Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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"You've done a man's job, sir!"

Vangelis' music for Blade Runner is a milestone in science fiction film scores. Not since Louis and Bebe Barron's "electronic tonalities" graced Forbidden Planet has a genre film had music that so blurred the line between score and ambiance. The blend between the two is so inextricable that it is next to impossible to imagine the film without Vangelis' work. One only need to watch the temp-scored latter portion of the Workprint edition on the current DVD and Blu-ray sets to see how much less effective the film is without it.

Vangelis concentrates as much on creating a 'tone' for the film as he does following the narrative, with the composer's trademark sound is augmented by some bluesy passages that evoke the movie's film noir influences. The music itself has a nominal main theme, a ten-note melody that illustrates the world of the future, but for the most part the musical moments in the movie are either ambient or self-contained. While the techniques Vangelis used to create the score are obsolete in this day and age, the music itself has not aged much since its inception in 1982.

There have been numerous albums made of Vangelis' contribution to Ridley Scott's seminal science fiction film. 

Official Releases

Shortly after the film's release, the soundtrack album announced in the film's credits failed to materialize, and so the Foundation for New American Music made their own recording, which was quite a disappointment to many.  After the 1992 release of the so-called “Director's Cut” of the film, Vangelis revisited Blade Runner and in 1994 released an album consisting of both original and new recordings of the film score tracks and completely new compositions (some of which were quite ill-fitting).  While more satisfying on many different levels than the New American Orchestra recording, this album omitted many important cues and worse, had dialogue over several pieces of music.  Finally, following the 2007 “Final Cut” edit of the film, Vangelis released a three disc Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition: the first disc was the same as the 1994 album, the third featured all-new music inspired by Blade Runner, but the second disc consisted primarily of additional music from the film, which redressed some, but not all, of the most glaring omissions from the 1994 album.


Right around the film's theatrical release, tape cassettes featuring parts of Vangelis' score began to circulate around science fiction conventions. When the “Director's Cut” was first hitting home video in 1993, a bootleg CD appeared from “Off World Records” (apparently a 'sister label' to the “Old World Records” that released bootlegs of Vangelis' The Bounty and Trevor Jones' Excalibur) which featured a much more satisfying presentation of the score but with several sonic anomalies.  A few years later, a cleaner transfer of the same material would appear on a label calling itself “Gongo Music.”  And, of course, there was the “Esper Edition” bootleg that used soundscapes from the film and the video game to create an ambient Blade Runner album; elements of everything were combined to form a sonic memento of the film in a two disc "Esper Edition" that would appear shortly afterward.

This Version

While I appreciated specific aspects of each iteration of this film's score, none of the existing albums or bootlegs ever struck me as a satisfying listening experience on their own.  The 1994 version has dialogue, omissions and some ill-fitting 'bonus' tracks, the second disc of the Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition concentrates primarily on ambient and textural music, the bootlegs don't have consistent sound and are sequenced to slavishly follow the film, often to the detriment of album flow.

My goal in assembling this program was that it both be a good representation of the score as it appears in the film but also that it flowed well as an album while maintaining a consistent level of sound quality throughout.  I wasn't concerned about squeezing every single moment from the film onto the disc (indeed, the score portion of the disc is only an hour long), and I also wanted to try to keep the overall feel of one of Vangelis's soundtrack albums, even if some of my choices were slightly different from his.  I have therefore opted to include two tracks which didn't appear in the film and on the whole favor many of Vangelis' editorial and sequencing choices, while making the necessary adjustments to accommodate the new tracks.  The result is a version of Blade Runner that I hope is satisfying to both film music aficionados as well as fans of the film.

  1. LOS ANGELES, NOVEMBER 2019 (5:00)

    This track starts with the actual main title of the film, which presents a quiet version of the film's main theme, for which I combined elements of the Gongo disc with my HD-DVD edition of the “Final Cut.”  This segues into what follows in the film, which is an expansive version of the same theme as the curtain opens on the hellish view of the L.A. basin of the future, which was gleaned from the 1994 soundtrack album. As on that record, the music for this moment is followed by an introspective piece as Deckard (Harrison Ford) takes a Spinner ride with Gaff (Edward James Olmos) to Police Headquarters; this cue would later be repeated for his journey to the Tyrell Corporation.  There are index markers at the demarcation point between the main title, the landscape shots and the Spinner ride on the CD.

  2. QUESTIONS (4:05)

    As in the film, the Spinner ride music segues into a cue entitled “Deckard Meets Rachel,” which I gleaned from the Gongo release (although I added some mild reverberation to get it to match the surrounding cues); this descending motif that will reappear in the “Love Theme” (track 8) was heard on the New American Orchestra recording but was not on any official version of the original score tracks. Following the Blade Runner's meeting with Rachel (Sean Young), Dr.Tyrell (Joe Turkel) requests that the Voight-Kampf test be administered to his assistant.  The cue for this was titled “Dr. Tyrell's Owl” on the second disc of the Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition.  My track title is derived from both the loaded question Rachel asks Deckard upon his arrival (“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?”) as well as the interrogative nature of the empathy test itself.

    Engineered by RAPHAEL PRESTON; From the album “See You Later”

    Deckard is surprised to find after hours of testing that Rachel is, in fact, a Replicant.  She later comes to see him at his apartment, where she attempts to prove her humanity.  This beautiful piece for piano and electronic sounds (apparently recorded from a computer game played by Raphael Preston) was taken by Scott from Vangelis' 1980 album See You Later.  The version that appears here is essentially the one from the 1994 release of Blade Runner to allow for a smooth transition into “Tales of the Future,” although I used a snippet of its appearance on Vangelis Themes in order to get a clean opening. Scott would use an orchestral version of this piece in his film Someone To Watch Over Me.


    This piece of music is heard in various places in the film, usually (but not always) connected with Deckard's tracking down of Zhora (Joanna Cassidy).  This track was titled “On the Trail of Nexus 6” on the Gongo disc and runs about a minute longer than what appeared on the 1994 release.  I had originally intended to restore this track to its full length, but I found that the sonics on the Gongo disc on this particular track were inadequate, with serious break-ups in the bass.  However, the transition of the album track to the next piece I intended to include worked better with the 1994 album version anyway, so I decided to leave it as it was.

  5. RACHEL’S SONG (4:32)
    Vocal by MARY HOPKIN

    This track does not appear in the film, but rather premiered on the 1994 album.  Paul Sammon, author of Future Noir, has postulated that it may have originally been composed for the scene that ended up being accompanied by “Memories of Green.”  When compiling this program, I decided that it worked well in context of the other tracks as it definitely had the feeling of Blade Runner.


    As should be apparent from the title, this track, along with the “Love Theme” (track 8) is one in which Vangelis most directly references the film noir aspect of Blade Runner. It is heard in the film as Pris (Daryl Hannah) maneuvers herself into a position where she will evoke sympathy from J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) and returns for Deckard's retirement of Zhora; reflecting a sense of hopelessness with its synthesized trumpet line and xylophone.  Unlike “Tales of the Future,” the sound on the Gongo disc was almost identical to that on the 1994 album, albeit a little “drier,” a trait I was able to correct for with a little reverb, and so I was able to assemble the full length version of the track.

  7. POMPEII 76 A.D. (2:08)
    Composed and Performed by GAIL LAUGHTON; From the album “Harps of the Ancient Temples”

    A snippet of this track is heard in the film as Roy (Rutger Hauer) and Leon (Brion James) go to see Dr. Chew (James Hong) and a group of bicyclists ride by.   Its appearance in the film is most likely the product of Scott and editor Terry Rawlings having fallen in love with their temp track, as happens often their films.  An LP rip of this track was included on both the Off World and Gongo discs; this is sourced from a remaster of this rather interesting concept album. While this is not really part of the score, I felt that it was such a perfect match in tone whilst at the same time being a nice sonic counterpoint to the rest of the program material that I decided to include it.

  8. LOVE THEME (4:51)
    Saxophone by DICK MORRISEY

    This is one of the trademark musical moments in Blade Runner. It is heard in the film in Deckard's apartment after he is saved by Rachel from Leon; Rachel plays piano (not heard here) and Deckard animistically seduces her. The cue was reprised in the original theatrical releases for Rachel and Deckard's Spinner ride into the wilderness (the “Director's Cut” omits this sequence, but one can hear the very beginning of this track before the cut to credits).  There are two main variations on this piece: the film version is entirely synthesized while the album version has an acoustic sax.  I opted to go with the album version for this program.

  9. DAMASK ROSE (2:14)
    “Ogi No Mato” (Traditional) Performed by NIPPON ENSEMBLE

    Once again we have a track that did not appear in the film but on the 1994 album.  Whether this was actually composed for the film in 1982 or specifically for the album is unknown, but it certainly fits the tone of Blade Runner.  While I didn't want to include the full length track of “Ogi No Mato,” I incorporated a snatch of it towards the conclusion of this track as part of the transition to the next.


    This apocalyptic piece of music is heard as Roy confronts Tyrell, and was long coveted by film music enthusiasts, and that it wasn't included on the 1994 album was one of the disappointments of that release. Thankfully, Vangelis did include it on disc two of the Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition, which was the source for this track.  I found his title, “Dr. Tyrell's Death,” less interesting than the title the track had on the bootlegs, which was gleaned from the chapter title on the CAV laserdisc of the “Director's Cut.”

  11. WOUNDED ANIMALS (6:11)

    This track consists of material surrounding the climactic Bradbury sequence, heard in “Dangerous Days” and “Wounded Animals” on the bootlegs, but was edited down to “Deckard and Roy's Duel” by Vangelis for disc two of the Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition.  This is indeed Vangelis' own edit (which concentrates on Roy mourning Pris and the finale), but I disliked the title and so replaced it with “Wounded Animals,” which was another example of the bootlegs cribbing track titles from the relevant chapter titles on the “Director's Cut” laserdisc.  In his last moments of existence, Roy spares Deckard's life to an epic rendition of the main theme.

  12. TEARS IN RAIN (2:47)

    Roy accepts his fate and this beautiful arrangement of the main theme, voiced by gentle bells and synthesized lines, with a throbbing accompaniment, is heard as he hangs on to those last few precious moments of his life.  There were three different versions of this cue available: the album version is a different recording from what appears in the film and has rain and Rutger Hauer's monologue on it, the Gongo disc had the version that appeared in the film, and disc two of the Blade Runner 25th Anniversary Edition had a track called “Fading Away” which consisted the same recording as the film/Gongo but overdubbed with rushing wind obscuring much of the fine detail.  I combined the Gongo track with elements of "Fading Away" so I could take advantage of the rushing wind for the transitions to and from this cue, but the body of the music would be alone.

  13. BLADE RUNNER (4:38)

    The film concludes with this driving piece of music featuring a descending motif heard over the end credits, here given the less utilitarian title “Blade Runner.”  There are four versions of this track: the full length version as heard on the Gongo disc runs about seven and a half minutes and features a jazzy bridge in the middle (of which I am not terribly fond); Vangelis Themes contained the first five minutes and then faded out during the jazz bridge; the film version grafted the finale to the track instead of the jazz bridge; the 1994 album edited the jazzy bridge out and concentrated entirely on the descending motif.  For this program, I opted to use the 1994 album edit, albeit with a bit of the Vangelis Themes version for a clean opening and the Gongo track for the sustain on the final note of the finale, which was covered in rain on the album version to transition to “Tears In Rain.”  This brings the score portion of this disc to a close.

  14. ONE MORE KISS, DEAR (3:57)

    This song is heard in the film after Deckard retires Zhora and buys a bottle of Tsing Tao.  This was the Ink Spots' “If I Didn't Care” in the workprint version, but when that became impossible to license, Vangelis was asked to create a sound-alike. The New American Orchestra recording of this track was used in the second season Northern Exposure episode “War and Peace.”


Tags: blade runner, film music, my mixes, science fiction, vangelis
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