Original Soundtrack 2001: A Space Odyssey Review

BBC Review

Meanwhile the really heavy stuff is saved for the moments of revelation. Big black...

Chris Jones 2002

It's invariably true that all of the groundbreaking science fiction films have also come fully-furnished for galactic exploration with a brilliant soundtrack. Forbidden Planet, Barbarella, Bladerunner, even -dare we say it for fear of seeming a little too populist? -Star Wars. From whooping theremins to massed strings and synths, music furnishes our future dreams. Top of any list for sheer memorability is 2001. Arthur C's ruminations on the nature of God were always going to require more than a couple of french horns and someone banging on a kettle drum. But Stanley Kubrick showed just as much genius by collecting together these moments of transcendency as by dressing men up as monkeys and getting away with it.

It was never meant to be this way. Kubrick hired film composer of note Alex North (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death Of A Salesman) to score the movie but in assembling the rough edits he had been using the tracks we now associate with the film. North knew he could never compete with Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and retired gracefully. Kubrick had already done the job. Some of this music is now inextricably linked to the images it accompanied; the "Blue Danube" turning a spacecraft's orbit into a languid ballet, the grandeur of the planetary alignment which heralds the ''Main Title''; but to hear it alone still stirs emotion.

Aside from the obvious, the bulk of the collection is mainly taken up with far more challenging stuff. The theme of dance was furthered by the use of Khachaturian's "Gayane Ballet Suite", mirroring the flight of the Discovery, its ill-fated crew and one whacked-out computer. Meanwhile the really heavy stuff is saved for the moments of revelation. Big black monoliths deserve big black music and Gyorgi Ligeti's work didn't come any grander or more sombre. His "Requiem For Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs And Orchestra" is frankly going to give anyone the heeby jeebies, but the angelic preface to "Lux Aeterna" and peripheral sound collage of "Adventures" (for which Ligeti sued Kubrick over subtle alterations) still admirably convey the, well, otherworldliness of it all.

Add to this some of the music left over from the original soundtrack and a full 9 minutes plus of Hal 9000 getting his chips gradually unravelled and you've got yourself a night in with the cosmos. What are you doing Dave?

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