Listen to Parts of the Rare Original Score for Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey'

Listen to Parts of the Rare Original Score for Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey'

Sep 24, 2014

Stanley Kubrick’s score for 2001: A Space Odyssey possesses some of the greatest classical works ever written, and with it his legendary direction are matched with some of the greatest visuals ever produced. The merging of the sounds by Strauss and Khachaturian with visual effects, which during the film’s release of 1968 were groundbreaking, have been imitated and spoofed ever since. You know all this already. But did you know that 2001 has an original score?

At the inaugural MondoCon, taking place this past weekend in Austin at the same time as Fantastic Fest (read our coverage here), we stopped by a historic panel, “2001: A Lost Score,” which explored the score created by composer Alex North for the film. Presented by film composer and host of Austin’s Film Score Focus, Brian Satterwhite, the panel showed for the first time ever scenes from 2001 with North’s score.

Here’s a little history: Alex North is known most for his scores for A Streetcar Named Desire, Cleopatra and Kubrick’s Spartacus, which Satterwhite says North had a pleasant experience on. Kubrick brought North back to make music for 2001, but the problem was Kubrick was falling in love with his temp score. A third of the way through creating the music Kubrick told North to stop all his work. Fast-forward to the release of 2001, and North attends a preview screening only to be horrified to sit through the movie and not hear his work.

That’s right -- Kubrick didn’t even tell North he wasn’t using his music.

After extensive research (looking at North’s notes, original recordings) Mondo has released North’s music from 2001 in an album titled, Music for 2001: A Space Odyssey – The Original Score by Alex North. (It’s currently being sold at MondoCon; keep an eye out at for way to purchase).

For Satterwhite’s presentation, scenes were taken from a Blu-ray of 2001, the final music was stripped and under the guidance of Satterwhite, North’s music was inserted. Because Kubrick pulled the plug on things, what exists is music for the first 45 minutes of the film. The scenes shown were:

1. The opening "Dawn of Man" scenes up to the confrontation with the rival ape men.

2. The iconic early man throwing a bone into the sky, which then cuts to the Pan American spacecraft headed to the space station.

3. The Pan Am ship headed towards the space station.


The drastic change right from the start is, originally, North’s music was to accompany the entire "Dawn of Man" sequence, but in the final version Kubrick has no music (outside the iconic use of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”). Seeing the actions of the apelike men now set to a full orchestra highlighted by banging drums and strings is a shock to the senses.



North’s music holds your hand through each sequence (perhaps this was something Kubrick didn’t want), building the tension when the rival apes appear, and then pumps you up when loud drums accompany the visuals of early man discovering how to hunt for food and kill.


Like the final version, there’s silence when Moonwatcher throws the bone into the air, and when we're taken to space, North’s music comes back in. This piece below by North is more light than the "Dawn of Man" music, with lots of woodwind instruments and strings. It’s a good choice for the zero gravity scenes, and is effective during the shot of the pen floating inside the Pan Am ship and the corkscrew rotation into the space station. A different feel than Kubrick’s use of Strauss’ waltz, but it gives off the same effect.


Overall, the sound is very similar to the music North produced for Spartacus. And that might have been what the studio wanted.

According to North’s daughter-in-law Abby, who came onstage to accompany Satterwhite at the end of the presentation, she says the studio encouraged Kubrick to bring on North, and that before North three to four other composers worked on 2001, including Quincy Jones. “This hurt Alex to his death,” Abby says. North passed away in 1991. Abby says he really believed in this music and it never got its due.

So when can I watch the film with North's original score?

Well, according to Satterwhite and Abby North, you may never get that chance. “This is a historic moment,” says Satterwhite before revealing the first clip. And as he would tell the audience at the end, only recently did the Kubrick estate allow a presentation like this to happen and it's highly unlikely that Warner Bros. would ever put out a version with the new music. It’s also uncertain if a presentation like this would happen in the future, but hey -- if you play the tracks we’ve included here alongside the scenes and mute the sound, you’ll get a sense of what we watched.

Do you think North’s music works better than the final version?





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