Music For 2001: a space odyssey – music by Alex North

Music for 2001: a space odysseyThe subject of literally decades of debate among film scholars, soundtrack afficionados and others, Alex North’s rejected score for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey has already received one release, though in a form that was re-recorded from the ground up by Jerry Goldsmith in 1993. In the liner notes from that earlier release, it is revealed that the only surviving copy of North’s original 1968 session recordings was a cassette that had been missing virtually since the movie came out, recovered on the eve of Goldsmith’s sessions. This release from Intrada is that cassette: the original sessions, brought up as close as possible to digital specs, timed out to scenes from the movie, and released to the public for the first time.

There are subtle musical differences and major ones too. Slight differences in arrangement, orchestration and timing differentiate between the two recordings of this most famous selection of unused movie music, and there are some that are biggies (entire minutes of music and alternate arrangements that didn’t make it into the 1993 re-recording, as well as the revelation that the “Entr’acte”track from that release was mislabeled and had nothing to do with 2001 at all). It’s a fascinating study in contrasts, but in the end, it’s still great music. How the use of this score instead of Kubrick’s favored selection of existing orchestral and choral pieces might have impacted the movie’s timelessness, we’ll never know.

Thanks to the incredibly extensive liner notes, though, you have a unique opportunity to test-drive North’s score – each track includes precise, down-to-the-second timing notes allowing you to sync up your DVD of 2001 to the film in the appropriate places. The liner notes booklet also tells, in great detail, the story of the feud between North and Kubrick over Kubrick’s quiet (but public) dismissal of North’s music, and how that feud carried on the two men’s respective estates even after they themselves had died. The back cover of the booklet contains, at last, an olive branch extended in writing from Kubrick’s estate to North’s children, acknowledging that North’s music is an important part of the film’s legacy. It’s disappointing that the proposal for a DVD with an alternate audio track, also revealed in the booklet, never got off the ground, but the booklet’s notes let you do it yourself at home without having to buy yet another iteration of 2001 on DVD, so perhaps it’s just as well.

Rating: 4 out of 4Few soundtracks in the history of Hollywood have as much of a story behind them as this one does, but Alex North’s 2001 can now finally be heard and appreciated, with the film it was intended to accompany. That neither North nor Kubrick could ever bury the hatchet so this could happen in either of their lifetimes is the only disappointment to come out of it.

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  1. The Foraging (3:13)
  2. The Bluff (2:39)
  3. Night Terrors (1:49)
  4. Bones (1:43)
  5. Eat Meat And Kill (4:03)
  6. Space Station Docking (5:24)
  7. Space Talk (3:49)
  8. Trip To Moon (3:05)
  9. Moon Rocket Bus (5:20)
  10. The Foraging (alternate version) (3:16)
  11. Eat Meat And Kill (Take 7 wild) (1:06)
  12. Space Station (Take 4 partial) (2:13)
  13. Docking (Take 2) (1:15)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2007 (originally recorded in 1968)
Total running time: 38:55

2001: A Space Odyssey – The Lost Score

2001: A Space Odyssey - The Lost ScoreIt’s somewhat common knowledge that prior to tracking his entire two-and-a-half- hour science fiction opus with pieces from the classical repertoire, Stanley Kubrick had commissioned the prolific film composer Alex North – whose other screen accomplishments include Spartacus, Cleopatra and The Agony and the Ecstasy – to compose original music for 2001 along the lines of many classical numbers that Kubrick already had in mind. According to the very detailed liner notes booklet, which is admittedly biased in favor of the late Mr. North, who died in 1991, Kubrick kept North under the illusion that his original music would be used up until shortly before the film’s release; having completed the score up to the moon scenes in the movie, North was told that the entire second half of 2001 taking place aboard spaceships, in spacesuits and so on, would not be scored, but instead covered with “breathing effects.” In short – North’s services would no longer be required. Imagine North’s surprise when he went to the premiere of 2001 and heard the very classical numbers which Kubrick had asked him to approximate. To hear his wife tell it, Alex North stowed the manuscripts of his 2001 score away safely, and the only people aside from Kubrick who heard the music were Mrs. North and a close family friend by the name of Jerry Goldsmith. North, before his death, was finally persuaded to allow a fresh recording of his legendary brainchild to be conducted by Goldsmith. The results are quite satisfying indeed. North’s 2001 main title borrows the triplet structure of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, but trades the almost religious sound of Strauss in for a somewhat more stately and heraldic tone. (Considering the immense scope of 2001, this could be one place where Kubrick’s choice was justified; indeed, though I like North’s work on the movie, I really do like the 4 out of 4movie’s soundtrack as it turned out.) The rest of North’s work is steeped in belligerence for the scenes of primitive man, intricate beauty for the grace of spaceflight, and mystery for the ambiguous story at the heart of the film. Somehow, a track-by-track breakdown of the existing half of North’s work doesn’t seem to carry enough weight to do the music justice. I highly recommend it.

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  1. Main Title (1:37)
  2. The Foraging (3:44)
  3. Eat Meat and the Kill (3:27)
  4. The Bluff (3:01)
  5. Night Terrors (2:02)
  6. The Dawn of Man (3:14)
  7. Space Station Docking (2:22)
  8. Trip to the Moon (3:21)
  9. Moon Rocket Bus (5:01)
  10. Space Talk (3:30)
  11. Interior Orion (1:26)
  12. Main Theme Entr’acte (2:31)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 1993
Total running time: 35:16