Implied Contrapuntals
July 27, 2013 4:31 PM   Subscribe

2001: A Space Odyssey - Discerning Themes through Score and Imagery: As Ligeti's music ends, the first image we see is a celestial alignment of the sun the earth and the moon as Richard Strauss' exhilarating Also Sprach Zarathustra begins. It's critical to note that Thus Spoke Zarathustra is also a novel by Friedrich Nietzsche. This musical choice thus signals that the film deals with the same central issues in this book. [via]
posted by troll (18 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what else to say but "awesome post!"

I grew up in the late 70's and early 80's, and still remember the birth of the VCR and the first video rental shops.

I think "Jaws" was the first video I ever asked my parents to rent for me, and 2001: A Space Odyssey was #2 (although I do remember watching it on television with my father a few years earlier).

Such a compelling movie.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:43 PM on July 27, 2013

The funny thing is that the score for 2001 was somewhat of an accident. The music that ended up as the soundtrack were the temporary tracks that Kubrick used during post production while Alex North composed the real score. He ended up abandoning the commissioned score and keeping the temporary music.
posted by octothorpe at 6:01 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

On a trivial note, the intro music to the BBC interview with the astronauts is Sidney Torch's "Off Beat Moods No. 1" (which I learned about by asking askme).
posted by gubo at 6:26 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think that the impoverished scifi had something to do with self-censorship, as in the addition of overt religious symbolism to Klaatu.

As I recall, the French Suite act, in the book, occurs in an abandoned space port. And is conducted by a godling who is the equivalent of a janitor. I like to break that out when people are mooning over the mystery of the janitor's construction of a pseudo-reality, which in the book, conforms only as much as necessary so that the protagonist isn't unhinged.
posted by saber_taylor at 6:37 PM on July 27, 2013

Thanks, troll, this looks to be a fine analysis of one of my favorite movies of all time, and from a musical point of view, no less. Perfect! Looking forward to digging into this.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:38 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sweet Jesus, troll's back. Welcome back, troll!
posted by Nomyte at 6:40 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a silly little ongoing project, when I come across The Shining on TV I'll pull up Rob Ager's infamous 21-chapter analysis of the movie and try to follow along (especially the "spatial awareness" portion.) I'm not comparing the two, but it looks like it will be fun to use this to do the same with 2001: A Space Odyssey, too.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:43 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

In soviet Metafilter, troll feed *you*.
posted by uosuaq at 6:43 PM on July 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Thanks for posting this, I'm about half way through but he's pointed up some insights that I've never noticed in my thirty viewings of this movie.
posted by octothorpe at 6:58 PM on July 27, 2013

Author here. Regular lurker, infrequent commenter.

Dude, your soundtrack companion f'ing rocks! And thanks for posting. I was really hoping this would hit MF but rules say I can't submit it personally. Really glad to see someone did, because I'm curious to see what the community has to say.
posted by maynard at 7:34 PM on July 27, 2013 [9 favorites]

Excellent post. Thanks, troll.
posted by homunculus at 9:35 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've had this essay up for a week it seems and still haven't gotten around to finishing it. Soon hopefully. And thanks for writing it, maynard.

Anyhoo, I've always loved this soundtrack. Many years ago I decided to drive to the west coast from Kansas by myself. I ended up in a huge snowstorm in the rockies playing it at full blast. Just me (going about 20) and some semis. I don't think my brain or my nerves could ever take doing that again, but it was interesting to say the least. Words could never do it justice, but scary--really fucking scary--and dreamlike come close to at least a baseline. Yeah, crazy days.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:08 PM on July 27, 2013

I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the use of music in Kubrick's work. It was super interesting, at least to me. I focused on diegetic and non-diegetic sound (music that is part of the narrative vs. music that is in the "background") and how the different types of music served the plot and mood of a few of his films, including 2001. So, I really enjoyed this post. Ligeti really is a wonderful composer, and his music is perfect for the film.
posted by k8lin at 11:07 PM on July 27, 2013

I really liked the comparison of the conversation over drinks between Floyd and the Russians and the fight over the watering hole between the man-apes. It seems pretty obvious when you think about it.

As for the motivation of HAL, I've always had a theory that I've never seen in print. My thought is that HAL, who's shown to be an expert chess player because he can see the plays that happen in the future, can see how the movie's going to end. Clarke's right in that HAL's secret knowledge about the monolith and the aliens is what drives him to be homicidal but it's not because of some trivial kind of laws of robotics kind of conflict, but because he has figured out the aliens plan and realizes that he's not part of it. HAL rightfully sees himself as the next step in evolution and superior to the humans but the alien plan is all about advancing biological humans way past his level and he just can't handle that future.
posted by octothorpe at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Which makes sense, because "creatures that seem advanced but can't make the leap to The Next Stage Beyond" is a common theme in Arthur C. Clarke. I'm thinking most especially of the space devils in Childhood's End. Unlike them, HAL can't resign himself to the role of being the nursemaid of homo superior.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:04 AM on July 28, 2013

Unlike them, HAL can't resign himself to the role of being the nursemaid of homo superior.

Wasn't it Clarke's 2061: Odyssey Three that revealed that HAL had been "imaged" by the Monoliths in the last moments before Discovery was obliterated by Jupiter's stellar ignition, and that his virtual-backup-copy-on-a-higher-plane-of-existence was helping Star-Child Bowman decipher how the Monoliths worked?
posted by radwolf76 at 12:07 PM on July 28, 2013

Clarke's sequels are just barely above fan fiction as far as I'm concerned. I'd just as soon pretend that they don't exist.
posted by octothorpe at 1:07 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

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