Somewhere between Modality and Atonality: The Superset and Subset Tetrachords in Ennio Morricone's Score for "Disclosure"

Charles F. Leinburger, University of Texas at El Paso

In his film scores for the iconic westerns of the 1960s and '70s, Ennio Morricone demonstrated a fondness for using a hybrid scale that resembled both the Dorian and Aeolian modes. Decades later, he used a nearly identical scale to create his score for Disclosure (1994). By lowering scale degree 5, he creates an octachord that is closer to the traditional octatonic scale of alternating tones and semitones.

This paper will show that Morricone uses this octachord as an eight‚Äźnote superset, very much like a tone row, in which no instrument repeats a pitch until all eight have sounded. The composer further combines pairs of subset tetrachords from this superset in what Sergio Miceli described as Morricone's "pseudo-serial approach." This paper will shed new light on the techniques of this very prolific film composer.