Vangelis, part 3

Two obits:

New York Times, 20 May 2022: Vangelis, Composer Best Known for ‘Chariots of Fire,’ Dies at 79, subtitled, “A master of the synthesizer, he won an Oscar for that film’s score, and his memorable theme song became a No. 1 pop hit.”

A track from the album China was used in a Chanel ad! I didn’t know.

Of course I did know, as this piece mentions, about his collaborations with Jon Anderson, lead vocalist for the “prog-rock” band Yes; but I never warmed to them. I do have one of their albums, on CD; I may have had the other two earlier on LP.

This reminds me that I *saw* Vangelis live in a concert at UCLA, back in ‘80s it must have been, in Royce Hall. He didn’t speak; he sat at a set of keyboards attached to a huge bank of synthesizers. The unannounced “guest star” of the concert turned out to be… Jon Anderson, live on stage with Vangelis. My favorite of their songs was this one, “So Long Ago, So Clear.”


NPR, 20 May 2022: Vangelis, famed film composer and synth pioneer, dead at 79

This one makes the error about Cosmos; he didn’t compose music for it, the show used tracks from his earlier albums.

The piece ends:

Vangelis had a lifelong interest in space which was reflected in his music — in its breadth and atmosphere. He believed that there was something inherent in humans to want to discover — whether that meant up in the sky or in a studio. For Vangelis, becoming a musician was never a conscious decision. “It’s very difficult not to make music,” Vangelis told NPR in 1977. “It’s as natural as I eat, as I make love. Music is the same.”


Two good analytical retrospectives, both picked up from Facebook.

Guardian, Alexis Petridis, 20 May 2022: Vangelis wasn’t just a film composer – he blew apart the boundaries of pop, subtitled, “With music that ended up crossing paths with Jay-Z, Donna Summer and Rotting Christ, the late Greek composer’s creative mind was thrillingly open” Referring to Vangelis by his original last name.

By the time Anderson and Papathanassiou’s partnership ended in 1983, the latter was also a star in his own right. His breakthrough came with his Oscar-winning soundtrack to Chariots of Fire. The soaring, valedictory feel of its theme – another hit single, inescapable in 1981 – fitted the movie’s mood so well that the anachronism of having a film set in the 1920s soundtracked by 80s electronics passed almost unnoticed. His subsequent soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was even better. Murkier, more abstract and far more emotionally ambiguous than the air-punch-inducing Chariots of Fire, its legend was bolstered by the fact that it wasn’t released as an album for over 20 years: a rotten orchestral version, which Scott and Papathanassiou hated, came out in its absence.

(An error here in saying “over 20 years”; it was only 12, officially, as the article stipulates elsewhere.)


Echoes, John Diliberto, 20 May 2022: Vangelis Remembered: A Synthesizer God Ascends

Listening to key Vangelis records was like entering an imaginary landscape. These were recordings that were meant to be journeys. Albums like Oceanic, Voices and The City found Vangelis working with new textures and structures that went beyond sequencer clichés. Vangelis could sometimes be overly sweet. He could really milk those synthesizer note bends and vibrato to wring-out the tears of the susceptible. But he also created works of profound poignancy like “L’Enfant” from 1979’s Opera Sauvage. Built around a one-note sequencer pattern, Vangelis created a melody that sounded like a madrigal transfigured. That track was used in the film The Year of Living Dangerously and it totally eclipsed Maurice Jarre’s score for that movie.

But as sweet as his music could be, he also wrote the book for dystopian electronic music with his 1982 score to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. It is still a signpost for most electronic artists.

And this about Mythodea:

There are a lot of artists who can get large orchestras and impressive venues in which to play their music. But how many could compose an opus to Mars and have the planet itself rise above the stage in mid-performance, sitting, no less, at its brightest point and closest proximity to earth? Somehow, Vangelis accomplished that for his performance of Mythodea in 2001 at the Temple of Zeus. “I just called Jupiter before the concert and I said can you arrange for Mars to be in the middle of the stage and quite bright, please,” he said a few days later. He did wink, although the fact he thought that was necessary says something about how Vangelis thought he might be perceived.


As always, there is a *lot* on YouTube if you just search it out. Here’s a section of his weird, atonal, Invisible Connections, the album as mentioned I don’t have on CD.

And here’s what purports to be the full, unreleased, score from Bitter Moon. (A comment says it’s a selection, not the full score.)

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