2001: A Space Odyssey is a stunning, laconic view of space travel — which is why music plays such a critical role in the effectiveness of the picture. Director Stanley Kubrick used iconic classical music tracks to accompany his near-silent epic, but Johann Strauss II and the Vienna Philharmonic’s rendition of Richard Strauss tone poem weren’t Kubrick’s first choices for the picture. Early in the film’s production, Kubrick commissioned Dr. Strangelove collaborator Alex North to create the soundtrack for 2001. That composition is currently available online via Filmmaker IQ. The website advises:
This theme music made its public debut in early 1993 as part of the Telarc compilation CD Hollywood’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, and there it was titled “Fanfare for 2001″ (it would therefore be the world’s first exposure to North’s unused 2001 music). It would eventually be recycled by North for his later scores to Shanks, Dragonslayer and The Shoes of the Fisherman.
The most interesting part of the story is that North wasn’t aware his music hadn’t been used in Kubrick’s film until the movie’s 1968 premiere in New York City. “Well, what can I say? It was a great, frustrating experience, and despite the mixed reaction to the music, I think the Victorian approach with mid-European overtones was just not in keeping with the brilliant concept of Clarke and Kubrick,” North later stated.
The original score masters were erased after Anvil Studios in England shut down. The North family, however, had mono fold-down tapes in their possession. In choosing the final music for the film, Kubrick had this to say:
However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? When you are editing a film, it’s very helpful to be able to try out different pieces of music to see how they work with the scene… Well, with a little more care and thought, these temporary tracks can become the final score.
Did the director make the right choice? Listen to the final version below.
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