (the plot is like a very long episode of Columbo and frankly not really worth getting into).

     Morricone's technique of using abstract textures and free-floating themes continued from the previous Argento film, but this time he incorporated a tense, funky bass groove for most of its suspense scenes, lending it a somewhat more playful texture.  This concept of atonal music made "palatable" by blaxploitation grooves would also resurface a few years later in David Shire's 1974 score for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three).  John Zorn approached things from the other end of the telescope when, in his 1986 Morricone tribute album "The Gig Gundown", he took Morricone's "straight" themes and revisited them by placing free improvisation textures over thematic groove structures.

     In any case, the main groove theme for "Cat" is based on a 5-note figure, and this appears several times in different tempos and arrangements.  Some additional bass patterns also surface (having 6, 8 or 12 notes), but these usually only appear once, or were unused in the film.  The second track, "1970", has some very interesting elements (including a new atonal, twelve-tone-ish "Tension theme"), but was sadly unused in the film.


     Instrumentally, the textures for the second film feature more organ, electric guitar and various noises made from "abusing" the cello or piano.  The only track really featuring a "song" is the first track, and this "lullaby" was retracked several times for any scenes involving the young girl Lori.  There is much less of Edda Dell'Orso in this score (no lala's) , but instead one can find some male vocal shouting sounds.  This score has been released in a few forms but the most comprehensive is the 2006 GDM release, which includes every cue used in the film, as well as an interview with the director (in Italian).  The below table is based on the 2006 GDM Special Edition release of this score (GDM CD Club 7037).


Trk Dur Title Music Elements, Film Sequence
1 2:39 Ninna Nanna In Blu
(Title)
Theme song with wordless female voice, opening with acoustic guitar and flute, joined by harpsichord/cymbalom, developed on strings and piano, returning to main theme.
Main title, panning over night time suburban streets.  Also partially used when Franco's niece Lori arrives with the morning paper with the article about the killing, when Franco introduces Lori to Giordani, when Anna and Giordani get intimate in his apartment, and when Lori is kidnapped by the killer.
2 8:39 1970 Unused: Rhythmic hi-hat and syncopated 12-note bass figure laced with a recurring 9-10-note syncopated Tension theme in piano, electric guitar, prepared/percussive cello, muted brass, wordless female voices, harpsichord, organ, developing through various dynamics.
3 2:20 Sottintesi
(Innuendo)
High held textures with strummed ornaments and ambient friction sounds, joined by wordless female vocal tremolo, Tension theme in electric guitar, cascading piano, string clusters, swirling flutter-tongued flute, muted brass accents, piano accents and string clusters.
With his niece asleep, Franco reflects on what he overheard while walking down the street.  Meanwhile a killer's POV shows the murder of a security guard and his entrance into a lab building.
4 2:57 Parabola Del Paradosso
(Parable Of The Paradox)
0:00: Unused: Web-like texture of harpsichord/cymbalom, cello noise, celeste
0:43: Leisurely, clipped, syncopated 5-note bass and drum rhythm, wordless female vocal layers, cluster swells, harpsichord ostinati, friction/tremolo sounds.
Bianca takes a taxi to visit her husband's car to look for the blackmail notes.  She finds the name of the killer and puts the secret into her necklace ornament.
5 3:21 Paranoia Prima 0:00: Flute theme over string cluster textures and bongo rolls, joined by isolated electric bass accents, piano ornaments.
Bianca calls Franco and tells her she has found the proof of who the killer is.  She hears a strange sound and investigates but finds nothing.  The killer hides.  Bianca tells Franco that she's coming over.  After she hangs up she is attacked by the killer.
1:30: Unused: Soft piano accents with high oscillating organ tones, winding electric guitar over subdued metallic percussion textures, strummed figures/high tones.
6 1:30 Paranoia Seconda 8-note bass figure (2x4) over bongos blended with string clusters, flute ornaments, rhythmic strummed figures/high tones with celeste ornaments, col legno cello noises and a final vocal swell.
Giordani pours out the (poisoned) milk for himself and Anna.  He gets a phone call from Franco warning him of danger.  He stops Anna from drinking the milk (also used when a shaken Franco reopens the vault for Giordani at the cemetery).
7 2:43 Dissociazione
(Dissociation)
0:00: Soft piano accents, high organ, celeste, blended with cymbalom strums, winding alto flute ornaments, rhythmic cello accents, wordless vocal tremolo.
Giordani opens Terzi's safe and finds out that Anna is adopted.  He reads Terzi's sordid diary entries about Anna.
1:40: Syncopated 5-note bass and drum rhythm, with piano/celeste accents, ambient textures.
Franco and Giordani track down the taxi in which Lori was kidnapped.
8 3:01 Dissociazione Seconda Unused: Blend of piano strings accents, string clusters, slow syncopated 12-note bass and drum rhythm, cello string noises, soft wind accents, Tension theme in piano, high tones, string noise clusters.
9 5:38 Passeggiata Notturna (Night Stroll, Film Version) Syncopated 12-note bass and drum rhythm (briefly drops out in the middle) with blend of cello string noises, soft wind accents, Tension theme in piano, string clusters, winding flute figure, high organ tones, percussion/cymbalom, wordless vocal tremolo,  rhythmic cello accents, cello noises, soft wind accents, piano/cymbalom/celeste clusters.
Franco and Giordani visit the cemetery to look for Bianca's necklace.  Giordani enters the vault and opens the coffin.  He gives the secret note to Franco but is suddenly locked inside.
10 2:32 Metafora Finale Blend of string clusters, soft piano accents, high organ tones, strummed cymbalom/celeste accents, winding flute figures.
Anna comes downstairs with her hand suspiciously wrapped in a bloody bandage.  Giordani interrogates her and suggests that she is the killer.
11 2:35 Placcaggio
(The Tackle)
0:00: Lively version of syncopated 5-note bass and drum rhythm with added cello/cymbalom noises, distant muted trumpets and shouting.
(End credits).
1:07: Leisurely 6-note bass figure with winding electric guitar, intercut by episodes of growls and cascading accents.
As Giordani leaves the lab room, he notices that blood had dripped onto his shirt.  He returns and sees a clue in the skylight.  He runs to the window and starts climbing the fire escape.  He chases the killer on the roof.
12 3:41 Passeggiata Notturna (Night Stroll, Alternate Version) Unused: Alternate shorter take: syncopated 12-note bass and drum rhythm (briefly drops out in the middle) with blend of cello string noises, soft wind accents, Tension theme in piano, string  clusters, winding flute figure, high organ tones, percussion/cymbalom, wordless vocal tremolo,  rhythmic cello accents, cello noises (fades out).
13 2:34 Placcaggio (The Tackle, Alternate Version) Unused: Alternate Version with no shouting in first section: lively version of syncopated 5-note bass and drum rhythm with added cello/cymbalom noises, distant muted brass, followed by leisurely 6-note bass/drum rhythm with winding electric guitar, intercut by episodes of growls and cascading accents.
14 12:32 Il Gatto A Nove Code
(Cat O'
Nine Tails)
Suite (film version excerpts):
0:00: Passeggiata Notturna with added electric guitar/clarinet
1:17: 2-note bass figure with restrained drums, guitar strums, piano/synth clusters, soft wind accents and cello noises.
The killer explores the darkened lab by flashlight.
2:26: String/organ clusters with winding flute, soft piano/clarinet accents. Calabresi looks over his secret blackmail notes.
2:57: Rhythmic string accents/tremoli with piano/celeste ornaments.
Calabresi tells his wife that he knows who the killer is.
3:21: Passeggiata Notturna with added electric guitar/clarinet
4:05: Parabola Del Paradosso: 5-note bass/drums with distorted electric guitar swells, string noises, piano/celeste ostinato, then with string/piano cluster accents.
The photographer looks over photos he took of Calabresi's accident/murder.  He develops the photos, as the killer sneaks in to his room.
6:05: Piano string accents with guttural vocal gasping, vocal tremolo, string clusters, bass ornaments.
The killer strangles the photographer and takes all of the photographic evidence.
7:12: 2-bar harpsichord theme with ensemble ornaments, vocal tremolo.
Giordani enters the photographer's building as the killer sneaks out.
7:53: Suspenseful piano/celeste/string clusters/organ.
Franco visits Calabresi's widow Bianca.
8:12: Winding electric guitar with cello noises, vocal wails.
Bianco calls someone and says there's trouble.
8:39: String/piano/cymbalom tremoli/clusters.
Bianca searches her husband's desk for something.
9:06: Paranoia Seconda: 8-note bass figure (2x4) over bongos blended with string clusters, distorted electric guitar swells.
The killer poisons Giordani's milk, just before Giordani arrives at his apartment.
10:45: Placcaggio: syncopated 5-note bass and drum rhythm with celeste clusters, brief winding sax, plucked noises, string/harmonic tremoli, vocal noises/wails.
Franco, Giordani and the police search the lab at night.
15 2:50 Ninna Nanna In Blu (# 2) Unused: Theme song as an instrumental piano/organ ballad, moving to harpsichord and then celeste.
16 3:20 Placcaggio (The Tackle, Original Single Version) Unused: Extended version of first part only: lively version of syncopated 5-note bass and drum rhythm with added cello/cymbalom noises, distant muted trumpet and shouting.
17 5:26 Il Gatto A Nove Code (Cat O'
Nine Tails #2)
Suite (film version excerpts):
0:00: Paranoia Prima: Flute theme over string cluster textures and bongo rolls.
0:35: Piano cluster ornaments with cymbalom, joined by celeste/organ ostinato figure, female vocal tremolo.
Lori is tied up at the lab and faces rats.  The killer threatens her with a knife, but when a car pulls in he leaves.
1:28: High oscillating organ/alto flute, strummed cymbalom/cello noises, muted trumpet.
2:26: Leisurely 5-note bass/drums rhythm with distorted electric guitar swells, string noises, piano/celeste ostinato.
3:15: Two layers of scraped metallic whistling/creaking sounds, rising.
4:37: Faster 5-note bass and drum rhythm with distorted electric guitar swells, string noises, piano string accents, distant vocals, building and then suddenly ending.
The killer tries to escape from the police on the roof but is caught by Franco.
18 5:49 Dario Argento Speaks! (In Italian: Interviewer – Claudio Fuiano)

Links
Ennio Morricone Wiki
The Cat O' Nine Tails GDM Discogs Listing 

1 comment:

  1. Next analysis : Four Flies on grey velvet ?

    ReplyDelete