• Harry

Carillons Watch Chimes and its Legacy

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Ennio Morricone is well established as one of the most influential film composers of all time. His scores for the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s set the musical language for the western genre which is still used today.


A favourite of mine is his score to 'For A Few Dollars More' the second film in Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy from 1965. A much more full and emotional score than the previous film.


One of the stand out cue is the Watch Chimes. The score is used as a plot point in the film, and is a prime example of perfect storytelling through film music. More recently however I have started to notice this cues direct influence on the structure of cues in later films trying to convey emotional storytelling through this kind of music.


The first example I noticed myself is the cue "Remembering Petticoat Lane" by John Williams for the original Jurassic Park. The cue has a lot in common with the Watch Chimes by Morricone, It starts with a chime like theme, I think in this case a Celesta, for the first two phrases. The cue then introduces very gently soft high strings in a very similar way to Morricone. It is clearly a different melody and composition, however they give such a similar feel they always make me think of one another. I believe that this is intentional by Williams. He would likely have listened to the score to For A Few Dollars More and wanted to create that same feeling with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) talking about his early endeavours in theme parks. I therefore believe that Remembering Petticoat Lane is written as a tribute by Williams for his admiration for Morricone.


The score to the 2017 BBC series Taboo has interested me a lot recently and upon going through the album release by Max Richter I couldn't help but notice the same similarities in the cue Taboo Lament. It started with the same style of chimes, this time it sounds to me like some kind of Vibraphone and Xylophone playing a different melody again but with a very similar feel to the two previous cues. The cue then progresses with a string arrangement which is clearly inspired by Williams' cue. The main difference with this example is that it is written as a Waltz, this allows it to hold true to the main theme of the series while adopting the feel of the cues Richter has been inspired by.


I think that it is clear there is a theme here where this specific style is used and evokes very similar emotions. The latest example I have noticed is in the incredible score to The Haunting Of Hill House by The Newton Brothers. The cue Whatever Walked There, Walked Alone I think shows a similar structure as inspired by Morricone, this time starting with a piano to fit with the rest of the score.


I am sure this structure will have been used many times before snd will continue to be used onwards as it works so effectively and I can't wait to hear any new uses and how it can be used in musical storytelling.


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