The genius in not the music used in "2001: A Space Odyssey", but what Kubrick does with that music. He reduces each musical score to its essence, and leaves it playing long enough for us to contemplate it, to listen and watch as the movie progresses, which is mostly silent; this technique helps it inhabit it in our imaginations. Among science-fiction movies, perhaps “2001" is the only movie in which the director, in this case Kubrick, is not concerned with thrilling us with his music choice, but with inspiring our awe when listening to and watching the movie.
The first time I saw the movie, I was 18 and in high school. I couldn't even begin to grasp what was going on in the film, let alone be critical of its music. I couldn’t watch the movie the first time, but I knew I had to watch it again. I had to come back to this movie when I was a bit older, perhaps a bit wiser; and so I did.
I have now seen this movie three times in its entirety, the last being quite recently for this class. This time around I was a bit more critical, especially about the music, and why I was in such awe about everything that Kubrick did in this movie, about why I was left with the distinct impression that what I'd just watched and heard was the most important film ever made, sorry “Citizen Kane”.
Just like classical music, the film falls into several movements. In the first, prehistoric apes, the second is the docking sequence, with its waltz, the third being the sequence on the moon, where man is confronted by the monolith again, and the last being the birth of the star child. The deliberate use of “Blue Danube”, “Sprach Zarathustra”, and “Atmospheres” specifically stand out and act in collaboration with the visuals. Both complementing and enhancing each other throughout the movie.
Richard Strauss' “Thus Sprach Zarathustra'' song was inspired by the philosopher Nietzsche. The songs five bold opening notes embody the ascension of man into spheres reserved for the gods. It is cold, frightening, and magnificent. The music is first heard in the opening title with the sun, earth, and moon. It then moves onto the apes learning to use a tool for the very first time, which subsequently leads to them killing another ape. Perhaps Kubrick is trying to tell us something about our own nature. The music can then be heard towards the end of the movie with the birth of the star child. It associates itself to the beginning of man's consciousness into the universe to the passage of that consciousness onto a new level; as symbolized by the Star Child at the end of the film.
The Johann Strauss waltz “Blue Danube,'' which accompanies the docking of the space shuttle and the space station, is deliberately slow, and so is the action taking place on the screen. Obviously we know now, through numerous attempts by NASA itself, why such a docking process would have to take place with extreme caution. The music along with the video shows the space hardware moving slowly because it's keeping...