When we hear the opening of Also Sprach Zarathustra, we instinctively steel ourselves for enormous leaps through space and time. We have since 1968, when Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey made Richard Strauss’ 1896 piece its theme music. (Kubrick, as we posted in 2014, did commission an original score, only to reject it as “completely inadequate for the film.”) If you saw and loved it during its original theatrical run, long before the advent of home video, you had only a limited set of ways to re-live it at will. The obvious choice included buying a copy of the soundtrack or Arthur C. Clarke’s eponymous novel (or, for the kids, to go eat at Howard Johnson’s), but in 1976, you could also buy a record that gave you a bit of both at once.
On this now out-of-print record, Clarke reads the final chapters of 2001 with the accompaniment of that most recognizable piece from the film score, all packaged in a sleeve featuring an image of Keir Dullea as Mission Commander David Bowman on one of the film’s immaculately crafted space-station sets. You can hear side one at the top, and side two below.
If all this strikes you as an unconscionable intermingling of book and movie, remember that Kubrick’s 2001 doesn’t straightforwardly adapt Clarke’s 2001. Both of those independent but complementary works grew from the seed of “The Sentinel,” Clarke’s 1948 short story about a dazzling and mystifying artifact left behind by an ancient alien civilization. Kubrick had originally tapped Clarke to write a whole new screenplay, but that collaboration ultimately turned into two parallel projects, with the novelist writing to his own sensibility and the filmmaker certainly directing to his. Some Clarke fans prefer the novel and some Kubrick fans prefer the film, but those who admire the virtues of both 2001s will appreciate the existence of this record, in its own way an impressive artifact of a distant era.
You can’t buy this album new these days, but used copies can still be purchased online.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.