The whistling trill that opens the main theme to THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY is so familiar as to be a cultural touchstone. Even an abbreviated sound byte of the theme is enough to conjure images of desolate desert plains, rolling tumbleweeds, and a cowboy-booted figure standing ominously in the distance. These images come from Sergio Leone's "spaghetti" Westerns (so called because they were shot in Italy), while the sounds--created to aid Leone's existential narratives--are the work of the legendary Ennio Morricone.
Along with Bernard Herrmann and Nino Rota, Morricone is one of the most successful, accomplished, and well-known film composers of the 20th century. Like much of his work, the soundtrack to THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY utilizes unconventional instrumentation. Peculiar vocal calls, clanging auxiliary percussion, and electric guitars (which often employ a Dick Dale-like surf twang) trade off with a full complement of strings. The music is startlingly eclectic, moving from folk melodies to avant-garde dissonance to plaintive ballads to delicate ambience. Although the range of his career output is formidable, Morricone is perhaps best known for the soundtrack to this allegory of Civil War lawlessness, and it remains one of his finest achievements.