Alex North led a profoundly prolific career, this much is obvious. His work on the original 2001: A Space Odyssey score alone sets him a head above the cinematic competition, but here are a few other Alex North projects you may have overlooked (if you’re anything like me): A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Spartacus (1960), The Misfits (1961), Cleopatra (1963), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), to name only a short few. This Spartacus soundtrack is a 1980 reissue of the original 1960 release, but a quick look on Discogs yields a fairly reasonable price for both versions (in the $6 range). Although soundtracks aren’t my immediate go to, they are a nifty little orchestral oasis once in a while.
In 1964, the greatest film the world has ever known exploded onto the pale faces of Western civilization. Today, I obtained the closest thing to an officially released soundtrack from this, my all-time favorite film, Dr. Strangelove. Dropping the same year as the film, this various artist comp features a total of 13 tracks, with only one of them being featured in the aforementioned film. But that’s certainly ok, and completely without contention, for you see, this album, with all its 1964-infused Dr. Strangelove poster art, is for visual stimulation, instead of those more pleasing to the ear. I’m elated to welcome the most recent addition to my billowing record collection, Dr. Strangelove and Other Great Movie Themes.
So, Room 237 was something… and so was its soundtrack. Composed and created by Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson, this ominous and eerie soundscape is perfect, no… PERFECT blanket noise for that special evening when the boring normality of the everyday meets the heightened expectations of the ethereally abnormal. Essentially, a bullshit way of saying that this soundtrack is meant to unease your tensions, while drawing you in for the big score, like a discounted (free toppings) soft serve. Is this something you could rock every Tuesday on your way to the telecine studio, well, no, but it’s certainly something worth having at the ready if and when the peculiar strikes.
I just wanted to share a pleasant little discovery I made this past weekend while watching Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Pausing, shot by shot through Alex’s (record) hunting scene, I noticed a familiar album cover behind the cleverly placed 2001 soundtrack in the “Underground” section.
There exists a finite number of films that match the vast, mind-numbing greatness that surrounds 2001: A Space Odyssey… and that finite number is zero. No other film captures the imagination, the theology, the spectacular visual effects, and the brilliant forward thinking quiet like 2001, and the soundtrack that accompanies this visual adventure, albeit a collection of classics, is nothing short of essential listening material for any, and every fan of the medium.
Released in 1968, the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to 2001: A Spacy Odyssey captures that eerie sense of uncertainty and foreboding doom that is seemingly inevitable for the lineage of mankind. Long, drawn-out landscapes (track three’s Lux Aeterna), dispense agitated spasms of echoed ambiguity, almost as if a spaceship, or a lifeless body, were floating within the vast unknown that is outer space. The first half of the album, before The Blue Danube kicks in, is very grim and despairing, which is exactly the subtextual emotion needed for the beginnings of the inevitable end. The journey into the soul is not a day at the beach.
Much like the opening track, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube is, and forever will be unified with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both songs have been used in a barrage of other films and commercials, but I couldn’t name a single one of them. If the visual wonders of this film are the planet, then its music is the planet’s gravitational pull. Forever will they be linked, and forever will they rely on each other to exist.
Like the stars of a constellation traveling light-years to reach our retinas, 2001: A Space Odyssey will forever live as the greatest romantic achievement in cinematic history, and it is supported, in large part, by its shining light… its penetrating and hermetic music.
Not unlike the open and infinite vacuum of the vast intergalactic void, this music is much, much bigger than we are, and it needs to be ingested into our pores and delivered from our radiating conscious so that we can experience, and through that, understand the meaning behind man’s true potential.
Capitalizing on the early 70’s popularity of reinvented “Electronic” adaptations of Classical classics, Isao Tomita focuses on the 1874 suite by Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky, titled, Pictures at an Exhibition. Isao Tamita creates a very dark and dreary wall of impending, electronic-doom-music… AND IT’S AWESOME!
70’s Electro was made famous in large part by Walter/Wendy Carlos’ invigorating take on the works of Ludwig van Beethoven in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Although the back sleeve accurately indicates that (up to that time) electronic instruments had only been around for nearly 50 years (with the ethereal launch of Leon Theremin’s well, Theremin in 1927), there were only a small handful of “Electronic” albums obtainable by the social conscious. Four that I can think of are 1) the groundbreaking Soundtrack to Forbidden Planet in 1956, 2) George Harrison’s first studio album (yes, THAT George Harrison), 1969’s Electronic Sound, 3) Walter Carlos’ 1968 debut, Switched-On Bach, and 4) the 1966 release of The In Sound from Way Out! by Perrey and Kingsley.
Creating electrified modernizations of decades-old classics must have been difficult for some to digest in the mid 1970’s… boy were those narrow-minded purists in for a treat when Disco hit just a few short years later.
The late 60’s/early 70’s electronic movement is definitely something to explore. To say it is little more than a Classical suite or symphony with an electronic filter would completely sell this infant-like genre depressingly short. The guitar, invented in the 13th Century, didn’t get electrified until the 1930’s. Electronic music has yet to hit its centennial mark… imagine its overwhelming future. Isao Tomita did, and it’s evident by his work on Pictures at an Exhibition.