Saturday, December 2, 2017

Vangelis - 1982 [1994] "Blade Runner"

Blade Runner is a soundtrack composed by Vangelis for Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner. It is mostly a dark, melodic combination of classical composition and synthesizers which mirrors the futuristic film noir envisioned by Scott. The original soundtrack release was delayed for over a decade, until 1994, despite the music being well-received by fans and critically acclaimed—it was nominated in 1983 for a BAFTA and Golden Globe as best original score. The soundtrack is regarded as a historically important piece in the genre of electronic music.

Since the premiere of the film, two official albums have been released containing music omitted from the film and also new compositions featuring a similar style. An orchestral rendition of part of the soundtrack was released in 1982 by the New American Orchestra. However, the original soundtrack album (1994) features vocal contributions from Demis Roussos and the sax solo by Dick Morrissey on "Love Theme" (In the credits on page 3 of the 1994 Atlantic CD, Dick's last name is misspelled as "Morrisey"). The track "Memories of Green" from Vangelis' 1980 album See You Later was also included. A new release made in 2007 includes a disc of new music inspired by the film.

In 1994, an official recording of Vangelis' score was released by East West (Warner Music) in the UK and by Atlantic Records in the US. The album reached the #20 position in the UK album charts. In 2013 it reached #14 on the Billboard Vinyl Albums chart. It has been variously described as "influential and mythical", "incredible and pristine", "evocative", and "the pinnacle of synthesiser soundtracks".

This release contained a twelve-page booklet consisting mainly of stills from the film. On page 3 there is a list of credits and the following by Vangelis:

Most of the music contained in this album originates from recordings I made in London in 1982, whilst working on the score for the film Blade Runner. Finding myself unable to release these recordings at the time; it is with great pleasure that I am able to do so now. Some of the pieces contained will be known to you from the Original Soundtrack of the film, whilst others are appearing here for the first time. Looking back at Ridley Scott's powerful and evocative pictures left me as stimulated as before, and made the recompiling of this music, today, an enjoyable experience. (Vangelis, Athens, April 1994)

While most of the tracks on the album are from the film, a number were composed by Vangelis but were ultimately not used in the film itself. Other compositions that appear in the film were not included on this release.

Three of the tracks ("Main Titles", "Blush Response", and "Tears in Rain") feature samples of dialogue from the film. Tracks 1 through 4 are mixed together as a seamless piece; tracks 5 through 7 have silence between them, and the final tracks, 8 through 12 are mixed into another seamless piece.

Vangelis recorded, mixed and produced the score for "Blade Runner" in his own recording space, Nemo Studios, in 1982. He utilised many contemporary electronic instruments in order to create the atmospheric soundscapes, which he crafted on an ad-hoc basis. This was done by viewing videotapes of scenes from the film in the studio, and then improvising pieces in synchronisation with the images on the screen. He also applied the use of some foley techniques, using the synthesisers to produce diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. The most prominent synthesiser used in the score was the Yamaha CS-80, which can be heard in the opening scenes, and subsequently throughout the rest of the film. Other synthesisers employed by Vangelis included four Roland instruments: the ProMars, the Jupiter-4, the CR-5000 drum machine, and the VP-330 Vocoder Plus; a Sequential Circuits Prophet-10; a Yamaha GS1 FM synthesizer; and an E-mu Emulator sampler. A Steinway grand piano, a Yamaha CP-80 electric grand and a modified Fender Rhodes were also used. He also utilised a variety of traditional instruments, including, gamelan, glockenspiel, gong, snare drum, timpani and tubular bells.

Given the impact and enduring appeal of the original, it’s not surprising that the soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 would be one of the new film’s major challenges. Sidestepping the controversy, Nick Soulsby pays homage to the musical genius and cult mythology of Vangelis’ original 1982 soundtrack, which arguably remains the greatest score in sci-fi history.

Glass shatters. Full-length panes burst in a glittering sea-surf spray as a bloodied figure — the hunted replicant (simulated machine humanoid) Zhora — hurls herself forward through shop windows, in one of the most haunting dystopian visuals from the 1982 film Blade Runner. While it’s an arresting image, the overall impact – the ability to forget we’re watching collapsing sugar or synthetic resin – is boosted by wedding the image with sound effects and music. Cinema, a product of the human capacity for story-telling and for reading meaning into content, isn’t a purely visual medium; it relies on the interweaving of audio and visual elements. At its finest, cinema audiences don’t even need to look at the screen to imagine what’s occurring, sound’s ability to manipulate emotional responses and to create mental associations is all that’s needed.

Vangelis’ soundtrack for Blade Runner remains one of the relatively few soundtracks to establish an enduring reputation as fine music in its own right. Vangelis, by mid-1981 when he was first invited to view a rough cut of footage from Blade Runner, was at the peak of his fame as a solo artist, following a half-decade long run of successful albums. On 29th March 1982, a month prior to submitting his compositions for Blade Runner, he would crown his career as a creator of movie soundtracks (which began as far back as 1963) by winning an Oscar for his work on Chariots Of Fire. His work on Blade Runner took place in the midst of a truly auspicious moment for the Greek composer, and he fully lived up to the expectations placed upon him.

Soundtracks are a substantial additional outlay for a film. Many, as a consequence of cost, float along on of-their-moment pop songs that barely relate to the events occurring on screen. It’s cheaper, and easier, to simply buy licenses than to compose specifically for a film. Otherwise, a lot of music consists of made-to-measure cues churned out over a matter of days, at most a few weeks, with only one or two themes of substance.

Vangelis was a truly different proposition: his work extended from sometime in mid-1981 through to April of the following year. In that time he composed, arranged, performed and produced each aspect of the music, creating a work of art that reflected a singular, unified vision of his own. This, of course, influenced the work present in the movie, but was also responsible for the final form of the soundtrack.

Vangelis didn’t want to release a record robotically, logging the sonic aspects of someone else’s film. Instead, he conceived of the soundtrack as a full Vangelis album, a coherent suite. This is a major factor in the soundtrack’s favour: it works as a standalone release and not just as an accompaniment to visuals.

Quality, however, is not the sole factor in the allure of any album. It’s never just about the music. Blade Runner retains a mysteriousness, which began when, for reasons never clarified, Vangelis’ soundtrack was not ‘officially’ unreleased for a full 12 years.

This absence created a vacuum. Curious fans of the movie, of Vangelis’ work, of the cutting-edge of electronic music composition, filled that vacuum with their dreams of how the compositions may have developed away from the film’s sequences. Various enterprising individuals spliced together lo-fi reproductions of what could be heard within the film itself. A 1982 bootleg leak emerged, wreathed in aura-building rumours that the film’s sound engineers were complicit in its release. In an example of the power of bootleg recordings, for over a decade fans were able to be a part of a secret history, acquiring illicit recordings steeped in the power that comes from knowing someone apparently didn’t want anyone to hear them. It was a talismanic object acquired only by the lucky, the devoted or the enlightened.

Having permitted unsated expectations to endure for so long, Vangelis finally released an album in 1994. I say ‘an’ album because the 12 tracks (one hour of audio) that Vangelis carefully selected to create his album clashed headlong into fans’ hunger for more. It was clear from the day of its release that this was only a small portion of the music created. There were already bootlegs available with additional tracks not seen here, while anyone watching the film was able to log a list of compositions still hidden from view. Again, resisting closure, a final reckoning, was an accidental masterstroke in that it ensured an open-ended thirst for more.

This instability of definition wedded the soundtrack irrevocably to the film itself. Ridley Scott, the director, had similar trouble allowing the film to assume a settled state. Pre-release screenings of Blade Runner featured extra scenes, the theatrical release existed in two versions, the nineties saw a new director’s cut emerge – this was then followed by a (supposed) ‘Final Cut’ in 2007. The last event led to Vangelis being invited to release his own revised and expanded cut of the soundtrack: a three disc indulgence consisting of the 1994 ‘original’, a further 45 minutes of music, plus an entirely new suite ‘inspired by’ the film. Inevitably however, the release still failed to encompass all the music from the film. It simply reconfirmed Vangelis’ conception of the soundtrack, meaning the specific album he designed.

Original music composed and performed by Vangelis

Track listing:

01 Main Titles 3:42
02 Blush Response 5:47
03 Wait For Me 5:27
04 Rachel's Song 4:46
05 Love Theme 4:56
06 One More Kiss, Dear 3:58
07 Blade Runner Blues 8:53
08 Memories Of Green 5:05
09 Tales Of The Future 4:46
10 Damask Rose 2:32
11 Blade Runner (End Titles) 4:40
12 Tears In Rain 3:00


Vangelis: keyboards, synthesizers.
Demis Roussos: vocals;
Dick Morrissey: saxophone;
Mary Hopkins: vocal.

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