Ennio Morricone

" On the one hand, it sounds like natural improvisational music, while on the other hand, it feels like precisely notated music. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the expanded release

Oceano is a 1971 semi-documentary directed by Folco Quilici, who usually made films and (semi)documentaries set in tropical climates and illustrated interesting social issues. After having made a semi-documentary about a Polynesian boy who raises a baby Shark (Ti-Koyo e il Suo Pescecane 1964), Oceano follows in those footsteps, following another Polynesian boy who goes on an adventure across the Pacific Ocean in search for his dream island.

Ennio Morricone's score uses some specific sounds and instruments – who doesn't expect to hear tribal percussion and a twirling woodwind? – to illustrate the setting in Oceano. Before I delve deeper into that, there's a bit of surprise, which is evident in the opening cue ´Oceano (04:03)´ that introduces its main theme. It's almost an exact replica of the breezy main theme of Il Grande Silenzio, minus the expressive main melody on top, and adding a new melody and more emphasis on tribal percussion. Most of its renditions in Oceano have more than enough deviating ingredients to keep it fresh, but is rather difficult to fully accept it. The composer did not only use the template of the western theme, he also re-introduces several instruments that characterised that score; the tribal percussions (tablas) and sitar foremost. Especially in some of their eerie, slightly dissonance performances, Morricone also emulates the underscore of Il Grande Silenzio. Even the disjointed woodwind and metal clanging. Luckily, they mostly serve an entirely new purpose.

Oceano as a whole is best described as a textural soundscape for the boy's adventures on the island, with little dramatic progression, if you exclude different variations on the main theme, sometimes for solo woodwind. On the one hand, it sounds like natural improvisational music, while on the other hand, it feels like precisely notated music. I especially love the variations on tribal percussion, chirping woodwinds, understated use of Edda Del Orso, and all the additional instruments, in providing illustrative phrases to establish an intriguing atmosphere. It bears feelings of mystique, a certain eeriness, and because of the textural music, even no emotion or feeling at all. The encompassing highlight to illustrate this is the wonderful 10 minutes long Il vento è il vento e soffia dove vuole (#2), which includes one of the few musical variations on the sound of a bird. However, the most interesting bird sound is heard in the rather brooding tension of Il Sole è il Sole e brucia ciò che vuole, which includes an interesting echoing sound, sitar, slightly more, and less, intense percussion and a strange woodwind emulating an unpleasant high-pitched bird.

Oceano is not a score for everyone, given the soundscape that mingles with a traditional theme. But it really are the seemingly undirected textural ideas that set this score apart.

The score received three vinyl releases by the labels Soundtrack Listeners Communications/RCA, after which it was paired with L´Avventuriero by RCA, marking its CD debut, only to be expanded by the excellent GDM cd release in 2010.

1. Oceano 4:03
2. Isola di Pasqua 2:01
3. Vulcano 1:01
4. Speranza per una terra amica 1:36
5. Le maschere morte 2:43
6. Il vento è vento e soffia dove vuole 4:47
7. Tanai 2:18
8. Odissea 1:58
9. Notte 1:40
10. Piccola ouverture 1:46
11. Viaggio 3:03
12. Il Sole è il Sole e brucia ciò che vuole 3:30
13. Partenza 2:14
14. Il vento è il vento e soffia dove vuole (#2) 10:42
15. Viaggio (#2) 1:23
16. Oceano (#2) 2:03
17. Isola di Pasqua (#2) 4:11
18. Notte (#2) 4:24
19. Partenza (#2) 1:13
20. Odissea (#2) 3:34
21. Oceano (#3) 6:19

Total duration: 66:28

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Released by

GDM (expanded release 2010)