Known around the world for his award-winning soundtrack to the film Chariots of Fire, Vangelis has been classified under a variety of genres, including New Age. He’s composed a lifetime of music for ballet and film, as well as released a number of international solo records. Born and raised in Greece, Vangelis has also lived in Paris and London, where he has his own studio called Nemo Studios, near London’s Marble Arch.
Vangelis was born Evangelos Odessey Papathanas-siou in Greece in 1943. Although he began playing piano at four years old, he has never been able to read or write music on paper. When he was six, his parents enrolled him in an Athens music school. Soon, he performed his first concert of his own compositions.
Despite his love for music, Vangelis despised being schooled in the art. “When the teachers asked me to play something, I would pretend that I was reading it and play from memory,” Vangelis told Joe Klien in Life. “I didn’t fool them, but I didn’t care.” The young boy
Born Evangelos Odyssey Papathanassiou, March 29, 1943, in Greece.
Began composing and performing music at the age of six; joined rock band Formynx, 1961; moved to Paris and joined Aphrodite’s Child, 1967; began composing and recording solo work, 1970; moved to London, England, 1974; created his own recording studio, Nemo Studios, in London, 1975; released hit soundtrack Chariots of Fire, 1981; composed music for the ballets Frankenstein and Beauty and the Beast, 1985-87; signed recording contract with East/West Records/Atlantic Records, 1990.
Addresses: Record company —East/West Records, 9225 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
knew his teachers could help him become a musician, but they could not teach him how to be creative.
When Vangelis was 14 years old, he received an organ, which he painted gold, and fell in love with the electronic sound. In the 1960s, he looked forward to playing the first synthesizers, but was disappointed at their crudeness. Vangelis performed in the popular Greek pop band called Formynx when he was a teenager. He had changed his name to Vangelis—meaning “angel that brings good news”—as a derivative of his first name. Formynx was the first pop group to surface in Greece and quickly gained a large following. “It was very fortunate that I tasted success early with Formynx—playing in front of 10,000 people in stadiums, all the hysteria,” Vangelis told Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone. “It was great fun, but I wasn’t interested in that.”
In 1967, Vangelis left Formynx and Greece after a right-wing military coup occurred in his homeland. He moved to Paris, where he formed the band Aphrodite’s Child, with Demis Roussos and Loukas Sideras. The group released the album Rain and Tears and the double-album 666 in France, before they broke up in 1970. Instead of moving onto another band, Vangelis began scoring music for French television documentaries. He also composed the soundtrack for the French film L’Apocalypse des Animaux for director Frederic Rossif.
Vangelis released his first solo album Dragon in 1971 on Phillips Records. In 1974, he moved to London, England, to work with the rock band Yes. Rumors began circulating that Vangelis would replace former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. However, after he rehearsed with the band for a few weeks, Vangelis determined that his musical direction was not in line with the rest of the group. But he did continue a long friendship with singer Jon Anderson.
The following year, Vangelis created his own recording studio, called Nemo Studios, near London’s Marble Arch. He often referred to it as his laboratory. The first album he recorded there was Heaven and Hell released on RCA Records. Music from the album was later used in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos television series.
In 1981, Vangelis made his mark in the world of music with the soundtrack for a film about the 1924 Olympics, called Chariots of Fire. It became the fastest-selling LP and single in the United States at the time, and quickly topped the Billboard charts. Irv Cohn wrote in Stereo Review, “The music is very much Vangelis’ style, yet it is perfectly suited to the action and atmosphere of the film, with gorgeous pastoral melodies that capture the feel of England between the wars.”
Vangelis had composed the popular theme for the movie using a group of synthesizers in a single room, and completed it in one afternoon. “I saw the beginning of the film, the athletes running by the ocean,” Vangelis recalled in Life. “It was so healthy and joyous, all that oxygen… and exhilaration.” For his effort, the composer won an Academy Award the following year for “Best Original Score.” When the award was presented, Vangelis was fast asleep in London. He discovered that he had won when a friend in Los Angeles called to congratulate him. “Over the phone, I could hear the television and a big party in the background,” Vangelis later told Jereme Jones in People. “This incredible thing was going on and / was in bed.”
His success with Chariots of Fire stimulated many other movie soundtracks over the years, including Missing, Blade Runner, The Bounty and 1492: The Conquest of Paradise. Almost any reference made to Vangelis after 1981 mentioned Chariots of Fire and often compared it to his later works. In 1982, he released a compilation of his previous work on The Unknown Man, released on RCA. He also continued to produce his own solo albums, as well as working with other artists.
Vangelis teamed up with his friend Jon Anderson for a series of records beginning in 1983. The duo released The Friends of Mr. Cairo and Private Collection within the same year. The latter album included a 23-minute track called “Horizon.” Meanwhile, Chariots of Fire’s popularity held on strong; it was used as the theme for the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo.
Vangelis released Soil Festivities on Polygram during the same year. He derived his inspiration for the collection from the life processes taking place on the earth’s surface. “I work like a bridge between nature and what comes out through my fingers,” Vangelis told Jones in People.
In 1985, Vangelis expanded into another musical venue, composing music for ballet. He wrote the music for Frankenstein and Beauty and the Beast. London’s Royal Ballet performed both pieces between 1985 and 1987 at Covent Garden.
Vangelis entered the next decade with a more modern style. He recorded and released The City in 1990, which he composed and produced in a hotel room in Rome. He used the music from the disc to describe the feel of an urban day from morning until night. Jon Andrews wrote in a review for Down Beat, “Ingenious and full of hooks, The City recalls some of Vangelis’ best work… so it’s easy to forgive a little bombast or a few gimmicks.”
Vangelis spent most of the 1990s experimenting in his studio and traveling around the world, although he rarely performed in concert or granted interviews. He continued to release his solo work, such as 1995’s Voices and Oceanic in 1997. He also played a special performance for the opening ceremonies at the Sixth IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Athens, Greece, in 1997.
From the very beginning, Vangelis showed little concern for his popularity or success as an artist. Instead, he concentrated on creative expression. “All I try to do is let people know what I think through my music,” Vangelis stated in the liner notes of his 1981 Greatest Hits. “I just bring the music to you, and it’s up to you to do what you want with it.”
Dragon, Phillips Records, 1971.
Earth, Phillips Records, 1973.
Heaven and Hell, RCA Records, 1975.
China, RCA Records, 1979.
Chariots of Fire (soundtrack), Polygram Records, 1981.
Greatest Hits, 1981.
Blade Runner (soundtrack), 1982.
Missing (soundtrack), 1982.
To the Unknown Man, RCA Records, 1982.
The Friends of Mr. Cairo, Polygram Records, 1983.
Private Collection, Polygram Records, 1983.
The Bounty (soundtrack), 1984.
Soil Festivities, Polygram Records, 1984.
The City, Atlantic Records, 1990.
1492: The Conquest of Paradise (soundtrack), 1992.
Voices, East/West Records, 1995.
Oceanic, Atlantic Records, 1997.
Commonweal, November 20, 1992.
Down Beat, February 1992.
High Fidelity, August 1983.
Library Journal, May 1, 1983.
Life, July 1982.
New Yorker, July 12, 1982; June 11, 1984.
People, April 19, 1982.
Playboy, January 1983.
Rolling Stone, May 13, 1982.
Stereo Review, March 1982; January 1983; December 1983; June 1985.
"Vangelis." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vangelis
"Vangelis." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vangelis
Vangelis 1943– (Vangelis Papathanassiou)
Addresses: Agent —The Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency, 13245 Riverside Dr., Suite 450, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Contact —c/o East West Records, Electric Lightning Station, 46 Kensington Court, London W8 5DP, England.
Career: Composer. Began composing music as a six– year–old child; keyboard prodigy as a youth; formed Formynx (a pop music group), early 1960s, in Greece; moved to Paris, France, c. 1960s, where he began composer career; formed Aphrodite's Child (a progressive music group) in Paris, early 1960s, which broke up in 1972; began composing music scores, early 1970s; moved to London, 1974; built Nemo Recording studio, London, 1974; worked with Jon Anderson (lead singer of the music group Yes), as Jon & Vangelis; composer for television commercials; composer of anthem for Official FIFA World Cup 2002.
Awards, Honors: Academy Award, best music scoring, 1981, Anthony Asquith Award, film music, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1982, for Chariots of Fire; Grammy Award nomination, record of the year, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1982, for Chariots of Fire; Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, Film Award nomination, best score, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1983, for Blade Runner; Film Award nomination, best score, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1983, for Missing; Chevalier Order of Arts and Letters, France, 1992; Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, 1993, for 1492: Conquest of Paradise; Golden Lion Award, best title theme for a TV film or a series, RTL Golden Lion Awards, 1996; Georges Delerue Prize, Flanders International Film Festival, 1997, for Kavafis.
Music arranger, Chariots of Fire, Warner Bros., 1981.
Music arranger, Missing, Universal, 1982.
Music arranger, Blade Runner, Warner Bros., 1982.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Der Klang der Bilder, 1995.
Dragon, Charly, 1971.
Earth, Vertigo, 1973.
L'apocalypse des animaux (original soundtrack recording), Polydor, 1973.
Cosmos (original soundtrack recording), RCA, 1974.
Heaven and Hell, Windham Hill, 1975.
The Vangelis Radio Special, RCA Victor, 1976.
Albedo 0.39, Windham Hill, 1976.
Spiral, Windham Hill, 1977.
Hypothesis, Affinity, 1978.
Beauborg, Windham Hill, 1978.
Odes, Polydor, 1979.
China, Polydor, 1979.
See You Later, Polydor, 1980.
To the Unknown Man, RCA, 1981.
Opera sauvage (original soundtrack recording), Polydor, 1981.
Chariots of Fire (original soundtrack recording), Polydor, 1982.
Soil Festivities, Polydor, 1984.
Magic Moments, RCA, 1985.
Invisible Connection, Atlantic, 1985.
Ignacio (original soundtrack recording), Polydor, 1985.
The Mask, Polydor, 1985.
Direct, Arista, 1988.
Antarctica (original soundtrack recording), Polydor, 1988.
Themes (collection), Polydor, 1989.
The City, Polydor, 1990.
1492: Conquest of Paradise (original soundtrack recording), Atlantic, 1992.
Blade Runner (original soundtrack recording), Atlantic, 1994.
Space Themes, BMG, 1995.
Voices, Atlantic, 1995.
Albedo 0.39/Heaven and Hell, Alex, 1995.
Mundo Magico De Vangelis, Ger Discos, 1995.
Gift, Camden, 1997.
The Collection, Ariola Express, 1997.
Oceanic, Atlantic, 1997.
Portraits (So Long Ago So Clear), Polygram, 1997.
Albums; with Aphrodite's Child:
Aphrodite's Child, Mercury, 1968.
Rain & Tears, Vertigo, 1968.
End of the World, Mercury, 1969.
Its Five O'Clock, Import, 1970.
Best of Aphrodite's Child, Vertigo, 1975.
Greatest Hits, Fontana, 1981.
Albums; with Jon & Vangelis:
Short Stories, Polydor, 1980.
Friends of Mr. Cairo, Polydor, 1981.
Private Collection, Polyram, 1983.
Best of Jon & Vangelis, Polydor, 1984.
Wisdom Chain, Arista, 1991.
Page of Life, Import, 1991.
Chronicles, Alex, 1994.
O adelfos mou o trohonomos, 1963.
(Song and end theme) To prosopo tis medusas (also known as Vortex ), 1966.
(As Vangelis Papathanassiou) 5000 psemata, 1966.
(As Vangelis Papathanassiou) Sex Power, 1970.
Salut, Jerusalem (also known as Hello, Jerusalem ), 1972.
Amore (also known as Love ), 1973.
Le cantique des creatures: Georges Mathieu ou la fureur d'etre (also known as Georges Mathieu ), 1974.
Le cantique des creature: Georges Braque ou le temps different, 1975.
Ignacio (also known as Do You Hear the Dogs Barking?, Entends–tu les chien aboyer?, and No oyes ladrar los perros? ), 1975.
Crime and Passion (also known as Ace Up My Sleeve ), American International Pictures, 1975.
The Wilderness Party (also known as La fete sauvage ), 1976.
Prkosna delta (also known as Defiant Delta ), 1980.
Mater amatisima (from Ignacio; also known as Mother, Dearly Loved ), 1980.
Love Camp (also known as Love Cult and Die Todesgottin des Liebescamps ), 1981.
Chariots of Fire, Warner Bros., 1981.
Pablo Picasso Painter (also known as Le cantique des creature: Pablo Picasso pintor and Pablo Picasso pintor ), 1982.
Missing, Universal, 1982.
Blade Runner, Warner Bros., 1982.
Wonders of Life, 1983.
Antarctica (also known as Nankyoku monogatari ), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1983.
(Love theme) The Year of Living Dangerously, Metro– Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists, 1983.
The Bounty, Orion, 1984.
Wild and Beautiful (also known as Sauvage et beau ), 1984.
Nosferatu in Venice (also known as Vampires in Venice and Nosferatur a Venezia ), Scena Film, 1986.
Le diner des bustes, 1988.
The Third Solution (also known as Russicum ), Columbia/TriStar, 1989.
St. Francis of Assisi (also known as Francesco ), Hemdale Home Video, 1989.
Terminator II (also known as Alienators and Shocking Dark ), 1989.
(Uncredited) The Plaque (also known as La peste ), Araba Films, 1992.
Bitter Moon (also known as Lunes de fiel ), Fine Line Features, 1992.
1492: Conquest of Paradise (also known as 1492: Christophe Colomb, 1492: La conquete du paradis, and 1492: La conquista del paraiso ), Paramount, 1992.
De Nuremberg a Nuremberg, 1994.
(Uncredited) Rangeela (also known as Full of Colour ), 1995.
Cavafy (also known as Kavafis and Kavafi ), Alexandros Film, 1996.
Good Burger, Paramount, 1997.
(Uncredited) Kaho Naa … Pyaar Hai (also known as KNPH and Say This Is Love ), 2000.
I Hope, Artis, 2001.
Alexander, Warner Bros., 2004.
"Je te dirai les mots," Der Rosekoenig (also known as O rei das rosas, Le roi des roses and The Rose King ), 1986.
(Uncredited) "Memories of Green," Someone to Watch over Me, Columbia, 1987.
Songs by Vangelis were featured in various films, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Old School, and Bruce Almighty.
Television Composer; Series:
L'opera sauvage, 1977.
Television Composer; Miniseries:
The Apocalypse of Animals (also known as L'apocalypse des animaux ), 1972.
Cosmos, PBS, 1981.
Television Composer; Specials:
"Tahiti: Fire Waters," Cousteau's Rediscovery of the World, TBS, 1988.
Deep Sea Deep Secrets, Discovery Channel, 1998.
Griffin, Mark, Vangelis: The Unknown Man, Books Britain, 1997.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 4: Writers and Production Artists, St. James Press, 1996.
American Film, September, 1982.
"Vangelis 1943– (Vangelis Papathanassiou)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vangelis-1943-vangelis-papathanassiou
"Vangelis 1943– (Vangelis Papathanassiou)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vangelis-1943-vangelis-papathanassiou
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.
Films as Composer:
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
On VANGELIS: articles—
Atkinson, Terry, "Scoring with synthesizers," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1982.
Score (Lelystad, Netherlands), no. 89, December 1993.
* * *
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.
"Vangelis." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/vangelis
"Vangelis." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/vangelis