In Memoriam: Alessandro Alessandroni
It is with great sadness that we remark upon the passing of the great Italian film composer and arranger, Alessandro Alessandroni, at the age of 92. Alessandroni was a talented multi-instrumentalist: playing a variety of string instruments (including guitar, mandolin, sitar) and keyboards. He was also a formidable whistler. In fact, Alessandroni’s best-known contributions are probably in the form of his twangy guitar line and whistled refrain that make-up the main theme to Ennio Morricone‘s score for Sergio Leone‘s “spaghetti westerns“, A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
While Alessandroni was more than just a whistler, he was certainly no stranger to genre-film soundtracks. He worked with Morricone (who remained a close friend throughout Alessandroni’s life) many times as a session musician and arranger. He also worked extensively with Piero Umiliani. Alessandroni also worked as a composer in his own right: scoring over 40 films and turning in hundreds of hours worth of library music. His combination of pop elements, just enough weirdness and frequently heavy drum beats and basslines mean that much of his work is still remarkably vital to modern listeners and as a result, is frequently sampled. Many of his library recordings in particular remain particularly sought after by hip-hop producers and DJs for the blend of weird or alien (but always still accessible) sounds that Alessandroni always brought to the table.
Alessandroni did not just work on Westerns, he was also adept at scoring horror films, giallos and melodramas. Some of his more notable scores include Killer Nun, The Devil’s Nightmare, and Lady Frankenstein. While he was always something of a cult figure throughout his career, Alessandroni was very well-respected among his peers and throughout the Italian film industry. He was an extremely adventurous composer, pulling in elements of the avant-garde, pop, psychedelic music and a lot else. While his music took risks, they were always risks that worked in relation to the piece he was trying to score and never just for show. While much of his work was extremely hard to find for years, his work is gradually being reissued as part of a campaign by film music label Dagored.
Allesandroni was born in Rome in 1925. He had been boyhood friends with Ennio Morricone and would later cross paths with Morricone again, getting him into film music. Allesandroni never received any formal music training, relying on his incredible ear to teach himself what he needed to know. He started learning the guitar and the mandolin by listening to and watching the men who made music at his family’s barber shop. He listened to classical music on his own and bought his first mandolin at age 13. He developed a guitar style influenced by early country and surf guitarists, Duane Eddy and Dick Dale, but put his own spin on the instrument. By his 30s, he was a successful touring musician throughout Italy and Germany. He also gained additional notoriety as part of the vocal group, Four Caravels. While working in a jazz club back in Rome in the early 60s, Alessandroni by serendipity, bumped into his old friend Morricone again. Morricone had just completed scoring his first western and had begun work on another. Needing a guitar player, he invited Alessandroni to work with him, for which Alessandroni proved be a perfect fit. The two collaborated many times over the following decades, with Alessandroni contributing guitar and vocal stylings to many of Morricone’s best known scores, as well as to his own compositions.
While he is not a household name, Alessandroni has been far more musically influential throughout his career than many people might realize. He was will be missed for his brilliant creative voice and instrumental talents.