An Interview with Nora Orlandi by John Mansell © 2007
Nora Orlandi was born on June 28, 1933 in Voghera, Lombardy, Italy. She got her start composing in 1953, when she composed the score for NON VOGLIAMO MORIRE (Oreste Palella, 1954). She has since been responsible for over 30 film scores, primarily for spaghetti westerns and giallo films. LO STRANO VIZIO DELLA SIGNORA WARDH (Sergio Martino, 1970) was the third and last score composed for an giallo film after IL DOLCE CORPO DI DEBORAH (Romolo Guerrieri, 1968) and A DOPPIA FACCIA (Riccardo Fredda, 1969). For the Signora Wardh score, Orlandi uses a melody written for the Fredda film three years earlier (The same melody was used by Quentin Tarantino in one sequence of KILL BILL Vol.2). Orlandi used an extraordinary variety of rhythms and styles in this score: lounge, samba, bossa nova, jazz, liturgical chant, suspense music, psychedelic sounds. Orlandi has also been responsible for incidental music for dozens of radio advertising spots and television shows. She often worked with collaborators including, Alessandro Alessandroni, Paolo Ormi and Robert Poitevin.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Voghera (Lombardia), Italy on the 28th of June 1933.
What musical education do you have?
I studied at the academy of music in Voghera (Conservatorio).
Did you come from a musical family background?
My mother, Fanny Miriam Campos, was a great lyric singer. My father and my brother were merely passionate for music, while my sister is a singer too. She worked with me as soloist and vocalist in both my two groups: the 2+2 and the 4+4. As for my present family, my husband is my most precious collaborator: he helps me in everything… last September we celebrated 50 years of marriage! I have 2 sons and at least 5 nephews, aged from 7 up to 22.
You began primarily as a singer in a group with Alessandroni. When did you decide to form your own singing group?
To tell the truth the group was mine… and I gave to Alessandroni the possibility to join! He was one of my first vocalists. Subsequently I had the pleasure to work with Massimo Cini, one of my vocalists for 30 years, and also there is Enzo Gioieni, who I have worked and performed with since almost the start of my career.
You have worked with many composers on film scores, who would you say was the most enjoyable to work with?
Every composer or performer I have worked with I have enjoyed collaborating with, my collaborations have always been undertaken with enthusiasm and positivity, independently from the composer or the film. Passion is something you have inside and I merely offered it to everyone that called me to work.
What was your first film score, and how did you progress from a performer to a composer?
In 1953–54, at the age of 20, I composed my first film score: “Non Vogliamo Morire”. I really don’t remember the day I became a singer professionally: it is too far away!
Do you conduct all of your own music, or do you sometimes have a conductor?
No, on the contrary: my scores have always been directed by someone else more famous than me… for example Paolo Ormi and Robbie Poitevin. Besides I was busy with many other projects, and did not have enough time available to conduct my own music.
Do you think enough of your music from film has been released onto LP or CD?
I have never paid much attention to that matter. Soundtracks are only the 30% of my work, the rest was compounded by various performances, TV and radio-phonic shows, advertising spots… Moreover I took part in about 15 San Remo music Festivals.
How do you work out your musical ideas, do you utilise a piano or do you work with a synthesiser?
I utilise neither a piano nor a synthesiser. I compose without any instrument and only at the end I check what I wrote (generally with a piano): only Mozart could write without checking!
How many times do you normally watch a movie before you start to get any fixed ideas about where the music will be placed and what style of music you will employ?
Most of the times you must ask expressly to watch the film. Often it is sufficient to watch some parts of it, only one time, to understand the more suitable musical style. The music must be a “sound photography”, parallel to the images; it depends really on each individual project.
How long did you normally get to work on a film score; maybe you could use THE SWEET BODY OF DEBORAH as an example?
It depends from the kind of the job… I don’t exactly remember how much time I got to work on a singular film score. Perhaps it is too difficult to quantify it because I could not devote so much time to a sole work. As I have already said, soundtracks are not my priority, even though they are a way of artistic expression that I have a particular passion for myself.
Do you prefer to work on a particular type or genre of movie, or are you happy working on all types of subject matter?
I am happy working on any type of film, because it is always a very interesting artistic experience. As spectator I love very much thrillers… but unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to do many of these.
Have you ever had a score rejected, or have had to do a rush job on a film after another score had been discarded?
Thankfully, this has never happened, I am very fortunate.
What do you think of the film music of today?
In my opinion the film music of today is generally good… however, if it is music from yesterday or of today it is always film music: a “light” entertainment! This kind of music isn’t a committed artwork, but a “light” artwork with a specific beauty.
Would you say that you were influenced by any composers in particular, classical or film music composers?
No, not really. For me to write music that is influenced by another composer would be very much like plagiarism, of course it is possible for this to be done unconsciously…
When a soundtrack recording is released on record or compact disc do you have any input into what music will go onto that release?
When one of my soundtracks is released on record or CD, certainly I am very glad, but I’m not interested to intervene in the track’s selection. Once I finished my work of music composition I spend my time with other projects. I’m very busy!
Do you orchestrate all of your scores yourself?
No, I don’t. It depends by the situation, the needs… and, most of all, by the time I can spend in it, so sometimes I work on them myself other times not.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Personally I’m busying myself with some very interesting teaching projects… But I always take into consideration what people offer to me.
Many thanks to Nora Orlandi. Also many thanks to Valentina of the press office at BEAT, and Daniele De Gemini, who’s help with this project has been invaluable.