Blade Runner - Scoring the music

Vangelis late 1981

Vangelis composing on his synthesisers while looking at a film scene displayed on a video screen, which was located behind the mixing desk in front of him. The television screen on top of the grand piano behind Vangelis assisted the studio engineer at the mixing desk, who had to synchronise the start of the tape recorder with the start of a pre-selected video frame from the film scene.

Being a hands-on musician, Vangelis utilised all aspects of the music creation process. This involved sound sculpting, composition, arranging, performing and producing the final master on quarter-inch tape. Unable to read or write music, Vangelis’ approach to scoring for films is instinctive. Vangelis starts composing for a new scene as soon as he views the film on the video screen, which was situated near his synthesisers. Vangelis described his approach in an interview, when adding the final touches to the Blade Runner soundtrack.

I start building, looking for the basic pattern and adding strings, brasses, woodwinds or percussions as they seem needed.

My score is not on paper - but on a tape. I try to add successive layers - electronically through the synthesisers and the acoustic effects when I need them.

In 1982, Vangelis’ studio featured the latest commercially available models of synthesisers and audio equipment, as well as some vintage keyboards. It also featured a wide collection of percussion, which included drums, gamelan, timpani, tubular bells, gongs and orchestral percussion, all housed in Vangelis’ live studio room. The instruments were always mic’d up ready for Vangelis to improvise, so his compositions could be recorded straight to the multitrack tape. He was usually assisted by a studio engineer, who supervised the operation of the tape machines, carried out various mixing desk duties and synchronised video playback on film scores.

The main instruments on ‘Blade Runner’ were the same synthesisers Vangelis was using at the time for all of his other musical projects. These included Vangelis’ signature instrument, the Yamaha CS-80 analogue synthesiser, with its sounds of brass, lead horns, deep bass and various ambient effects - all these sounds featured prominently on the film’s soundtrack. The Roland VP-330 VocoderPlus synthesiser was used for the swirling and uplifting strings, and the Rhodes Fender electric piano provided the sweet and nostalgic-sounding vintage piano. The other instruments which were featured included: Sequential Circuits Prophet 10, Yamaha CS-40M, Roland Jupiter 4, Moog MiniMoog, Roland CR-5000 CompuRythm drums, Simmons drum kit, RSF Kobol Black Box and the Roland ProMars Compuphonic.

Home | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | »
Click here to check the new section on Vangelis’ Blade Runner film score!