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‘Alexander’ taps Greek roots

Visionaries: Vangelis

Vangelis, whose compelling synthesizer themes propelled “Chariots of Fire” to 1981 Oscar wins for picture and score and whose “Blade Runner” music became a cult phenomenon, created his first movie score in 12 years for “Alexander.”

Inspired by the reclusive Greek composer’s music for “1492: Conquest of Paradise,” director Oliver Stone felt that Vangelis’ “loving understanding of Alexander comes partly from a Greek soul, an ancient soul. Vangelis lives in that region, and his mind and his heart really go back to an age prior to this one.”

Vangelis’ score for “Alexander” combines his signature electronic sound with a massive orchestra and choir recorded in Paris, and various ethnic instruments designed to evoke the world of 300 B.C.

“I don’t know any composer in the world who would have said no to a proposition like this,” says the composer in a rare phone interview from his studio in Greece. He spent over a year on the project, writing and recording more than two hours of music that ranged from a heroic theme to martial strains for the many military campaigns and a sensual dance for Roxane, Alexander’s eventual queen.

“We do know a lot” about the music of the ancient world, says Vangelis, who notes that his aim was “not to portray the exact sound of the time. We always respect certain historical factors, and then we extend into the area of impression, sentiment.”

Stone admits that the process was “chaotic.”

“It evolved,” he adds. “(Vangelis) wrote partly to a script; then he would write to rushes, which are sometimes impossible to understand; then he would write to the first cut. I think he was shocked. He must have seen 15 or 20 cuts on some scenes. I kept driving him crazy.”

Stone’s endless recutting clearly frustrated Vangelis. “It’s the first movie I’ve scored without a final cut,” the composer says. Stone adds that he visited the composer’s studio, telling him “this I like, this I don’t like. He’d send pieces off while we were cutting, and frankly I would change them. I’d put them in a different place. I broke his heart several times.”

On the merger of electronic music and the traditional symphonic — which he has increasingly embraced over the past decade, including “1492” and his recent classical album “Mythodea” — he says: “I don’t make a big difference between these two worlds. Both are machines made by humans to produce sounds which already exist in nature.”

Vangelis says he hopes his music for “Alexander” will allow listeners “to travel, geographically and spiritually. The ancient Greeks always knew that music was the primary thing, the first thing in the world.”

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