EDITORS CHOICE CD of the Month May
RICHARD STRAUSS 2001 - A Space Odyssey JOHANN STRAUSS II Beautiful Blue Danube
ALEX NORTH Spartacus - Main title BEETHOVEN Ode to Joy (synthesised) TRADITIONAL
Barry Lyndon: Women of Ireland; HANDEL Sarabande ABIGAIL MEAD Full Metal
Jacket: Themes; FRAZIER/WHITE/WILSON/HARRIS Surfin Bird GERALD FRIED: suite
from early films: The Killing main title and robbery; Killers Kiss;
Fear and Desire Meditation on War, Madness; Paths of Glory - patrol; Day
of the Fight - march; WENDY CARLOS The Shining: Theme Midnight the stars
and you BOB HARRIS Lolita Love theme LAURIE JOHNSON Dr Strangelove - Bomb
Run; PARKER/CHARLES Well Meet Again
This album had been in production over the last two years and so what had
been planned as a celebration of the films of Stanley Kubrick has now, sadly,
become a memorial. But what a splendid production it is! It spans all the
masters films and takes in many different musical styles to comprise
a very satisfying musical experience. It commences with a robust floor-board
quaking reading of the opening of Richard Strausss Also Sprach
Zarathustra used to such great effect for the opening sequence of 2001:
A Space Odyssey. I must say that I have always felt that Kubrick was right
to ditch Alex Norths not-too-inspired music in favour of source material
from the classics. Later on in the album we also hear Johann Strausss
The Blue Danube which once again was such an apt choice for the space
station sequences. The final two selections in this album represent another
inspired bit of album programming. Both are deeply ironic cues, considering
the release of the doomsday machine at the end of Dr Strangelove:
The Bomb Run based on When Johnny Comes Marching Home;
and Vera Lynn singing her World War II hit, Well Meet Again
Following the opening selection, Also Sprach
, we have a wonderfully
chilling reading of Alex Norths increasingly dissonant and brutal Main
Title music from Spartacus, followed by an equally crushing and jaunty
synth version of Beethovens Ode to Joy finale from the
Choral Symphony as used in A Clockwork Orange. The beautiful
cinemaphotography of Barry Lyndon was a vital part of its success,
particularly the early scenes in Ireland when Barry looses his innocence
and his fortune. From the film the traditional Irish air, Women of
Ireland is given a magical rendition while the percussion part of
Handels Sarabande is heavily emphasised to underline Lyndons
growing insensitivity and cruelty. Abigail Meads brutal and barbaric
themes for Full Metal Jacket are heavily accented towards snare drums,
bass drum and heavy synth percussion (with synths cleverly lampooning the
in-training soldiers chants as they run-march).
Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind supply some wonderfully synth grisly, ghostly
figures (much more interesting and imaginative than the norm) entwined with
a distorted Die Irae for The Shining. The other excerpt from this
Jack Nicolson chiller is source music: Midnight, the Stars and You
with the Ray Noble Band and Al Bowly used to underscore the 1920s party in
the haunted hotel. A warmer but slightly edgy Love Theme for
Lolita by Bob Harris, looks back to the sort of surging late romantic music
one associates with Rachmaninov.
A major highlight of the album is a very impressive six-movement suite of
music by Gerald Fried who scored Kubricks earlier films. The compelling,
obsessive Main Title music from The Robbery opens the suite
followed by the mix of swirling and staccato robbery music. Punctuated by
rasping and sardonically commenting brass, it grows in intensity when the
tension mounts as things start to go badly wrong. Killers Kiss
has an extraordinarily sinister march with glissandos that sound like fingernails
dragging screeching, down glass together with bitterly neighing brass
an amazing creation. Fear and Desire is represented by two tracks:
A Meditation on War, a sad, demented visualisation, and
Madness in which the revulsion is further developed with a demonic
Stravinsky-like (L histoire du soldat) violin solo. Paths
of Glory is represented by The Patrol, a cold, grotesque,
merciless, completely percussion-orientated cue ending in a crushing tam-tam
crash. Finally, we are reminded of barbaric Roman splendours and gladiatorial
combat in March of the Gloved Gladiators from Day of the Fight.
A splendid collection one of Silvas best - with The City of
Prague Philharmonic on top form, captured in stunning sound.
Rob Barnett says :-
This is a treasury album packed with a rewarding and often surprising
selection of music. Represented here are both aspects of Kubricks attitude
to scores for the big screen. He had a place for both original scores and
his own discriminating selection of classical music. 2001 is an example of
an instance where his first choice of an original score commissioned from
Alex North (since recorded) was discarded and in its place substituted a
very famous selection of classical pieces which sold the LP in tens of thousands
and which arguably pushed Richard Strauss back out into the popular spotlight.
As for Johann Strauss I wonder how many people were introduced to The Blue
Danube by the film and the space-station ballet enacted against the background
of Strausss music.
The CD mixes original tracks licensed from others with re-recordings by the
Prague orchestra. The licensed tracks include popular tracks: Vera Lynn in
Well Meet Again (well known in the UK but used with devastating effect
to point up that no-one would be meeting again at the end of Dr Strangelove),
Ray Noble (suavely crooning) etc in Midnight The Stars and You and Surfin
Bird (Full Metal Jacket) raucously scatty.
Electronics also played a part in Kubricks scores. The Beethoven Ode
to Joy from A Clockwork Orange synthesised Beethoven in a way entirely
appropriate to the sadly desolate landscape of the film. Abigail Meads
themes from Full Metal Jacket are janglingly effective in much the same way
as Wendy Carloss electronic score from The Shining.
Alex Norths whooping scarifying brass romp and shout across the epic
landscape of Spartacuss main titles. The war cries alternate with a
Shostakovichian (Leningrad) march all quiet, purposeful and full of bitter
menace. This is a truly glorious track.
This disc surprised me by reintroducing me to a piece of music which I heard
many years ago and by which I was completely enthralled. This I the traditional
tune Women of Ireland from the film Barry Lyndon. It is given the full symphonic
treatment unlike the Chieftains track by which I first came to know the piece.
It is however done with restraint and taste and the tune emerges in full
tear-stained flight though not at all mawkish. You might have feared that
the tune would be stifled by the full orchestra - on the contrary it spreads
its wings wide and deep! When the full orchestra enters you are taken to
the very borders of Richard Rodney Bennetts Dorset (Far From the Madding
Crowd) or at least reminded that the Irish counties gave something to Dorset
or that Dorset gave something to them.
Then comes six tracks of music from Kubricks collaborations with composer
Gerald fried whose notes about the recording session are included in the
12 page booklet. The brusquely energetic titles for The Killing contend
competitively with Rózsa for the laurels for film noir music. Eerily
high violins and squat brass serenade each other discordantly in a celebration
of menace (Killers Kiss). Fried wrings threat from battlefield fanfares
in Fear and Desire. Bats fly out from the eye-sockets of the deaths
head in Madness from the same film. The Patrol from Paths of Glory is a
tension-filled tone poem for percussion alone - an orchestration decision
taken from choice not budgetary necessity. The suite ends in shabby sardonic
bombast with March of the Gloved Gladiators.
Bob Harriss music for Lolita is a slightly gloopy film
piano concerto which might well have found a comfortable place amidst
Naxoss fine 1998 collection of film piano concertos. Laurie Johnson
suitably hollow victory march Bomb Run from Dr Strangelove. This deploys
Johnny Comes Marching Home - and of course he doesnt!
Fine notes from David Wishart although I wish someone would ask me to proof
read them to pick up a small scattering of typos.
No complaints about short playing time on this single CD volume! This is
a very fine volume and should attract music lovers of all types.
Paul Tonks says :-
Hopefully theres no need to point out that this isnt a tasteless
marketing exercise. What it is however, is an intriguing showcase of just
how fussy the late Kubrick was. Collected together this way it really goes
to show what eclectic tastes he had, and knowing even a little of how adamant
he always was about his own choices really makes this a curiosity to have.
Some pretty obvious inclusions are here: Strauss "Also Sprach Zarathustra"
and "On The Blue Danube" from 2001, "Well Meet Again" from Dr
Strangelove, and Beethovens "Ode To Joy" from A Clockwork
Orange. Its great to see Silva throwing the classics about, but
the other fun precedent is the use of song. Licensing the likes of The
Thrashmens "Surfin Bird" from Full Metal Jacket and "Midnight,
The Stars, and You" from The Shining are an indication that the Silva
compilations may be about to take an even more diverse turn - which will
open all sorts of doors for them.
The CDs middle section is probably of most interest to
collectors. Gerald Fried collaborated on the inclusion of a suite from 5
of the early films Kubrick kick-started his career with. It has to be said
that The Killing and Paths of Glory are classics that predictably
stand out, but Killers Kiss is surprisingly eerie in places.
Sandwiched as it is however between dramatic highs, the suite
is a little turgid and mis-matched to consider a successful whole.
Theres something there that translates to the disc as a whole. It comes
down to which side of the fence you stand upon one particular point - does
Kubricks diversity play well to the ear ? Can you admire that diversity
for what it is, or is it all too much of a throw-together ?
Personally I have nearly always appreciated abrupt changes in style on disc.
Sometimes the sequencing can work wonders with such changes. I think the
transition from Mark Ayres electronic noodling with A Clockwork
Orange to the gorgeous solo fiddle of "Women of Ireland" from Barry
Lyndon is delightful. To me its perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek
to make that jump, but the real point is the directors insatiable desire
never to repeat himself.
To which end you can expect this album to be a complete one-off. Dont
listen with your ears wide shut.