The 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Soundtrack Thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by HGN2001, Jun 13, 2006.

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  1. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member Thread Starter

    The unfortunate passing of Györgi Ligeti had my thought turn to my favorite movie of all time, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, as well as the music used therein.

    Since way back in the '60s, I've tried to keep up on whatever the latest incarnation of the soundtrack album of this movie might be. A buddy and myself, totally absorbed in both the film and the actual moon landing in 1969, purchased the original album the morning after that landmark event and it's been a rollercoaster of a ride ever since.

    I've got three LP's of the original soundtrack on MGM Records (S1E-13 ST X). The first one we got was the one with the genuine "shiny gold" and blue label. A replacement, purchased later to upgrade the sound after the original's grooves started wearing had a matte tan colr instead of the gold on the label. A third LP (without the "X" in the catalog number) had a yellowish color on the label, and was housed in a plastic inner bag instead of paper. The quietness of the music brought out any flaws in the vinyl af all of these versions, and I always somehow gravitated back to the original as it seemed to be the brightest and punchiest of my vinyl versions.

    Other than the odd "VOLUME TWO" LP with other music "inspired" by the film, those were the versions that got me through the '70s. In the mid '80s, I spotted in the LP racks a record that looked like an update of the VOLUME TWO album. Instead, it turned out to be the original soundtrack re-released under MCA's label with an MCA Classics moniker on the front cover. Curiously, it still had the "VOLUME TWO" designation on the cover, though the titles of the tracks were a straight re-do from the old MGM soundtrack. This was truly a budget effort (MCA 39049), with the incorrect title and artwork, and standard MCA rainbow label on the record itself. There were no liner notes at all, and the pressing itself was muddy and uninteresting.

    Not too long after that, I found the identical version, now on the newfangled CD format (MCAD 39049 JVC 505), and I bought it, figuring I would finally have the "perfect" version now since CD's didn't suffer from noise like vinyl did. I was wrong, as the CD pressing was just as muddy as the LP, but quieter. It might have been my first disappointment on CD, as I could clearly hear that my old LP from 1969 still sounded like it had more oomph and life than this new digital thingy.

    While in Europe a year or so later (1987), I saw a different covered CD in the racks. Looking more closely at it, I could tell it was some kind of foreign update/alternate release. It was on Polydor and looked like a replica of the old MGM album's cover with the Robert McCall painting as its base. I bought it, hoping that since it was of German origin, that Polydor may have gotten closer to the original German master recordings. Well, they did. Clearly superior on vrtually all of the tracks, I thought this was the final time I'd need to buy this album. There were some differences though. "The Blue Danube" wasn't split up into two anymore, and this album included a much lengthier initial track. "Also Sprach Zarathustra" was listed as 18:13, and now included more than just the opening overture. There was also a substituted recording for Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna". This one (Choir of Norddeutscher Rundfunk under Helmut Franz) didn't have the distortion problem on the loud passages like the one it replaced (Stuttgart Schola Cantorum conducted by Clytus Gottwald), but neither was it the original. But this album was an interesting attempt at improving the soundtrack.

    A few years later in 1990, as I browsed a local record store, I spotted yet another different version of the soundtrack on CD. This one was from CBS SPECIAL PRODUCTS(AK 45439) and it looked pretty interesting, though the cover screamed "budget!". The track order was again re-arranged, this time to more mimic the flow of the music in the movie. Ligeti's "Requiem" and "Atmospheres" were merged together similarly to the way they appeared in the film yet Strauss' "The Blue Danube" remained in one piece. The audio on this one sounded brighter than it had on other releases for the most part, if a little on the thin side.

    One more piece to the puzzle came in 1996 with Turner/Rhino's release in its "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" series. Now sporting a classy blue-tinted slipcover, the actual CD cover again returned to a rotated Robert McCall painting of the Pan-Am shuttle leaving the space wheel. This version of the soundtrack has just about everything one could want. Indeed, we learned on this release that the version of the "Also Sprach Zarathustra" theme that had appeared on all of these other versions wasn't the Karl Böhm version afterall, but one by Ernerst Bour conducting the Südwestfunk Orchestra (either that or THIS version is mistaken!). The actual film version by Herbert Von Karajan is used in the main tracklisting on this album, unlike all of the others. The Jupiter And Beyond segment links not only Ligeti's "Requiem" and "Atmospheres" but also includes the weird vocal piece "Adventures" as altered for the film. As more bonus material, this disc also included both the shortened "Lux Aeterna" as well as the lengthier version, and presented the unaltered "Adventures" for the curious. Added to it all is some exerpts from the film with the HAL 9000 dialog. Though this one seems definitive, and would be the first one I'd go to, there are moments of brilliance in some of the other soundtrack versions too.

    I thought I'd gotten all of the various versions out there, but I see through quick research that there's a bunch of different versions released throughout the world that I've not found.

    Oh yeah. One more to add to the list. Alex North composed an original score for the film that was ultimately rejected by Kubrick. In the 1990's, Jerry Goldsmith conducted this score for Varese Sarabande. Though it doesn't stand up against the classics that replaced it, it's still an interesting piece. To see how it would have worked, I once attempted to synch up this score with the opening "Dawn Of Man" sequence in the film. Since there's no score at all there, just the sound of the apes chattering, the music by Alex North sounded quite interesting indeed when used with this section of the film.

    I'm sure that out there in Steve Hoffman-land, there are other collectors of this landmark soundtrack with yet more versions and stories.

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  2. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Nice post, Harry. Thanks for the soundtrack history. :thumbsup:
  3. Claude

    Claude Forum Resident

    I have the soundtrack CD that comes with the special edition DVD set (the one with the film strip). But I never listen to it, because I have complete recordings of the Ligeti, R.Strauss and Khachaturian works which were used for the soundtrack.

    The website mentions Karl Böhm conducting "Also sprach Zarathustra". I always thought von Karajan's Decca recording (late 50's) was used for the film soundtrack. That is also mentionned here:

    Was a different recording used for the soundtrack LP?
  4. Paul C.

    Paul C. Active Member

    I had the Polydor CD, which had some limitations as I recall - very muddy sound on some tracks. Then I got the EMI one with the reddish cover image of Dave floating around inside HAL - at the time, this version was a big diappointment to me, as the sound was not up to par at all. I don't remember a lot about it now - I got rid of it when the Rhino disc came out, which is clearly the one to own.
  5. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member Thread Starter

    A confusing matter to be sure. The film itself, if you look at the credits, doesn't credit anyone with the recording of "Also Sprach Zarathustra". The original soundtrack LP, and many versions thereafter, used a different recording, credited to Karl Böhm. But the Turner/Rhino disc lists this recording as being from Ernerst Bour conducting the Südwestfunk Orchestra. Karl Böhm isn't found on that Rhino disc at all. The actual film version is from Herbert von Karajan, and was omitted from the original soundtrack album, apparently due to a rights issue.

  6. Anthology123

    Anthology123 Forum Resident

    I have both the Rhino CD and the Alex North recording. The liner notes on both are also noteworthy.
  7. El Bacho

    El Bacho Forum Resident

    Paris, France
    I'm not sure about the Böhm/Bour story (but I can't find my Rhino CD for the moment). Bour conducts the Südwestfunk Orchestra for Ligeti's Atmosphere on the soundtrack and was a specialist of contemporary music, not Richard Strauss.
  8. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member Thread Starter

    I have no knowledge one way or the other, but if is WAS Böhm on the soundtrack version, then the Rhino CD notes are wrong. If it was, in fact Bour, then virtually all of the prior versions are wrong.

    It WOULD be nice to know the truth.

  9. Bryan

    Bryan Starman Jr.

    Berkeley, CA
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  10. Rocker

    Rocker Forum Resident

    Ontario, Canada
    That's the CD version I own too, and it's absolutely fantastic.... one of my favourite soundtrack albums ever. :)

    I don't know if I can help much with the confusion about "Also Sprach Zarathustra", though. It appears 3 times on the Rhino CD... according to the liner notes, the first two (the ones that bookend the film) are Herbert Von Karajan & the Vienna Philharmonic (I'm assuming it's the same recording both times?)... and the third one (in the "supplemental material" section) is Ernest Bour & the Sudwesfunk Orchestra. It says the Bour recording is the "version from the original MGM soundtrack album but not in film". I can tell that there are definitely 2 different versions on the CD if I listen to them back-to-back, but beyond that, I can't offer any further details. ;)
  11. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    NS, Canada
    I also have that Rhino 1996 cd, as I had long before lost my LP from back in the day.

    I might be interested in hearing the North version again, depending on how expensive-hard it is to find this LP release.
  12. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    I recommend a UK MGM or West German MGM LP pressing. Those were pressed on much higher quality vinyl and have the West German mastering your US original pressing had. Without the horribly noisy surfaces.
  13. tommy-thewho

    tommy-thewho Forum Resident

    detroit, mi
    Great write up there. Thanks for all the effort put into it.
  14. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    I've got nearly as many version of this as long-suffering Harry does, and years ago, I compiled my own version using these CDs, with good results:


    Blue Danube:


    Khachaturian, Rozhdestvensky/Leningrad:
    Stravinsky 2001 cover.jpg

    These are all original versions as heard in the film.
  15. Nathan Aaron

    Nathan Aaron Forum Resident

    I ordered a copy of the Mondo 2001: A Space Odyssey vinyl LP last month, and it got to my place last night! The packaging is great, the hard plastic slipcase had a little crunch in it at the top, probably from a box being thrown on top of it during shipment, but it wasn't enough to really cause a huge issue. Plus I forgave all after opening the LP and discovering mine was a variant edition! I honestly thought I had no chance of getting one of these (I only ordered one copy) so I was completely, and happily surprised! Sounds great (to me) as well! I think these sold out in about three days on their site, as they only pressed 2001 copies (though they had previously sold these at MondoCon this year, as well, so I'm not sure if the total pressing number includes those or not.)


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  16. The Trinity

    The Trinity Forum Resident

    Well, I've got a beautiful copy on 8-track! I like it. ;)
    Nathan Aaron likes this.
  17. TeacFan

    TeacFan Forum Resident

    Arcadia, Ca.

    Johann Strauss, Josef Strauss: Waltzes & Polkas

    Original film version of Blue Danube & still available, in my collection.
  18. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident

    Regarding the rejected Alex North score: The last track on the Goldsmith-conducted CD is actually the main theme from a TV documentary called Africa. North was working on both at around the same time. The music apparently was accidentally filed in the 2001 box, which is why Goldsmith recorded it and included it on the album. I burned a custom CD where I removed that track and simply replaced it with the opening theme.

    Alex North is one of my favorite film composers. While I think North's 2001 music is very good on its own terms, it is the wrong music for that film, and Kubrick's instincts were dead-on. Some of the music sounds like it is from 10 or 15 years earlier; the space docking music, for example, could fit nicely on Les Baxter's Jewels of the Sea or Space Escapade. It is not a score for an iconic, genre-breaking film, but it works very well as a postwar space-themed instrumental album.

    As for the music used in the film, there is a GREAT album, criminally not on CD, that all enthusiasts of the 2001 music should hear: It is a knock-off on Columbia/CBS. Side 1 includes a suite of music used in the film (R & J Strauss, Ligeti, etc.), conducted by either Eugene Ormandy or Leonard Bernstein, presumably from CBS's existing catalog. It runs nearly 30 minutes. What is really great about is that it includes electronic interludes composed by Morton Subotnik. These are placed between the classical tracks.

    Here is what is fascinating about this album: While there is no electronic music actually used in the film, these interludes nicely portray both the vastness of space and the HAL character. Paradoxically, perhaps, this album captures the aesthetic, feel and mood of the film more fully than the classical pieces on their own, for me at least. I have this on both LP and reel-to-reel, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves this film.

    Side 2 of this album contains a 20-minute instrumental suite of the space opera Aniara, composed circa 1958 by a Swedish composer named Blomdahl. It incorporates both electronic sounds and a conventional orchestra. (The full opera was on a Columbia LP set that I have never been able to find.)

    Taken in total, this is a great album deserving of a digital reissue.
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  19. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    NS, Canada
    Just listened to side one of this Columbia LP found in the bargain bins today, and enjoyed it very much. Look forward to trying Ariana :)
  20. Clipper Sylvania

    Clipper Sylvania Well-Known Member

    Thanks a bunch for the heads-up; I'll keep an eye out for it since the experience sounds rather interesting. I'd never heard of this one before. As for other versions of the 2001 score, I've had the Rhino album for a number of years and have enjoyed it, having listened to it far more times than I've seen the movie. I really enjoyed the HAL voice track as a bonus; for a while, I had clips from it as event sounds on a computer. I managed to miss the Alex North album 'cheap' a while back because I thought there were more copies out there than there were.

    On a side note, I was pretty surprised to see Ligeti's work re-used in the recent Godzilla picture, but it was used to great effect and I applaud that director's efforts in that regard. Whatever else one might think of the Edwards picture, the parachute jump sequence was pretty impressive when taken as a whole with the cinematography, the eerie music and the wordless progress of the characters. Ligeti's work never ceases to raise hairs, and it did so quite well here, as it did in 2001.
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  21. Folknik

    Folknik Forum Resident

    I have the orignal MGM soundtrack on vinyl as well as Volume 2. I also have the Columbia Masterworks album of the pieces used in the film, all on one 30-minute side (Not the soundtrack versions, but conducted by Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, and with the Gregg Smith Singers on "Lux Aeterna"), segued together with electronic interludes by Morton Subotnick. Side 2 is a 20-minute orchestral suite based on Blomdahl's space opera Aniara. The Ligeti pieces on these albums inspired me to seek out more of Ligeti's music.
  22. Rocker

    Rocker Forum Resident

    Ontario, Canada
    I assume you mean this set?

    I just picked up that set today (even though I already own 2 other DVD editions!) and I was little disappointed to discover that the soundtrack CD is the same version as the 1996 Rhino disc.... I was hoping it might be one of the other "alternate" versions of the soundtrack. :p

    Oh well... the set will still look nice on the shelf next to my similar deluxe editions of Full Metal Jacket and Clockwork Orange. ;)
  23. Lewisboogie

    Lewisboogie Forum Resident

    I found the Rhino soundtrack (1996) for $2 last weekend. Love it.
  24. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Washington DC USA
    From the Pitchfork article:

    They're also releasing Alex North's discarded 2001: A Space Odyssey score, which Stanley Kubrick replaced in the film for classical music. (North didn't know that his score was replaced until he watched the film's premiere screening.)
    Now that must have been awkward!
  25. agn

    agn Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    North was devastated...
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