His Dark Exotica

Ennio Morricone - "Pazuzu (Theme From Exorcist II)"

by Jason Cook

18 October 2010


All the while “His Dark Exotica” has run, there have been short analyses of Ennio Morricone and his work on Exorcist II: The Heretic in the various contexts in which the music is played and intended. Now, as the series nears its penultimate piece, there is the question of the film’s actual theme. This theme (a culmination of the various tracks that precede its midway appearance on the film’s soundtrack) is memorable, to say the least. In under three minutes, one hears the coda from “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird in the Sky”. There’s the strange glossolalia of “Little Afro Flemish Mass”, and frantic chanted tempo of “Magic and Ecstasy”. Strong are the staccato exotica whip cracks, marimba sequences, and African drumming. It’s as if Morricone, in this piece, and to counter the previous film’s minimalist theme by Mike Oldfield, has given us everything, pouring into his simple modulation the weird keys that progress through the even weirder film for which he composed.

“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. It isn’t the theme of a blockbuster or even a considerable hit. It’s the sound of something too far gone for mainstream anything. It’s the certain sound of a demon, Pazuzu, and the way he rides the teeth of the wind.
Without a bridge, rest, or significant shift in tone or tempo, the theme from Exorcist II is a sole block of frenzy. There are derivative elements, yes. There are the slashing, minor chord staccato strings; the grunts that emerge rhythmically; its general inside-a-volcano-Kali-Kali-Maa uneasiness. But it also has its echoes in more recent music. Specifically, in Aphex Twin’s “Omgyjya Switch7” from Drukqs (2001). Now this is a stretch, I know. But bear with me. In the aforementioned piece, there are the following qualities: whip cracks (sometimes reversed); frantic and contrasting tonal elements; an unrecognizable voice; a quick tempo; a minor-key similar to that of “Pazuzu.” There’s no direct link between either track, and there’s no good reason to assume that Richard D. James has heard “Pazuzu” or used it for his breakneck whip sample. But there is a kinship, one that’s come and transcended this old, odd film and found itself in Jungian mass consciousness, transposed into post-formulative IDM. One has to agree, it works. Morricone should be mashed-up, sampled, and double-dropped. American midwestern drag/witch house producers (SALEM can you hear me?) should excise the best from Exorcist II and manipulate its every exotic moment into some new, writhing downtempo stomper. Take into consideration “Omgyjya Switch7”, and “Pazuzu” simply makes for the perfect start.

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