Listen to the Never-Heard Song Written for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Hol­ly­wood film scores have become bland­ly for­mu­la­ic, thanks to film­mak­ers’ over-reliance on the same kinds of “temp music” dur­ing the edit­ing process, a prac­tice that can lead to a boil­er­plate approach at the scor­ing stage. But the use of tem­po­rary music is noth­ing new. Stan­ley Kubrick left the temp score for 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film’s offi­cial sound­track, opt­ing for Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathus­tra for the icon­ic open­ing sequence over the score com­posed by Alex North.

While com­posers may now stick too close­ly to temp music, North strayed too far, Kubrick com­plained, writ­ing a score “which could not have been more alien to the music we had lis­tened to.” Anoth­er com­pos­er, Wendy Car­los, scored two of Kubrick’s filmsThe Shin­ing and A Clock­work Orange. In both cas­es, her orig­i­nal music was most­ly cut in favor of clas­si­cal record­ings. Kubrick described his atti­tude in an inter­view with Michael Ciment: “Why use music which is less good when there is such a mul­ti­tude of great orches­tral music avail­able from the past and from our own time?”

Few have argued with the results of Kubrick’s ruth­less approach, though Car­los refused to work with him again. Maybe Kubrick’s films would have been equal­ly well-received with dif­fer­ent music, who can say? But if the direc­tor found North’s score “alien,” con­sid­er what he must have thought when he heard Mike Kaplan’s lyri­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of his sci-fi epic, “2001: A Gar­den of Per­son­al Mir­rors.” Weird doesn’t real­ly begin to describe it, and it’s odd­er still giv­en that Kubrick him­self com­mis­sioned the song. After reject­ing anoth­er song­writer’s demo at MGM’s offices, he sup­pos­ed­ly turned to Kaplan, then a young pub­li­cist, and said, “I hear you write music. Why don’t you write some­thing?”

There’s no indi­ca­tion that Kubrick had “MacArthur Park” in mind as inspi­ra­tion, but Kaplan chose to “emu­late the suc­cess of the quirky hit,” writes Vanes­sa Thor­pe at The Guardian. After 52 years, Kaplan’s song has final­ly been released, “thanks to a small British record label.” Thor­pe quotes Observ­er film crit­ic Mark Ker­mode, who played the song on his radio show: “Audi­ence reac­tion was utter­ly polar­ized, but I have the sus­pi­cion it will become a cult favorite. It is very ear-wormy.” It was sup­posed to be, any­way, as a sin­gle to pro­mote the film to con­fused audi­ences.

When Kaplan played the ver­sion above with folk singer Nao­mi Gard­ner for Kubrick, Thor­pe writes, he got a very dif­fer­ent response: “Although the great direc­tor liked the title, he said he could not imag­ine it becom­ing a hit. The two friends nev­er dis­cussed the song again, although they con­tin­ued to work togeth­er close­ly on A Clock­work Orange.” Kaplan didn’t take the rejec­tion per­son­al­ly, but he’s pleased it has final­ly emerged for the pub­lic to hear. “I know it doesn’t sound like any­thing else,” he says. It cer­tain­ly does­n’t sound remote­ly like any of the music in 2001.

Kubrick may not have cared for “2001: A Gar­den of Per­son­al Mir­rors,” but it does, in its way, cap­ture the spir­it of a film Kaplan calls “a meta­phys­i­cal dra­ma encom­pass­ing evo­lu­tion, rein­car­na­tion, the beau­ty of space, the ter­ror of sci­ence and the mys­tery of mankind,” a film that “required crit­ics and audi­ences to sur­ren­der to its unique rhythms.”

via MetaFil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch the Open­ing of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with the Orig­i­nal, Unused Score

The Clas­si­cal Music in Stan­ley Kubrick’s Films: Lis­ten to a Free, 4 Hour Playlist

Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” Pro­vides a Sound­track for the Final Scene of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Scores That Elec­tron­ic Music Pio­neer Wendy Car­los Com­posed for Stan­ley Kubrick’s A Clock­work Orange and The Shin­ing

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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