And each time I remember ... I discover and I reveal something else. -- Vangelis

Music, for me, is not just about notes. It is about everything. Music exists before we exist. It is the shaper of the universe. It is the universe itself. It is the primary vibration, the first thing that moves everything else. Everybody understands the language of music, whether they are composer or not... it is part of us. It is deep in our memory -- Vangelis

One thing that I would like to see happen with films is for music not to be treated as just one more ingredient, but as an integral and fundamental part, due to its fatal capacity to affect the mood of the movie. -- Vangelis

People often tend to make music to get famous, or to make money. This is almost criminal, because we end up being surrounded by a cacophony of sound. We end up with an unnecessary mass of music. What purpose does that serve? Does it serve the public. No, it serves only the people hoping to make money by selling it. This is not a good thing. -- Vangelis

Greek composer and keyboard player, Evanghelos Odyssey Papathanassiou (1943- ), was born 29 March 1943 in a small town near Volos, Greece. He started playing the piano at the age of four and gave his first public performance of his own compositions at the age of six.

Like Yanni, Vangelis has no formal musical training. This he sees as an advantage, as music should be intuitive, something you lay down, not what you think about or attempt to analyse. For it to be creative, it has to be spontaneous.

I compose spontaneously. I try to capture the music without the influence of reasoning or the possibility of alteration. The only way to achieve this is not to think. Thought is a tool of analysis. It cannot be a tool of creation. ... When the music comes raw like this, it is closer to the truth of the moment.

In the late 1960s, Vangelis, together with singer Demis Roussos and drummer Lucas Sideras, formed Aphrodite's Child. During his student years he was a member of the Greek group, Forminx, successful in Greece, but little known elsewhere.

In 1970, Aphrodite's Child broke up and Vangelis started a solo career. It was then that his recording and musical career really took off.

In 1975, Vangelis moved to London where he set up the legendary Nemo studio that he used to record many of his best known albums and soundtracks. The best known of this period being the Oscar award winning score to Chariots of Fire and the cult futuristic film Blade Runner. Other albums recorded in the London studios include: Heaven and Hell, Albedo 0.39, Spiral, Beaubourg, China and See You Later.

In the early 1980s Vangelis also recorded a series of albums with Jon Anderson of Yes.

In 1987, Vangelis left London and subsequently recorded music in Athens, Direct, Voices, Rome, The City, Paris, 1492, and in his native country Greece, where he is believed to have recorded some of his latest albums, Oceanic, El Greco.

Inspired by the works of El Greco, the album El Greco, was originally only available as a limited edition, 'work of art', from the National Gallery in Athens. The limited-edition, specially boxed CD A Tribute To El Greco (featuring performances by the Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballe and Greek tenor Konstantinos Paliatsaras) was sold to establish a trust to purchase works by El Greco.

Vangelis rarely performs, even rarer gives interviews.

28 June 2001, Vangelis performed his choral symphony, Mythodea at the Temple of Zeus in Athens, the first major concert ever to take place at this hallowed site. The evening featured world-renowned sopranos Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman with the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the 120-member chorus of the National Opera of Greece, 28 percussionists and Vangelis performing on electronic keyboards. Mythodea was commissioned by NASA as the music to accompany its 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission. Presented by the Hellenic Cultural Heritage Society under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture, Mythodea was the first major concert to be performed at the temple, which dates back to the 6th century BC. Mythodea is available on CD and DVD.

Earlier, in 1995, Vangelis, in recognition of his interest in space, had, by the International Astronomical Unionís Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, a small planet named in his honour. Asteroid 6354, now and forever officially known as Vangelis, is approximately 247 million miles (mean distance) from the sun and in a 4.33-year orbit around it, wholly between Jupiter and Mars. Close by, in space terms, and in good company, are the small planets Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. During the 1980s, music by Vangelis was chosen for the Carl Sagan TV-series, Cosmos.

Films scores, too many to list, include: Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner, Missing, Antarctica, The Bounty, Bitter Moon, 1492 - Conquest of Paradise.

The Vangelis 'spontaneous' approach to writing music cannot be used for a film score because it has to match what is being seen on the silver screen, but even then:

Of course, when I am writing a score for a film, the situation is different. You cannot use the spontaneous approach in quite the same way. You have to get inspired by what you see, and take this as the starting point ... to bring to people what the film cannot completely say and then extend it to something deeper. The emotion I am trying to get across is not all mine. It has to be compatible with what the director of the film is trying to communicate ... These things come instinctively. Normally when I am writing a score, I play while I'm watching the film. Most of the time, as with Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and 1492 - Conquest of Paradise, I write it on the first take. What you hear is my very first impression.

In addition to film scores, Vangelis has also composed music for theatre and ballet. In 1983, he composed the music for Michael Cacoyannis' staging of Electra, featuring Irene Papas as Electra and performed at the ancient Epidavros amphitheater in Greece. He also composed the music for Nuria Esper's staging of Medea in Spain, featuring Irene Papas as Medea. He composed scores for the ballets Frankenstein: Modern Prometheus in 1985 and The Beauty and the Beast in 1987, both choreographed by Wayne Eagling and performed by the Royal Ballet at Londonís Covent Garden.

The NASA 2001 Mars Odyssey mission blasted off for Mars on 7 April 2001. Its mission, to look for signs of water, as well as carrying out a chemical inventory of Mars. On reaching Mars it will enter a tight orbit around Mars. The data collected by the Mars Odyssey will set the scene for NASA's return to the surface of Mars in 2004 with the twin Mars Exploration Rovers. Mythodea was written for the mission.

El Greco El Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho Domenikos Theotokopoulos (1541-1614), born in Crete (then under the control of Venice), moved to Toledo in 1577, where he died in 1614. Before moving to Toledo, he worked in the workshops of Titian in Venice. To the Spanish he was simply El Greco, The Greek.

El Caballero de la Mano en el Pecho (1578-80), The Knight with a Hand on His Chest or The Knight's Oath as it is sometimes known due to the character's position, is the painting used by Vangelis as the album cover for El Greco. Intriguingly the position of the hand is exactly the same as the hand on the cross in Cristo con la Cruz (1590-95), The Christ with the Cross. Both paintings can be found on exhibition in El Prado in Madrid.


Vangelis, From the heart, New Scientist, 29 November 2003


In the 1970s, the author had the privilege of being at a rare Vangelis concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Before the concert the author attended part of the rehearsals and after the rehearsals was honoured to be invited on-stage to meet and have a brief chat with Vangelis.
For Estie for being a lovely friend and sharing with me her love of music.
(c) Keith Parkins 2003 -- December 2003 rev 2