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Vangelis - Beaubourg CD (album) cover




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2.64 | 107 ratings

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4 stars I am doing this review because I am hoping to help other listeners to understand what this album is all about. There is a lot of misunderstanding among listeners from what I have read in the reviews of this album. Hopefully this will help clear things up a bit.

With understanding comes appreciation....that doesn't necessarily mean that you've got to like it, but when you understand it, at least you can begin to wrap your head around it and listen to it with new ears. In order to understand this music, you need to know that this album is one continuous composition called a tone poem. Tone poems (sometimes called symphonic poems when it's a large orchestra) were popular among classical music lovers from 1840 to 1920. Cesar Franck is noted for having written the first tone poem based on a traditional poem written by Victor Hugo, the creator of Les Miserables. Franck never published or performed the piece. Liszt however was the composer that is credited for inventing it and developing the style.

A tone poem is a musical painting, if you will. It is a musical representation of something else. In the case of this album, Beaubourg is where the Centre Pompidou is located in Paris. Locals simply call this building the Beaubourg. Vangelis wanted to create tone poems, he didn't do this album as a way to fulfill a contractural obligation for RCA, he did it because he wanted to create this kind of music. This album is a musical representation of the Centre Pompidou building. It depicts life in the Beaubourg district.

So, now after having that background, does it make this any easier to listen to? Not really. This is a very non-accessible piece of work. It seems to be mostly a lot of disconnected tones mostly performed on the Yamaha CS-80 using a ring modulator. There really is no traditional form to follow here, no real discernible melody and no rhythm. The piece is mostly improvised. I would imagine that Vangelis was improvising this while he was recollecting various scenes of the French district and the Centre in his mind. What his hope was that it would recall similar memories or scenes in his listener's minds also. Since I haven't visited that area myself, it makes it difficult to say how realistic these visions are. But I can at least close my eyes and visualize other things. That says something at least.

Vangelis does a great job with the style though. The sound isn't quite as harsh as some reviewers have said, and knowing what Vangelis' intentions were help me to make more sense and put organization to the music. There are some nice peaceful passages and other more chaotic passages. With many listenings, simple recurring melodies start appearing and coming through. This is not complete aimless noodling and it is not a middle finger to the record industry, it is serious music. Even Frank Zappa, Art Zoyd, Univers Zero and other avant garde masters have played around with this form. It is strange listening to many people because it doesn't follow a lot of the traditional theories of music style and form, at least not what the most part of the public is used to. That is why it sounds strange to so many. Hopefully what I have said will influence others to listen to this themselves to determine if it's a style they would like to explore. It isn't easy to comprehend at first, but understanding the motive for this music will help you to appreciate it better and consider it to be art and not just someone playing with his new synthesizer. Vangelis deserves more respect than that people.

As for me, it is more of a form of classical music brought into a more recent context. I know I will appreciate it more as I listen to it. I find it relaxing in a strange sort of way, though don't think that it is any form of New Age Jazz because it isn't. It does progress the genre in a way, it is the exploration of a style of music, even though it is not a new form as some might think. Anyway, I consider it to be an excellent representation of the tone poem and could easily fit into your Vangelis collection as a style of music he wanted to help explore and, quite frankly, he did. 4 stars. I'm glad to have it as part of my Vangelis collection.

TCat | 4/5 |


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