In the humble opinion of this reviewer, the greatest film composer of all time is Ennio Morricone. Famous for his genre -defining scores for Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West), he has also created the profoundly beautiful scores for The Mission and Days of Heaven. He has collaborated with Samuel Fuller in White Dog and Brian de Palma in The Untouchables. His music is unforgettable and ubiquitous, and now Danger Mouse, one of the great musical voices of this generation is going to pay him tribute with his new album Rome.
Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) exploded on the musical scene with his DIY remix project The Grey Album. Fusing tracks from the Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album, he created what was effectively the first mash-up album, and a rash of them were to follow. Recently he has joined forces with James Mercer of The Shins to create Broken Bells (who incidentally released their second work, Meyrin Fields EP, a couple weeks ago).
But he is perhaps most famous for his collaboration with Cee-Lo Green, forming Gnarls Barkley, and their hit single Crazy, easily one of the best songs of the decade. That song was notable for sampling, out of the blue, an old spaghetti western theme, “Last Man Standing” from Viva! Django. But in this interview from 2006 Danger Mouse admits to being heavily inspired by Morricone, even going so far as to say “I started making music because I wanted to make music for films.”
But Danger Mouse is no longer with Cee-Lo for the time being, and has instead begun a project with film composer Daniele Luppi (Nine, The Nines, Hell Ride) in which he intends to pay tribute to Italian film composers of yore. Specifically, though, it is a tribute to Ennio Morricone, and during the five years pent recording it, Danger Mouse was able to record sessions of the album with musicians originally featured on some of Morricone’s most famous scores.
But Danger Mouse isn’t limited to a cinematic appreciation of Morricone. He has actually said that in creating music, he has attempted to follow the notion in film theory of auteurism. He loves Woody Allen, among others, but says this about his films: “…they worked because Woody Allen was an auteur: he did his Thing, and that particular Thing was completely his own. That’s what I decided to do with music. I want to create a director’s role within music.” (Quote)
It seems Danger Mouse has achieved that. The albums he has produced bear just as much of his finger print as those he writes, even if he always shares the stage. This time around, he won’t just share the stage with Morricone’s musicians or Daniele Luppi, though. For the operatic elements that the album is fated to include, Danger Mouse has gotten two singers from vastly different circles to collaborate with him. Jack White will be performing the male vocals, alongside Norah Jones (whose father Ravi Shankar composed the scores for Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, among others) with the female vocals.
If my enthusiasm hasn’t been evident, this is easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year. It is set to be released on May 16th. Have music and film ever intersected in such an intense way before? If you have other examples, please post them in the comments.