Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Yes, this is the sort of thing that makes me go "Wow"

What made me wide-eyed this web-surfing morning?

This morning's announcement on Film Score Monthly that there's a CD -- apparently already sold out -- of the original tracks of Alex North's rejected score to 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Edited To Add 12/25/06: Apparently "Out of Stock" simply means the CD hasn't been made ready to ship yet, but that it will ship next month. The CD should still be available, but it's limited to 3,000 copies.)

My geeking out requires some explaining.

There was apparently a major tug-of-war between Stanley Kubrick and MGM studio heads over what kind of music should be in 2001; at strong studio urging, Kubrick hired North (who'd written the amazing score to Spartacus) to score the film, while letting North know that probably some of the classical and modern music he'd been putting into the film would stay in the film. In December 1968, North wrote and recorded music for most of the film's first half (up to the stuff on the Moon); then, after North took a break to wait for more footage, Kubrick, who'd been pretty hands-on with the scoring, called North and said that he wouldn't need music for the film's second half. I get the strong impression from North's recollection of the work (printed in Jerome Agel's book on 2001) that Kubrick was trying to say (without coming out and saying it), "Hey, I never wanted original music for the film, I hired you to appease the studio, I'm sorry, but we're not using it." North later said, "Well, what can I say? It was a great, frustrating experience"; he kept one tape of the recording, adapted the music for his score to MGM's attempted epic The Shoes of the Fisherman (and, years later, his score to Dragonslayer)...and, one day, played that tape for exactly one friend. That friend was Jerry Goldsmith, one of the most influential film composers of the last 35 years.

Goldsmith, who himself was hugely influenced by North's music and friendship (and who actually wrote a reference to the 2001 music into his score to Innerspace), later conducted the National Philharmonic Orchestra of London in a re-recording of the score, released in 1993 on Varese Sarabande Records. It's a fascinating piece: the music is atmospheric and (for the African sequences) often disturbing, and reflects a much different musical approach Kubrick was pondering for the film at that time. (Example: North scored the African scenes practically wall-to-wall; the final version of that sequence uses almost no music.) One mistake aside -- the Varese producers got the impression that an almost jazzy orchestral piece North had written around the same time was part of the 2001 score, and included this random piece as the alleged Intermission music -- the Varese album has long been a favorite of mine, for North's music and for the alternate-history flavor of hearing original music for one of the most famous films not to have an original score.

Well, record label Intrada has taken a recording (quite possibly the same tape North played for Goldsmith) and finally remastered it for CD. Again, I likely can't get it, but I'm glad to know it exists.

Oh, one more 2001 story: the then rather small community of film score films in the 1960s had heard plenty of rumors of how 2001 was going to be scored (supposedly Bernard Herrmann had been asked, though I think that was a rumor held over from when Herrmann was approached to score Kubrick's film of Lolita). Future film producer Jon Davison (Airplane!, Top Secret! and RoboCop), who was college-age at the time, heard of North getting hired...but never heard that North'd been fired. At a first-week screening of 2001, Davison shot out of his chair during the opening titles (with, as we all know now, the opening notes of Also Sprach Zarathustra blasting) and proclaimed "This is the greatest piece of music Alex North has ever written!"
Tags: music

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