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Here’s how Vangelis made Blade Runner’s haunting score

Screenshot: YouTube
Screenshot: YouTube

The opening seconds of the latest trailer for Blade Runner 2049 sent out a clarion call to fans of the original with a single melancholy synthesizer pulse. The sounds of Vangelis’ legendary soundtrack for the original are inextricable from the movie’s appeal. The sequel promises, more than anything else, a return to a very specific fictional world, one defined by the concept art of Syd Mead and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth’s framing of it. But Vangelis’ music is an equally important component of that world, and a new video by Nerdwriter1 teases out what makes it so resonant, decades later.

A big part of it is the way the film blends score, sound design, and dialogue into one sinuous whole, drenching spoken words in echo and creating abstract sounds that play off individual cuts. This was achieved, in part, by Vangelis’ composition method, wherein he watched edits of the film and composed music on the spot based on how they made him feel. As much as possible, he tried to honor these improvisations in the film’s final score, giving the result an emotional immediacy even as the images themselves might have been somewhat cold, moody scans over city streets and old apartment buildings.

The Nerdwriter1 video is full of insights, including a detailed breakdown of an individual scene as well as how the equipment Vangelis used contributed to the film’s haunted, dreamlike sense of space. Vangelis won’t be returning on Blade Runner 2049, so let’s just say that Johan Johansson has some big shoes to fill.

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