Since the early eighties, Vangelis has been crafting silky electronic music with a uniquely personal sound. Almost defying categorisation completely, and with very little known about his personal life, he’s something of a mystery
And so is his playing style. We have a clip here that shows in some detail how he plays live, and creates soundscapes that are completely orchestral-sounding - and yet you can see him sitting there playing his keyboards, all in real time.
But although this is a completely analytical video (you can even see him making notes about his keyboard mappings before he starts playing), it raises more questions than it answers.
Weird-looking synthesiser modules
For example: how does he make such complex orchestral arrangements with only one pair of hands. And what are all those weird-looking synthesiser modules that he has? Some of the comments following the Youtube clip suggest that most of them are custom made specifically for him.
Did I say he just uses his two hands? Not strictly true, because he’s using his feet as well. There are around a dozen foot pedals, all of which seem to play some kind of important role. We think that this is how he controls the layering. In the introduction, he appears to be arranging keyboard splits where groups of notes are assigned, say, a clarinet, or a timpani. It looks like he’s assigning multiple sounds to each keyboard split, and is able to bring them in and out of the mix with his foot pedals. So, for example, he might have timpani layered with double bases, and a glockenspiel with a flute or violin.
But how he does this so precisely and to such great effect would probably require a master class that lasts several years. And we still don’t know what all those white boxes do.
Anyway, watch the clip, after the break, and make sure you turn the volume up. You almost won’t believe what you're seeing!