Composer. Nationality: Greek. Born: Evangelos O. Papathanassiou in Valez, 1944. Career: Composer and performer with European techno-rock bands Formynx and Aphrodite's Child (with Demis Roussos), then solo career; recordings since 1968, often with the singer Jon Anderson; also composer for TV commercials and other TV music. Awards: Academy Award for Chariots of Fire , 1981.
Sex Power (Chapier)
Amour (Chapier); L'Apocalypse des animaux (Rossif)
Entends-tu les chiens aboyer? (Reichenbach)
Le Fête sauvage (Rossif)
Chariots of Fire (Hudson)
Missing (Costa Gavras); Blade Runner (Scott)
Sauvage et beau (Rossif); The Bounty (Donaldson)
Nosferatu a venezia ; Someone to Watch Over Me (Scott) (song)
Francesco ( Franziskus ) (Cavani); Le Diner des bustes (Matouk)
Russicum (Squitieri) (song)
1492: The Conquest of Paradise (Scott); Bitter Moon ; Starwatcher
Atkinson, Terry, "Scoring with synthesizers," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1982.
Score (Lelystad, Netherlands), no. 89, December 1993.
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Vangelis' forte has been composing music for films in which characters seek to transcend their limitations in achieving some great goal or quest. Indeed, Vangelis became well-known for his musical score for Chariots of Fire , where he enveloped scenes of Olympic victory with that particularly exalting music of triumph he creates with such perfection. It was certainly a feat to weld music consisting in great part of synthesized or mechanically processed sounds to essentially realistic visuals. It is certainly true that many of the film's more impressive shots have been transformed by slow motion; yet the completely fantastic visuals of horror or futuristic films have been the traditional forum for what is generally considered to be experimental music. Vangelis' music, however, is not just synthetic. The composer prides himself on using echo chamber and other effects to blur the distinction between synthesized sounds and traditional instruments, as well as choir. Indeed, Vangelis' mixed-media arrangement of the Anglican hymn "Jerusalem" perfectly matches the patriarchal vision of this rather reactionary film glorifying God and Empire, and it is a phrase from this hymn that provides the film its title.
Beginning the 1982, Vangelis had the chance of providing music for two directors whose talents equaled his—first for Peter Weir. A portion from Vangelis' suite for synthesizer Opera Sauvage somewhat upstages Maurice Jarre's reticent score for Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously. Vangelis' music underscores the exhilarating curfew ride of Guy (Mel Gibson) and Jill (Sigourney Weaver)—their moment of living very dangerously and of driving to their first night of love. The same is true of the scene where Jill makes the decision to tell Guy top secret information to save his life—a trust he betrays. In 1982, the composer wrote the full score for the first of two very interesting works by Ridley Scott whose misty lights and velvety darks find perfect counterparts in Vangelis' nuanced, but wide-ranging harmonies and timbres.
Vangelis accompanies the titles of Scott's Blade Runner with percussive sounds played under a tentative statement of the film's main theme. The opening establishing shot showing Los Angeles, in 2019, is accompanied by the percussive sounds which seem to be real explosions of burn-off from huge refinery towers, while the main theme is given a full statement with simulated brass and strings. Vangelis enjoys this playing with diagetic sounds (sounds that fit something in the plot) and extra-diagetic music (mere accompaniment): are we hearing explosions that sound like percussive instruments or the opposite? It may very well be the ambiguity of this synthesized music that makes it fit so well with both the high-tech bleeps of the futuristic world and the mysterious twists of the plot. And yet, again, Vangelis demonstrates his readiness to move beyond electronically fabricated sound to that of traditional instruments at precisely those moments when meaning and expression demand it. The love theme—a melancholy jazz melody—for the love scenes or quieter moments is done with real instruments, piano and saxophone, as if to emphasize the fact that we finally are witnessing something human, something transcendent of the fact that one of the couple is an android. Here again, Vangelis plays with diegetic/extra diagetic music by having the two (played by Harrison Ford and Sean Young) each pick out fragments of the melody on a piano. The final credit music is a magnificent toccata with a driving bass. His ability to find just the right synthetic sounds to underscore psychological intensity and depth is apparent, not only in Blade Runner , but in the dark quest of Costa Gavas' Missing and in the cross-cutting between the two desperate bands of a fragmented ship's crew in the finale of Roger Donaldson's fine effort The Bounty. However impressive each one of the efforts prior to 1992, not one of them prepares one for the full power of Vangelis' music for Scott's 1492: The Conquest of Paradise. Indeed, this score seems to combine all the excellent qualities of the earlier efforts. He has composed a score to be compared, in its imaginative richness and inventive transformations, with scores by Sergei Prokofiev or Aaron Copland. This originality is not lessened, but rather greatly increased by Vangelis' having undertaken to evoke the music of Juan dal Encina and other composers of the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Since he is dealing with a period piece set in the Renaissance and since that was a period where choral forms dominated, the prevalence he gives to sections for chorus and the artistry he lavishes on them is absolutely on the mark. In general, he uses chorus in combination with traditional instruments. When there is need, Vangelis appeals again to that side of his talent that created the euphoric, exultant texture of Chariots of Fire : for the departure of the ships of Columbus on their first voyage; for the royal celebration in church upon his return; for the hoisting of the giant church bell for the first settlement in the New World. And when hurricanes, white-colonial greed, Native-American uprisings, and enemies in Spain ruin Columbus' Utopian vision, Vangelis draws on his deeper, richer, darker tone poetics.