When you pick music for your scene, taking a moment to ask “what is the point of view?” can make the difference.Stanley Kubrick commissioned Alex North to create a score for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Midway through Kubrick cut North loose and decided to use temp tracks selected from classical music.

And Richard Strauss’ Thus Sprach Zarathusra fanfare became really, really famous.

Comparing the two versions of the scene shows how point of view

of the music can make (or destroy) a scene.

Strauss’ fanfare was called “Sunrise” and was just the opening of a suite inspired by Nietzsche’s writings. The music is shooting for the eternal and and omnipotent, and those pounding tympanis lend the scene more than a dash of violence (music starts about 0:20):

North’s music, wonderful as it is, now sounds dated and a little bit naive. It’s bouncy and enthusiastic, and occasional strings and woodwind colors lend a shrieking human quality. The human element diminishes the scene – something far bigger than us is at work here:

One could ague that Strauss’ music is simply better (Kubrick himself said so). The fundamental problem is the point of view. North’s music looks up at the scene as if audience is feeling awestruck.

Strauss’ fanfare, not written for the film, looks down on the moment, as if omnipotent forces, as inevitable as the sunrise, are in control.

Posted 10 years ago by John Piscitello

1 Response to " Great Moments in Composer Firings, Vol. I: 2001 A Space Odyssey "

Nice, concise analysis of these two different perspectives!
I love film music and the way in which it can inter-react with a moving image...

Commented by: Jonathan
Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 03 pm

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