Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In The Bleak Midwinter

Winter is not a season for which I have a song or musical style to associate. Beyond Christmas music, obviously. All the same, there is music that, when I hear it, puts me in mind of a particular time and place in my life that includes winter. Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known to the rest of the world as Vangelis, is an anomaly. Not a trained musician, he is among the great composers of the second half of the 20th century. And, he is still composing music.

While composing a series of soundtracks for French television specials, he also composed, performed, and released a series of albums on his own in the 1970's. He was courted by the British band Yes when Rick Wakeman left, and left an indelible impression on the band's lead singer, Jon Anderson. Mostly because Vangelis surrounded himself with fine wine and, in Anderson's words, a whole lot of scantily clad women. Anderson and Vangelis would release several albums together and continue to write music together through the 1990's.

In 1978, he released Heaven and Hell, a two-part suite, with a vocal interlude, "So Long Ago, So Clear", a song featuring Anderson on vocals. The closing section of Part I was picked up by the producers of Carl Sagan's Cosmos television special. The whole first movement, however, is a beautiful, unique piece of music. Toward the end of the first semester of my junior year of college a friend recorded it on tape for me, and it was great background music for doing schoolwork. Not finding a single video of the whole piece, I offer two that have the entirety of Part I:

Virtual Tin Cup

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