Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

His Dark Exotica: Ennio Morricone - "Rite of Magic"/ "Great Bird in the Sky"

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Oct 4, 2010
Reedy and sustained, “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird of the Sky” make for both of Ennio Morricone’s most focused coda-laden contributions to his soundtrack for the ill-received 1977 horror psychedelia sequel 'Exorcist II: The Heretic'.

Reedy and sustained, “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird of the Sky” both make for Ennio Morricone’s most focused coda-laden contributions to his soundtrack for the ill-received 1977 horror psychedelia sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. Guided by bells, tensely shuffling percussion, and a soft lone voice representative of Regan, the film’s possessed protagonist of sorts, “Rite of Magic” first delivers the film’s coda on the 1977 soundtrack—second in the film to “Great Bird of the Sky”, which plays only 20 minutes into the film and at its first dramatic point, a moment when Richard Burton, sweaty and orange-faced as ever, is handed a portrait of himself illustrated by a not-so-little Linda Blair as Regan.


“Flames… Flames. They’re getting bigger. We’ve got to put the fire out”, he says. Morricone’s piece begins and the weird aria starts amid buzzing strings like George Crumb’s Black Angels gone soft.


“Take it easy. It’s probably an after-effect of the hypnosis”, Louise Fletcher tells Burton.


They’ve been experimenting with a remote-viewing device, and when they do find the fire, somewhere in a basement and to the tune of silence—Morricone’s piece drops out after the soloist’s first few bars, Fletcher sees Burton standing before it, crowned with flames, and the film gets a little sillier. But the coda returns in a scene almost an hour later, emerging again with Burton in Ethiopia, praying to God in, remotely speaking to Blair who lays in bed, possessed and sweating like Burton, speaking to him: “Call me. Call me. Call me by my dream name.”
  
“Pazuzu, prince of the evil spirits of the air…”, Burton starts. Meanwhile the Crumb-like strings ring on, the vocal part begins again, and together, at least in an astral sense, they chant some demonic name, and Morricone’s intent for these pieces becomes quite clear. They’re not suspense-fodder, but ritual songs. They plod slowly, echoing 20th century avant-garde with some ceremonial intent, and finish with the kitschy flair and inflection of Les Baxter or Arthur Lyman. There’s even a bird-call in “Rite of Magic”. Exorcist II isn’t quite camp, but you could call it that.


This series, “His Dark Exotica”, persists because Morricone is a master of style.  He imbues all of his work with the flair from what he channels. Though a composer most often for film, piggybacking the artistic intent of others, he is an artist still, and foremost an originator. His work bristles claims of derivation because Morricone composes what his contemporaries mime and interpolate. In “Great Bird of the Sky”, he doesn’t simply let “Rite of Magic” repeat with different timing, he replays the piece almost entirely, raising attention to the vocal piece, to the strings, compressing what was relaxed and changing tone by controlling volume. The tonal mention of exotica is a precursory mention; the album’s ensuing piece, nested between “Great Bird of the Sky” and “Rite of Magic” is exactly this.

Related Articles
1 Nov 2010
"Night Flight" and "Exorcism" form the a- and b-sides to the imaginary 7” single that could have come from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to The Exorcist II: The Heretic.
25 Oct 2010
Save for “Magic and Ecstasy”, “Seduction and Magic” is perhaps the most Goblin-esque of the thirteen tracks on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to Exorcist II: The Heretic. The piece's second inclusion, “Dark Revelation”, could remain at home on the next Burial album.
18 Oct 2010
“Pazuzu (Theme From Exorcist II)” is about channeling. The track does not play prominently in the film. Rather, it emerges in aural corners and suggests all the witchery, locust-vision, and demonic possession that Regan and crew play out on the screen.
11 Oct 2010
"Little Afro Flemish Mass" begins with the soul of a Massive Attack sample, emerging beautifully through glossolalia backed by hand drum passages and full choir ululation. It’s a great piece, haunting in an unexpected way.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.