Vangelis, a lion of electronic music

I watched Blade Runner in my early twenties when I was feeling depressed; and rather than it being something inspirational, it just did my head in (along with trying to read Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly). I ended up associating the sweeping synth notes of Vangelis with a bleak kind of ‘Sunday’ depression.

But seriously, over the years, the more of his music I have heard, the more it has impressed me — where I’ve now reached a point where I feel that it was some of the best of last century that he is an absolute musical genius. Along with Giorgio Moroder and Jean-Michel Jarre, he was a lion of electronic music, completely changing the sound of what was acceptable in cinema, of what kind of music can and should accompany moving images.

Though most popularly known for his ‘Chariots of Fire’ theme, his music also appeared in the The Year of Living Dangerously by Australian director Peter Weir. Although the piece used, ‘L’Enfant’ from the album Opera Sauvage, had not been specifically written for the movie, it still worked perfectly, thanks to Peter Weir’s knack for using music to base his scenes around.

Vangelis’ compositions usually build and build through simple and repetitive melodies before majestically bursting out at the end into some epic breakaway theme. Most of his best work, like Alpha, which was used in the Carl Sagan TV series Cosmos can be best described as ‘haunting’: once you hear it, you will never forget it.

From what I have read about his production methods, he would always kept the tape running when experimenting with sound, recording hundreds of hours of music that he would then whittle down into these great pieces. He also did not have a ‘proper’ musical education, but was a mostly intuitive and self-taught composer.

Years later, I rewatched Blade Runner with a girlfriend — and I can tell you that I saw this film in a completely different light: I didn’t feel suffocated by the slow-moving nature of the film, and feeling excited by it, the romance of it came through — so this just goes to show how much your mind and mood has the power to influence your perception of things.

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