hmv.com presents… The Best Soundtracks of All Time: 2001 - A Space Odyssey
With some great in-store offers coming this summer on film soundtracks as part our 'Decades' series, every day we'll be picking the best soundtrack, one for every year, starting with 1950 right through to the present day. Today we're up to 1968 and we're recommending the intergalactic soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey...
2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s epic sci-fi which spans prehistoric times all the way to deep space.
So what’s the film about?
The film centres on a mysterious black monolith, which appears to group of apes around the dawn of man.
Following one of the best cuts in film history, we jump four million years to the near future (well, 2001, which was the near future in 1968), and the monolith reappears on the moon. A mission to Jupiter is thrown in jeopardy when the highly advanced on-board computer HAL 9000 malfunctions and starts to slowly kill off its crew one by one…
It’s a film that defies normal plot synopses, and instead provides striking theories about the history of human evolution and beyond.
Is this a score or a soundtrack?
A soundtrack, bringing together the existing classical and orchestral pieces used in the film.
So what’s it like?
Abandoning a traditional score that was written by Spartacus composer Alex North, Kubrick instead decided to use commercially available version of classical music. The most well known pieces include the playful waltz of Johann Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube’, Richard Strauss’ bombastic tone poem Also ‘Sprach Zarathustra’, and a ballet suite from Aram Khachaturian.
As well as these famous pieces, it also includes work by the experimental composer György Ligeti .
What does it give the film?
The film is very low on dialogue, with not a single word spoken in either the opening or closing 20 minutes, so the music is vitally important. The classical pieces help portray the majesty and vastness of time and space. Richard Strauss’ ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ is used to devastating effect, booming out at several key moments, including when the apes first learn to use tools in the shadow of the monolith.
Ligeti’s pieces, on the other hand, use a special technique called micropolyphony, which employs sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time. This gives the soundtrack an alien, unsettling atmosphere perfect for the monolith and it’s mysterious power.
What’s the best moment?
‘’The Blue Danube’ being used to accompany a shuttle docking with the space station. The light, bouncy playfulness of Johann Strauss’ waltz wonderfully invokes what floating in weightlessness must feel like. It’s so good The Simpsons even used it for when Homer went into space.
Has it stood the test of time?
Some of these pieces were already over 100 years old in 1968 – Kubrick’s use of them just game them even more life, if anything.