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Music / Vangelis

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Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (29 March 1943 - 17 May 2022), better known as "Vangelis", was a Greek musician and composer.

He was part of the psychedelic/progressive rock band Aphrodite's Child from 1967 till they disbanded in 1972, and moved on to an eclectic and successful solo career.

He was most famous for making epic music with synthesizers, and composed a number of memorable electronic film and documentary scores such as Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner, The Bounty and 1492: Conquest of Paradise, as well as several of the tracks in Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

He passed away from COVID-19 at age 79 on May 17, 2022.

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  • Earth (1973)
  • Heaven and Hell (1975)
  • Albedo 0.39 (1975)
  • Spiral (1977)
  • Hypothesis (recorded 1970, released 1978)
  • Beaubourg (1978)
  • China (1979)
  • See You Later (1980)
  • Soil Festivities (1984)
  • Mask (1985)
  • Invisible Connections (1985)
  • Direct (1988)
  • The City (1990)
  • Voices (1995)
  • Oceanic (1996)
  • El Greco (1998)
  • Mythodea (recorded 1993, released 2001)
  • Rosetta (2016)
  • Nocturne: The Piano Album (2019)

    Film soundtracks  

Tropes related to this artist and his work:

  • 12-Bar Blues: "Dervish D", although it's technically double-time and therefore a 24-bar blues.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Some of his choral works, such as "Symphony to the Powers B" from Heaven and Hell and the main theme from 1492: Conquest of Paradise use an invented musical language reminiscent of Canis Latinicus.
  • Author Appeal: Vangelis was a dedicated environmentalist, and as such many of his works dealt with environmental themes, such as Soil Festivities and some of his documentary soundtracks.
  • Boléro Effect: Vangelis made a lot use of this. For example, "Alpha" from Albedo 0.39 employs a variant in which a simple theme of a few bars is developed through increasingly complex instrumentation.
  • Cult Soundtrack:
    • Chariots of Fire and 1492: Conquest of Paradise are pretty obscure by themselves, but their soundtracks and especially the main titles became big hits and staples of outdoor light shows.
    • Blade Runner falls into this category, too. Even before the "Main Titles" were officially released on an audio medium, they had driven the second-hand price of the Yamaha CS-80 to insane heights because so many synthesizer aficionados wanted one of these rare monsters to recreate this particular sound.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: The soundtrack of Blade Runner is not quite techno, but makes heavy use of synthesizers (except for the famous "Love Theme", played on a saxophone).
    • Vangelis' music subverts this trope big time overall, consisting primarily of melodic, minimalistic electronica and being complete opposite of dynamic techno, trance or rock, commonly associated with the genre.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The farther we go back from his 1975 album Heaven And Hell, the weirder it got. Best example: He used to be a member of the band Aphrodite's Child. He was mostly their percussionist. And before he forced the band into Prog Rock against their will by single-handedly composing the Concept Album 666, they made two albums somewhere between psychedelic pop and schlager.
  • Electronic Music: A forerunner in the use of electronic instrumentation to create beautiful, classical-style music. Vangelis's style is uniquely melodic and expressive because he played almost everything by hand and barely made use of sequencers. That said, anything that doesn't sound electronic in Vangelis' music isn't, e.g. pianos, electric pianos or percussion.
  • Future Music: Vangelis' idea of this in Blade Runner partly involved analog, non-programmable beat-boxes from The '70s that were out-of-date when he made the soundtrack.
  • Genre Roulette: If you're used to Jean-Michel Jarre, listen through any one of Vangelis' non-soundtrack albums from The '70s. No two songs sound even a bit similar.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Vangelis released quite a number of these. They're often the only way to get your hand on some of his works. Themes even only contains one single piece of music that had been previously released; everything else was only available on this one album at that point. The full "Blade Runner Main Titles" are still only available on The Collection.
  • Improv: Spontaneous playing pretty much replaced traditional composition for Vangelis. This is why he was so fast at making music.
  • Instrumentals: Unless there's a choir or a credited solo singer (usually Jon Anderson), Vangelis' music is devoid of vocals.
  • Nature Documentary: He scored quite a number of them, including some by Jacques Cousteau.
  • Never Learned to Read: He couldn't read sheet music. He didn't have to, for he didn't compose in the traditional sense. He recorded immediately what he played.
  • New Sound Album:
    • Aphrodite's Child, the band that Vangelis played percussion and keys in during the late '60s, made very corny pop music—until Vangelis single-handedly composed the Prog Rock double Concept Album 666 against the will of the rest of the band before Prog Rock really was a thing.
    • Throughout the second half of The '70s, Vangelis didn't stick to the same sound between his non-soundtrack albums.
  • Parodies of Fire: He helped make this trope.
  • Standard Snippet: His Chariots of Fire theme has been used for a variety of things, including outdoor light shows and parodies (such as Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean goofing around at the 2012 Olympic Games in London).
  • Supergroup: In a sense, Jon & Vangelis with Jon Anderson of Yes.
  • Workaholic: It seems like Vangelis couldn't not make music. This in comparison with his very efficient way of making music was the key for his staggering creative output.