by Dan Goldwasser
Greek composer Vangelis became a household name with his Oscar-winning score to 1981's Chariots of Fire. Since that time, he's scored numerous film, including Blade Runner, Mutiny on the Bounty, and 1492: Conquest of Paradise. His latest project is Oliver Stone's Alexander, and SoundtrackNet had an opportunity to talk with this groundbreaking composer about his latest work.
How were you first approached to work on Alexander?
I was approached directly by Oliver. He asked me straight-out if I was interested in writing the score for his movie. And I said yes right away, no question.
How long did you work on the Alexander score, and were there many revisions from your original ideas, to the final score?
I worked on it from the beginning, since September 2003. I made many adjustments, due to constant changes and re-editing of the film.
What was your approach to scoring the film?
Well, every movie is different, but with every movie I take a very spontaneous approach. By this I mean that as I'm watching the footage, I am composing, playing what comes naturally and spontaneously in that moment. In some instances, I don't score the film until it's in the rough-cut stage, but with Alexander I started working immediately, because Oliver needed music for his shooting So some of the music, for the dances, for instance, I composed before the scenes were shot, working with the choreographer and so forth. But most often I compose immediately, instantaneously as I'm playing, according to what I'm seeing on the screen.
With that process, do you go back and rewrite material multiple times, as you flesh things out?
Only if there is a major change in the film. I have to work with the changes as they are made by the director.
How much of the music is live orchestra, and how much is synth?
I don't know. Maybe 60 percent synth, 40 percent live, something like that. It's hard to say, because I'm playing all of the time. Even when it's the orchestra playing, I'm playing with them. It's never just the orchestra alone.
Did you play with the orchestra when recording the music, or was that recorded separately?
For technical reasons, it had to be recorded separately.
How much music did you end up writing, and can we expect to see a second album?
I ended up with more than double the music than is on the CD. If people feel they would like to hear more of the music, then maybe the record company will release more of it - it's up to the record company.
As a Greek, what is your opinion of the way Alexander is portrayed in the film? Is it positive?
It definitely doesn't tell the story of the whole of Alexander's life, just a portion. There's no way that the whole of his life, his accomplishments could be contained in a movie. But compared to other historical films, I think it comes quite close to the truth. In many instances, at least, it comes pretty close to portraying Alexander as we think he might have been.
How do you feel that you have influenced a new generation of composers with your musical style of combining electronics and orchestra, which was quite revolutionary when you started?
If I influenced them in a positive way, for the better, then I'm quite happy about that. But this is something that's not for me to say. If, as you say, I have had a big influence on a new generation of composers, well I can only hope that it's a positive influence, that's all.
Who do you consider your musical influences?
I believe that music itself is the influence... nature itself, which is music ... which is, in fact, pure music.
How did you become involved with Blade Runner?
I was approached directly by Ridley. And I knew right away that this was a very interesting, very prophetic movie. I said yes right away to Blade Runner.
What are your personal thoughts on that score, and how did you come up with "Memories of Green"?
At the time I did that score, I tried as always to do my best. I didn't think beyond that. And as the years went by, the reaction of the people was so strong, I realized how much they enjoyed it. And, of course, that makes me happy.
"Memories of Green" was not written especially for Blade Runner. It's from an earlier, rather bizarre album of mine called "See You Later." And it came from the idea that with the way we live today, the way in which we treat the earth, there'll come a time when the color green will be just a memory.
Do you have a dream project?
I only wish that whatever projects I do, will be positive ones, healthy ones.
Are you working on any films at the moment?
Yes, but I've been asked not to talk about that yet.
Alexander is currently playing in theaters, and the soundtrack is available on Sony Classical. Special thanks to Cherry Vanilla for helping set up the interview!