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"Do you like our owl?" The music from Blade Runner

Blade Runner
1994
  1. Main titles
  2. Blush response
  3. Wait for me
  4. Rachel's song
  5. Love theme
  6. One more kiss, dear
  7. Blade Runner blues
  8. Memories of green
  9. Tales of the future
  10. Damask rose
  11. Blade Runner (end titles)
  12. Tears in rain

How does the future sound? If it's dystopic, dark, urban, multicultural, rainy, desperate and sad, then it will sound like Vangelis' Blade Runner.

Although it was written in 1982 for Ridley Scott's film of the same title, it's highly recommended to forget about it when listening to this album: it is a tradition with Vangelis film works that not all the music in the film will be in the album, and there'll be music in the album which is not in the film. The most blatant example is 1492, Conquest of Paradise, but Blade Runner is no exception.

Even, the first edition of the soundtrack is not by Vangelis. The greek refused to edit the music at that point: he had received an Oscar a year prior for Chariots of Fire and didn't want to be labeled as 'film musician'. However, the studio entrusted the New American Orchestra with recording an orchestral version of the movie's main themes. That was the only available option, except for the 'Memories of green' theme, which was included in the 1980 album See you later, until 1989: that year, the Themes compilation album included the Blade Runner Love theme and End titles, performed by Vangelis himself, for the first time.

In 1994 the soundtrack was made available, finally performed by Vangelis. This album, however, received strong criticism from the purists: not only it didn't include most of the music from the film, but also included a few themes that had never appeared on screen. On the other hand, for those strictily following Vangelis music, this is one of the most beloved works.

Finally, in 2007, as part of the film's 25th anniversary, the soundtrack was released again, this time as a three cd's pack: the first one was exactly the same of 1994, the second one with previously unreleased music from the film, and a third one with music 'inspired by' Blade Runner's universe, with no relation at all to the film but the same style and mood as the other two.

For Blade Runner, Vangelis creates deep atmospheres of decadence and melancholy with his synthesizers, following paths of blues and jazz. The film noir ambiance is emphasized by the collaborations of Dick Morrisey's sax for the 'Love Theme', the angelic voice of Mary Hopkins in 'Rachel's song' and the ethnic chants of Demis Roussos during 'Tales of the future'. There's predominance of bright electronic textures over melodies, simple in some themes, nonexistent in others, like the 'Blade Runner blues', a long lament improvised on solo synthesizer. It's clear that Vangelis never intended to write a science fiction work, but a noir one, even if it was through unconventional sounds.

For a better experience when listening to the album, all the themes flow from one to the next, without pause or sticked together with pieces of dialogue from the film: Harrison Ford, Sean Young or Rutger Hauer, trapped in a stream of sounds from the future that will be lost in time, like tears in rain...

Blade Runner. 1994

Few times has had a soundtrack such a cult status, and at the same time was so difficult to access. A very poor first orquestral recording did not satisfied anyone, and led to the proliferation of bootlegs: non authorized editions, of relative quality to say the least, but that included practically the whole music listenable in the film. Nowadays, they're still very appreciated by coleccionists, since none of the comercial editions of 1994 and 2007 include the complete recordings of Vangelis' Blade Runner.

Specially controversial is the 1994 edition: Vangelis added new music, rearranged some of the original pieces and let part of the music from the film out of the album. In addition, the cd doesn't follow the action cronological order and it includes pieces of dialogue without any link to the music they go with. Therefore, this album should be appreciated as an independent Vangelis work, although it exists because of Scott's film and it includes music used in that film. In fact, the alterations in the order and the mix of the themes have the aim of provide a 'total audition experience', satisfactory by the album itself, forgetting about its context as a soundtrack. Including more secundary themes, despite its interest, would have resulted in a more fragmented album.

The themes included in this album are the following:

Main titles

It opens with Harrison Ford's voice, listing coordinates. This piece of dialogue, which doesn't correspond to the beggining of the film, replaces the much more shocking bass percussion and sound effects that opened Scott's movie. The theme is an impressive overture carried by the polyfonic synthesizer Yamaha CS80, with a characteristic sound that can be heard in many other works by the greek composer. The leit-motiv is majestic (together with the aerial images of Los Angeles in 2019), yet contained.

Blush response

This theme also starts with a piece of dialogue, the one that takes place between Ford and Sean Young during their first meeting. After that, a brilliant arpeggio of bells takes its place, adding a soft percussion over which Vangelis draw a theme of jazzy style. This is the first novelty included in the cd, because this theme is not in the film. What really sounds over the scene allegedly introduced by the dialogue are the themes 'Unveiled twinkling space' and 'Dr. Tyrell's owl', both included in the second cd of the 25th anniversary special edition.

Wait for me

This is the second novelty, since it can't be listened to in the film, either. It continues the jazzy style of the previos theme, but with slighty harder drums and a darker tone. This time, Rachel's voice (Sean Young) is dreamly mixed with the music, as she wonders about her own nature.

Rachel's song

It seems that this theme was really recorded in 1982, but it was not included in the film and appears here for the first time. It starts with the wind blowing, and Vangelis marks the tempo with a minimal base of synth, just like drops, and over them spreads the haunting singing without lyrics of Mary Hopkin (1950), a Welsh singer who had started in a folk band but who also recorded pieces of Schubert, Bach or Puccini.

Love theme

This is, after the Main titles, the album's second theme that is actually in the film. And Vangelis respected much of the original piece and it seems to be the only theme that fits what is going on on screen. As the title shows, it tries to be love theme for the main characters, but, suitably, it shows conflicted interests and violence before common romance. Dick Morrisey, a British jazz player, starts with his tenor sax a dialogue with Vangelis CS80, sometimes soft, sometimes heart-rending.

One more kiss, dear

This theme is the proof of Vangelis great talent. Scott wanted to use in his film the 1939 song 'If I didn't care', written by Jack Lawrence and performed by the R&B band 'The Ink Spots'. Although this song actually appeared in an early version of Blade Runner, Scott didn't manage to obtein permission to use it in the final version, and asked Vangelis for a new composition in the same style. The result is this 'One more kiss, dear', performed by Don Percival in a retro style (so totally adecuated with the retro-futuristic universe of Blade Runner) and impossible to distinguish if it was written in 1982 or 1932...

Blade runner blues

This is the longest theme on the album and also the most featured during the film. It keeps a great similarity to the Main titles in sound, but where the first was a solemn overture, this one is a lament. Practically with a solo synth, Vangelis manages to represent the lonelyness, the melancholy, the darkness and the pessimism through an improvised melody.

Memories of green

Strictly talking, this is not a new theme, since it had been published in 1980 in the album See you later. However, if perfectly fits the context and, through the time, has become well-known as a 'Blade Runner theme', with his past life totally forgotten. It's a nostalgic piece for piano, but electronically treated, so the piano sounds 'old', and have been surrounded by electronic bleeps, noises and distant sirens, creating a strong contrast between the warmth of the piano and the coldness of the futuristic ambiance. In both its original release and this soundtrack, the title makes reference to plants disappearance, hence the 'memory of the green colour'.

Tales of the future

This is probably the most difficult theme to listen to. Vangelis uses chords with oriental reminiscences and, above them, Demis Roussos voice tells 'the tales of the future', in an unintelligible language, like a bloodcurdling lament full with dispair. The multicultural society presented in Blade Runner has its reflection in the soundtrack, not only in this theme and the next, but also in some music used in the movie but unavailable in the soundtrack's official releases: Scott used the thems 'Ogi No Mato' by the japanese band Ensemble Nipponia, and 'Harps of the ancient temples', written and performed by harpist Gail Laughton.

Damask rose

This Middle-East atmospheric theme has a prominet presence during the film, although its brevity here is not a clue.

End titles

This one is, together with the Love theme, the most popular music from Blade Runner and one of the most well-known themes by Vangelis, because it's been used many times for radio and television opening credits. For many years, it was the signature tune of 'Documentos TV', showed in TVE (the Spanish public television). Although it is not out of place, it's with difference the most rythmic theme in the album: it's been even considered pre-techno, because of the repetitive bass and drums line. Over them, comes again the 'Blade Runner blues' CS80 sound, drawing a repetitive melody which doesn't get to tire, thanks to the multiple layers that Vangelis add, that include more synths, arps, timpanis and even tubular bells. Surprisingly (or not), it is not as it appeared in the film. In this case, it doesn't reach the five minutes, while in its original form it was more than seven minutes long. It is the ending, with some disonant fragments, what is missing here (but not in some of the bootlegs).

Tears in rain

If there's a mythical quote from Blade Runner, that is 'I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...'. And you have to thanks Vangelis for including the whole final monologue by Rutger Hauer, a statement about life, triumphant even in defeat, as a prelude to the beautiful Tears in rain, a ray of hope after so much darkness and a perfect finale to an excellent musical work, with its quality and beauty standing over all the objections that could be made about its album releases.