Home | Away

Spacing out

Through no fault of my own, I watched some television recently and learned some things.  Last night, for example, watching Saturday Night Live with Janet for the first time in years, I learned that Justin Timberlake is (a) reasonably talented, (b) not particularly attractive, and (c), a decent comic-sketch actor and a really, really good sport.  So that’s something.

A couple of days ago, while taking a break from student papers and show trials and Weblog Award weirdnesses, I caught the last forty minutes of Aliens on channel 33,573.  I hadn’t seen it since its release in 1986, and you know, it’s a pretty good SF-meets-action flick after all.  Easily the best item in the franchise.  I remember reading an essay a few years later about how the film gives you SF/action’s first ass-kicking female lead but does so, via a curious kind of compensatory logic, in a film that’s all about the icky-and-terrifying qualities of eggs and organs and pregnancy and reproduction.  But mostly I was reminded of Sigourney Weaver’s hilarious turn as Gwen DeMarco in Galaxy Quest (one of our fave movies in this house), where she’s frantically crawling through the ship’s vents with Tim Allen, yelling, “vents!  why is it always vents?” The line is funny on its own, since the crawling-through-vents motif is common to any number of films, but I’d forgotten that a good portion of the closing sequences of Aliens involves crawling through the vents.  So that was a nice little intertextual moment, and another point for Galaxy Quest, one of the smartest-and-funnest movies of recent years.

And then at the very end of Aliens, I came upon something odd.  Ripley and Newt escape, Ripley puts them both into hibernation, the screen goes dark, the credits roll, and what do we hear but Aram Khachaturian’s “Gayane Ballet Suite” (Adagio).

That’s right, Aram Khachaturian’s “Gayane Ballet Suite.” Are you kidding me?  What film or SF geek wouldn’t know that the “Gayane Ballet Suite” was used in the soundtrack for 2001: A Space Odyssey?  What is this, soundtrack homage?  Or just plain laziness?

For those of you who aren’t obsessed by such things, the “Gayane Ballet Suite” sequence in 2001 occurs just after the monolith on the moon has let out that piercing shriek.  Humans are standing around the monolith, about to take a group picture with the thing, when suddenly there’s a horrible electronic wail that brings them all to their knees.  Why?  We don’t know.  Maybe the monolith doesn’t like being photographed!  No, not really.  It turns out, as I’m sure you remember, that the thing was designed to send a signal back to its designers when it was struck by sunlight.  The idea is that if the grunting hominids of four million BCE ever got it together and discovered the big magnetic thing the Extraterrestrial Intelligences left on the moon, said hominids, or their descendents (that’s us!), would become eligible for membership in the Galactic Club of Giant Floating Fetuses.  Anyway, next thing we know, there’s an utterly bizarre spacecraft floating through the void, a kind of elongated spine with a big antenna in the middle and an eerie knob on one end, with a kind of black visor and three round ports, looking like a Face that is No Face.  The title reads “Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later,” and there is no explanation of why there is a Jupiter Mission.  Indeed, in the version screened in the premiere, there weren’t even any titles.  Kubrick, being Kubrick, didn’t want to explain anything at all.  He stripped out the entire film’s voiceover at the last minute (a very good move—think Blade Runner in reverse), but the result was so completely confusing that he put a couple of titles in there (“The Dawn of Man,” etc.) as a concession to our limited intelligence.  (The movie is still confusing, but that’s quite deliberate, of course, and if you ask me nicely I’ll post whole sections of my essay about 2001 and superpower paranoia from Public Access.) Anyway, as this bizarre ship glides across the screen from left to right, and an astronaut in t-shirt and shorts runs around the centrifuge in the eerie “head” of the ship, we hear this achingly sad and beautiful music that seems to suggest loneliness and loss and profound longing.  It is, for me, one of the most unheimlich moments in science fiction, and pretty amazing in any genre.  The choice of the “Gayane Ballet Suite” is a masterstroke.  Kubrick, being Kubrick, commissioned a score and then (again at the last minute) scrapped it, replacing it with some of his favorite tunes.  So you get the hair-raising “Requiem” of Gyorgi Ligeti whenever we hominids gather round the monolith, and Ligeti’s ethereal “Lux Aeterna” when the Americans are taking the moon shuttle over to the monolith site, and of course the Strauss everyone knows.  But think of the tonal difference between waltzing to the moon on the strains of “The Blue Danube” (where space flight seems grand and joyous and kind of jolly) and drifting mournfully to Jupiter in a creepy skeletal ship to the plaintive, haunting strains of the “Gayane Ballet Suite.” That’s all the tonal difference in the world, folks. 

Anyway, what I’m saying is that the sequence is deservedly famous, and you should go watch it now.  And as I crawled off to bed at 1 a.m. that night, having just heard a thinner rendition of the “Gayane Ballet Suite” over the credits for Aliens (where it just doesn’t have the same emotional impact, let me tell you), I wondered just what in the world James Cameron was thinking.  Fortunately, thanks to the Internets, I found this illuminating item on the Internets Movie Database:

In an interview, composer James Horner felt that James Cameron had given him so little time to write a musical score for the film, he was forced to cannibalize previous scores he had done as well as adapt a rendition of “Gayane Ballet Suite” for the main and end titles.

So that explains that.  Still, even if you were working to score a science fiction film on an impossible deadline, raiding the “Gayane Ballet Suite” has to be one of your worst possible options.  It’s a little like scoring a Vietnam movie and deciding, “hey, maybe something by the Doors would work here.”

Posted by on 12/17 at 10:39 AM
  1. You know you are getting old when you call Galaxy Quest “one of the smartest-and-funniest movies of recent years. (I agree with the smart-and-funny part.) Reminds me of the time one of my high school teachers told us how he had “recently” been in Hungary - turned out it was 17 years ago (measured from when he said that). I was in awe smile.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  12:03 PM
  2. Well, by “of recent years” I meant “since The Battleship Potemkin” or maybe “since the discovery of the monolith in the African plains.”

    Because I am, in fact, getting old.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  12:10 PM
  3. Michael, I am sorry - I actually was aiming to make fun of myself (at least in part), b/c I completely agreed with the “recent years” thing while reading it. Only after I realized that it wasn’t that recent after all.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  12:20 PM
  4. Sorry for what?  I thought your comment was really funny.

    Jeez, mathematicians have no sense of irony.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  12:27 PM
  5. You mis-spelled “iron”.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  12:43 PM
  6. I always do.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/17  at  01:26 PM
  7. It’s a little like scoring a Vietnam movie and deciding, “hey, maybe something by the Doors would work here.”

    Have you seen Jarhead by any chance?  One of my favorite moments (other than any moment involving a shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal in a Santa hat) is when a helicopter flies overhead blaring The Doors (I think it’s “Break on Through") and Gyllenhaal’s character yells, “That’s Vietnam music! Can’t we get our own music?!”

    And more germane to the post:  if you liked Galaxy Quest (and I agree, it rocks—definitely Tim Allen’s best work, but then that’s not a very stiff competition), you might like Free Enterprise but only if you’re a fan of self-referential, self-deprecating William Shatner kitsch.

    Posted by Dr. Virago  on  12/17  at  01:46 PM
  8. I always do.

    So do I.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  01:48 PM
  9. My favorite nod to ALIEN in GALAXY QUEST is when Sigourney and Tim Allen are rushing to save the shipt and they come upon the hallway full of crushing pylons.  “Well SCREW THAT!” she exclaims. 

    What any thinking character should have said in any of the Alien movies when commanded to go down the dark hallway where the killing monster could have been lurking.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  01:52 PM
  10. save the shipt

    I wonder - what were you going for - “ship” or “script”?

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  02:01 PM
  11. you should go watch it now
    If for no other reason than to experience the Irony and the Ecstasy living together in perfect harmony .

    It’s a little like scoring a Vietnam movie and deciding, “hey, maybe something by the Doors would work here.”
    Myself, I’d be looking to use something by, ... hmmm, maybe Barber.

    I’d save The Doors for my Buick commercial.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  02:02 PM
  12. Fortunately, thanks to the Internets,
    Well, according to Time magazine we thank YOU, no US, well just ME i guess. 

    Anyway, channel surfing last night and pausing for on our annual regional “Christmas in the Nortwest” series of video concerts, i watched a really cool ballet piece (Kitaro composition choreographed for three ballerinas).  The ballerinas were dressed in these long, floor-length, draped dresses with hoops at the bottom, so that even on toe they appeared to be floating around the stage. Then they were followed by the ARC HandBell Choir.  I hadn’t seen them before, and now i am hugely glad i was able to do so; made me a fan.  They have definitely moved up my list of groups i need to see live.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  02:24 PM
  13. I wish the preview functioned work more efficiently so that i would use it.  Sorry: “pausing for our annual”

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  02:26 PM
  14. Ahhh… the James Horner effect! His career as a film composer it a litany of sledgehammers on radiators and the cribbing of better composers’ music. Best example---the score for “Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock” has a note-for-note rip-off of “The Fight” in act 1, Scene 1 of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The man is *shameless*!

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  02:52 PM
  15. So I go to the iTunes store and search on “gayane” and get 37 hits, including three from the choire of the church of St. Gayané.  It also lists the top four albums. Naturally the soundtrack from 2001 was at the top, but we also had Russian Spectacular—makes sense—and The Very Best of James Galway. Hmmmm. But the most intriguing one is a compilation album entitled Drive Time—Autobahn. So I click on it to see what’s there:

    Finale from William Tell Overture
    Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre
    Fanfare from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
    Sabre Dance from the Ballet Gayane
    Lohengrin, Act III
    Friska from Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

    yadda yadda yadda ending in

    1812 Overture (Finale)

    We coulda’ used this during the Show Trial, and, of course, the Mad Max fanfare for the Cage Match.

    To that list I think we should add the Frank Zappa arrangement of Stairway to Heaven. He wrote out the guitar solo as a unison line for a kick-ass horn section. Now that’s classical, and Autobahn for sure.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/17  at  02:57 PM
  16. Stairway to Heaven

    Since known to many a cover band rocker as Stairway to Freebird.

    All hail the Zappa.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  03:17 PM
  17. Movies have music?

    My gawd, next they’ll try dialogue.

    Me, I just like to look at the pretty pictures.

    Posted by Aaron Barlow  on  12/17  at  04:45 PM
  18. “But the most intriguing one is a compilation album entitled Drive Time—Autobahn.”

    That album actually exists?  I.  Must. Have. It.  I’m always looking for kick-ass tunes for when I go to the gym smile

    Must see if they have it at Silver Platters…

    Mille grazie!

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  04:58 PM
  19. The Gayane adagio makes an interesting echo of the crdit music for the first Alien movie:  Howard Hansen’s Symphony No. 2 “Romantic”.  Both have a Byronesque view of life, lush yet very isolated.  Not a bad portrayal of outer space.  Speaking of which, a friend (Scott Murphy) wrote a n article on harmonic progressions used to portray outer space in science fiction films.  He even mentions Galaxy Quest.

    Posted by Scott Spiegelberg  on  12/17  at  05:05 PM
  20. If you have the DVD in hand, watch the Tech Sgt Chen/Beryllium Sphere out-take.  The pasty-faced aliens are the guys I work with in the factory, and the script was written by a brother.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  06:23 PM
  21. I had a friend who worked for Hollywood as a music editor. Now, most folks have no idea what a music editor does; essentially, the music editor views the film and creates the various cues that the composer writes music to. (A cue gives the time, mood, and a description of any musically relevant action.) Now, some music editors like my friend would cobble together a “rough” score fashioned from recordings from their own music collections. This would be used during post-production until the film composer delivered the actual score (sometimes as a recording, sometimes as a written score for performance). Adding the score to the film was often the last step in post-production before prints were made.

    It occasionally happens that a director prefers part or all of the music editor’s “score” to the one produced by the composer, and is able to convince the producer to allow it to be substituted. This creates a last minute rush to secure rights to the various musical selections involved, perhaps by obtaining or producing alternative performances. Schedules are disrupted, egos need to be smoothed, extra moneys paid, and the director will develop a reputation in the music community as being “difficult.”

    My friend was always coy about just when or where this sort of thing happened (I got the impression that, though it was a private coup for the music editor when this happened, it was unwise to admit to it). But “2001” always seemed like a likely example of this phenomenon.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  06:55 PM
  22. I do believe that’s what happened for 2001.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/17  at  07:18 PM
  23. Alien and Aliens were both wonderful movies. When watching them now, it’s amusing to see Yaphet Kotto, of Homicide: Life On The Street fame, and Ian Holm, who later played the elderly Bilbo Baggins, in the former. Paul Reiser, who went on to TV’s Mad About You, was the evil corporate lackey who got killed in such a satisfying manner in the latter.

    A teacher at my high school’s radio station was mad at John Williams for the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back score, because it sounded way too much like Holst’s The Planets.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  07:20 PM
  24. My favorite nod to ALIEN in GALAXY QUEST is when Sigourney and Tim Allen are rushing to save the shipt and they come upon the hallway full of crushing pylons.  “Well SCREW THAT!” she exclaims.

    Even better is the fact that she clearly exclaims, “Well FUCK THAT,” and “SCREW” is unsubtly overdubbed.  It’s as if they wanted to avoid the R rating—but just barely. 

    And let’s not forget Ms. Weaver’s other comment about those pylons:  “this episode was badly written.” I took this as a comment on (among other things) the strange and pointless pink-light barriers that pop up out of nowhere at the end of Star Wars I:  The Lucas Menace.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/17  at  07:29 PM
  25. I took this as a comment on (among other things) the strange and pointless pink-light barriers that pop up out of nowhere at the end of Star Wars I:  The Lucas Menace.

    Highly unlikely - both films came out in 1999. Of course, Phantom Menace is so bad (beaten only by the ludicrously bad writing in Episode II - how was it called?) that one could have made a parody ahead of time easily. Just riff on every bad science fiction idea you can think off.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  07:42 PM
  26. Damn it. Think of.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  07:47 PM
  27. I noticed the bad overdubbing too.  I always thought the other clear attempt to avoid the R rating was to not show the Tech Sergent smoking his pot.  Since his behavior is of a stoner worthy of a Cheech and Chong film, it is amazing we never see him firing one up.

    And, just to make clear, I maintain the Star Wars flicks should be numbered according to their release dates NOT according to the action depicted in the films.  Thus Star Wars I for me is the first 1977 classic, not this tripe they are releasing today.

    Get off my lawn!

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  07:49 PM
  28. Wait a minute...what is it about The Phantom Menace that’s so familiar?

    imageDB.cgi?isbn=0807857777

    So that’s what the “working title” was!

    Captcha: With friends like these…

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  07:57 PM
  29. It’s as if they wanted to avoid the R rating—but just barely.
    You’re post this morning prompted me to make a browse through the IMDB trivia section.

    It came out as PG, apparently the edits (a “full of shit” became “full of it” as well) were to avoid PG-13.
    Several other interesting tidbits. Ship # was NTE-3120 - NTE was for Not the Enterprise, (just as HAL stands for Not IBM.) They point out that the vents line is also a take off on the Indiana Jones; Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes? line.

    And in a very nice touch, that I certainly did not remember, the film starts in 1.85:1 & expands to 2.35:1 when they realize that they are on a real ship.

    And since for some reason there was no ABF Friday last week - an ABF Sunday evening could be made of music that is so consumed by its use in a film, that it is forever modified.

    Of course, Also Sprach ZarathustraTheme from 2001 is the poster child. And The End as you mention, and The Sting & The Entertainer. The most demeaning case is probably Dance of the Hours and Fanatasia - with Allan Sherman piling on 20 years later for the coup de grace. And then there is the High Fidelity auto-DQ for any song used in the Big Chill.

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  08:24 PM
  30. Well, if we’re talking recent recent, as in 1985, there’s not a single science fiction soundtrack that can o’ertop the far underrated in almost every other respect as well Uforia.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/17  at  08:25 PM
  31. I think John Williams is an equally bad, if not worse, offender, in terms of ripping off other composers for his film scores. Granted, composing an entire score for as many films as he does would be nearly impossible without some inspiration, but Williams seems content to not even mask his blatant plagiarism.

    The best example I can think of comes near the climax of the most recent Star Wars (Revenge of the Sith), whatever you want to number it. During the battle between Mr. Trainspotting and Whiny-Boy Vader, the music is clearly Gustav Holst’s Mars. There is, of course, room for homage in movie scoring. But blatant rip-offs?

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  08:27 PM
  32. just as HAL stands for Not IBM

    You know, Clarke has always insisted that HAL was quite a different geeky in-joke:  Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.  But who knows?  Maybe he was being ironic or something.

    And shame on me for not IMDBing Galaxy Quest for putting up this post.  I was under the impression that it came out in early 2001.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/17  at  08:38 PM
  33. 1. So sorry you had to see SNL in its current sorry state. Tivo eases the pain immensely.

    2. Justin Timberlake is quite talented and charismatic. One does not expect that, celeb coverage being what it is today. He also hosted SNL last year. Many sharp moments despite horrid writing.  In fact, they recycled two bits (dancing mascot, BeeGees talk show) from last year. Jimmy Fallon, like most SNLers, routinely rewards himself mid-sketch by acknowledging how funny he is; last year Timberlake outclassed Fallon’s mugging by having none of that. This time Fallon seemed more like a pro.

    3.Mention <accolade> GQuest </accolade> all you wish; it’s a household fave here too ever since its release several weeks ago. We own a getaway pad 25 miles from Goblin Valley, from which Grignak hails.

    4. In-crowd knowing-chuckle submission: “Can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?”

    5. Great tip for budding directors here, i.e., if you get stuck with James Horner, give him as little time as possible.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  12/17  at  08:51 PM
  34. I think John Williams is an equally bad, if not worse, offender, in terms of ripping off other composers for his film scores.

    At one time common wisdom among film composers was that one’s skill was more or less in direct proportion to one’s library of scores. Hollywood had been and still is (e.g. Williams) the last bastion of 19th century classical romanticism.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/17  at  09:05 PM
  35. Justin Timberlake is quite talented and charismatic.

    That’s an interesting category, performers who are a lot better than their pop status would lead to to think they are. I put Barry Manilow in that category, and Tom Jones too. He tore it up on some blues in one of those Scorsese blues docs a couple of years ago.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/17  at  09:08 PM
  36. Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

    Yes, that is certainly what Clarke says (and quite vehemently), but I still call semi-bullshit - in that somewhere during the creation/selection process I am sure that he made the connection. In French, HAL was CARL, for Cerveau Analytique de Recherche du temps perdu et de Liaison.

    Even more geeky follow-on 3-letter-name 1-place-in-alphabet-transition naming controversy:
    Dave Cutler from Vax (he led VMS development) came over to Microsoft and led the development of Windows NT (WNT - Windows New Technology) - and either did or did not consciously riff on HAL/IBM with WNT/VMS. (though if HAL was an advance over IBM, then NT was a step backwards. Be your own judge.)

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  09:38 PM
  37. So sorry you had to see SNL in its current sorry state.

    Well, it’s been worse.  The Santa - Cup of Soup throwdown in the opening skit was very amusing, and Darrell Hammond’s Jimmy Carter and Lou Dobbs were simply uncanny.

    In-crowd knowing-chuckle submission: “Can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?”

    “Arena,” right?  And I think we all know what happened to that beast on Enok 7!

    Oh, and the line is “Ducts, why does it always have to be ducts,” not “vents.” This is why I don’t blog on weekends.  Too much time pressure.

    Posted by Michael  on  12/17  at  09:58 PM
  38. This is why I don’t blog on weekends.  Too much time pressure.

    Reminds me of my entire collƒge career.  Too embarassed to provide further details.

    Captcha: party

    Captcha response: go figure

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  10:23 PM
  39. Just wanted to thank you for the love for Galaxy Quest.  My sons learned to love Star Trek from watching GQ and desparately wanting to know why Mommy and Daddy laughed so hard at “I was killed by the lava monster before the first commercial.” Also Tim Allen’s 1980’s hair.  Anyway, I agree that was a very well written movie, and I even love them for dubbing the “fuck” and not showing pot smoking.  Everyone knows what happened, but I don’t have to explain to an eight-year-old why this is a big deal.  Sort of like the Marx Brothers scamming the Hays Office. 

    Great Blog, by the way.  The way you write about your sons always makes me cry.  Salutations of Your Favorite Celebration

    Posted by  on  12/17  at  11:08 PM
  40. HAL says click here:

    http://www.thepoorman.net/2006/12/17/official-official-golden-winger-nominations-the-purple-teardrop-with-clutched-pearls-cluster/

    Now that the distraction of the ironic blog awards is past us, we are free to focus on the real one!

    Posted by The Constructivist  on  12/18  at  12:13 AM
  41. When did it become standard (as in Dictionary of Accepted Ideas) to complain about the current quality of Sat. Night Live. No doubt such complaints were standard when I loved it, in the late 80s, and while Ackroyd, Belushi, and Radner were great, I loved Kevin Neelan, John Lovitz, and Phil Hartman (sps perhaps?). Plus ca change.

    I want to pipe down for Aliens (which I loved when it came out but has become progressively more irritating to me) and pipe up for the fabulous Aliens: Resurrection (#4), which really pushes the posthuman aspect in a really exciting direction for, oh, about 10 minutes. Plus it’s funny.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  12:34 AM
  42. I have terrible memories of Alien: Resurrection. Saw it on opening night back in Germany, sitting in the front row, left-most (what did you think?) seat in a huge theater. I basically could not watch without feeling sick from all the movement going on so close to my eyes. Only good thing is it seems I didn’t miss much…

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  12:40 AM
  43. ...ducts,” not “vents.”

    Holy shit crap! My close reading(not) exposed.

    And having just finished watching Muriel’s Wedding with my daughter, I will hazard to put forward ABBA for Bill’s performers >> their pop status. (in retrospect ... from the distance of many years.)

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  01:06 AM
  44. Well, lots of perfectly fine music has gotten absurdified by overuse and misuse.  The Gayane Adagio still works fine for me, and probably would in just about any context, except for cartoons or State of the Union credits.

    But arguably, I guess it is kinda trashed.  Same thing with the poor Pachelbel canon, and of course anything from Orff’s Carmina Burana.

    But it isn’t Khatchaturian’s, Pachelbel’s, or Orff’s fault, is it?

    Hippos in tutus. Somehow it feels like we ought to be able to reclaim the Adagio if we were to choreograph something stark and evocative to “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  For example.  You know, as a counter-irritant.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  01:16 AM
  45. Oh, I don’t think the Gayane Adagio has been misused or overused.  I’m just noting that Horner took a piece of music that would have been recognizable to anyone familiar with 2001, and used it in another science fiction movie, of all things.  My guess is that Horner did this quick and dirty and hoped no one would notice, and my guess (like Bill’s) is that idlemind is right about the music editor’s role in 2001 (though Kubrick’s love of Ligeti, I believe, was well known).

    Posted by Michael  on  12/18  at  02:02 AM
  46. The redoubtable Alex Ross devoted the three opening paragraphs of this excellent 1998 essay on film music to denouncing Horner’s kleptomania—Ross’s word.
    http://www.therestisnoise.com/2004/05/oscar_scores.html

    He also touts Howard Shore as the most original film composer since Bernard Herrmann.

    Posted by john  on  12/18  at  03:06 AM
  47. Alex North, on working on the score for 2001:

    I flew over to London for two days in early December to discuss music with Kubrick. He was direct and honest with me concerning his desire to retain some of the “temporary” music tracks which he had been using for the past years. I realized that he liked these tracks, but I couldn’t accept the idea of composing part of the score interpolated with other composers. ... But somehow I had the hunch that whatever I wrote to supplant Strauss’ Zarathustra would not satisfy Kubrick, even though I used the same structure but brought it up to date in idiom and dramatic punch. Also, how could I compete with Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream? Well, I thought I did pretty damned well in that respect.

    ... After eleven tense days of waiting to see more film in order to record in early February, I received word from Kubrick that no more score was necessary, that he was going to use breathing effects for the remainder of the film. ... I went to a screening in New York, and there were most of the “temporary” tracks.

    Well, what can I say? It was a great, frustrating experience, and despite the mixed reaction to the music, I think the Victorian approach with mid-European overtones was just not in keeping with the brilliant concept of Clarke and Kubrick.

    * * * *

    Hippos in tutus.

    I rather liked the alligators in opera capes myself. That episode of Fantasia was one of my least favorite episodes when I started studying the film a few years ago. But it has grown on me, quite a bit. Think of it as an ironic allegory about our inability to separate art from life.

    Why, it’s almost Flaubertian. In fact, Disney was once asked about his inspiration for Hyacinth (the lead Hippo) and he said, “Well, that’s me.” Thing is, they were all Disney. Back in those days Disney would act out scenes from the movies in story meetings (& he voiced Mickey until the late 40s), playing all the characters. Imagine him doing Hyacinth, then Ben Allilgator.

    Uncle Walt, what a card he was.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/18  at  06:32 AM
  48. The redoubtable Alex Ross devoted the three opening paragraphs of this excellent 1998 essay on film music . . .

    Great article.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/18  at  06:54 AM
  49. Imagine if 2001 had opened with this rendition (RealPlayer) of Zarathustra.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  12/18  at  07:50 AM
  50. if you ask me nicely I’ll post whole sections of my essay about 2001 and superpower paranoia

    I was about seven years old when the movie came out.  Because the movie houses in the town where I grew up were so small (by then-current standards), my Dad drove me to the “big city” (Des Moines!) to see the movie on a “big screen”.  Naturally, the guys in ape suits jumping around and smashing bones together made a big impression on me, and the spaceships were cool, but the Giant Floating Fetus was a little much.  Then I read Clarke’s novelized adaptation and the significant differences between the movie and the book just confused me.  So, please post your essay, or excerpts thereof.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  11:06 AM
  51. ...My guess is that Horner did this quick and dirty and hoped no one would notice...

    Yeah, I get what you mean.  And it doesn’t really ruin anything, although I resent being made to wince involuntarily when the music is wholly innocent.

    I think I’d have put in some really muted gamelan music.  Because what was the point of the last scenes of Aliens?  Escape, rest, power-down, monsters supposedly vanquished, grief, PTSD, and a voluntary, necessary escape into stasis, where you can only hope you’ll wake up.

    So you want something minimalist, headed toward bleak, but quiet.  Something from Eno/Byrne would have worked, too, although it would have cost $$.

    Don’t you wonder why nobody consults us when they have these sorts of problems?

    Hindemith.

    Or just bells and drums.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  01:14 PM
  52. He also touts Howard Shore as the most original film composer since Bernard Herrmann.

    I’m willing to accept that, at least for Anglophone movies. I love the confluence of The Brood and LOTR.

    And then there’s that Oingo Boingo guy, who makes me all Ebolic.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  01:18 PM
  53. Given the thread of the thread, i nominate Mark Mothersbaugh for any award of infamy deserved of a composer who has lost his way in the world of visual media.  All of those silly children’s programs, the freakishness of video games, the high weirdness by mail (he was/is a prominent member of that church i belonged/belong to), tv series, and inane films---a borderline travesty to plastic red mad-hatters everywhere.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  02:36 PM
  54. And then there’s that Oingo Boingo guy, who makes me all Ebolic

    You should seek medical attention. In the meantime, try not to bleed on anyone.

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  03:18 PM
  55. To offer an alternative soundtrack to Jupiter and Beyond . . . there’s apparently YouTube “evidence” (in 3 parts) of this:

    “This is the synchronization theory between Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Pink Floyd’s song “Echoes” off the album “Meddle”. Out of all Pink Floyd synchronization theories, we believe that this may have been purposely done, the most. Because Kubrick had asked to use Atom Heart Mother (Pink Floyd, 1970) in which Pink Floyd denied and later regretted.

    As soon as the song “Echoes” is played and the “Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite” title card pops up, a ping will sound. This pinging sound will ring once every few seconds for the first 1:20 or so. The music will slowly start to fade in after ten seconds or so. It is very eerie-sounding - as synthesizers slowly build, and eventually a mellow, slow guitar riff comes into play. As all this psychedelic, mellow music builds up the images on the screen are of the monolith floating around in space while the outstanding special effects show the planets in the background. The sense of limitless space is evident, and the music only enhances that feeling.

    Both the song and the movie then end AT THE EXACT SAME TIME.”

    whoa.
    . . . lifted from a friend’s blog who lifted it from somewhere . . .

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  04:12 PM
  56. Can’t wait for your essay on two double ott one.  I’ve always felt it was theologically unsound myself, not to mention kind of lame in the final post-Jupiter sequences.  I think they didn’t really know what to do and ended up propping up a disappearing storyline with some naive psychedelia

    Posted by  on  12/18  at  10:53 PM
  57. I just feel like ranting a bit…

    Yep, it was just plain stoopid(tm) to use a piece from another SF film.  But I’m not surprised at it. Recall the old joke about Vivaldi having written only one piece but he wrote it hundreds of times.  Horner is worse - much worse even were the Vivaldi joke justified. He puts even John Williams to shame (or would if John Williams HAD any shame).

    Even without that damn Jaws theme (the cello thing, some variant of which has been in EVERY Horner score I’ve heard) Horner’s music is instantly recognizable as Horner’s.  For Horner, musical re-use is SOP.

    Thanks, I do feel better now.

    Posted by  on  12/19  at  08:02 PM
  58. As I remember Horner also rips off “Mars the Bringer of War” from Holst’s The Planets in more than one movie.

    It is kind of remarkable he rips off someone else then he rips himself off, ripping off someone else.

    Posted by  on  12/19  at  08:14 PM
  59. Michael, for “creepy skeletal ship” try substituting “human sperm cell”.  See the top illustration at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spermatozoon .  Replace the propulsive tail with the rocket motors of the Discovery 1, and you pretty much have it.  It makes perfect sense; the ship is bringing the genetic material that will be united with the forces of the monolith to be born as the Star Child.

    I even think the “egg” appears in 2001.  Somewhere late in the “trip”, before the film shows us the quaking Dave Bowman in his pod in the fancy French suite, there’s a brightly glowing jewel shining amid soft pillowly surfaces in space.  Looks like an egg in a uterus to me.  I think you’ll find an image suggestive of semen being flung through space a few seconds away from that.

    These images are more-or-less burned into my brain; I saw 2001 about 12 times in 3 weeks when it first came out. smile

    Posted by Wayne Farmer  on  01/18  at  12:20 AM
  60. 14.Ahhh… the James Horner effect! His career as a film composer it a litany of sledgehammers on radiators and the cribbing of better composers’ music. Best example--why am i so tired dfh hypothyroidism symptoms
    -the score for “Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock” has a note-for-note rip-off of “The Fight” in act 1, Scene 1 of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The man is *shameless*!

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  10:15 PM
  61. Yep, it was just plain stoopid(tm) to use a piece from another SF film.  But I’m not surprised at it. Recall the old joke about Vivaldi having written only dprzhlqab hj yblvaghub df tabegam sdf qise
    one piece but he wrote it hundreds of times.  Horner is worse - much worse even were the Vivaldi joke justified. He puts even John Williams to shame (or would if John Williams HAD any shame).

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  10:15 PM
  62. I love SNL. Saturday night live is definitely in my top 10 favorites of all time.

    Posted by Chris  on  07/15  at  10:21 PM
  63. Great post and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is truly the best place to ask but do you people have any ideea where to employ some professional writers? Thanks

    Posted by dna sequencing  on  11/08  at  02:57 AM
  64. I really don’t like alien stuff but this gave me something in mind about those alien movie things. Thanks for this Michael! and for you dna, try to search in Google, you will find a couple of options there.

    Posted by Sarah Wilson  on  01/04  at  10:03 PM
  65. Good article,thanks.

    Posted by best drum software  on  02/16  at  02:35 PM

Name:

Email:

Location:

URL:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:


<< Back to main