Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey kicked off a year-long run of Film Scores Live at London's Southbank Centre last month, bringing a fresh audience in front of a live orchestra, while demonstrating how classical music can still enchant the masses.
Kubrick put the odd into odyssey with his depiction of an epic journey that simultaneously questions the evolution of man. The work of Richard Strauss, György Ligeti, Johann Strauss II and Aram Khachaturian - especially live at Royal Festival Hall - bring more feeling to Kubrick's stark sets than the characters, where conversation is minimal and viewers left to decipher bizarre atmospheres and sparse undertones.
A Space Odyssey is the result of a four-year collaboration between Kubrick and writer, Arthur C. Clarke, whose work on the novel of the same name coincided with the script, and was released thereafter. While Kubrick removed much of the dialogue and explicit scenes to leave the film open to interpretation, thus lending itself well to the Film Scores platform, Clarke is said to have carried much of this through into the novel.
Scenes and dialogue were not the only things resigned to the cutting room floor - so was the original soundtrack. Kubrick first commissioned a score from acclaimed Hollywood composer, Alex North; but having used scores from classic composers as working samples, he abandoned the commission post-production, later stating in an interview, "However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms."
Kubrick's use of Strauss's symphonic poem, 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', and 'The Blue Danube' by Strauss II, arguably created some of the most iconic science fiction scenes of all time, while Ligeti's 'Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra', 'Lux Aeterna' and 'Atmosphères' add a sense of impending terror.
At worst, Kubrick's Space Odyssey is a long drawn out affair, dragging you along at the minimal speed possible to keep you intrigued, at best it is a masterpiece that challenges your perception of life, technology and how technology judges life.
Film Scores Live continues through until June 2017. See website for more details.
Image (c) BFI