Mythodea: Music For The NASA Mission 2001 Mars OdysseyThe first-ever true orchestral work by legendary electronic musician Vangelis, Mythodea is a commissioned work celebrating NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey probe. There are quite a few reports that the epic-length Mythodea, here divided up into ten movements and an overture, were actually something Vangelis created before NASA launched 2001 Mars Odyssey. Fortunately, unlike the British Beagle 2 Mars probe, which carried a ringtone-like call sign commissioned from the band Blur, 2001 Mars Odyssey didn’t vanish off the scopes – in fact, it continues to serve as a vital link in the communications chain allowing the Spirit and Opportunity rovers to receive instructions from Earth and report their findings and well-being back to mission control. (Sincere apologies to JPL and the 2001 Mars Odyssey ground crew for a prior version of this review which asserted that it was a failed mission.)

Adapted from an existing composition or not, Vangelis’ Mythodea is an epic, operatic fusion of real live orchestra and choir. Vangelis had previously made a career out of synthesizing these sounds and doing a respectable job of it, so Mythodea is a real departure – for the most part, he is composer and arranger here, but only in a few places does he perform. And yet there are stretches where it’s recognizably his style. Whether or not he should have made this leap a long time ago is a debate I’ll leave to the diehard fans, but Mythodea is an interesting change of pace when compared to Vangelis’ other works. Now…those who don’t have a working knowledge of Vangelis to which to compare Mythodea may find it a bit challenging and, in a few places, I’ll admit they may find it bland. This isn’t a movie soundtrack, and only in a few places can you really get a taste of the “narrative” such as it is just by listening (but I’ll bet the probe was supposed to arrive close to the climactic end of the fifth movement). Those looking for something as obviously programmatic as Scheherezade or Star 3 out of 4Wars will have to dig deeper for the meaning of the music here. It’s big and bombastic in many places – if you dug the soundtrack music from Xena, you’ll probably like this.

Really interesting stuff, in places relaxing, and in places unnerving, Mythodea is worth a listen, though perhaps you should already be inclined to the classical genre if listening to it cold.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:43)
  2. Movement I (5:41)
  3. Movement II (5:40)
  4. Movement III (5:51)
  5. Movement IV (13:42)
  6. Movement V (6:35)
  7. Movement VI (6:26)
  8. Movement VII (4:57)
  9. Movement VIII (4:57)
  10. Movement IX (5:00)
  11. Movement X (3:02)

Released by: Sony Music
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 64:34