L'Apocalypse Des Animaux

a look at the music of Vangelis Papathanassiou

L’Apocalypse Des Animaux” is the title of Vangelis' soundtrack album for a series of early-seventies documentaries with the same name, made by Frédéric Rossif about the animal kingdom. The series consists of six episodes, each of which includes music provided by Vangelis. The documentary series includes much more music than can be heard on the album, as is usually the case when Vangelis composes music for film.

Frédéric Rossif and Vangelis would later work together on other wildlife series and films, such as "La Fête Sauvage" (1976), "L'Opera Sauvage" (1979) and "Sauvage Et Beau" (1984).


Tracklist and Credits

  1. Apocalypse des animaux - generique

  2. La petite fille de la mer

  3. Le singe bleu

  4. La mort du loup

  5. L'ours musicien

  6. Creation du monde

  7. La mer recommencee

Composed, arranged and produced by Vangelis Papathanassiou.
Sound engineer: Didier Pitois


Polydor 2393058 France/Canada/Spain/Italy/Greece/UK
Polydor France,Canada, UK (reissue)/Argentina/West Germany/Japan/South Korea
Atlas 2393058 Brazil

Polydor 831503-2 West Germany/France/Canada/United States
Telewestel EUCD0004 Hungary
Polydor P22P20303 Japan

The music of "L'apocalypse des animaux" is recorded  in 1970 at Studio Europa Sonor, Paris France.

A lot of the music pieces used in these films reappeared later in various other Rossif documentaries, like those for the artists Morandi and Georges Braque, and the similar nature-inspired documentary-series “L'Opera Sauvage”. When sometime after “L’Apocalypse Des Animaux” went out an album with the same title was assembled, it was simply a matter of putting some of the tracks recorded for the films onto the record. So the later Vangelis method of first scoring a movie and later recording (not always the same) music again for the soundtrack-album wasn’t yet practiced for “L’Apocalypse Des Animaux”. All this suggests that Vangelis wasn’t involved in the actual editing of his music into the films, but rather that he provided Rossif’s team with a library of pieces for them to use in whatever way they felt convenient, then or later. The documentaries each involve showing the animals in their natural habitats or nature reserves – here Vangelis' music is used, not very extensively, just here and there, along with a voice-over. Some episodes make a detour to showing animals in zoos and parks or the scientific study of animals in laboratory environments – here no music is used and we sometimes see and hear the attendants and scientists explaining their methods and observations. The filmmakers and narrators are never in picture, in contrast to the later documentary style of people like David Attenborough and Jacques Cousteau.

Vangelis has stated that it took about one day per episode to score, which is born out by the fact that indeed each episode has fresh bits of music, and only a few cues are repeated across episodes. Except for the opening track on the album “Generique” which plays along with the opening and concluding credits to each episode, a couple more tracks are used throughout the series, with some more appearing in 3 or 4 episodes. To name a few: a joyous playful melody played on keyboards and flute that usually accompanies animals playing around, an experimental piano + percussion theme also used for the Georges Braque film, a mysterious exotic slow theme usually together with underwater pictures, a rather silly disco theme (also used in the Morandi film) which uses one of those cheap drum-presets that came along with those first-generation electric pianos. Strangely enough, none of these repeated themes appear on the album, whose six further tracks are taken in seemingly random fashion from the other music in the series, although one reason might be that they at least include the ones which have other instruments on them, like guitar or trumpet. For every piece that does appear on the album an estimated 4 or 5 are left out, with most of them just as good as the ones that did make it.

From the first episode “Le Singe Bleu” is taken, where it accompanies the agile movements of a young monkey as it jumps from tree to tree and does a balancing act on a horizontal stick (it reappears briefly at the end of episode 5). Episodes 2, 3 & 4 yielded no music at all for the album. The fifth uses two album-tracks: “La Mort Du Loup”, accompanying pictures of wolves being shot at in the snow and on the savannah. And “L’Ours Musicien”, which is actually some 4 minutes, as opposed to the 1 minute put on the album. This accompanies a sweet and funny tale of researchers picking up two baby ice-bears abandoned by their mother, who decide to go rummaging through the researchers’ hut. The final and most apocalyptic episode starts with the earth-organic sounds of stand-out track “Creation Du Monde”, accompanying beautiful slow-motion pictures of large birds on their yearly treks across the sea. The revitalising nature of the sea after oil-spills and other attacks on its eco-system form the idea behind “La Mer Recommencee” and pictures of divers with dolphins and octopuses go with the music of “La Petite Fille De La Mer”. At the end of this episode and the series, as part of a sort of philosophical summing up, “Creation Du Monde” is played out to the very end, even across the end-titles, instead of the usual “Generique”.

All this enchanting early Vangelis music, created very effectively using relatively simple means, is evidence of a seemingly endless pouring out of ideas, free of any outside pressure. It all has a very fresh sun-lit feel to it and only on “Earth” again would Vangelis once more approach that same kind of Mediterranean sound. Broadly speaking, the pieces he created fall into 4 categories: melodic pieces, sometimes dreamy and nostalgic, percussion-pieces, wacky funny pieces and more exotic experimental stuff (when some 10 years later Vangelis did the music for “Sauvage et Beau” the same categories applied again, with the exception of the purely percussive). The music doesn’t so much describe the realities of nature itself but rather reflects a sort of philosophical reality. On one level, the association one gets is how people in prehistoric times might have viewed nature: sometimes tranquil (as in “La Petite Fille De La Mer”), sometimes dark and mysterious (as in “Creation Du Monde”) but always as part of themselves. On another level the music manifests a sort of nostalgic longing back to those times, which can nowadays only be glimpsed in the ever-decreasing world of animals, hence the title of the series.

Review by Ivar de Vries